'Joe Craig: Making Norton Famous'

If any single person deserves credit for Norton's extraordinary decades of racing dominance from 1930 through the mid-1950s, it must be Joe Craig.  The de facto racing team manager for Norton under several owners, Craig at first successfully raced the factory product himself in the 1920s, then switched to the role of development engineer in 1930.  He held that position (despite a break from the company during WW2) through 1955, when postwar company owners Associated Motor Cycles (AMC) decided exotic factory specials could no longer be supported financially, and focussed on selling factory catalogued racers like the Norton Manx, AJS 7R, and Matchless G50 models, all of which were produced simultaneously under their corporate ownership.

Norton factory racer Jimmie Guthrie in 1936, after taking several world speed-distance records at the Montlhéry speed bowl: 117.161mph for 50 miles with the 500cc machine, and 107.669mph for 100km with a 350cc Norton. [Craig family archive]
Mick Duckworth has just published a paean to Norton's heyday: 'Joe Craig - Making Norton Famous', built from the collected photographic archive of the man himself, provided by surviving  members of the Craig family.   The archive has passed through many hands since Joe's 1957 death in a car accident, first with his son Des, then relatives and Norton enthusiasts who understood the value of the collection. Finally, Mick was tapped by Barry Stickland to do something with the photos, and has self-published a unique document: 218 pages of images from Joe Craig's career, with only six of them sourced outside the family archive - something of a dream for an author.

Joe Craig in 1929, aged 31, with an early OHC Norton 'Moore' racer with the 'cricket bat' engine. [W&G Baird]
Duckworth has told the story of Joe Craig's career in pictures, with a few separate essays, but most of the information is attached as context for the multitude of photos, which should delight any fan of Norton racing motorcycles from their earliest OHC CS1 racers of 1928, designed by Walter Moore, through their last experimental Type F outside-flywheel Manx of 1955, developed 25 years after Arthur Carroll and Joe Craig sat down to rectify the limitations of Moore's engine.

Joe Craig filling Jimmy Simpson's 350cc factory Norton at the 1934 Swiss Grand Prix. [Carl Jost / Berne State Archive]
We're a long time past Norton's 'golden age of racing', as Mick puts it, between 1930-38, when the International and Manx Grand Prix models won more than 70 Grands Prix and 10 European Championships.  Norton was a very small motorcycle company compared to Triumph, BSA, BMW, and DKW, yet its impact on racing was outsize, from taking the first Isle of Man TT win in 1907, to its total dominance of GP racing in the 1930s. Joe Craig gets much of the credit for this, and not just because of his motorcycles: he was a keen talent spotter, and a stern tactician, earning a reputation for being as 'Unapproachable' as the factory slogan.  Craig ran a tight ship, and wasn't known for the exuberance, for example, of his longtime racing star Stanley Woods.  But Mick Duckworth suggests there was a softer side to the man, especially towards his family and close friends, some of whom he includes in this book.

Mick Duckworth's latest, made almost entirely of Joe Craig's personal photos between the 1920s through 1950s. [Mick Duckworth]
There are definitely gems in the collection, including Craig's barbs at the nascent Vintage Motor Cycle Club in a March 1944 article in The Motorcycle: "I should like to make some attempt at breaking away from the present fashionable practice, which is becoming almost a vice, of rhapsodizing over ancient, so-called masterpieces.  This latter tendency may perhaps be partly attributable to Capt. JJ Hall's activities [Hall was co-founder of the VMCC with 'Titch' Allen] - or should I say 'mania' - for collecting vintage machines.  If we are to consider the future seriously as regards improved motor cycles, then we must break new ground."  Consider, of course, that Craig was a development engineer in an extremely competitive industry, and in 1944 international 'competition' was quite literally lethal.

Every picture tells a story, don't it? At race meetings, Joe Craig invariably wore suit and tie, but at the 1935 German GP, he wore a casual workingman's outfit, and refused to raise his arm in the Nazi salute for 250cc race winner (DKW) Walfried Winkler, who looks sternly at Joe and 350cc race winner Walter Rusk (Norton of course), who likewise ignores hails to the Führer. This is a full four years before the UK went to war with Germany, and demonstrates exactly how Joe Craig felt about Fascism. [Schneider]
As a team boss and single-minded development engineer, Joe Craig had few peers.  While every other factory team explored multi-cylinder, supercharged racers in the 1930s, Norton remained steadfast in their evolution of the Manx, focusing on reliability and superb handling characteristics, which served them well in long-distance and road racing events.  At other venues, such as Monza, top speed was everything, and the Nortons were 20mph down on top speed compared to a Gilera four or BMW blown twin.  His decades-long development work on the Carroll engine design was rivaled in the industry only by, believe it or not, the race shop at Harley-Davidson, who kept their 750cc sidevalve racers competitive (domestically) from 1930 through 1969, with last iterations of the KRTT clocking in at 150mph on Daytona's banking, which was faster than the 750cc BSA/Triumph triples they were racing.

Harold Daniell at Donington Park in 1936, with Norton's first telescopic fork, about to take the lap record on an empty track as an exhibition between races: he lopped 7 seconds off the absolute record. Note the heavy bracing for the 7" diameter megaphone exhaust. Joe Craig looks nervous, with boxes of spark plugs at the ready. Top speed of this last SOHC factory racer was around 120mph, which was hoisted to 125+mph when the factory racers went to DOHC in 1938. [Dunlop archive]
Do you rhapsodize over ancient, so-called masterpieces?  Then surely you need this book!  You can order the book here.


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.

East River Racing in the 1970s

By Sandy Hackney

The story of East River Racing began in September 1969, all because I had been seen risking life and limb on a ’69 Yamaha YDS3 (250cc) on a series of curvy roads in Durham, NC that Summer.  A mechanic at the local Yamaha shop said to me, “You should race.”  Huh?  But the seed was planted, and there was a AAMRR Labor Day race weekend coming up at VIR; it was several days long and featured one 5-hour race.  After exploring this some, I approached a local roofing company, who fashioned a set of expansion chambers to TD1 specs and I was set! Top speed was increased to about 110mph; damned thrilling.

The story of a crew thrown together by circumstances, who find they have much in common. Their racing team toolbox is still in use over 50 years later. [Sandy Hackney]
The race went as expected, with me unloading a time or two - once when my front brake cable snapped at the end of the front straight and I ran into a guy I was “outbraking.” I survived and we finished 4th in a gentle rain.  What next?! Obviously I needed a “real” racer, so I bought a used TD1C from the fabled Bob Sharp, who sadly perished a couple of years later on his bike. With the TD1C, I went off to race the 1970 Daytona 200.  Which was not a total success ... I damaged the crank by exceeding the red line (a few times) and it blew after one lap on that legendary tri-oval.
How it starts: take your road bike, add expansion chambers, and suddenly you're off to the races. Here with a Suzuki Titan, which was a superb production racer. Sandy Hackney and tuner Ginny Carlson camping at Daytona. [Sandy Hackney]
I moved to NYC and began to meet like-minded friends. Soon Bill Nelson, pictured by the door of our racing truck, joined me with his own TD1C. We began to campaign up and down the East Coast: Summit Point, Bridgehampton, VIR, Road Atlanta, Pocono Speedway, Daytona, Nelson Ledges, etc. In the 1971 edition of Daytona I placed in the middle of the field, won $40 and treated Bill and our 'tuners' to a prime rib dinner. Somewhere Bill got the idea of buying a 250 Ducati racer so he could, as he said, “Nip at my heels.” On his first ride he took off and, as the gearing was very tall, he picked up speed slowly. He accelerated to around 80mph and was going to shift, but found he was already in 4th! Top speed! A good idea for racing in the 1940s maybe. Back to Yamahas.
With the 'tuners' in the paddock, some of whom became wives! Bill Nelson and tuner Judy Bloom camping at Daytona. [Sandy Hackney]

Soon we had a core group made of several colleagues from the Respiratory Therapy Department at NYU Medical Center; we were all in our early 20s and in love with motorcycles. We rented a storefront on E. 12th between 1st and 2nd Ave, and East River Racing was truly born. Our truck was purchased by me from a NC monk for $80. A great deal. We added a couple of fine women as tuners - and more. One tuner is married to this day to Bill.

Sandy Hackney at speed on a Yamaha TD2, with its coveted large drum brakes, at Summit Point.[Sandy Hackney]
East River Racing survived for several years as we slowly came to our senses. One aficionado, Herr Snow, pictured at the far left by the truck had bought my TD1C. He fired it up at VIR, took off, and went possibly 1 mile through a couple of turns. I came upon him after he set it on the side of the truck and began walking back. “No more” and that was the end of his racing career. Recently, he told me he has 9 motorcycles in parts - and one runs!
Looks like an album cover of the period: the East River Racing crew circa 1970, with their 1950s Ford panel van modified as transporter. Note the NYC skyline in the background. Art Snow, Gerry Ebersole, Bill Nelson, Sandy Hackney, Tac Hostetter. [Sandy Hackney]
All of us survived. Bill had a fine career as a physician. Another was a mayor of a small Georgia town. One owns and runs a department store. The erstwhile racer Snow had a spell as a bartender on a Mississippi river boat. Today he plays bass for a funky band in San Antonio. Yours truly - 2nd from right by our truck - had a few poorly paid careers and a number of bouts in graduate study. Today, after giving up my Royal Enfield with a sidecar, I am settled down in the Paradise of upstate New York with my fantastic wife and a creaky 1984 BMW R80. Bravo to ERR! It was a lot of fun.
In the pits for a little pre-race prep at a verdant East Coast circuit. Bill Nelson tuning his TD2 at Virginia International Raceway. [Sandy Hackney]
A time never repeated, although the ERR crew remained friends over the decades. Bill Nelson at Daytona.[Sandy Hackney]


Sandy Hackney, "Pushing 80", is North Carolina born. Educated at Duke, he also studied theology at Saint John's University and musicology at NYU. Retired in upstate New York with his fantastic wife Ann, he concentrates his efforts on bicycle riding and for the last time trying to understand Wittgenstein.

RIDE 70s Spring Raid Invitational

[Editor's note: Vintagent Contributor Fabio Affuso recently founded a moto-touring company with seasoned petrolhead Pietro Casadio Pirazzoli, RIDE 70s, using classic (mostly) Italian bikes to explore classic Italian landscapes.  For the inaugural tour of RIDE 70s, he chose Tuscany, and invited a dozen friends and journalists to test the bikes and his organizational skills. HIs Spring Raid Invitational last month coincided with my own tour of Italy on classic Italian bikes, otherwise this would be a first-hand ride report!]

Classic Italian bikes in a classic Tuscan landscape. [Fabio Affuso]
[Text and Photos by Fabio Affuso]

To celebrate the beginning of our RIDE 70s touring season in Italy, we were thrilled to guide an eclectic group of friends on an unforgettable expedition, a motorcycle journey across the picturesque landscapes of Tuscany.

Ah, Tuscany in Spring. Pointy Cypress trees, 500yo churches, roads winding through ancient villages, and green as can be this year, with fields in full bloom. Sweet Moto Guzzi V7 Sport too! [Fabio Affuso]
Our adventure began in the charming town of San Marino at our RIDE 70s clubhouse, where our group of riders first met their chosen bikes. Andrew from London, Ralf from Germany, Simon, Lesley and Cassie from the UK, Zubin from the UAE, Guillame from Spain, Nikos from Greece, Mike from Switzerland, and Svein from Norway added a delightful mix of personalities and nationalities to the journey. Some of them didn’t know each other yet, and this became a great opportunity to cement new real friendships. The anticipation was palpable as we geared up, excitedly preparing for the road ahead.
1970s Italian style is unbeatable! The apex era of Italian design, and the moment they led the world in motorcycle performance and styling. Not even ownership by Harley-Davidson could stop Aermacchi from building cool, light roadsters. [Fabio Affuso]
On the first day, we set out to gradually climb the twists up the Apennine Mountains, crossing into the enchanting region of Tuscany. The majestic landscapes unfolded before our eyes, with rolling hills adorned with vineyards and olive groves. Each twist and turn of the road revealed the beauty and diversity of the Chianti region.
Where the wine at? Well, all around actually: every town has a famous vintage attached - the drinkable kind. Chianti, Montepulciano, etc. Plus, olive trees everywhere, with every town having its own production and local flavor. [Fabio Affuso]
As the day drew to a close, we found ourselves in the captivating town of Montalcino, perched atop a hill. Its narrow cobblestone streets beckoned us to immerse ourselves in its timeless charm. We savoured the rich gastronomic delights of Tuscany, relishing hearty ribollita soup, succulent bistecca alla Fiorentina, and authentic pici pasta dressed with a flavorful wild boar ragù. Paired with the world-famous Brunello di Montalcino wine, the dining experience became a celebration of Tuscan flavours, traditions and new friendships.
The coast of Tuscany is off the chain beautiful, with picturesque villages clinging to steep hillsides, and fresh everything laid at your table. [Fabio Affuso]
The second day took us on a thrilling morning ride through the mezmerising Maremma Toscana. Crossing the waters to Giglio Island on a short ferry ride, we found ourselves in a coastal paradise, to lunch on a vineyard nestled on the edge of the island's cliff, offering panoramic views of the sparkling sea. It was the perfect spot to enjoy a delicious feast of grilled fish, freshly caught and expertly prepared for us by the land owner. The flavours of the sea, combined with the crispness of local Vermentino white wine, created an unforgettable culinary experience.
Oh, the sufferings of an old bike ride...and the rewards of the destination. When passing through so many famous wine towns, it's necessary to sample the local product. [Fabio Affuso]
As the sun began to set, we retreated to the apartments we had rented on the island by the sea. The evening came alive with laughter, music, and the clinking of glasses as we celebrated our journey. A feast of calamari fry up and seafood pasta, brimming with the bounty of the sea, took center stage together with copious amounts of beer, satisfying our taste buds and boosting our joyous conversations. The third day marked our return to the mainland, with a quick visit to the famous Saturnia hot springs along the way, with some soaking in the warm, rejuvenating and mineral-rich waters and others sipped beer at the bar.
What's all the fuss? Just an old town in a landscape...looks like Montepulciano - just another medieval walled city. [Fabio Affuso]

Continuing our journey reinvigorated, we arrived in the enchanting town of Montepulciano, renowned for its Renaissance architecture and exquisite wines. Here, we reveled in the rich flavors of Tuscan cuisine, savouring pecorino cheese, handmade pici pasta, and tender braised wild boar. The indulgence was accompanied by the velvety notes of Nobile di Montepulciano wine, adding a touch of elegance to our dining experience.

