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. Explore all his stories for The Vintagent 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

 


Team Obsolete: What's Up, Ago?

By John Lawless

Team Obsolete, the Brooklyn-based classic racing team, owns some of the most desirable motorcycles of the mid- to late-20th Century. Robert Iannucci, owner of Team Obsolete, has never been content to just own and display these machines; his passion lies in hearing and seeing them in action. To that end, he and his crew have travelled the world, putting some of the greatest riders of the machines back on track to the delight of motorcycle fans everywhere they go. They’ve raced and paraded the glorious MV Agusta racers, the incredible Honda 250/six and others from the period nearly everywhere, including the Isle of Man, England, Italy and the USA.

Movie star handsome: Giacomo Agostini captured during practice for June 1968 Assen TT in Holland. [Jack de Nijs for Anefo / Nationaal Archief]
One of the last remaining riders from the Golden Era of Grand Prix racing is 15-time World Champion Giacomo Agostini. Rob and Ago have known each other for 40 years, since team Obsolete purchased several ex-works racers from MV Agusta in Cascina Costa, Italy. These machines include the 350cc and 500cc three- and four-cylinder racers, as well as the ill-fated ‘Boxer’ water-cooled flat four prototype that wasn't completed before MV Agusta abruptly pulled out of racing. Suffice it to say that without Rob Iannucci keeping the fires going and wheels spinning, most of us who are too young to have witnessed the halcyon days of Grand Prix wars would never hear or see these motorcycles in action. For that, we owe him a debt of gratitude.

Rob Ianucci and Giacomo Agostini with one of his former racers: an MV Agusta 350cc triple. [John Lawless]
Ago, as he’s known to his fans worldwide, was invited to visit Team Obsolete (TO) headquarters recently for a dinner to celebrate his accomplishments and their partnership together. The next evening was the invitation only TO Christmas party, where Ago could relax and enjoy an evening in a more casual setting. I was attending with Albert Bold, the MV Agusta guru and machinist who keeps the multi-cylinder roadbikes going and knows them inside out. He’s done considerable work for Team Obsolete over the years keeping these priceless machines going. After being shown in, we stepped into the tiny elevator only to be told to wait, there’s someone else coming. In steps Giacomo Agostini and his travel companion. They’d just returned from a visit to Dainese /AGV flagship store in Manhattan for a little Christmas shopping. We introduce ourselves and make our way to the fourth floor. When the elevator doors open and we arrive, the party guests stop in their tracks and suddenly there is a hushed moment while Ago made his way in. The Legend had arrived.

The annual Christmas party at Team Obsolete is usually a fine affair, with celebrity riders and an exceptional array of rare racing machinery. [John Lawless]
I had a chance to sit down with the multi-time World Champion for an interview during the party. Before we began our taped interview, Ago told me about his museum in the medieval town of Bergamo, Italy. The one-room museum is housed on a property run by his daughter Vittoria. Reservations can be made via info@VillaVittoriabergamo.it. Although it only opened in 2019, he’s already making plans for a new and larger museum. Because of historical property limitations, he cannot expand the current property, so another property has been obtained and he has begun to formulate the layout. He tells me, “Imagine a single spotlight focused on just two trophies, his first and last. From there, a photo gallery will help visitors understand the full span of my career.” He still has nearly every boot, glove, helmet and trophy (over 380) as well as innumerable press clippings of his years spent at the top of the racing world. For the TO dinner, Ago dressed casually, wearing a button-down shirt with the top two buttons undone. Around his neck is a gold necklace from which hangs a small medallion with the letters FIM. I ask him about it and he tells me proudly that it is from his first 500cc World Championship in 1966. Our time was short, and the party goers were getting louder and eager to spend time with him as well. Not wanting to monopolize his time, I turned on my recorder and got to work.

Giacomo Agostini being interviewed by John Lawless at Team Obsolete HQ. [Team Obsolete]

Interview with Giacomo Agostini:

John P. Lawless [JL]: Giacomo, in your 12 years of top-level international racing, you scored 123 Grand Prix Victories, 15 World Championships, 10 Isle of Man TT wins, 18 Italian National Championships, just amazing. Tell us, what drew you to motorcycle racing? You weren't allowed to race because your father was against it. How did you convince him to allow you race?

Giacomo Agostini [Ago]: My family was against it. They said, Giacomo, our family business has nothing to do with motorbikes, why do you want to do this?

JL: Alfonso Morini gave you your first big break riding a Moto Morini in Grand Prix racing. How did that come to be?

Ago: I bought a 175cc Moto Morini on installments from a local dealer, a few dollars a month and started to race. As I became better and started to win on my own bike. Mr Morini saw me race in San Luca and said 'you can race a factory bike for us.'

JL: Who were your heroes at that time?

Ago: My heroes were Tarquino Provini, Carlo Ubbialli and Gary Hocking. I wanted to be like them.

JL: The 1965 season you were surprisingly able to keep pace with the world’s best riders on multi-cylinder MVs and Hondas on the single-cylinder Moto Morini. How did you do that with so little experience and a less powerful motorcycle?

Giacomo Agostini in 1964 with the Moto Morini OHC single that proved fast enough to be multi-cylinder factory racers. [Wikipedia]
Ago: When I started to win; 1961, 62, 63, 64. In three years I won the [Italian HillclimbChampionship] title, I got the ride for Morini. My first ride on Morini was 1963 at Monza; I was racing behind Yamaha and Honda and I had to stop because the bike broke the footpeg (due to vibration). After that everybody was looking at me, saying who is this? In 1964 I was the Italian champion. Count Agusta called and asked for me to come for a meeting. He made me wait five hours outside of his office before we spoke. So I start with MV Agusta and stay for many, many years, winning world titles for them. This is my dream, to race with the best riders of the world.

