Reminiscing on the bikes and people at AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days in 2010.
The following was featured in the Sept. 2010 edition of American Motorcyclist... [Part 2 of 3] Click here to read Part 1 of 3
By American Motorcyclist Staff
Every year, tens of thousands of riders converge on AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days to celebrate something very simple and surprisingly universal: old bikes. From the roadrace track to the off-road racing to the swap meet and the classic bike shows, to any one of dozens of attractions highlighted on the pages that follow, it’s clear that the vintage motorcycling scene is not only alive and well, but hard on the gas.
Bridgestone: Preserving History
Back in the early years of Japanese motorcycles, Bridgestones were among the best. These days, they’re among the least—a situation the Bridgestone Motorcycle Club is working to correct with its dedication to the brand.
Photo by Open Image Studio
“Bridgestones are neat, and they’re different,” says the group’s Brent Barley. “They were two-strokes, with rotary valves, chrome bores and side-draft carbs, and they were pretty quick. You see a lot of Hondas and other bikes from the Japanese big four, but you almost never see a Bridgestone.
“Back in the day, they had a motocross team and a roadrace team, and a Bridgestone 125 won the Sportsman class at Daytona in 1969,” he adds. “Up until the H1 came out, they were probably the fastest things around. A 350 would outrun a Harley-Davidson Sportster or a 650 Triumph from light to light, so that was a big deal.”
Classic Appeal: Malcolm's Favorite
Jim and Joan Vandergriff, from Linwood, Kan., were no strangers to the winner’s circle during the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Bike Show at AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days. The couple’s motorcycles won three individual categories and placed second in two others.
One bike even took home the Grand Marshal’s Choice Award, presented by event Grand Marshal Malcolm Smith.
Smith says the Vandergriff’s 1939 AJS reminded him of one of his first motorcycles, a Matchless, which was produced by the same parent company.
“I actually raced something like that in the desert with that seat and a rigid frame,” Smith says. “I didn’t know any better. I thought that’s what you did.”
Jim Vandergriff says that today, his and Joan’s AJS is much better suited to cruising the Kansas countryside than racing.
“When you get on it and ride it, you feel like a good, proper gentleman,” he says.
Cal Reyborn III: Racer, Son of Hall of Famer Cal Rayborn Jr.
“My dad won quite a few races on it before he was killed on another bike. It hasn’t been run for 20 years, and Rob Ianucci had the motor rebuilt, and he restored the whole bike. Riding this bike means more to me than anything. I traveled everywhere with my dad. Me and my brothers and mom and dad all traveled in a van and then a motorhome. This all brings back good memories.”
Rob Ianucci: Bike Collector
“This bike was Cal’s, and it was raced by others, including Jay Springsteen. It was given to [legendary Harley-Davidson race boss] Dick O’Brien as a retirement present. To have this opportunity to reunite this bike with Cal III, it would just—I don’t know if we can really put it all into words. Everything has come full circle, and it’s a great thing.”
Gunnar Lindstrom: Husqvarna Engineer, Racer, AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer
On his start with Husqvarna in the 1960s “Without a doubt, I was a racer first, but you have to put that in perspective because I was just a kid rolling around. But when I started doing it for real, Husqvarna had just started with the factory team. To get in, you almost had to be an engineer. I had started my formal education in agricultural school, but I switched my major to engineering, so I could build the bikes. By the time I finished my education, I had a fairly substantial race resume, so I was accepted as an engineer on the team with Husky.”
On Husqvarna’s start in the American market “The factory management didn’t want to be in the motocross business. It was tolerated because the motocross group won races and brought good public relations for Husqvarna. Then word spread to America that Husqvarna was winning races and world championships, and one fellow, Edison Dye, was more persistent than the others in getting Husky to start selling bikes to him as a distributor in America. When it finally hit, it hit hard. Ultimately, it led to the factory committing to the motocross market, building a new manufacturing facility, designing a new engine and expanding to take over distribution in the U.S. itself.”
On Husqvarna’s support of U.S. riders “We wanted Americans to race in Europe, to be successful, to sell motorcycles in the U.S. To make them successful, we needed them to be prominent in results lists.
Our goal was to have an American champion on a Husqvarna. We didn’t quite get to that goal of an American champion, but Brad Lackey in 1976 was close. He was fifth overall, and did well, which was very helpful for sales in America.”
On his new book, “Husqvarna Success” It’s something we’ve been talking about since the early ’90s. In 1996 I started moving on the project and realized that (AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer and Husqvarna legend) Torsten Hallman had the same idea, so he worked from the European side and I worked from here. We called the book “Husqvarna Success,” but there were also some hard times, some political debate and some internal intrigue, which makes the book readable.”
Italian Beauty: It's in the Details
There are restorations. Then there are proper restorations. The difference between the two is as broad as the Mediterranean Sea is wide. And on the “proper” coast is Peter Calles’ 1964 MV Agusta 125 Gran Turismo Lusso.
Photo by Rob Hardin Photography
“Care and effort went into every part of restoring this motorcycle,” he says. “I even sent the seat back to Italy to be reupholstered.”
The gorgeous motorcycle was certainly a show-stopper at the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Bike Show, taking home the award for Best of Show (European).
Knowing His Limits: Rik Smits Rides
Rik Smits may be finished winning on the professional basketball court, but the former Indiana Pacer has a lot of vintage racing in his future. Smits added another win to his resume in the post-vintage hare scrambles event.
Seen in the pits on Saturday, however, when the vintage bikes were racing, Smits admits he was sitting out that day.
“The older motorcycles are a little too small for me,” says the 7-foot, 4-inch tall Smits. “I prefer the taller post-vintage and modern bikes.”