We’d avoided it for 14 years, but finally the rain came, and made up for all those sunny Saturdays (and Fridays for the Quail Ride) by dumping an inch and a half of water in two hours onto the motorcycles at The Quail: a Motorcycle Gathering, to use its official name.  Readers from anywhere but California will roll their eyes, as events get rained on in most of the world regardless of the season, but recent climatic changes mean we no longer get ‘rain’ here; we get ‘atmospheric rivers’ that dump with tropical fervor.  As some wag once said, ‘motorcycles don’t melt in the rain’, and well over a hundred enthusiasts parked their precious survivors on the lawn regardless the forecast, and stuck around for the duration.

Best in Show winner Vic World’s 1968 Honda CB750 one-of-one prototype, the oldest surviving example. I’m praising the machine while Chief Judge Somer Hooker ponders his choice, and Vic World looks pleased. [Quail Events]
We’d had a fantastic Quail Ride the previous day under a perfect bluebird sky, with an interesting selection of bikes…but not enough vintage iron (but of course I’d say that) with about 35 of the 100 machines built before 1990.  Included were a couple of Vincent twins – one of which swelled its front brake linings (?) and was the only hors de combat entrant – several lovely Triumphs and Earles fork BMWs, all years of Moto Guzzis, a few vintage and modern two-strokes, Norton Commando, and even a Bimota Tesi for visual interest.  I do understand, of course, riding a new machine, especially if you’ve ridden it to the event, but I’d like to encourage next year’s riders to bring out yer oldies, as the ride supports and is related the Concours, no?  Ride your Concours entry next year and prove your restoration is more than skin deep?

Not a restoration: a rare and totally original Bultaco Metralla with full factory race kit was as-last-raced: the owner also brought a Parilla Gran Sport and Wildcat in similar condition – fantastic! [Paul d’Orléans]
I rode my ’59 Moto Guzzi Falcone Sport on Friday, after a very quick turnaround from Mexico the day before, and no time to attend the machine since its sterling performance on the Melo Velo Rally last October.  She ran beautifully, although the fishtail tried to swim away, and the points closed up, suddenly halting progress twice.  Luckily, our Legend of the Sport for this year, four-time AMA National Champion Ricky Johnson, had given me his business card at the morning’s coffee pit stop.  Came in very handy for cleaning and resetting the points, and the bike went faster, I swear!  I wrung the poor thing’s neck around Laguna Seca, but the breeding showed through, and even descending the Corkscrew felt safe as houses, with the flat single’s center of gravity slightly below axle level.

Laguna Seca at a ‘brisk pace’ during the Quail Ride: a true highlight of the calendar year. Look at those blue skies! They returned on Sunday… [Paul d’Orléans]
Ricky Johnson, besides being a rare champion of both two- and four-wheeled off-road racing, turned out to be an eloquent and very quotable speaker.  “Motorcycles have never let me down.  If I’m feeling down, I get on a motorcycle, and I feel better.  If I want to go have fun, I get on a motorcycle, and I have fun.”   And, “When I was a kid, I pictured myself as an adult on a motorcycle, winning races.  Now that I’m older, and really did those things, I still feel like a kid on a motorcycle.  Motorcycles make a kid feel like a man, and a man feel like a kid.”  He also, more humorously, called out the participants in the Quail Ride for passing by a Vincent rider whose bike was having trouble; “Don’t you guys usually stop for a rider in trouble?  You’re a bunch of savages.”

Wayne Rainey, Ricky Johnson, and Gordon McCall having a deep and funny conversation, with real insight into the experience of racing, winning, and crashing. [Paul d’Orléans]
The morning of the Concours started out dry but grey, and word from the Quail had spread: bring your pop-up tent.  And many did, though it didn’t help much by noon, when the deluge began.  I’d done my rounds early to grab a glance at the superb machinery on display and say my hellos, so photography was done early.  The rain didn’t really start until noon, while event founder Gordon McCall was interviewing Ricky Johnson and World Champion Wayne Rainey (ha!) under, yes, a tent over the podium main stage.  Thankfully the Quail had set up a second very large tent in front of the stage, which was packed with folks who wanted to hear a conversation between legends, and as noted above, it was delightful.  And then, it started raining horizontally, the conversants got very wet regardless the awning, and quite a few folks decamped into the Lodge proper for lunch and conversation – it was packed!

Rody Rodenburg’s 1940 Daytona Triumph Tiger 100 with bronze head and original condition sat inside a Ford Thames van – nice double display. [Paul d’Orléans]
Featured classes this year included the 30th Anniversary of the Ducati 916, 25th Anniversary of the Suzuki Hayabusa, 100th Anniversary of the American Motorcyclist Association, and 78 years of the Vespa (JK, it was just ‘A celebration of Vespa’ – I wrote an essay for the event brochure on the history of Piaggio and the Vespa, which you can read here).   There are a dozen other classes and categories, and a small army of judges led by Somer Hooker to look them all over very carefully, but very quickly this year, as we had a feeling the schedule would necessarily be compressed by rain.  Shout out to the intrepid judges who volunteer from early morning, and don’t get to schmooze all day like the rest of attendees.  Bring A Trailer set up a large tent outside the Quail with bikes currently on their site, plus a couple of dozen brought by owners of machinery purchased in their auctions.  That’s a growing cadre, as at any given moment BaT has about 70 bikes on sale, and somehow fetches prices far above what the traditional auction houses are managing.  Perhaps the deep descriptions and community commentary make for more confident purchasers?  Something other auction houses might consider…