Stunning river gorges through those hills, and winding small roads. [Fabio Affuso]
On our final day, a couple of minor mechanical issues briefly interrupted our adventure and we had to recover one bike, but the tour went on to cross the breathtaking Furlo Gorge, a testament to nature's grandeur. As we rode back to San Marino, a mix of emotions filled the air—pride in our incredible journey, nostalgia for the beautiful moments shared, and excitement for the future adventures of our upcoming touring season.
Morini 3 1/2, the cactus, and a long view of the bay. Paradisical. [Fabio Affuso]
This motorcycle journey across Tuscany organized by RIDE 70s has brought us together in a unique and unforgettable way. It was a testament to the beauty of exploration, the thrill of riding, and the power of camaraderie. We were grateful for the opportunity to create lifelong memories and share our love for vintage motorcycles, captivating landscapes, and mouthwatering flavors. We can’t wait to take more groups on these exciting journeys across the best regions of Italy.
The inevitable campanile in every village of note, usually beside a 500yo church, in a 1000yo village. Tuscany in a nutshell. [Fabio Affuso]
Want to follow along on your phone?  Follow @ride70s_official on IG, and @fabioaffusophoto for more adventures in Italy.

Fabio Affuso is an Italian photographer based in London and his native Naples. He photographs motorsport and fashion around the globe. Find him at his website and Instagram.

The Anamosa Broughs: a Superior Collection

It might have seemed the height of pretense to label a new motorcycle company ‘Superior’ in 1919, but George Brough had a vision of building the fastest, most elegant motorcycles in the world, and delivered.  His father William built well-respected motorcycles in Nottingham from the 1890s, and commenced his own brand – Brough – that earned a reputation for high quality.  Young George was the factory’s official competitor in road and off-road events, which he often won with panache.


Young George Brough in 1912 aboard a 500c Brough 3 1/2hp single, after winning the London-Edinburgh Challenge Cup for three years in succession on his father's machines. [The Vintagent Archive]

During WW1, George Brough envisioned manufacturing an ultimate high-performance motorcycle, but his father refused the concept, so George set up his own factory nearby. He assembled the best racing components from engine, gearbox, forks, and wheel manufacturers for his first model, the Mk 1 of 1919.  It used a J.A.P. racing OHV v-twin motor of 1000cc and a heavyweight Sturmey-Archer 3-speed gearbox, in a very robust frame with a long wheelbase, crowned with the world’s first round-nosed saddle fuel tank, resplendent in nickel plating, black paint, and gold pinstriping.  A friend suggested he call it ‘Brough Superior’, as it so clearly was, but father William was not amused, presuming the family product was then relegated to ‘Brough Inferior’.

George aboard Brough Superior #1 in 1919, a Mk1 model with J.A.P. '90 Bore' V-twin with vertical valves. [The Vintagent Archive]
Brough Superior wowed the world with the extraordinary beauty of his products, their superb build quality, and their world-leading speed and handling, creating a new category for the industry: the luxury sports motorcycle. George proved the point personally, regularly entering road trials and sprints on his sparkling machines (he'd take them by train to the nearest station to an event), and invariably winning.  He was the original designer-manufacturer-racer, and always cut quite a figure at events, dressed immaculately with his signature cocked cap (which he designed).  His machines were full of industry 'firsts', including the first round-nose 'saddle' tank, the first sidestand, the first dipping headlamp, twin headlamps, crash bars, and interconnected silencers.

George aboard 'Spit and Polish', the first sidevalve motorcycle to clock 100mph, and the prototype for his SS80 model. [The Vintagent Archive]
In 1924, with the introduction of his SS100 model, cemented his position as one of the most gifted vehicle designers in history.  The SS100 was the fastest road-legal production motorcycle in the world, with each example guaranteed to have been timed at 100mph on the Brooklands autodrome.  Every Brough Superior was bespoke; tailored to the customer’s desires and physique, with special accessories, state of engine tune, gearing, forks, wheel sizes, fuel tank size, colors, and plating all optional.  One SS100 ordered by an Indian maharajah was entirely silver plated, another came with an electric starter for an officer who’d lost a leg in WW1; anything was possible.

The superb 1927 Brough Superior Pendine replica coming up for sale at Mecum Auction's John Parham Estate Collection at the National Motorcycle Museum, Sep 6-9. [Mecum]
If one wanted a racing SS100, Brough Superior offered the Pendine model, identifiable by three straps securing the fuel tank.  The Pendine was named for Pendine Sands in Wales, the site of racing and record-breaking, where Broughs often took FTDs.   George himself became the fastest motorcyclist on earth in 1930 at Arpajon France, when his SS100 clocked just over 130mph on a one-way run.  A mechanical glitch meant no return run for an official record, but the point was made.  Brough Superiors took the absolute World Speed Record three times between 1924 and 1937, besting BMW, Zenith, and OEC supercharged racers in a golden era of international top-speed battles.  The 1927 SS100 Pendine racer replica in the John Parham collection is a prime example of the exquisite mix of beauty and speed for this model, and is correct in every way, from its AMAC twin-float track carburetor to its three-strap tank, the whole machine resplendent in nickel plating, which was the ne plus ultra style of late 1920s track racing.  It is the most beautiful motorcycle in the National Motorcycle Museum collection, and this machine is known around the world as a peerless construction built to an absolutely period-correct standard.

The 1937 Brough Superior SS80 with Matchless MX motor: a sophisticated sports tourer. [Mecum]
Brough Superior offered other models for those not requiring the world’s fastest, introducing the SS80 model in 1923, with a sidevalve J.A.P. 1000cc racing v-twin. George raced a factory tuned version called ‘Spit and Polish’, the first sidevalve motorcycle to exceed 100mph, on which he won 51 of 52 sprint races entered. The bike finished first in that last race, although George was not aboard, having fallen off shortly before the line on the gravel course, a crash that put an end to his racing career.

The driver's seat of the SS80 - a grand expanse of fuel tank with double fillers, and sophisticated controls. [Mecum]
The SS80 became over time the most popular Brough Superior, a perfect luxury sports-touring machine with superb handling, guaranteed 80+mph performance, and total reliability.  The 1937 SS80 from the John Parham collection is a second-series model using a Matchless 990cc V-twin, with internal parts (a stronger crankshaft and special mainshafts) and tuning (hotter cams and better breathing) specified by George, as well as stronger shafts, gears, and racing ratios in the 4-speed Sturmey-Archer gearbox.  It was amazing for a factory of such limited production (only 3048 built between 1919-40) to command special parts for their engines, gearboxes, and wheels, but that was pure Brough Superior, and suppliers were happy for the association.

The 1933 Brough Superior 11.50 at the National Motorcycle Museum: a potent motorcycle with 1100cc, and performance very near the SS100, and the sleeper of the Brough line. [Mecum]
As George Brough entered his 40s, after a life of racing (and crashing), he developed a new favorite in the Brough Superior model range: the 11.50, introduced in 1933, with a J.A.P. 1100cc 60deg sidevalve V-twin motor used by no other motorcycle manufacturer. While the specification might sound ordinary, the 11.50 is anything but, and with mild tuning proved to be (whisper it) as fast as the SS100, with greater low-down torque, and with its wider vee angle, even smoother.

The 11.50 is a comfortable machine, with wide handlebars, and shifting is rarely necessary once underway. [Mecum]
The 11.50 was the sleeper of the Brough Superior line, and a favorite of police forces in the UK and Canada for its ability to catch any car. I write with experience, having owned an 11.50 since 1989, and riding one across the USA in 2014 on the Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Rally, where it proved the fastest and best-handling machine among 100 competitors.  Fans of the Harley-Davidson EL ‘Knucklehead’ were served humble pie in a roll-on acceleration test in Colorado, where the 11.50 ridden two-up simply walked away from a beautifully restored EL.  Needless to say, prices for the 11.50 quickly doubled.  The 1933 11.50 in the National Motorcycle Museum is a superbly restored machine, just waiting for a new owner to discover what’s really behind the Brough Superior badge.  It’s a rare instance of a brand truly living up to its reputation, even the audacious boast of its name proving accurate: a Brough is Superior.

[Full disclosure: Mecum Auctions is a sponsor of The Vintagent]


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.


A Chris Killip Retrospective

While photographer Chris Killip was known as a social documentarian, his upbringing on the Isle of Man meant it was inevitable he'd take a few extraordinary moto photos.  A legend in photographic circles, and a professor of visual and environmental studies at Harvard from 1991-2017, Killip was born in Douglas, where his parents owned the Highlander Pub - perhaps you've had a pint there on a trip to Mona's Isle?  Who knows what inspired the son of pubholders to take up a camera as a profession, but of course, a public house is a natural place to develop one's skills at social observation at a neutral distance: the parade of customers passing through are highlighted on a gimlet-lit stage, locals and tourists in a never-ending spectacle.

From Chris Killip's book 'Isle of Man 1971. [Chris Killip]
Killip left school at 16 to train as a hotel manager, work in his parents' pub, and photograph tourists at the beach.  He moved to London at 18 (1964) and worked as an apprentice commercial photographer under Adrian Flowers.  He soon went freelance, alternating work in the pub with photo gigs, but by 1969 he abandoned commercial photography to pursue his own work. He won fellowships from several local arts councils to photograph local cultures in the northeast of England, including Bury St Edmonds, Huddersfield, and Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, all of which were experiencing major economic changes as local industries (coal mining, shipbuilding, heavy industry) began to disappear in the 1970s and 80s.  As he explained in 2019, "I didn’t set out to be the photographer of the English de-Industrial Revolution. It happened all around me during the time I was photographing."

A secretary in the late 1970s, Tyneside. [Chris Killip]
Killip became one of the most important photographers of the 1970s and '80s, mingling with very 'local' communities around the UK that were left behind in a major global shift of Capital.  He immersed himself into the towns and people he photographed, and made deeply personal imagery of the Isle of Man, beaches, council estates, or in the mosh pit of a punk show.  He became a familiar figure at underground punk clubs in Gateshead in the 1980s, and captured the raw vitality of the scene in a manner only possible by a participant with camera in hand. He also documented the coal miners of Lynemouth, who, as he said, "had history done to them."

West End, Newcastle. Father and son.
From the project 'In Flagrante' 1973-1985. [Chris Killip]
Killip's breakthrough book collecting his photographic work in the northeast of England was published in 1988 as In Flagrante, with a text by art critic/theoretician John Berger and Sylvia Grant.  Shot on 4x5" black-and-white film, these portraits of Tyneside's working class communities are now recognized as among the most important visual records of 1980s Britain. Critic Robert Ayers called it "one of the greatest photography books ever published."

From his documentation of the punk scene in the northeast of England. [Chris Killip]
His photographic work documenting the Isle of Man TT Races date from 1971, and have only recently been published in a unique (and inexpensive - £6.70!) edition by Cafe Royal Books.  The collection is like no other TT photos I've seen: they feature none of the romance of racing, only its grittiness, its working class participants, and the dramatic changes to the 'biker' in the post-Easy Rider era.  Chris Killip kindly allowed me to include one of his photos in my most recent book 'Ton Up!', in the chapter about the 1970s (order a signed copy here!).  British motorcyclists of the 1960s were basically 'straight-edge', eschewing alcohol and drugs in order to keep their wits about them while riding fast.  By 1971, the rules had clearly changed, with the bikers aping American B-movie styles for their motorcycles and riding gear, and looking fairly wasted. In this era, the term 'Rocker' became synonymous with bikers on drugs with crappy choppers, and the old cafe racer vibe was long gone.

From 'Ton Up!' - a cafe racer BSA rider at Douglas, Isle of Man, in 1971. [Chris Killip]
Killip's books have been been recently published, including In Flagrante, and Cafe Royal sells a 5-volume set of their collaboration with the photographer over the past few years, before his death of cancer in 2020.   They include:  Isle of Man TT Races 1971, Huddersfield 1974, The Seaside 1975–1981, Shipbuilding on Tyneside 1975–1976, and Askam-in-Furness 1982.  They can be ordered individually, check out the Cafe Royal website here.

More from the Isle of Man, 1971. [Chris Killip]
If you’re in the UK, there's currently an excellent Chris Killip retrospective exhibition at Baltic in Gateshead.

'Isle of Man TT Races 1971', from Cafe Royal Books


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.

2023 Quail - No Rain, No Pain

California has been swimming an atmospheric river so long its residents are traumatized, tired of getting wet, and pulling U-turns at the first sight of an orange cone.  That might be an explanation for the dozen empty spots on the grass at this year's Quail Motorcycle Gathering, or it could simply be lucky year #13 parsing the solidly committed from the those who let a 20% chance of rain convince them to miss a pretty amazing weekend.

Favorite rig of the weekend: a 1961 Willys L6-226 4x4 pickupu owned by Anthony Drago, with a Greeves scrambler in the bed. Perfect patina, even after a second repaint! [Paul d'Orleans]
Despite those missing Concours entries, the actual numbers of bikes at/around the Quail was well up, partly due to the presence of Bring-A-Trailer (BaT), who put out a call for an alumni gathering, and were heard.  The BaT zone just outside the Quail's entry gates was packed with motorcycles that had been purchased on their site, balancing out the overall Quail numbers, and prompting suggestions they should bring the party inside the gates next year?  They do reach a vast audience of car/moto enthusiasts who collect classics with two and four wheels.  Stay tuned for an interview with BaT founder Randy Nonnenberg and Auction Team Manager Tyler Greenblatt.

But first, the day before: the Quail Ride, a tour of the fantastic California coastal range, in full bloom after a very wet year. Quail founder Gordon McCall personally swept the apexes of corners before the tour! [Paul d'Orleans]
Can we all admit that motorcyclists are sorta cheapskates, except when it comes to buying motorcycles?  Every year our local vintage bike forums resound with gripers who think $150 or so for a spectacular event dedicated to their lifelong passion is expensive. Yes, you're underpaid, got bills 'n kids, but a whole lot of folks - nearly 50, including the volunteer judges - spend a whole lot of time making the Quail the finest motorcycle-only show in the country, if not the world.  And they succeed, every year, so act like you really like motorcycles, and show up.  Live a little.

