When it comes to motorcycling, Canadian Trevor Deeley did about everything there was to do. Deeley was a racer, a dealer, an importer, a sponsor, an AMA official, collector and a designer, just to name a few roles. Deeley was one of the most influential figures in motorcycling for decades in the Pacific Northwest and earned numerous honors for his contributions to the sport.
Deeley was born on March 15, 1920, in Vancouver, British Columbia, into a motorcycling family. His grandfather and father had operated a Harley-Davidson dealership in Vancouver since 1918. As a boy, Deeley grew up working in the family business, earning $4.25 a week when he started. He began riding in his teens and his first bike was a 250cc Francis Barnett. In 1939, Deeley, at 19, earned his AMA professional license and began racing in a wide variety of competitions.
Deeley did well enough to earn AMA national No. 22 and get support from Harley-Davidson. He was a top rider in the Pacific Northwest throughout the 1940s and early 1950s. During one particularly fruitful stretch in the late-1940s, Deeley raced in 24 regional events and won 22 of them.
The biggest problem Deeley faced during his racing career was geography. Living in British Columbia meant logging thousands of miles to follow the racing circuit. At the height of his racing career, Deeley traveled more than 45,000 miles per season just to get to the races. His best performances on the national level came at Daytona (more than 6,600 miles round trip from his home). His best finish on the old beach course was tenth in 1950 riding a Harley.
By the mid-1950s, Deeley retired from racing and became even more involved in the business end of things. Over the objections of his father, who did not believe Japanese bikes would catch on, he took on the distributorship for Yamaha in Canada and also for Honda in Western Canada. Then Harley-Davidson approached Deeley about becoming its Canadian distributor and he took them up on the offer.
Deeley still loved racing and he became one of the leading racing sponsors in North America. He proudly pointed out the fact that he sponsored two world champions at one point in their careers. Steve Baker and Barry Sheene both raced for Deeley as they came up through the ranks. Deeley also backed Michael Duff, Canada’s top world championship Grand Prix competitor, and is perhaps best remembered by American fans for being Yvon DuHamel’s sponsor early in his AMA professional racing career.
Deeley served on the AMA’s competition committee from the late 1940s through the early 1970s. He also was an AMA district commissioner for British Columbia and was instrumental in forming local motorcycle clubs and eventually the Pacific Northwest Motorcycle Association, which strengthened sporting ties between the United States and Canada.
Deeley’s business grew steadily under his guidance. At one time or another he was the Canadian distributor for nearly every brand of motorcycle. At times, Deeley felt it was best to keep his various business agreements discreet.
With a smile, he told of one of his many trips to Japan.
“The Honda people met me at the airport in Tokyo and I went off to meetings with them for a week. The Honda people brought me back to the airport and I acted like I was departing back to Canada, but I simply walked back up to the arrival terminal where Yamaha representatives were waiting with sign in hand to greet me on my arrival to Japan.”
When Deeley took over the family business it employed about 25 people. When he retired the company employed more than 120 employees and had expanded to include a distribution center in Toronto. He helped build up a dealer network of more than 70 retail outlets.
In 1997, Deeley was awarded the AMA’s highest award – the prestigious Dudley Perkins Award. He was the first Canadian to receive the award and only the second non-U.S. citizen to received the honor, following Soichiro Honda. He has also been inducted into the Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame and the British Columbia Sports Hall of Fame.
When inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999 Deeley was nearly 80 years old, but still going strong. He continued to work with Harley-Davidson on design projects and built up his Vancouver motorcycle museum collection, which includes more than 300 motorcycles, many of them rare or one-of-a-kind machines.
Trevor Deeley died March 28, 2002.