Famous authors love bikes too! Rachel Kushner (Flamethrowers, The Hard Crowd, Mars Room) reached out a while back for advice on restoring her father’s Series D Vincent, and the job was done beautifully (by Ziggy Dee – check out our MotoTintype on his home page). We’d only corresponded by email, but she accompanied the finished bike to the Quail: she’s always working motorcycles into her novels! [Paul d’Orléans]
Unfortunately the Quail’s PA does not extend inside the Lodge, so when I announced after the Ricky/Wayne/Gordon interview that our prizegiving ceremony would begin forthwith, and not involve folks pushing their bikes across the stage, many didn’t hear.  We did want the Best in Show bike and the Spirit of the Quail winners on stage for photos, and as emcee I figured it was my task to ensure they damn well arrived!  It took a moment to convince Vic World to push his gleaming, one-of-one pre-production 1968 Honda CB750 prototype across a wet lawn in a driving rain a couple of hundred yards to the stage, although whispering he’d won Best of Show changed that to a happy task.  His Honda is extraordinary, as the earliest example extant of one of the top five most important motorcycle designs in the world (The others?  Great idea for a story).  A worthy winner.

Jason Momoa (Aquaman! maybe it’s his fault) brought a trio of JAP-powered beauties: two Brough Superior SS100s and Max Hazan’s amazing supercharged JAP 8/80 custom. As usual, it’s a devastatingly beautiful machine, and works! [Paul d’Orléans]
The Spirit of the Quail award went to the team of Johnny Green and Evan Wilcox, who built an Art Deco-inspired Seeley-Norton Commando.  The customer – Barry Weiss – wanted ‘a Raymond Loewy Art Deco toaster with speed whiskers’, according to Evan (a legendary metalsmith), so that’s what he got.  It’s a wild machine, and not to everyone’s taste, but no on can deny the extraordinary workmanship by these standouts in the old bike world – kudos!  And, they didn’t mind it getting wet either, despite the carburetor bellmouths poking skyward like baby birds.

Open bellmouths on the Deco Commando creation of Johnny Green and Evan Wilcox, winner of the Spirit of the Quail award. [Paul d’Orléans]
The Quail team, led by the velveteen hammer Courtney Ferrante, is always cheerful and competent, and gets it all done with efficiency and aplomb, even when it’s all going south and plans have to be changed very quickly.  As Gordon texted afterwards, “I’ve never had to implement a ‘Plan D’ before, but now I know that is possible!”  We were interviewed for Jason Momoa’s TV series after the event, and Gordon’s takeaway statement on the difference between car and bike people was “If this was a car show, it would have been cancelled!” As a man who’s put on important car shows, and essentially created Car Week around Pebble Beach when he started The Quail: a Motorsports Gathering (as well as the McCall Motorworks Revival, or ‘jet center party’), he would know!

A Honda Z50 Monkey modified by Von Dutch for Steve McQueen to use during filming of ‘The Reivers’. [Paul d’Orléans]
As proof, despite the Biblical level rain, the motorcyclists remained cheerful, and knew the 2024 Quail would be remembered as the one where the real enthusiasts showed up despite the forecast.  They pressed on regardless, and had a great time after all.

Oh, to be a kid again! This Malanca Sports was the dream machine of European 15 year olds as a learner-legal hotrod. [Paul d’Orléans]
The blower intake on Max Hazan’s amazing hand-built machine. [Paul d’Orléans]
A trio of Honda 77s, C and CB. [Paul d’Orléans]
A custom Harley-Davidson homage to the board track era, with a very cool OHV motor in a 1941 chassis. [Paul d’Orléans]
Evan McGreevy’s 1955 Velocette MSS was heavily modified by Velo Club legend Cary ‘McSquid’. I purchased the bike from his estate, and sold it to Evan’s father many years ago. [Paul d’Orléans]
Jason Momoa’s original-paint Brough Superior SS100, purchased I believe from Vintagent sponsor Bryan Bossier / Sinless Cycles. It ran a treat! [Paul d’Orléans]
Bring your perfect bike hauler too! Love this Studebaker pickup. [Paul d’Orléans]
A 1974 Suzuki GT750 waiting to take on Laguna Seca. Remember, when they took your two-strokes, they took part of your joy. [Paul d’Orléans]
Super Sweet pre-unit Triumph TR6SC. [Paul d’Orléans]
The aching beauty of a 1926 Moto Guzzi C2V, the racing OHV model built just before the OHC 4-valve C4V. [Paul d’Orleans]
A star of the show; one of the Featured Marques was Vespa, and you won’t find one older than this 1946 Model 98. [Paul d’Orléans

Paul d’Orléans is the founder of TheVintagent.com. He is an author, photographer, filmmaker, museum curator, event organizer, and public speaker. Check out his Author Page, Instagram, and Facebook.


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