Need a donut before your ride? I chose chocolate! And hey, dig my Paul Cox Berserker jacket by Vanson, and my El Solitario Rascal pants! The ultimate vintage riding suit (along with my old Gucci motorcycle boots). [Courtney Ferrante]
Full disclosure: I've emceed the Quail since 2011, so have my attachments to the place and the amazing staff that make it happen. But the big draw for me is the magic of the event, which has little to do with which motorcycles are entered, and much to do with the people who attend.   Want to talk to Bubba Shobert, Wayne Rainey, or Eddie Lawson?   No bodyguards, handlers, or velvet ropes here - just say hi, and start a conversation.  Or builders: Max Hazan is a regular (and a regular winner), who brings his lovely family; and talented folks like Dustin Kott, Hugo Eccles (Untitled MC) and Taras Kravtchouk (Tarform), among many other heavyweights in the design, custom, and electric scenes.  It's a great place to talk with folks in the industry, if you have questions or just want to know who's responsible for good design.

Variety, peeps. On the vanguard of future design, Taras Kravtchouk and his Tarform production-ready prototype. And, isn't it time the Quail had an electric bike category? [Paul d'Orleans]
We've had a Vintagent X Motor/Cycle Arts Foundation booth at the Quail for many years now, and this year we were book-heavy.  We gave half our booth over to the new Taschen 'Ultimate Collector Motorcycles' book, and invited a publisher's rep (thanks, Creed Poulsen) to be on hand and explain why the book is so special.  Thanks to the many who ponied up on the day, especially for the Fine Art Edition ($850), which is the most lavish book ever printed about motorcycles.  We also had deeply discounted books by your truly, all of which are available in our Shop, plus some rarities like Legend of the Motorcycle Concours brochures and tees.  We're the only place on the planet to find those, and the only place to buy signed copies of my books: if you want a personalized inscription, let me know.

Creed Poulsen, a Director at Taschen, repping the new Ultimate Motorcycle Collection: we sold quite a few! [Paul d'Orleans]
So, what bikes won?  Best of Show was an ultra-rare 1939 Miller-Balsamo 200 Carenata, with fully enclosed monocoque bodywork and a two-stroke engine beneath, owned by SF architect/arch collector John Goldman, who's been supporting motorcycle shows for decades with his amazing Italian and now Art Deco masterpieces.  This was the first year I kept my nose out of the judge's chambers, but apparently the futuristic Italian lightweight was a firm favorite across the board. For the other 25 winners in the 18 judged categories, check out the Quail PR page.  You'll also get a free eyeful of the metallic leopard Tom Ford blazer I found in Milan, as emcee means giving out the prizes, and being entertaining is my job, ma'am.

Best of Show: John Goldman's 1939 Miller-Balsamo Carenata, with a monocoque chassis. [Paul d'Orleans]
Do yourself a favor next year, and attend the Quail.  Better yet, shine up your bike and park it on the grass: Tyler Greenblatt from Bring-A-Trailer mentioned that bikes shown at the Quail tend to sell for a premium, and even if you're not planning on selling your machine, it adds a little provenance.  My personal faves?  They're mostly in these photos, but I did miss taking photos of a few great bikes; lustrous Italian lightweights, gnarly dirt track champs, fierce 1980s two-stroke GP racers, and customized bikes that looked very tasty indeed.  If you can swing it, I'd also recommend joining the Quail Ride on the Friday, a 100-mile tour through the gorgeous Carmel and Salinas Valleys escorted by hotshoe CHP bikes (six this year!), and a few hot laps (and I mean it, I was flat out on my '65 T120SR Bonneville and couldn't catch the pace car!) of legendary Laguna Seca raceway.  Top memories of the weekend definitely include the feeling in my nether parts cresting the hill into the Corkscrew hard on the throttle - a thrill that never ages. You can too: must be present to win.

Greg Arnold, Motorcycle Division Director at Mecum Auctions (a Vintagent sponsor), with a remarkable original paint 1918 Henderson Model H four coming up for sale at their Monterey auction in August. [Paul d'Orleans]
Little bike, big crowd. View from the podium at the Quail, with the Why We Ride 'kid's choice' winner: a 1976 MV Agusta Minibike produced to commemorate their last World Championship, owned by Marilyn Wiersema. [Paul d'Orleans]
Variety: Hugo Eccles' brilliant XP Zero, as seen in our Electric Revolutionaries exhibit at the Petersen Museum. And, isn't it time the Quail had an electric bike category? [Paul d'Orleans]
John Goldman's 1935 Moto Confort Grandsport 500. [Paul d'Orleans]
Holding up Max Hazan's double-Velocette MAC special, winner of the Custom/Modified Class. [Paul d'Orleans]
One-owner from new: Phil Lane and his 'never gonna let you go' Dunstall Norton 810 Commando. [Paul d'Orleans]
A pair of Ducati singles: an R/T MX and Sebring with patina. [Paul d'Orleans]
A lustrous Ducati 200 Elite with chromed jellymold tank. [Paul d'Orleans]
A rare DKW Hummel in original paint - early 1960s space-age extravagance, and its sister machine was the Victoria Sputnik. [Paul d'Orleans]
Deb Sell on her faithful Honda C77 Dream on the Quail Ride. [Paul d'Orleans]
Just a casual chat between old friends Wayne Rainey, Gordon McCall, Bubba Shobert, and Eddie Lawson. [Paul d'Orleans]
The Haas Motor Museum brought several delectable machines, including this 1929 Ascot-Pullin: read my Road Test of one here. [Paul d'Orleans]
Winner of the Arlen Ness Award, Keith Young with his '550' customized Honda 550cc Four, and 550 holes! [Paul d'Orleans]
On the Quail Ride, oldest bike was this 1939 Indian Sport Scout. [Paul d'Orleans]
On display outside the Velocette Owner's Club tent, my 1930 Velocette KTT Mk1. [Paul d'Orleans]
Sweet Harley-Davidson Sportster bob-job with low bars and springer forks - very nice. [Paul d'Orleans]
Another amazing bike from the Haas Motor Museum: this Seeley-Tait two-stroke triple emulating the DKW Singing Saw GP racer. [Paul d'Orleans]
From the private collections of Eddie Lawson and Wayne Rainey, several racers that had never been displayed in public. [Paul d'Orleans]
Thanks judges! For spending the better half of the Quail day peering hard at the entrants. [Paul d'Orleans]
Lovely c.1912 NSU V-twin on the grass: rare in the US. [Paul d'Orleans]
A pair of gorgeous pre-war Triumphs: a Tiger 100 and Speed Twin, evidence of stylist Edward Turner's genius. [Paul d'Orleans]
Shades of orange: an Aprilia X Philippe Starck Moto 6.1 and Norton Combat Commando, on the Quail Ride. [Paul d'Orleans]
Last year's Best of Show: Max Hazan's HMW Vincent, which he parked in front of the Vintagent X Motorcycle Arts Foundation booth. His son is ready to ride! [Paul d'Orleans]



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.


The Ultimate Collector Motorcycles - Taschen

I had the pleasure of advising on (and being included in) a mammoth new project from publishers Taschen: the 2-volume set of The Ultimate Collector Motorcycles, a 20lb behemoth in a lovely slipcover with several cover variations - my advanced copy has a Münch Mammüt, but I've also seen a Brough Superior Golden Dream and Gilera Four GP.  The books are written by Peter and Charlotte Fiell and edited by Taschen; it's a real blockbuster, and like nothing else published about motorcycles.  The intent was to revisit the idea of a Top 100 list of the most important ('collectible') motorcycles, and the bikes were sourced from around the world, in private collections and museums, representing a truly remarkable array of machines...some of which I've Road Tested on The Vintagent!

Support The Vintagent!  Order your Collector's Edition ($250) here with free shipping anywhere in the world! 

Order your Fine Art Edition ($850) here, it's the most lavishly produced motorcycle book EVER!!!  It comes in two separate slipcases, and has a tipped-in cover photo printed on metal, with an extraordinary deep gloss, silver paper edging, and larger size (11.25x14.5"). It's so impressive, we sold four at the Quail Motorcycle Gathering - there's really nothing like it anywhere!

From Taschen PR:

"Dream Rides: the most spectacular bikes on the planet.  From the 1894 Hildebrand & Wolfmüller to the 2020 Aston Martin AMB001, this book lavishly explores 100 of the most desirable motorcycles to have ever sped thrillingly around a circuit or along an open road.  From pioneering record-breakers, luxury tourers, and legendary roadracers to GP-winning machines, iconic superbikes, and exotic customs, this book celebrates motorcycle design and engineering at its highest level. Many examples are from acclaimed private collections and very rarely seen.  Others are the all-out stars of renowned motorcycle museums - such as teh 1938 Brough Superior 'Golden Dram' or the 1957 MV Agusta 500 4C, which took John Surtees to World Championship glory.  Alongside some early survivors in astonishingly original condition is a stable of fabled racers - the actual machines that were competed on by the likes of Dario Abrosini, Tarquniio Provini, Mike Hailwood, Giacomo Agostini, Barry Sheene, and Kenny Roberts.

The fascinating stories behind these fabulous motorbikes are expertly recounted in detail, alongside stunning imagery specially taken for the book by the world's leading motorcycle photographers.  Also included are rare archival gems, from early posters to remarkable action shots.  In addition, there is a forward by legendary petrolhead Jay Leno, and interviews with George Barber, founder of the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum; Sammy Miller, championship-winning racer and founder of the Sammy Miller Motorcycle Museum; Ben Walker, Department Director of Motorcycles at Bonhams; Paul d'Orléans, founder of The Vintagent; and Gordon McCall, cofounder of the Quail Motorcycle Gathering, the world-renowned motorcycle concours event.held in Carmel Valley, California.

The Moto Guzzi V8 revealed, with a well-researched storyline explaining its technical and historic importance. [Taschen]
A cornucopia of motorcycle treasure and an absolute must-have for all bike enthusiasts!"

We'll have discounted copies available soon on The Vintagent - stay tuned!   The 'famous first edition' is limited to 9000 copies, while there's an art edition of 1000 copies coming too - more details to follow on our Instagram and Facebook pages.

A Crocker 'Small Tank' is included, of course. Read our Crocker history here (and enjoy the Comments section!) [Taschen]
The Imola Ducati 750SS we included in our Silver Shotgun exhibit at the Petersen Museum. [Taschen]
For something more modern, how about a Yamaha inline 4 two-stroke GP racer? [Taschen]
...and the box it comes in, something of a work of art itself! [Paul d'Orleans]

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.


CeDora and the Globe of Death

CeDora. Or Ce'Dora, or C'Dora.  Everyone on the Vaudeville circuit had a stage name, and young Greek immigrant Agnes Theodore chose a homophone of her given name as the character for her death-defying motorcycle act in the early 1900s.  CeDora rode into history as the first woman to perform in a Globe of Death, and her fame continued even after she retired, as her stage name was used for two generations, when another young woman, Eleanore Seufert, took over as CeDora, riding the Globe of Death through the 1930s.

Agnes Theodore in a charming publicity photo from 1917, with the 1908 Indian single she rode for most of her career, signed 'Ce Dora - Girl in the Golden Globe'.  Apparently her theatrical costume of frilly shorts provided as much excitement for Edwardian audiences as her riding skills! [The Vintagent Archive]
The original Globe of Death riders were bicyclists, and a first patent for a 'Bicyclist's Globe' was granted in 1904 to Arthur Rosenthal of Grand Rapids, Michigan. However, carnival historian A.W. Stencell ('Seeing Is Believing: America's Side Shows') notes the first Globe of Death act was probably created by Thomas Eck in 1903, using a bicycle ridden at around 6mph within a 16' sphere - that tilted as he rode.  Rosenthal's 1904 patent claims “certain new and useful improvements in Bicyclists Globes”, which means they already existed, and were a sensation worth developing.  It was Rosenthal who designed the steel-latticed globe that has been the pattern of construction for Globes of Death ever since, and allows riders to reach sufficient speed for horizontal and loop-the-loop riding in relative safety, or at least stability.  Arthur Rosenthal had his own Globe act, and teamed up with Frank Lemon as “Rose and Lemon,” a trick bicycle and motorcycle duo, who performed in the globe as the climax of their act, as a display of skill and virtuosity that was viscerally thrilling to watch.

The 1904 patent drawing for “certain new and useful improvements in Bicyclists Globes”, by Arthur Rosenthal, half of the 'Rose and Lemon' bicycle/motorcycle stunt act.  This patent laid the pattern for all Globes to come, although it was quickly copied by acts in Europe. [US Patent Office]
News of the Globe of Death spread quickly, with several other performers adopting the novelty act, such as Italian daredevil Guido Consi, who rode his “Sphere of Fear” in Rome in 1913, and by 1915 a Brazilian crew rode in New York City as “Cedero and his Golden Globe."  Cedero's globe was used back in South America for decades, and was discovered around 1970 in El Salvador by the Urias brothers, (who had their own Globe since 1912), who use it to this day. The popularity of traveling stunt acts in a nationwide carnival circuit cannot be overestimated: there was no television or regular radio broadcasting at the time, so live performances were wildly popular, and profitable, and early stunt bicyclists and motorcyclists earned a reasonable income.  Carnival life was not for everyone, though, as plying the Vaudeville circuit meant a never-ending travel schedule, and risking one's life several times per day.  The life of a 'carny' remains a unique lifestyle, as the obituary for the second CeDora attests.

Agnes Theodore began her Globe of Death career as a bicyclist sometime in the 'Noughts, with her husband Charles Hadfield as a co-rider, stuntman, and manager.  Hadfield was a bicycle race promoter who saw the potential of this new act, which they originally called the Golden Globe, a 16' diameter steel sphere made of woven strip steel and a tubular steel frame. The earliest CeDora exhibition posters (from 1905?) show her riding a bicycle exclusively, alongside a male rider, presumably her husband Charles.

