Wednesday, January 6, 2010


I'm in Las Vegas a bit early this year, to shoot a few 'fills' for the Classic Motorcycle Roadshow pilot. It gave me a chance for a more leisurely view of the motorcycles as they arrive, and to speak with a few owners before things get really busy tomorrow. About half of the 500 machines have already arrived, with trucks backing into the loading dock, disgorging a lot of great bikes just as fast as they can be processed (for the all-important VIN verification, checking for keys, and to make sure what arrives is what was described!).

I consider it a good omen that the first person I bumped into at the South Point Hotel was Gordon McCall, who is heading up the effort to bring the Quail Motorcycle Gathering for its second year, this May. Gordon's baby has been the Quail Motorsports Gathering for many years, which has become among the most exclusive automotive events on the planet; he is committed to shaping the Motorcycle event to the same high standards, including track time at Laguna Seca Raceway for the machines entered in the show, and bringing as many past and present GP stars as possible to the lawn of Quail Lodge golf course this year. I'll keep you posted on developments; when Gordon is on the case, great things can happen.

The crew of Classic Motorcycle Roadshow (cameraman, sound guy, lighting guy, producer) could be seen among the employees of MidAmerica Auctions, helping push bikes into place, and crawling around as necessary to spot those chassis numbers! Here is Mick Way, producer of the show, with George, checking in the 500 bikes... if they look tired, ask how late they worked last night (I think they got to be before midnight).

A pair of Ariel Square 4s; a mid-production 'Mk 1' model, with an alloy cylinder head but a single exhaust pipe, stands before a late 'Mk 2', tw0-pipe last-edition variant. Nice!

Not all the 500 motorcycles can be Bonnevilles and Squariels; these Honda 3-wheel ATVs were banned over 20 years ago in the US, but still have great, if dangerous, appeal. They weigh less than 200lbs, and the oversize tires mean they can be ridden on water! Calm water, anyway.

A lineup of very desirable single-cylinder roadsters; two Featherbed-era Norton Internationals ('54 and '55), and a Vincent Comet.

Scooterland! There must be 50 iterations of the lightweight motorcycle theme; Cushmans, Mustangs, a Powell, a Fuji Rabbit, Whizzers, etc. Cheap and cheerful.

And here's the booth for Classic Motorcycle Roadshow, sans people, sans the '09 Curtiss which will grace the stand tomorrow. The Curtiss was the subject of our first shooting schedule last May in St.Paul, MN. It will be nice to see it again. We've already got two Mack-based bikes - the 1914 Jefferson mentioned in a previous post, and a 1919 Lake racer. Perry Mack created quite an engine in 1910, with twin cams and vertical overhead valves, at a time when 'automatic' inlet valves (ie, with no positive valve control, just suction from the piston to draw incoming fuel/air mix, and a weak spring to shut the inlet valve) were the norm.

Mack sold his engines to other manufacturers, but his own bikes were called, initially, the Waverly, then the Jefferson, and after that company ceased trading, he created the 'Lake'. This machine is a re-creation based on an original Lake engine, which is a 'Mack' engine identical to the Jefferson, barring the name cast on the crankcase. It isn't known whether Perry Mack ever sold a Lake motorcycle, but uber-enthusiast Jeff Haberman built a 'period' machine around the engine he found.

Jeff's business is sign writing, and he's quite an engineer; his skills in both areas show via the work he's done building, and patinating, the Lake. An attractive Board Track machine, which he created using original photographs and blueprints as his model.