Yet another variation on the name: Ce'Dora, 'The Most Daring Girl on Earth'.  This time Agnes Theodore is pictured prominently with a motorcycle, that looks very much like a c.1903 Motosacoche, which according to The Motocycle News she brought with her from Europe. [The Vintagent Archive]
Later posters (from 1906/7?) show CeDora with a motorcycle, which according to The Motocycle News (April 1909) she had brought with her from Europe (presumably when she emigrated to the USA), which looks to be a c.1903 Motosacoche.  It was natural that experienced bicyclists should include the new motorized bicycles in their stunt acts.  So it seems with Agnes, who was originally depicted as C'Dora or CeDora on a bicycle in a Globe, but in 1908 she and her husband purchased a specially built Indian single-cylinder 'motocycle', which several sources claim was one of six built at the Hendee Manufacturing Co. specially for stunt riding.  Thus from 1909 onwards we see Agnes aboard a single-cylinder Indian of unique configuration, with a small 'torpedo' tank, similar to but smaller than on their first racing models. Also, the chassis uses an additional brace from the seat tube to the rear axle, for additional stability.

Agnes Theodore, the original CeDora, bought a special Indian single-cylinder motorcycle in 1908, as seen in this photo from 'The Motocycle News' of April 1909. Note the brace over the rear wheel, and the tiny 'torpedo' tank. [The Vintagent Archive]
The Indian 'Motocycle' company made considerable publicity from CeDora's use of their product in her famous act, claiming in the April 1909 factory organ The Motocycle News that "there have been four performers in the world who have looped the Globe of Death on motocycles: all used Indians, and non have ever been injured.  C'Dora, whose picture appears [here], is now appearing at the New York Hippodrome.  She brought a foreign machine to this country with her, but got an Indian as soon as she could.  It never fails her.  Other performers have been using Indian for over two years, both in this country and abroad, and to its reliability they owe their lives."

The 1908 Indian single used by CeDora still exists, and was recently exhibited at the QAGoMA in Melbourne during  'The Motorcycle: Design/Art/Desire'. [QAGoMA: 'The Motorcycle: Design/Art/Desire', Charles M. Falco and Ultan Guilfoyle, Phaidon 2020]
The use of Indian 'motocycles' (they switched to 'motorcycles' by 1929) became standard for stunt riders, and continues to the present day.  In 1914, the original Wall of Death riders used Indian twins, some taken directly off the board tracks for maximum speed around large diameter Walls (see our exclusive 'Race for Life' article).  And twenty years after Indian produced these six stunt cycles, the 101 Scout model proved to have perfect balance: with a 50/50 front/rear weight distribution, low center of gravity, perfectly stable handling, modest weight, and utter reliability.  Most Walls of Death still include vintage 101s in their act as an homage to the many decades they were the standard for the industry: they're certainly still the most stylish of stunt motorcycles.

CeDora the second: the vivacious 16-year old Eleanore Seufert in 1929.  Her father - a friend of Charles Hadfield through bicycle racing - 'volunteered' her to replace Agnes Theodore, despite the fact she'd never ridden a bicycle!  But she proved well up for the job, and carried on through the 1930s. [Christopher Seufert ]
Anges Theodore rode the Globe for over 20 years, and retired from carny life (or at least stunt performing) in 1929.  Her retirement left her husband Charles without a star attraction for his Golden Globe, so he sought a new girl to act as CeDora: enter 16-year old Eleanore Seufert. Eleanore "grew up in Newark NJ, and her older brother was a seven-day bicycle racer, managed by her father. In those days, the marathon bike races would take place in velodromes across the nation and venues like Madison Square Garden. Eleanore's father knew a race promoter named Charles Hadfield, whose wife was the original CeDora. When she retired, Hadfield asked around for a new CeDora. Eleanore was volunteered by her father, even though she had never been on a bicycle. "The story she told - and maybe it was embellished over the years - was that her brother took her up to the top of Eagle Rock Avenue and sent her down with no brakes," said Eleanore's oldest daughter, Barbara Belanger. "That's how she learned how to ride." But it was her natural athleticism that helped her conquer the globe. "She would start in small circles and build up to where she was going fast enough to go upside down," said Belanger. "I'm sure it took a lot of strength and endurance." It was a stunt, but not without danger. She fell a number of times in the globe, and her best friend, an aerialist with the show, was killed in a fall." [From 'The Unconventional Life of a Supermom', 2008, NJ.com].  Wysocki traveled the East Coast as CeDora for 11 years, riding both bicycles and motorcycles, and apparently relished the freedom the life of a carny offered to a young woman.

CeDora and Charles Hatfield's Globe of Death in 1909, in Brockton MA. Charles is standing in the globe as Agnes rides in vertical loops on her Indian. [David Gaylin, 'The Wall of Death: Carnival Motordromes', Arcadia Publishing, 2017]
Old Vaudeville props that make money have a forever life in the world of carnys.  The 3-ton steel globe built by Charles Hadfield passed through many hands: after WW2 it was used by 'Speedy' Wilson's Globe of Death act right through the 1960s, and was later acquired by the Jordan Family, who use it to this day.  The design is almost identical to the vintage Globe currently used by the Urias family, which dates back to 1915, and was built by 'Cederos' of Brazil.  CeDora's 1908 Indian, seen above, has passed through various collections, and is in beautifully restored condition.  It is the only survivor of this type of factory-special stunt motocycle, and was recently seen at the exhibit 'The Motorcycle: Design/Art/Desire' in Queensland.

The Urias Brothers' Globe of Death, captured on 'wet plate' at Sears Point Raceway in August 2019, in a pair of tintypes, by the MotoTintype team of Susan McLaughlin and Paul d'Orleans. [MotoTintype]
The Globe of Death is still as death-defying and thrilling an act as it was in 1904, although safety is more of an issue today, as safety equipment has improved beyond all measure compared to the Edwardian-era satin theatrical costume with a pair of silk tights, and little else. The acts are wilder, faster, and more spectacular today, with hydraulic lifts, split globes, lighting effects, and a multitude of riders simultaneously spinning inside, to dizzying effect.  If you get the chance, go see for yourself ... and remember CeDora.


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.


The Rarest of Racers: 1915 Indian 8-Valve

Say the words ‘8-Valve’ to a motorcycle collector and watch their ears perk up.  That’s how potent the history of these exotic machines, built by both Indian and (later) Harley-Davidson, are in the story of American board track racing.  It’s the most romantic era of motorcycle competition, mostly because of the extraordinary danger of the sport, it extreme toll on riders, and the bare-knuckles competition between brands that understood racing was the cheapest form of advertising.  It was ‘Race on Sunday, sell on Monday’, and even if your star rider slipped on the two miles of oily pine 2x4s laid at a 50degree angle, and lost his life… well, that was a headline too. For a time in the 1910s, every major and many minor cities in the USA featured banked-track ovals with wooden surfaces, called either motordromes, autodromes, or board tracks.  By the late 1920s they were all gone, destroyed by fires or bulldozers, and few missed the ‘murderdromes’, as they were dubbed in the press.  Other forms of racing quickly supplanted the boards in the public’s imagination, with hillclimbing becoming the most popular motorsport in the USA by the late 1920s, and dirt track racing the most popular in the world.

One of four genuine Indian 8-Valve racers known to exist, and the only one in a 'Marion' keystone frame. [Mecum]
The racers in all these competitions were specialized and honed to freakish extremes, often bearing no relation to the road-going products of their manufacturers, and Indian was the first to introduce such exotica on the track.  The Indian 8-Valve was designed by Oscar Hedstrom in 1910 solely to return Indian to the top of the racing game, where it had established itself in 1902.  Hedstrom’s 4-valve cylinder heads solved major problems with valve cooling on the overhead-valve concept, before direct lubrication was added to valve trains in the late 1920s.  It was well understood that overhead valve cylinder heads had better gas flow than inlet-over-exhaust valves, but valve breakages from overheating on 2-valve motors were common.  Hedstrom’s use of four smaller valves meant the valve train components were lighter and smaller, giving better longevity and easier revving, while possessing improved gas flow characteristics and thus producing more power.  The 8-Valve was immediately successful in racing, and earned its legendary status as a motorcycle of extraordinary technical innovation, and a devastating racer that totally dominated Board Track competition for years.

The Indian factory racing team in the 1910s with an 8-Valve racer. [The Vintagent Archive]
The extraordinary machine in these photos is one of only four genuine Indian 8-Valve racers known to exist today. We know it’s genuine as the bike has significant documentation and a known history from new, with photos of owners dating back decades, and much research done by former owner Daniel Statnekov.  It is the only known surviving example of a factory-built Indian 8-Valve racer in a ‘keystone’ or ‘Marion’ frame, which this machine pioneered, and was used by Indian subsequently with its sidevalve racers of the 1920s as a very light and very short-wheelbase racing frame.  The keystone frame was a clever use of the engine cases as a stressed member of the frame, by the simple expedient of cutting out the frame’s bottom tubes.  This lowered the center of gravity, which vastly improved the handling, and also gave a shorter wheelbase, which made the bike more nimble.  To complement the short and low frame, Indian built a shorter version of their racing front fork, which this machine possesses, and an enlarged fuel tank for long-distance racing – typical Board Track races of the era were held over distances from 100 to 200 miles, and stopping to refuel could mean the difference between winning and losing.

What a motor! A true innovation in design from 1911, and refined over the years, a bit. This is a second-generation example, a 'small base' 8-Valve. [Mecum]
This unique ‘Marion’ 8-Valve was presumably first used by the factory with its own racing team, and period photos show just such machines being raced by the factory in 1915.  While the 8-Valve was dominant on the track, Indian was developing its first side-valve roadster V-twin motor – the Powerplus – that same year.  Its designer was Charles Gustafson, who had previously designed the first sidevalve motorcycle engine in the USA for Reading-Standard.  Gustafson knew he could develop his Powerplus engine to produce more power with more reliability than the 8-Valve, and soon the Marion frame was raced with special Powerplus motors, which were indeed better for long-distance racing…but not faster.  This 1915 racer is a second-generation ‘small-base’ version of the 8-Valve, and was quite simply the fastest motorcycle in the world for decades. A list of speed records with this second-generation Indian 8-Valve included: 1 mile at 115.75mph by Gene Walker at Daytona Beach in April 1920, and 1 mile at 132.52mph by Jim Davis in April 1922.  Such speeds would not be equaled by FIM-certified land speed record racing until the 1930s.


The business side: while totally restored, this bike is known genuine, with a documented chain of ownership since the 1920s. [Mecum]
This 1915 Marion 8-Valve was originally purchased from the factory in the early 1920s by Waldo Korn, a professional rider for both Indian and Excelsior.  After a period of racing, Kern sold the Marion in the 1940s to Dewey Simms, a legendary tuner and racer, who used the machine for demonstration laps at events in the 1950s and 60s, including the Springfield Mile track.  Photographic documentation of Simms with this machine in that era are included with the sale: also included are the unique aluminum valve covers visible in the photos.  Note also the tunnel fabricated into the oil tank to allow clearance for the rear cylinder's exhaust pipe.  Simms sold this machine on April 7th 1966 to Renton WA collector Gary Porter, and in turn Porter sold it in the 1990s to historian/collector Dan Statnekov, who described it as ‘running but tired, with terrible paint.’  He leaned on surviving racing machines, racers, and historians to bring the Marion 8-Valve to perfect and running condition.

Veteran board track racer Jim Davis hunkers down on this machine in 1960 at the Springfield Mile, with owner Dewey Sims standing left, and Floyd Clymer announcing. [Mecum]
This is a unique and hugely important 1915 Indian Marion 8-Vavle racer, and its meticulous restoration was judged at an astonishing 100 points at the 1998 Perkiomen AMCA National meet, and took the Red Wolverton Award for the best restored racing machine.  It was also featured in the Guggenheim Museum’s 1998 ‘Art of the Motorcycle’ exhibit, and is included in the exhibit catalog on page 124.  This 1915 Indian racer is the most important American motorcycle for sale in this decade, without question: while other machines might be the flavor du jour, there is no motorcycle as rare, and none as legendary, as a real Indian 8-Valve.  It's coming up at Mecum's Monterey auction Aug 17-19 2023.  [Note: Mecum is a sponsor of The Vintagent]



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.


Do You Know the Monster Man?

[A version of this article originally appeared in Cycle World magazine]

Legendary motorcycle designer Miguel Galluzzi is as refreshingly direct as his most famous creation, the Ducati M900 ‘Monster’.  When it was released in 1993, the bare-bones Monster was considered revolutionary, which speaks more about 1990s sportbike design than its status as the ‘first naked bike’.  Regardless that motorcycle history was, like Eden, pretty much all naked, the mantra of ‘90s sporting motorcycles was all-plastic-everything, and Galluzzi landed in the thick of it, after a stint designing cars at GM/Opel in Germany.  “I was getting fed up with the car business; each project took 10 years to develop – just too long.  My boss Hideo Kodama heard that Soichiro Honda wanted a Honda motorcycle design studio in Milan, to understand how things were done in Italy. They hired me to start the studio in 1987”.

Miguel Galluzzi in Venice, 2018. [Paul d'Orléans]
Honda might have been interested in the Italian process, but not so much in Galluzzi’s designs. He developed sketches and models that exposed the motorcycle’s engine, but there was no steering Honda away from the current idiom. “I was working on the Honda CB600F2, and it was all this plastic crap covering everything up.” His sketches for minimal bodywork were routinely rejected, and he grew frustrated after two years; so much for Italian design!  By then he’d met the Castiglioni brothers of Cagiva, owners of Ducati and Husqvarna, and was hired to develop the new-generation 900SS in 1990.  “I had ideas for bikes, and convinced my boss to build a half-fairing 900SS for the big Cologne show.  Four days before the show, Cagiva’s commercial guys said ‘we have to have a full fairing’!  We built it, but it was covered in Bondo, and after 10 days under hot lights at Cologne, the Bondo shrank and the bike’s shape went flat.”  Still, the full-fairing 900SS was a huge hit, and became Ducati’s #1 seller.

The 1990 Ducati 900SS was a huge hit for the factory, but Miguel Galluzzi felt that plastic covering everything was missing the point of a motorcycle. [Ducati]
To demonstrate a smaller fairing could work, Galuzzi hacksawed the bodywork on his ‘87 Ducati 750 Sport. “I cut the fairing in half and showed the bosses – ‘this is the bike we should build’.  So at the Bologna show in December 1990 we showed a 750SS with the half-fairing.  That was the beginning of the changes.”  Galuzzi never actually worked for or at Ducati, but was installed at the Cagiva HQ in Varese.  He prefers to keep his design studio away from the factory; “Usually around 5 or 6 in the afternoon, the factory guys got bored and would come to my office to ‘help’ design bikes, as design is the fun part - everyone wanted to hang out.  But they’d alter drawings, give unwanted advice, and change projects. It was a mess! So I put a padlock on the studio, and I had the only key! They had to ring a bell to get in.”

Artists have been messing around with Xerox machines since they were invented, so it's only appropriate a legendary motorcycle design was developed on Xerox too.   Enjoy 'Photocopy Cha Cha' (2001) by Chel White, a film made entirely from sheets of color Xerox paper. [Bent Image Lab]

The Monster’s birth was midwifed by an early ‘90s high tech device  - a color copier. “We had the first color Xerox machine at our office, so I copied magazine photos of a bare chassis, and drew some simple lines with minimal bodywork, like bikes had been since the beginning of time.  The form of what a bike should be; just enough to enjoy the ride.”  In the summer of 1990 Galluzzi asked his boss if he could pick up some parts at Ducati.  The 851 had just come out, and it was blowing people’s minds – the first twin-cylinder sportbike that could rev to 10,000 RPM.  “I built a raw special using all factory parts, but the 4V engine was too expensive for my project.  But we had plenty of 900ss motors lying around; it was affordable stuff, which meant a bike could be much cheaper.  That was the beginning of the Monster”.

Monsters have always been popular with kids! A brilliant name. [Facebook]
The code-named M900 project developed rapidly once the 900ss motor was chosen, and Galluzzi devoted considerable time to its creation. “My boss called from Bologna and asked, ‘what’s the name of this project?’  At the time my two sons loved these cute rubber toys at the grocery store, little monsters that came two to a packet, and every day they asked me ‘did you buy me a monster?’  I suggested we call the bike Monster, and they did!  It was just a throwaway.”  Cagiva’s marketing arm didn’t like the name, but French importer Marcel Seurat thought it perfect, and it stuck. “People said ‘this is extremely futuristic’, and I said, have you been looking at bikes from 50 or 60 years ago?  All the shapes in the ‘90s were soft in cars and bikes, soapy.  To me it wasn’t radical, it was just going back to basics.”

The original concept drawing by Miguel Galluzzi for the Monster: and enduring classic still in production, and still popular, because how could it go out of style? [Miguel Galluzzi]
In being so basic, the Monster was a blank canvas for customization, something Italian motorcycles had never been.  “People enjoy transforming bikes, personalizing them, painting and stuff. If you know the history of motorcycles, most of the fun part is there; choppers, café racers, everything like that, forever!”  Galluzzi considers the Monster itself a ‘custom’ build, as he used the frame from one bike, the motor from another, and added a custom tank.  It’s simplicity and use of existing parts made the M900 “the fastest and cheapest bike to put into production in modern history.”  It also became Ducati’s biggest seller for years on end, and a legendary design that changed the course of the industry.

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.

The Prince of Darkness, Exposed

‘We are born of Darkness, and to Darkness we return; our time in the Light is but an interlude” – Joseph Lucas.

Thus spake an incarnation of Beelzebub who lived in England at the turn of the 19th Century, a man of great industry and wealth who nonetheless by his insidious devilish nature perverted the course of the mighty river Commerce in the United Kingdom, diverting those once-powerful waters to be sullied and wasted over the sandy plains of Poor Reputation.  By his trickery, an entire industry, once a world leader in technology, performance, and quality, was reduced to a worldwide butt of jokes and financial catastrophe, bringing the economy of an entire nation to its knees, and reducing that nation’s principal exports from the noble metals of Transport and Manufacture to the lowly pressing of musical discs, recording the harmonized mating calls of long-haired, drug addled dandies who wiggled their skinny asses to the gleeful delight of teenage girls, who wept at the sight.

Joseph Lucas, 1896 - 1902 (66yrs 6mos). [Wikipedia]
I’m not suggesting Joseph Lucas destroyed the British economy; I’m stating it as a fact, because its high time the man is exposed as the devil he was. To begin at the start; in the 1850s, Joseph Lucas was the unemployed father of six children – oh unhappy number – selling kerosene from a wheelbarrow on the filthy streets of Hockley, in Essex of all places; a Victorian Chav.  And yet, within just a few years he founded Joseph Lucas Industries, which would shortly move to Birmingham and explode into profitability.  What Wikipedia fails to divulge in its brief whitewash of Mr. Lucas is the scandalous tale of that remarkable transition.

From the minutes of an 1880s staff meeting of the nascent Lucas Industries Ltd: a call to order. [Aleister Crowley Archive]
How does a man overburdened with children, smelling of petroleum and sloshing a wheelbarrow through the muddy, feces-strewn roads of rural Hockley, for God’s sake, come within a short time to sit atop a golden throne as titular head of a great manufacturing concern?  As Balzac observed, ‘Behind every great fortune lies a great crime’, and Lucas’ empire was founded on a pentagram drawn in goat’s blood. There can be no better explanation for the lightning success of this muddy and impecunious dandy (and supposed teetotaler – perfect cover for his dark enterprise) than the sale of his mortal soul to the Devil.

The grand headquarters of Lucas Industries in Birmingham: is the similarity coincidental? [Wikipedia]
Joe Lucas and his son Harry (henceforth known as ‘Damien’) aggressively forged strategic alliances and strong-arm monopolies in order to dominate vehicle manufacture in Britain.  Near every car, bus, lorry, lawnmower, and motorbike built in Birmingham had bolt-on endarkenment.  Their ‘lighting’ equipment worked well enough for long enough and were cheap enough that no automaker could avoid the taint of Satanic products, and like a virus, their timed-death equipment spread to every corner of Industry in Britain.  Their maddening tendency to self-destruct, when a generator or magneto were most needed, was discovered too late, thus the entire industry was thus corrupted and crippled, and made a laughing stock the world over.

"Eclipsus Lucas est." Found in the notebooks of the Secretary of Lucas Industries, Cornelius Coulter, after his death in the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1919. [Aleister Crowley Archive]
And what, good sirs, was Mr Lucas’ retort when complaints were made against his defective ‘illumination’ devices?  “A gentleman does not motor about after dark.”  Which is certainly true, if one transforms nightly into a flying rodent! Gentleman, indeed. Had the cloven hooves beneath Joe Lucas’ spit-polished brogues been properly exposed, rampaging torch-and-pitchfork brigades would have rushed the great iron doors of his manse, only to find their grasping hands filled with the same damnable smoke as emerges regularly from the malfunctioning electrical devices of his black manufacture.  It has been suggested in fact that the products of the Lucas family have at their dark heart a function of pure devilment, the transmission of electricity by SMOKE rather than electrons, proof of which is evident in every malfunctioning object of electrickery which bears the ‘torch and lion’ logo. What emerges when said device expires?  Yes; smoke.

A rare surviviing replacement bottle of Lucas wiring harness smoke (part no.530433). [MEZ.co.uk]
Mind you, other Devils were surely at work in Great Britain (an acronym of ‘eat brain grit’ if you hadn’t noticed – what zombie coined THAT?) on the loathsome project to destroy a once-great Empire.   I have it on good account the Board of Directors of BSA met in secret cabals at Slumberglade Hall, black-robed and hooded, to blood-sacrifice nubile virgins on basement frame-jigging tables.  And if that sounds like fun to you, then you too are damned to hell! The stain of Satan possesses your thoughts.

A 1966 Lucas Emergency Guide for Fuse Replacement. [Vintagent Archive]
The whole world understands that Lucas Industries is responsible for everything from no-lights British motorbikes to the fact that the English drink warm beer (‘Lucas refrigerators’ goes the old joke – too near the truth!).  Lucas alone brought down the British Empire.

Since removed, the original site marker for the first Lucas workshop. [apologies to Elliot Brown]
And yes, the goddamn Lucas magneto on my Velocette took a crap, again.

(Note: any similarities to actual titans of British industry producing devilishly maddening, smoke-exhaling electrickery, is purely coincidental, and intended as satire)



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.


The ADAM sale: a First in the Art World

Art and motorcycles: can motorcycles be art?  It's a question posed long before the 1998 Art of the Motorcycle Guggenheim exhibit flung its doors open amid Gehry-designed splendor, and became their most popular exhibit in their history.  But the Art World - an amorphous culture absorbing penurious painters and billionaire corporate money launderers alike - deflects the question by leaning on a fine point of Beaux Arts distinction: it's art versus design, people, meaning if an object has a function other than elevating the spirit or stimulating the senses, it is thrown onto the elegant slagheap called design.  But don't get your panties twisted: design objects are venerated too, and always have been.  Before the standardized 19th C. Beaux Arts education laid down the laws on what is what in the arts (Fine vs. Applied), everything from suits of armor to tapestries to carriages to paintings were displayed side by side in the collections of the very wealthy, and the first museums - which were the same thing.

"Art exists and has existed in every known human culture and consists of objects, performances, and experiences that are intentionally endowed by their makers with a high degree of aesthetic interest." - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Despite the acknowledgement that motorcycles (and other vehicles) can be brilliant examples of industrial design, and that art + design exhibits and auctions are fairly common, I can find only one instance when the combo includes top shelf motorcycles + art + design: the ADAM sale happening tonight at Christie's NYC.  There was another auction that came close: a Design Masters auction at Phillips in 2010 that botched sale of the very first Brough Superior SS100 prototype, when it was rumored the late Alain de Cadenet phoned in serious questions about the provenance of said Brough (to settle a score with its owner Mike Fitzsimons), which was then pulled from the sale at the very last minute.  So much for the experiment in rolling an exquisite and unique motorcycle into a fancy NYC auction house.  Perhaps the ADAM auction will fare better.

The Christie's NYC auction rooms, right by Rockefeller Center, and the site of the ADAM sale. Note the Takashi  Murakami and Andy Warhol in the window. [Christie's]
The ADAM of the Christie's sale is Adam Lindemann, an important player in the NYC art scene via his gallery(s) Venus over Manhattan, his collecting habits, and his vocal support of cutting-edge art and design, e.g. the NFT by Beeple X Madonna included in this sale.  Adam is also a collector of fine motorcycles, including the exquisite 1974 Ducati 750SS sitting right now on the floor of the Christie's NYC showroom, somewhere between an Alexander Calder mobile ('Black Disc with Flags', est. $5-7M), an Andy Warhol 'Electric Chair' silkscreen ($4-6M), and a Jeff Koons sculpture ('Ushering in Banality, $2.5-3.5M). The estimate for the 750SS is a mere $125-175k, which is real-world pricing, and especially in this context should put paid to your anxiety that 'motorcycles are getting expensive'.  I mean, you could buy a Jeff Koons ceramic pig for 20X that, but the Koons won't get you anywhere if you sit astride it and twist its ears, nor will it make a glorious noise.  As I've always said, 'you can't ride a Rembrandt.'

Adam Lindemann with one of his prizes: a 1965 Dunstall Norton Atlas ordered new by the late tobacco heir Zach Reynolds: a unique machine! [Adam Lindemann]
But you can buy a motorcycle at Christie's: a quick search of their database reveals dozens of lovely bikes sold in the past (where was I?).  Plus a lot of interesting work by 'fine' artists (pardon me, Ing. Taglioni - your work is more than fine) using motorcycle imagery, including a couple of Andy Warhols, several Japanese painters (Tanadori Yokoo!) and sculptors (Ushio Shinohara), and a bunch of famous photographers (David Wojnarowicz, Irving Penn, Alexander Rodchenko, etc), because we - meaning you, dear centaur - are so distinctive, we must be photographed.  I mean, who photographs automobilists as a species?  But I digress: let's talk about this important and slightly dangerous experiment by the intriguing Adam Lindemann.

The 1974 Ducati 750 Super Sport included in the ADAM sale. [Christie's]
I've asked Adam Lindemann a few questions about his sale:

Paul d'Orléans (PDO): Are you excited about the sale?

Adam Lindemann (ADAM):  Honestly, it's more like anxiety.  A friend suggested we go to a private room at Christie's and drink champagne, and I said are you fucking high?

I put things in for ambience and to tell a story.  Theress someting to surprise and tickle everyone.  That's what I like about art collecting - the story. 

PDO: Will you actually be in the room?

ADAM:  No, I'll be sitting by my computer with a pencil, keeping track of how much things are selling for versus what I paid for them. I've never been in the room when I sold my (auction catalog) cover lots: when I sold my Jeff Koons cover lot, my Basquiat cover lot, etc. I was never in the room but it was never the 'ADAM' sale, so I was wondering if Adam has to be there for the ADAM sale? But the auction people told me no. At the end of the day, when the auction comes, it's business.

The Ducati 750SS posed near Andy Warhol's 'Little Electric Chair' (est. $4-6M). [Christie's]
PDO:  Tell me about your curation of the sale: how did you choose what to sell from your collection?

ADAM:  A lot of the things I put in the sale for decoration, I put them in for ambience and to tell a story.  When you look at the auction, there's something to surprise and tickle everyone. That was the idea - everybody gets tickled in a different way. There are two reasons for my selection: I like that the narrative. I like to tell stories. That's what I like about collecting: art is a story, and I like to tell stories. That's one part.  The second thing is this is a mid-season sale. This is dead time, the weakest moment in the New York auction cycle. So when I'm doing a single owner sale at a dead moment, it's up to me to row the boat. I have to bring the eyeballs. I have to bring the attention. It's not like the May auctions when there are 10 Picassos and a Jeff Koons bunny and everyone's focused. This is like dead week. So I needed to throw in a lot of spicy lots like for color, for decor, and to look cool. I put very low estimates on the work because otherwise it's a snoozer.

Billy Al Bengston's 'Gas Tank Tachometer' (est. $50-70k). Read our story on Billy Al here. [Christie's]
PDO: I noticed the estimate on the Billy Bengston seemed to be pretty low, but not outside the range of reason.

ADAM: Well, I must have paid $120,000 for that painting. I didn't need to put it in the sale, but I put it in because he just died, and because I had the car thing going with the Richard Prince El Camino. If I put my estimate at what I paid, no one would bid, whereas if I put it in at $40 grand or whatever, and he just died, well, maybe somebody will go for it. But I would say that that piece is not there for the money. This sale is a historic moment for me, and I've sprinkled a little of the Billy Al Bengston cool on it, if that makes any sense.

PDO: That absolutely makes sense.

Ducati 750SS coyly displaying George Condo's 'Des Essientes Contemplating Artifice' (est.$80-120k). [Christie's]
ADAM: You know, the little George Condo didn't need to be in the sale. The totem from Vanuatu doesn't need to be there. The Jim Nutt drawing doesn't need to be there. The Billy Al Bengston doesn't need to be there.  Much of the design doesn't need to be there. There's a young artist that I got behind 10 years ago, Andra Arsuta: she's been in the Venice Biennale twice and now she's represented by David Zwirner. If her work sold for $100,000, I'd be happy. I'm not God, I want the money.  But I didn't do include that work for the money.  In the grand scope of this sale, this is about a Warhol and a Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons and a Calder, and the other things are there to mix it up and to make it exciting. And also to show how these things fit into my life, to my way of seeing the world, what I'm into, and telling my story because every collector is different.  Just like you're different -  you like pre-war British bikes, and I like post-war Italian, land it's interesting to see what a person likes within the context of the art world.

PDO: So, let's talk about the motorcycle: a 1974 Ducati 750 Super Sport 'green frame', widely considered among the most beautiful motorcycles ever made.

No bad angles: the Ducati 750 Super Sport. [Christie's]
ADAM: I put the Ducati in the sale because I'm a lifelong motorhead at this point.  I started riding motorcycles because of my mother - she wouldn't let me ride. So, of course, I had to have a motorcycle!  I've always had vintage bikes because I guess I like headaches. So I've always had old bikes: I bought my Moto Guzzi V7 Telaio Rosso out of Classic Bike magazine 30 years ago, that's the bike I've had in my collection the longest. Then I got into cars; cars of the seventies, Italians - Ferraris and Lamborghinis - and I wish I'd kept all that stuff, but I just bought them and drove them and sold them. And then I got into race cars. I was like, hey, I was a polo player, now I'll be a race car driver. And so I bought a bunch of Jaguars from Bonhams and raced them at Goodwood and the LeMans Classique twice, and I've raced in the Monaco Grand Prix Historics and the Spa Six Hours I've won twice, and in the Sebring Classic, and I've podiumed at Daytona. So the Ducati is in the sale because it's going to be in a whole new context. And to me it's there as a design object. It's no longer there as a motorcycle, it's there the way I have the Jean Royére Polar Bear set, or the Charlotte Perriand table or the Pierre Paulin objects: it's there as an object of design. And to me it's industrial design, but it's the most beautiful motorcycle. I've always loved it. Alright, I love Vincent too, I love Broughs, I'm not blind to them.  Listen, I love a great Triumph Bonneville, even though they made a million of them.

PDO:  But the Ducati 'green frame' is special.

Ducati with Alexander Calder's 'Black Disc with Flags' (est. $5-7M). [Christie's]
ADAM: The 750 'green frame' to me is the Holy Grail of the seventies motorcycles. I think it's the best.  About 30 years ago I bought one and used to love riding around on Sunday mornings at motorcycle get-togethers and I paid, I think, $17,500 for it and I was happy with it. It seemed like it was cheap, and one day I got wind that I had a fake. There was a guy in Connecticut who was basically taking 750 Sports and turning them into green frames and re-stamping them. I guess you get what you paid for. But years later, after having many 851SP3 Superbikes and Honda RC30s and Nortons,  it was still my favorite. So I got a fully documented, registered in the book, fully vetted by Ian Falloon example. This is still my favorite bike, and I think they're cheap, they represent great value to me. It's the Ferrari Spider California of motorcycles, and that's worth, I don't know what, $6 to $12 million, and you can buy the greatest motorcycle that ever lived for $200,000. Seems like great value to me.

PDO: I've already noted that, compared to just about all the other design/art in the sale, the motorcycle is cheap. I mean, it's pinnacle design, and I agree with you, I think that particular model is undervalued.  Compared to something as crude as an Indian 8-Vavle or Cyclone or Crocker, all worth worth half a $Million. So, this gorgeously designed vehicle seems like a bargain to me. And by the way, I'm also a big Italian fan - I've owned a lot of bevel drives twins and singles, I love the design, especially the engine castings, superb.

ADAM:  So, this is a little moment in the motorcycle world.

Richard Prince's 'Untitled', based on an El Camino (est. $400-600k). [Christie's]
PDO: I can't recall any fine art sale that included a motorcycle. I mean, the closest we had was that Philips auction in 2010 when Mike Fitzsimons put his Brough Superior SS100 prototype in a big contemporary design sale. Nobody's really done it, despite the Art of the Motorcycle exhibit, etc.  Motorcycles have been included in design exhibitions, but never really with fine art. That's fascinating to me.  So, Is this sale entirely your curation?  What were Christie's thoughts on including the motorcycle?

ADAM: Well, I mean, Christie's called it the ADAM sale, which is totally outrageous. The idea that anyone could be so pompous and ridiculous to call a sale by their name is like, wow.  So that's all them.  The sale otherwise is all me, but they had the veto, right? They threw stuff out. As far as design, they asked for this and that and, and I included a lot of women because I wanted to be some balance of women and men. I didn't want just a bunch of dudes. And then I decided to put in a motorcycle and not a race car or any kind of a car...although I do have a painted Richard Prince El Camino, which is amazing. So I have that and I put in the Billy Al Bengston and I have the '89 car hood and then the motorcycle. Because as I said, it's one of my first motorcycles and it's one of my, it's kind of my favorite: if I had to pick one, that's the one. So to me, I just told a story, and motorcycles are more closely related to design. They have functionality.  I mean, a car is a chair with four wheels, and the motorcycle is a seat with two wheels. Its pared down to the essential design as much as possible. And I think that at the end of the day there's more sex appeal in the motorcycle. It's just more visceral. You sit on it, it's between your legs. And so it told the story that I wanted to tell.

PDO: That's fabulous - thank you!

ADAM: Oh, thank you. I'm so happy to be a small part of The Vintagent.

Pierre Paulin's exquisite 'Rosace' table, designed c.1970 (est.$40-60k). [Christie's]


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.


The Girl on a Motorcycle

The one-piece, zip-up leather racing suit has been the legal minimum standard for protective competition gear for over 60 years, but the question of who invented it has long been subject to debate.  Movie-star handsome Geoff Duke made the outfit famous in 1951, racing and winning for Norton, after his local tailor, Frank Barker, sewed one up to Duke’s instruction.   He’d already been wearing a one-piece fabric undergarment beneath his two-piece leathers, made up by a ballet specialist in London, which caused a few “ribald comments” from his team-mates. I’ll grant nobody else wore a ballet onesie while racing in 1949, but the Director of Veloce Ltd, Bertie Goodman, had been wearing his own one-piece leather suit a few years prior, while racing his family’s product – a Velocette KTT – at venues like the Ulster GP.  Duke certainly knew who Bertie was, as a rare factory Director who actually raced motorcycles, so the idea was around, as they say.

A young Geoff Duke flat out aboard Norton's new featherbed frame Manx racer in 1951, famously wearing his one-piece racing leathers. Duke was movie-star handsome and very popular with the press, and photos of his one-piece racing leathers led to their rapid adoption by the motorcycle racing scene. [The Vintagent Archive]
Nobody thought to ask who the first female rider to wear a one-piece might have been, but we certainly know who, like Duke, made it famous.  Anke-Eve Goldmann was riding and competing on motorcycles (always BMWs) from the early 1950s onwards, and had a series of custom leather outfits made for her, to suit every weather condition.  She was fond of the mid-winter Elephant Rally, and had elephantine shearling-lined leather riding suits made for touring in extreme cold. For competition, she had the idea of a one-piece leather suit with a diagonal zipper across the chest, which made getting in and out much easier for a woman.  She contracted the German leather firm Harro to make up her racing suit, and images of AEG banked over on her BMW R69 made a global impact.  She was writing for magazines about racing at the time, especially women’s racing, and her articles can be found in print around the world in the early 1960s, in mags from Sweden to Tokyo, and in the USA in Cycle World.

Anke-Eve Goldmann with her one-piece racing leathers, designed by her and made by Harro. Here she is with the 2nd production BMW R69, looking very happy with her new machine. [The Vintagent Archive]
Anke-Eve was a full two metres tall, utterly charming, beautiful, and a fierce competitor on the track.  She loved racing above all, and endured abuse both from her family and racing men in the early 1950s, because a woman racing in post-war Germany was unthinkable.  Attitudes towards her softened as she was ‘legitimatized’ by press attention and her own journalistic output.  Still, she was denied a racing license in Europe because she was female, and was relegated to ‘women’s races’ and regularity events. She was a feminist and founding supporter of WIMA, the Women’s International Motorcycle Association, and very much her own person, pursuing her own goals.  She had a great many famous friends and admirers, with whom she corresponded regularly.

A betrayal of friendship? André Pieyre de Mandiargues clearly based his novella 'La Motociclette' on Anke-Eve Goldman. This is the first edition in English, published as 'The Motorcycle' in 1966, and the fabulous cover art gives an accurate impression of the contents. [The Vintagent Archive]
One of those correspondents was French writer André Pieyre de Mandiargues, who won the Prix Goncourt with his 1967 novel ‘La Marge’, made into a film in ’68 by future pornographer Walerian Borowczyk, called The Margin.  Borowczyk also made a film featuring Mandiargues’ collection of vintage erotic toys (‘Une Collection Particuliure’ – 1972), which gives us a picture of the writer’s interests.  These were already on full display in his 1963 novel ‘La Motociclette’, about a beautiful young woman (Rebecca) who rides her Harley-Davidson from Strasbourg to Heidelberg for a tryst with a former lover, leaving her sleeping husband in bed on her dawn escapade.  Rebecca’s ride becomes an erotic frenzy as the vibration from her big twin brings her to orgasm, and in her distraction she crashes and dies.   She wears nothing beneath her one-piece leather riding suit, famously ‘naked under leather’, which was the European title of the film made from the book in 1968, also known as ‘Girl on a Motorcycle’, directed by Jack Cardiff, and starring Marianne Faithfull.

Marianne Faithfull in 'Girl on a Motorcycle' (1968), directed by Jack Cardiff and fairly true to the novel. Ms. Faithfull's riding suit was made by Lanvin, and was lined in fleece, with a knit yoke in front, a chunky silver sipper with ring pull, and was accompanied by a soft vinyl helmet with leather trim and knit earpieces. She also wore a motorcycle helmet in the riding scenes. [The Vintagent Archive]
It’s abundantly clear Anke-Eve Goldmann was the model for Rebecca in ‘La Motociclette’.  AEG was not interested in being a sexual icon, and the eroticization of her image was galling: could a woman not be respected for her work without sexualization? She soon dropped journalism, and effectively disappeared.  She even switched brands, finding the new-generation BMW /5 series aesthetically disappointing, and instead rode a super-hot MV Agusta 750S.  She was lost to history until 2009, when her photos appeared on an obscure Flikr account, which shot around the ‘Net – the original ‘who is she?’  I wondered too, and dug hard to discover Anke-Eve Goldmann’s story, which led to a meeting in Germany with her ex-husband Hans, who gave me permission to use his photos of AEG as I wished.  But AEG refused to be interviewed; she’d felt burned by the film in ’68, and all over again in 2009, when her photos began appearing in leather-fetish websites.  While the cat(suit) is out of the bag, we can still tell AEG’s story, and discover the woman in these remarkable photos.

Some say it was Bertie Goodman who invented the one-piece leather racing suit: he was certainly seen wearing one before Geoff Duke, as noted in the motoring press of the day. [The Vintagent Archive]
To read more about the remarkable Anke-Eve Goldmann, follow this link. [The Vintagent Archive]


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.


Brough Superior - Back to Bonneville (2013)

Mark Upham pocketed the deed to Brough Superior back in 2008, and for the first time in many decades, Things Are Happening with the magic old name.  Upham has sufficient charisma - plus, apparently, the cash - to have gathered a talented crew about him in wide satellitic orbit, as near as the fortress-stone Austrian farmhouse he calls home, and as far as racetrack workshops in California. Whether you're a fan or not (and as he said to me last week, 'Not everyone loves me, Paul'), one must give credit to the man for raising the visibility of the Brough marque out of its comfy post-production wall-niche, where it lay dormant, velvet-cosseted and expensive.  Brough Superior's deeply lacquered reputation - established by George Brough's ad-man bluster, and snowballing ever since - has become a blanket thick enough to protect the investments Broughs have become.  Those of us who've owned the things know them to be actual motorcycles, with 'particular characteristics' one just might call (whisper it) flaws.


A MotoTintype of Sam Lovegrove, Mark Upham, Victoria Upham, and the Brough Superior 750 Bonneville racer, August 2013. [MotoTintype]
Broughs are at the top of the heap today - a glance at my 'Top 20' will confirm that handily - and poking that Reputation with the sharp stick of analysis is generally frowned upon, as is the rather outrageous ambition of Mr Upham to leverage the name and build New things, like 'continuation' SS101s, Bonneville salt flat racers, MotoGP2 racers, and coming soon - you heard it here so it must be true - brand new motorcycles bearing the gilded Jazz-age logo of Brough Superior.  Who would have expected such things from an old-school motorcycle/parts dealer and auction house veteran?  Nobody predicted the Enzo Ferrari of resurrected motorcycle brands.

Mark Upham at Bonneville in a 2013 'wet plate' portrait. [MotoTintype]
Mark Upham has earned my respect, and continual puzzlement (is he barking mad, or fox-crazy?) by carving against the grain of contemporary moto-business wisdom. Building very, very expensive motorcycles is an excellent way to spend money, and a lousy way to earn it. Sponsoring a MotoGP2 team, the same. Commissioning a large crew to design, build, and develop TWO racing semi-vintage motorcycles, and shipping the whole circus to Utah to break speed records, double or triple ditto. Here's how to make money with a dead motorcycle brand: sell logo t-shirts. Or design logo clothes, drape them on Kate Moss, rack them in fancy department stores, and eventually sell the label at a massive profit in a few years. Repeat.

The 1150cc Brough Superior - JAP record breaker. [MotoTintype]
Yet Upham the contrarian carries on, doing as he pleases, leaving a wake of observers scratching their heads, wondering what on earth he thinks he's doing, or getting pissed off that he's doing it. The answer to that, backtracking 14 words, is 'as he pleases'.  Having built a successful business selling old bike spares at British Only Austria, he seized the opportunity to purchase grandeur via the Brough Superior name, and it's a cloak he wears comfortably, with a wink, being primarily dedicated to doing as he pleases with the title 'Mr Brough Superior'.

Rider Eric Patterson aboard the 1150cc Brough [MotoTintype]
Something interesting has happened with the rising interest in Bonneville and El Mirage - while they've been a mecca for speed-mad bikers and hot rodders for decades now, we've passed over a lull in the 1990s and 2000s, when frankly, a lot of people didn't give a hoot for the place. Speed records became irrelevant, because the machines setting them were no longer motorcycles, but two-wheeled missiles, whose fan base is miniscule indeed. But the clever fellows at the SCTA, and latterly BUB, have made a seemingly infinite number of categories in which one can set a record, many of which have no record at all, even today. The variety of rules equals a variety of bikes making records; BSAs, Indians, Triumphs, Harleys, etc. That's smart business, and has revived interest among the home-tuners and thrill-seekers eager to add their own tales to the fabled romance of the place.

Closeup of the big Brough's beak. [MotoTinype]
The Salt Flat Broughs can't exactly be called 'new', because they use plenty of vintage parts: the 750cc 'Baby Pendine' Brough has a 1954 JAP racing engine with alloy top ends and a magnesium crankcase - proper racing fodder.  Apparently the engine is one of only 6 or 7 built for racing in an Italian 750cc monoposto car class, one of which was campaigned by Scuderia Ferrari (who also fielded a motorcycle racing team prewar - see the story here).  The 1150cc machine competes in a 1350cc class, and uses another 1950s JAP Mk2 magnesium/alloy engine, initially intended for sidecar Speedway and Cooper racing car use.  The following comes from the Brough Superior website:

Rider and TV presenter Henry Cole [MotoTintype]
The Brough Superior 1150cc machine competing in the  1350 - APS – VF class achieved a speed of 110.454 mph in the first run and 116.882 mph on the return run to set an aggregate speed of 113.668 mph, a new AMA record. Later in the week, after further tuning of the bike and rider, the partial streamlining was removed and competing this time in the 1350 – A – VF class the motorcycle flew through the clocks at 122.614 mph in the first run and on the return run at 126.075 mph for an aggregate speed and new AMA record of 124.334 mph. This last run was actually the very last by any motorcycle in the entire competition as immediately afterwards the sky opened and there was a catastrophic storm and downpour of rain.  Rider Eric Patterson and chief engineer Alastair Gibson were very pleased with the performance of what is essentially an engine that is well under the maximum class size.

Paul d'Orléans aboard the 'Baby Pendine' [Mark Upham]
The Brough Superior 750cc machine nicknamed the “Baby Pendine” by the team and prepared by Brough Superior designer and engineer Sam Lovegrove was even more successful as it achieved two FIM world and two AMA records. On the first day of the event it set two FIM and one AMA record in the 750 A-PS-VG classes. Ridden by famed motorcycle journalist Alan Cathcart the first ride was very much a shake down run at 97.260 mph over the flying mile. But he blitzed through the clocks at 105.004 mph on the return run for a new record average speed of 101.328.

Motojournalist and racer extraordinaire Alan Cathcart [Paul d'Orléans]
The team quickly turned the bike around, and after patiently sitting in the sun for nearly three hours the team's third rider, TV presenter Henry Cole, rode in the 750 A-PS-VF class, and set a speed of 103.941 in the first run and 95.619 mph for the return creating a new AMA record of 99.780 mph. This bike ran smoothly and trouble free throughout the entire event and only required very minor changes to jetting, gearing and timing.

The ever-expressive Alistair Gibson, former Honda F1 chief, now the builder-tuner of the 1150cc Brough racer. [Paul d'Orléans]
Brough Superior CEO Mark Upham pronounced himself satisfied with results achieved by the team. “We have attained the goals that we set ourselves at the beginning of the competition and continued with the story that is Brough Superior. This is the beginning of a new era for Brough Superior and with planning in place for our new modern machines the future looks very exciting”.

Alistair Gibson wheels his creation to the tech inspection. [Paul d'Orléans]
The 1150cc Brough Superior ready for a run... [Paul d'Orléans]
The distinctive streamlined nose fairing built by Alistair Gibson. [Paul d'Orléans]
Veteran of the motorcycle wars...Michael Jackson ("the other one"), formerly General Sales Manager (or mangler as he prefers!) of Norton-Villiers (NorVil), Norton-Villiers-Triumph, and co-owner of the BSA Group. [Paul d'Orléans]
Mechanic Sam Lovegrove and his 'baby', the 750cc JAP-engined racer. [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.



The Motorcycle Portraits: Giacomo Agostini

The Motorcycle Portraits is a project by photographer/filmmaker David Goldman, who travels the world making documentaries, and takes time out to interview interesting people in the motorcycle scene, wherever he might be.  The result is a single exemplary photo, a geolocation of his subject, and a transcribed interview.  The audio of his interviews can be found on The Motorcycle Portraits website.

The following Motorcycle Portraits session is with Giacomo Agostini, 15 times Grand Prix World Champion motorcycle racer and a legend of the sport, who is thankfully still with us, unlike many of his contemporaries in the dangerous years of GP racing - the 1960s and '70s - as motorcycles became incredibly fast but safety equipment and track safety design was stuck in the 1930s.   Agostini was a guest of Team Obsolete in Brooklyn for their annual holiday celebration, and David Goldman took the opportunity to photograph and interview him.

A hero's portrait, signed. Circa 1973, while Giacomo Agostini was still riding for Count Domenico Agusta, for who he won 13 of his 15 World Championships, before switching to Yamaha in 1974, for whom he won his last two Championships. [Stuart Parr collection]

Who are you?

I am Giacomo Agostini. I have won 15 World Championships with motorbikes, and I am in Brooklyn.

How did you get started with motorcycles?

When I was a bambino - a child - I thought about motorcycles. I don't know why!  Also my family had nothing to do with motorcycles, but I loved motorcycles.  Sometimes my father said 'danger', and 'you must go to school,' and he said 'no'.  I said 'Papa I want to race, I want to race with the bike. Not with the car but with the bike.' So I started to love the motorcycle just when I am six or seven years old. For me it was a difficult subject to raise because my family didn't want me to ride, so I pushed a lot on my father. And my father said 'no, I won't sign the permission.'  But later, a lawyer convinced my father to give me the permission to do the sport. Because the lawyer understood I just wanted to race motorcycles. And once I had the permission I started to race.

My first race was in 1962 and it was my first victory. I won with a Morini Sette Bello, it was a factory bike from Milan, and my main mechanic we called Boulangero because he was a baker - he didn't know how to change the spark plugs! And this is a very nice memory, because I went with my bike with no mechanics, and when I returned in the evening I was very happy because I beat a lot of riders with the factory bike.  I cannot forget this because it was alive, my first love. Your first love you will never never forget, my memory will carry on.

Agostini in 1968 at the Oulton Park racing circuit, taking delivery of a very special Triumph Trident from the factory, and is about to bump start it!  The bike was presented at the 2019 Concorso Villa d'Este. and remains in totally original condition. [Private Collection]

Tell us a story that could only happen with motorcycles?

I don't think I have only one... no, I have three. One is when I went to my first race, as I said before, and I never forget because you know we never forget the first love.  The second of course was when I won with MV Agusta my first World Championship in Monza. Monza is very close to my home town, and they had 150,000 people come to the track, but I didn't realize in that evening. Monday morning when I woke up and I read the the newspaper I understood I had won the World Championship. I cried a little because I was hoping for that from when I started to race, sure, but also from when I was a child.

The third one is when I when I changed from MV Agusta and decided to race for Yamaha.  It was a very difficult decision, because my second family was MV Agusta. I went to Japan to try the two- stroke bike, after I was used to racing with a four-stroke. My first race was at Daytona: when I arrived in Daytona I was very surprised - the circuit is fantastic. And there were a lot of good American riders, and with the 700 I won the race. My first time in America, and this I will never forget because some people said 'now he's changed from four-stroke MV Agusta to Yamaha, and maybe he never wins'. But I did win that first race, and after that I also won the World Champion with Yamaha. The story is very nice. I cannot forget.

David Goldman's portrait of Giacomo Agostini, taken at Team Obsolete HQ on December 2, 2022. [David Goldman]

What do motorcycles mean to you?

The motorcycle for me is a love. I love motorcycles.



David Goldman is photographer and filmmaker who has traveled the world on projects documenting human trafficking, maternal health and marginalized people. He also interviews and photographs motorcyclists in this travels for his series The Motorcycle Portraits. You can follow his website here, his IG here, and his FB here.

Adventures in Guzziland

The Avignon Motor Festival celebrates all powered vehicles, and is an understated, still-growing event, run over 3 days, with around 50,000 visitors.  Tanks, cars, boats, planes, trucks, tractors, farm equipment, and motorcycles; this year (Ed- this was 2011) with a beyond-killer display of Moto Guzzis, including precious factory Grand Prix machines from the Moto Guzzi Museum.  Also included were production bikes from all years: a mouth-watering display of exotica from the 1920s-1950s.  Enjoy these 'vintage' iPhone2 photos!

The stunning 1956 Moto Guzzi V8 Grand Prix racer of 1957, designed by Giuliano Carcano, with hand-hammered aluminum bodywork and a magnesium fairing. It was the first DOHC V8 motorcycle, although not the first V8 motorcycle - the first was also Italian, but was a two-stroke V8, the 1938 Galbusera. [Paul d'Orléans]
A peek at the DOHC cam drive and part of the throttle assembly of the V8. The 500cc motor was watercooled with all magnesium castings, and weighed only 99lbs (by contrast, a Honda CB750 motor weighs 176lbs), while the whole motorcycle weighed only 326lbs. The motor produced 78hp @12k rpm, with an amazing top speed of 171mph - a speed not equalled in GP racing for another 20 years!  Of course, tire technology, as well as suspension and brake technology, were not up to the task in 1955, and using the full potential of the Otto Cilindri was dangerous business. It was a fearsome machine, and Moto Guzzi employed the best racers in the world to ride it, but by 1957, all refused to ride it again until the defects were sorted out! [Paul d'Orléans]
Did you know Moto Guzzi built an inline four racer in 1953? The Quattro Cilindri had a longitudinal DOHC four-cylinder, with the crankcase and cylinder barrels cast in one lump from magnesium. Two valves/cylinder, mechanical fuel injection and shaft final drive. Big magnesium brakes, and a hand-hammered aluminum fairing with a 'beak', as was the fashion in the early 1950s. While fast, the rotational forces of the crankshaft and gearbox/final drive made the handling unpleasant, and the Quattro Cilindri won only 3 races in 1953, so it was shelved in favor of the Otto Cilindri V8. [Paul d'Orléans]
The front forks of the 1953 Quattro Cilindri used a short leading-link as first employed on the Bicilindrica racer. There was hardly a frame as such, but tubes ran over the engine to the swingarm, with the engine acting as a stressed member. Ignition was by magneto, with 54hp @9000rpm, and a top speed of 140mph. [Paul d'Orléans]
The glorious harmony of four simple exhaust pipes and a finned magnesium final drive housing on the 1953 Moto Guzzi Quattro Cilindri. [Paul d'Orléans]
One last shot of the Quattro Cilindiri: the bank of Dell'Orto racing carbs, looking like a racing car and breathing through the gap between fairing and fuel tank. [Paul d'Orléans]
In the foreground, a late model (c.1952) Moto Guzzi Bicilindrica: the amazing 120deg. V-twin OHC racer built from 1933-1951. The Bicilindrica was one of Moto Guzzi's most successful models, and belied the adage that twin-cylinder racers don't last as well as single-cylinders for fours. The Bicilindrica won just about every type of race during its production run: the 1935 Isle of Man TT, the Italian Championship six (out of nine) times between 1934-49, and many many other races around the world. The engine was remarkable, with a staggered crankpin that gave even firing and eliminated secondary vibration (there was no primary vibration), with OHC two-valve cylinder heads: the early version used aluminum crankcases with iron cylinder barrels and head, and later the cases were magnesium and the barrels/heads aluminum. Early versions produced 44hp with a 110mph top speed, the '35 TT model had 50hp and 125mph, while the post-war versions like this machine hit 130mph. [Paul d'Orléans]
An extraordinary design, basically a doubled-up version of the factory's 250cc racer, with 68x68mm bore/stroke, single OHC with shaft-and-bevel drive.  The OHC V-twin is among the rarest motorcycle engine configurations, as before WW2, only Moto Guzzi, Cyclone, and Koehler-Escoffier built them, and Moto Guzzi never sold them to the public.  Even in the modern era, the first mass-production OHC V-twin was the Yamaha Virago of 1981! [Paul d'Orléans]
What most competitors saw of the Bilindrica. Teh hand-beaten alloy tank is ergonomically designed for a crouched rider, as is the seat with integral bump stop faired into the fender. Note the external flywheel - a Moto Guzzi trademark. [Paul d'Orléans]
Going back a little further in time, the Moto Guzzi 250 Compressore is a fascinating machine, and the only Moto Guzzi that employed supercharging. Why they didn't add a blower to other machines is a mystery, as this 250 was wildly successful, as Nello Pagani won 11 races at Monza alone in 1938-40. This was basically an OHC shaft-and-bevel single, their Monoalbero, with a Cozette supercharger, that produced 48hp for a 112mph top speed. Simply fantastic for the era, and far beyond. [Paul d'Orléans]
The 250 Compressore of 1938 was also used post-war for a spree of record-breaking, and was good for 137mph. It was campaigned by the factory until 1959. [Paul d'Orléans]
Love the 'backwards' Jaeger tachometer: the redline for this 1946 Gambalunga was 5800rpm, when it was producing 35hp, for a top speed of 110mph.  The Gambalunga was a racer for factory-supported riders, and an improved version of the Condor and Dondolino production racers with pushrod motors. [Paul d'Orléans]
One for the ages: a late 1924-27 C4V (racing 4 valve), a hand-built motorcycle for the factory team and for privateers. The C4V was an evolution of Carlo Guzzi's very first prototype motorcycle of 1921, the GP500. For production, the OHC motor was considered too expensive, but for racing, anything goes, and the C4V proved a worthy rival to the dominant British racers of the 1920s. Plus, it was simply gorgeous. [Paul d'Orléans]
Complication, like an expensive Swiss watch. The oil tank sits atop the fuel tank, with the delicate hand-shifter alongside. The steering damper is atop the forks with their multiple main springs and check springs, while the handlbars have the magneto advance lever beside the front brake and twistgrip. I could, and have, stare at this for hours. [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.


Fratelli Benelli Racing

While its glamorous rivals captured the public's attention, the Benelli firm has a sterling history of race successes dating back to the 1920s, and a family of rider/manufacturer/racers who catapulted the little factory to the top echelons of racing.  Now known more for its bicycles (due to on again/off again production of motorcycles in recent years), there was a time when Benelli was synonymous with racing and World Championships, and that special Italian devotion to supercharged multi-cylinder racing exotica immediately prior to WW2.

Fratelli Benelli: Antonio ('Tonino'), Francesco, Giovanni, Guiseppe, Filippo, Domenico. [The Vintagent Archive]
The factory's story begins with Teresa Benelli, recently widowed in 1911, who sold a bit of family property and invested the proceeds in machine tools, establishing a business at which her 6 sons could make a living. The Benelli Garage of Pesaro employed 5 of the 6 boys, who repaired guns, cars, and motorcycles; while the youngest, Antonio ('Tonino') was too young to work, his impact would perhaps be greatest of all, as a championship rider for the family business. At this early date, factory spares for cars and motorcycles could be difficult to obtain quickly, and the Garage was fully equipped to fabricate any parts necessary for repairs.

The first Benelli of 1920, a 98cc two-stroke engine mounted at the rear of a bicycle. [The Vintagent Archive]
By 1918, the brothers' facility at making parts begged the question - why not make our own motorcycle? - and in 1919 they indeed built a 75cc two-stroke single-cylinder engine for attachment to a bicycle.  By 1920 they built the first motorcycle, with a larger 98cc engine attached by outrigger tubes to the rear of a bicycle.  The awkward engine position equated to poor handling, and the first machine wasn't a success, so by 1921 the engine was moved to the 'normal' position within the frame, and the engine capacity increased gradually to 150cc, with a two-speed gearbox and all-chain drive.

Tonino Benelli, four time Italian 175cc Champion, on one of the early 175cc OHC racers, in a beautiful period portrait. [The Vintagent Archvie]
Young Tonino 'The Terror' pressured his brothers for more power, with the intention of racing. They obliged, and in his very first race, Tonino placed second Gino Moretti riding a 500cc Moto Guzzi , proving both his skill, and the potential of the little machine.  The little Benelli failed to win a race in 1922 or '23, but Tonino honed his skills as a rider, while his brothers learned valuable lessons from breakage and failure.  Wins began in 1924, and continued, while the Italian public took note of the little machine; the increased sales meant the brothers could buy new machine tools to create a new motorcycle - a four stroke of advanced specification.

Tonino in 1924 on the 175cc two-stroke racer, at Pesaro's Foglia track. [The Vintagent Archive]
Giuseppi Benelli designed a new machine of 175cc for 1927, with a stack of delicate gears driving an overhead camshaft; it was an impressive lightweight roadster, and a natural candidate for the race track. The overhead camshaft engine proved reliable and fast, and Tonino gathered a string of wins, including Benelli's first 'international' win at the Monza GP, culminating in the Italian 175cc Championship in both '27 and '28.  Now with a proper racing team, Benelli continued to rack up wins in 1929, and Tonino won the Italian Championship again in 1930.

Tonino Benelli on the new 175cc OHC racer, in 1927. [The Vintagent Archive]
In the search for more power, another camshaft was added 'up top', and the new double-overhead-camshaft 175cc racer debuted in 1931, a very advanced machine and the technical equal of any racer of the day.  The engine still had an iron cylinder head and barrel, and initially a hand-shift with 3-speed gearbox, but by '32 a four-speed 'box with footshift brought the little Benelli bang up to date.  The Benelli race team ventured across Europe in a bid for increased export sales, winning GPs in France, Belgium, Holland, and Switzerland, effectively dominating the 175cc class through 1934 with their cracking little double-knocker lightweight.

The factory team of new DOHC single-cylinder racers, in 1934. [The Vintagent Archive]
The FIM abolished the 175cc racing class in 1934, and suddenly Benelli had racers without a category. Rather than immediately enlarge their racer to the 250cc class, they spent the next few years consolidating their roadsters, and capitalizing on their new visibility across Europe.  By 1936 their model range were all single-cylinder, overhead-camshaft machines of 175cc, 250cc, and 500cc.  These roadsters were all fast, reliable, and popular, and Benelli became the fifth-largest motorcycle manufacturer in Italy.  By 1938, their '250 Sport S' roadster was good for 93mph, a figure not bettered by a production '250' until the 1960s.

The last (1934) version of the 'iron' engine, with an oil radiator built into the oil tank. [The Vintagent Archive]
But racing beckoned; Benelli could not rest on its laurels forever, and while the production range was consolidated, the race shop designed a completely new 250cc racing engine in 1938, again DOHC, but all-alloy, and with rear suspsension (a swingarm with plunger springboxes, and friction damping).  The new engine could be revved to 9000rpm, and proved nearly bomb-proof, even at 110mph.  The competition had changed dramatically though, as GP racing gained international sporting significance, and much larger companies were prepared to invest heavily in new technology and very advanced racing machines.  In the 250cc field, Benelli's most significant competition came from Moto Guzzi, with their supercharged flat single, and DKW, with their supercharged two-stroke.  Even with their blowers, these machines had trouble shaking off the solid and good-handling Benelli, which could be every bit as fast as its rivals, and definitely more reliable.

The glamorous OHC '500 Sport' roadster of 1936. [The Vintagent Archive]
A 1-2-3 at the 1938 Italian GP was an eye-opener for all concerned, especially riders in the 350cc class, whose race averages were slower than the winning 250!  Englishman Ted Mellors took note, as his own 350cc Velocette MkVIII KTT had been outclassed by the winning Benelli of Francisci Bruno.  Mellors approached Benelli about a ride for the1939 Isle of Man Lightweight TT this was an excellent opportunity for the factory; an experienced and successful Island rider riding -free!- for the most difficult and prestigious road race in the world.

The new 250cc racer with swingarm rear suspension and huge brakes [The Vintagent Archive]
In that tense year of 1939, great forces stood poised on the brink of armed conflict, and every international sporting contest became a proxy war between nations.  The Isle of Man TT had been the private playground of English motorcycle companies since the wakeup of a 1-2-3 Indian victory of 1911, with only occasional losses to the 'foreign menace'.  The lineup of racers at the 1939 TT showed a glaring technological gap between Continental and English machines, as well-developed supercharged, multi-cylinder bikes from Europe had become reliable enough to seriously challenge the solid, good-handling English single-cylinders.  In the 250cc race, the blown Moto Guzzis and DKWs were fastest, but the Benelli was no slouch, and its reliability proved the decisive asset which assured a win for Ted Mellors.

Ted Mellors at the 1939 Isle of Man Lightweight TT (note bronze-head Velo mk4KTT in the background, in road trim). [The Vintagent Archive]
Benelli had seen the future in 1938, and begun experimenting with a supercharger on their 250cc single, which gave 45hp and 125mph.  This was good, but better would be a four-cylinder engine of their own; a 250cc with a supercharger and twin overhead cams.  Giovanni Benelli designed the new 'four' in 1938, it was built in '39, proving incredibly fast; pumping out 52.5hp at 10,000rpm, it rocketed to 146mph; 16mph faster than their nearest rival, the Moto Guzzi.  The machine was ready by 1940, but international racing was strictly between bullets by then, and the brothers Benelli, fearing the worst, hid their four-cylinder engine in a dry well in the countryside, and scattered their racing singles in barns and cellar across northern Italy.

Epic shot of Ted Mellors in 1939; wet conditions at the Isle of Man dampened speeds. [The Vintagent Archive]
The factory was completely destroyed in the war, and their machine tools stolen by retreating German forces.  When the smoke cleared, it was the sons of fratelli Benelli who had the energy to begin again, tracked down some of their tooling in Germany and Austria.  Their first post-war machines were modified ex-military Harleys, Matchlesses, and BSAs, to which they fit swingarm rear suspension.  Within two years, Benelli were again making their own motorcycles, mostly utilitarian lightweights.  And racing!  Enough of their prewar racing singles survived to form a Works team, and rider Dario Ambrosini chalked up win after win in 1948 and '49.  The FIM created the first World Championship series in 1949, and Benelli decided to invest in a bid to win for 1950, sending Ambrosini abroad to battle rival Moto Guzzi, who shared their ambition.

The incredibly fast 250cc four-cylinder supercharged Benelli racer of 1940...146mph! [The Vintagent Archive]
Dario Ambrosini had never raced at the Isle of Man TT, but proved a fast learner, shaving 66 seconds from his lap time between rounds 2 and 3, during the race!  His win at the 1950 Lightweight, plus Monza and the Swiss GP, gave Benelli their first World Championship.  Hopes for a repeat in '51 were dashed when Ambrosini was killed during practice at the Albi GP in France.  Stunned by their victor's death, and with no other rider in their team, Benelli withdrew from racing for a few years.

Dario Ambrosini on the 1950 version of the Benelli 250cc single cylinder racer. [The Vintagent Archive]
They returned to racing in 1959, building just four machines, a fresh design of unit construction short-stroke 250cc DOHC singles.  Benelli's rivals, Ducati and MV Agusta, used high-revving twin-cylinder racers in the 250cc class, and while Geoff Duke won the Swiss GP in '59, his was the only victory for these last single-cylinder racers. The new racer was fast and reliable, but as with 1939, it was clear more cylinders held the key to GP victory, and having once tasted a World Championship, Benelli was in it for the big prize.

Dario Ambrosini's 1951 250cc machine, now with telescopic front forks and a swingarm rear suspension. [The Vintagent Archive]
In 1960, Benelli's Ingeniere Savelli took inspiration from the 1940 four-cylinder racer, and created a new 250cc 'four'.  You can read more about these in our article about Benelli's four-cylinder racers.

Beauty is as beauty does; the sculptural timing gear case is indeed a thing to behold. [Paul d'Orleans]
The 1959 250cc last-series Benelli racer at the Team Obsolete HQ; this machine is now in England - a friend bought it! [Paul d'Orleans]



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.


World's Top 100 Most Expensive Motorcycles - The Also-Rans

We've kept track of the World's Most Expensive Motorcycles since 2009: see our Top 100 list here.  These are motorcycles sold at public auction ONLY!  We have another list of World's Most Expensive Private Motorcycle Sales as we know them - check here - but motorcycles sold at auction are the only verifiable sales.  Private sales are not verifiable! 

The following are the 'also rans' that fell off the Top 100 list as other, more expensive motorcycles have been added to the Top 100.  These are still an exceptional list of motorcycles, and shine a light on what motorcycles collectors think are the most valuable.  This list is evergreen, and will be added to as other machines fall off the Top 100...

The Also Rans:


1947 Harley-Davidson FL - $220,000
May 2021, Las Vegas, Mecum


1911 Pierce T Four - $192,500
Mar. 2015, Las Vegas, Mecum


1949 Velocette World Champion KTT £135,900 / $192,400
April 2017, Stafford, Bonhams


1903 Indian single $190,000
Aug. 2017, Monterey, Mecum


1911 Harley Davidson 7D Twin $187,000
October 21, 2006, Gooding and Co.


1992 Honda NR750 - $181,500
Jan. 2019, Las Vegas, Mecum


1930 Harley-Davidson CAC Speedway - $181,500
Jan. 2020, Las Vegas, Mecum


1964 Bianchi Bicylindrica Bialbero GP - £122,650 / $177,840
Feb 2016, London, Coys


1914 Flying Merkel V-twin - $176,000
Jan. 2019, Las Vegas, Mecum


1923 Ace Sporting Solo - $175,500
Jan. 2019, Las Vegas, Mecum


1914 Flying Merkel V-twin - $175,500
Aug. 2015, Monterey, Mecum


1915 Henderson Model D - $170,500
Jan. 2019, Las Vegas, Mecum


1926 Coventry Eagle Flying 8 £106,780 / $166,450
April 2015, Stafford, Bonhams


2004 Indian Larry 'Chain of Mystery' - $165,000
Jan. 2020, Las Vegas, Mecum


1913 Henderson - $165,500
Jan. 2016, Las Vegas, Mecum


1953 Vincent Black Shadow - $165,000
May 2021, Las Vegas, Mecum


1936 Harley-Davidson EL - $165,000
Jan. 2014, Las Vegas, Mecum


1928/25 Brough Superior SS100 - $164,534 / £126,500
Oct. 2018, Stafford, Bonhams


1951 Moto Guzzi Bicylindrica GP - £111,500 / $161,675
Feb 2016, London, Coys


1939 Brough Superior SS100 with Sidecar - $160,00
Jan. 2016, Las Vegas, Mecum


1915 Henderson board track racer - $159,500
Mar. 2015, Las Vegas, Mecum


1934 Crocker Speedway $159,500
Mar 2015, Las Vegas, Mecum


1934 Crocker Speedway $151,200
Jan 2011, Las Vegas, MidAmerica
1913 Henderson 4 Cylinder $150,000
January 2016, Las Vegas, Mecum
1930 Indian Model 402 4-cylinder w/sidecar £96,700 / $149,350
October 2015, Stafford, Bonhams
1930 Brough Superior 680 £112,400 / $144,100
April 2017, Stafford, Bonhams
1967 Lito X-Cam Prototype - $143,000
Jan. 2019, Las Vegas, Mecum
1953 Vincent Black Shadow - $143,000
Jan. 2020, Las Vegas, Mecum
1916 Thor Model 16U - $143,000
Jan. 2019, Las Vegas, Mecum



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