JL: Gilera wanted you as well, why MV?

Ago: Because Gilera wanted me, at double the money MV was offering, but my father and I think about the companies. He said MV Agusta is a big company, building helicopters and has 3500 people working for them. Their technology was very high. And Gilera was not like that, just motorcycles. So I decided to sign for half price but the company can give me the machines to win.  So I had a good choice because I became world champion 13 times for them.

JL: Once you'd become the teammate of the more experienced Mike Hailwood at MV, how did he feel about you joining the team? Did he see you as an equal once you beat him at Riccione (Italy) in 1965 for the first time? Did that change your relationship once you were able to beat Mike?

Ago: No, because Mike was more experienced than me, especially on the big bikes. It was my first season riding the 500s and I tried to learn from him because he was a very good rider. The first time I beat him, I thought, “I beat Mike Hailwood!” Because I think it was easy for him to win with other riders. But when I beat him, the next race, I didn’t see him for one week, he prepared and he beat me. Because I think he did not have to go 100% until I beat him. We had a good relationship though. He wanted to win and I wanted to win so we couldn’t be too friendly though.

Giacomo Agostini [1] leading Mike Hailwood [2] at the 1967 Dutch TT at Assen. [Anefo / Nationaal Archief]
JL: June 1967, your birthday as I recall, you had one of your toughest races on the Isle of Man that ended when you suffered a broken chain on the last lap in the Senior TT. Did you feel the MV 500 Triple was a better choice than the Honda 500/Four for the Island?

Ago: Very, very hard race. I was leading and then Mike was leading. At the end of the race we both had white scuff marks on our arms and shoulders from scrubbing against the stone walls. So the last lap, I was thinking I won, I won, and then the chain broke. After the race, I was crying and Mike came over and said, “Ago, today you are a Champion”, but I said, yes, but you are in first place. But he was very nice to me and we celebrated even though I did not win. People appreciated and remember this race because it's impressive how hard we raced.

JL:  When Honda pulled out of Grand Prix racing in 1968, you won everything you entered the next two years but still made time to race at International short circuit races in the UK as well as winning the Italian National Titles. Why did you want to race in the UK, at Brands Hatch and Mallory Park?

Ago: And Oulton Park and Cadwell Park…

Mike Hailwood and Giacomo Agostini at the 1967 Dutch TT at Assen. [Anefo / Nationaal Archief]
JL: One of the most talked about races in the UK was the "Race of Year." You had an epic battle with John 'Moon Eyes' Cooper at Mallory Park where he narrowly beat you. He was on the BSA 750 Triple and you were on the MV 500. Were you surprised by the speed of the BSA Rocket III Triple and the intensity of the competition?

Ago: I know this before race it would be very difficult because Brands Hatch is very, very short, and before the last corner there is a hairpin and on the 500 you sometimes you must use the clutch because the redline is higher and he used a different line. The BSA is more easy through there. So he always had an advantage over me at this corner, but after that there is a short straight just 200 meters to the finish line. If it was at another place, a faster place like the back of the circuit, I was in front. But this is very slow and he got by.

JL: The spectators in the England loved you and very much appreciated you coming to do those races.

Ago: Lots of time and a lot of travel but we make a show. People loved the show, they like the close racing. With Hailwood, Cooper, Smart, Read.

JL: Speaking of Phil Read, who was your teammate for two years on the MV. Did you leave because they weren’t giving you the full support now or did you see Yamaha as the future?

Ago: Yeah, I did this because I could see during the wintertime MV Agusta was not getting much more horsepower but the two-stroke was getting better and better, and so I said okay, it was time to change if I wanted to win. So I decided, but it was a very difficult decision, very hard decision, because MV Agusta was my second family. So it was good because we had a fantastic relationship with Yamaha. I decided to race for Yamaha. I then spent two weeks in Japan testing 250, 350, 500 and 700 cc because I must learn the two-stroke.

Giacomo Agostini won three World Championships riding a Yamaha two-stroke, and three managing their racing team. Here he rides a TZ750. [Yamaha]
JL: You were recovering from and injury as well.

Ago: I crashed (while testing the Mv at Misano in September 1973 [badly injuring his leg], so worked hard and I prepared to win.

JL: Let me talk to you about Daytona. You always prided yourself on being physically fit, very in-shape but at Daytona that year it was 90 degrees. What did you do to prepare for that race?

Ago: Normally, I did not drink that much before races. The race was very, very long - 200 miles - normally I do 80-90 miles. Physically, I am ok, but during the race it was extremely hot and I could not … (motions with his mouth that he could not produce spit). I wanted to stop, so I think this is impossible, but when I think about the people who chartered planes from England, France, Spain, Germany. I said now what do I do? What can I say? I say Okay, Ago now has the power to finish to the race. I come back to. I go back again and I win.

JL: In Daytona 1974  you had you great victory for Yamaha. It was the first time you were racing with a clutch start. The first time you were racing a big two-stroke against the best big bike racers in the country and from around the world. One racer in particular thought he was number one, he was World Champion, but you had to show him that you were the World Champion… Mr. Kenny Roberts.

Ago: Yeah, because when I arrive at Daytona Airport, Chevrolet had brought me one car in white color they but write with “Giacomo Agostini, World Champion” (painted on the door of the car) and I’m very happy to have to use that week. Then I see an article from Kenny Roberts saying, 'I’m sorry but he (Ago) is not the World Champion, the world is America and I am American champion so I am World Champion. He is European World Champion.' So I don’t answer because I am a guest in America. When I win the race, I was exhausted, and they gave me an injection because I am dehydrated, so then I see Kenny, I say I’m sorry, but now you understand who is the World Champion. He laughed and after that he was nice to me.

The cockpit of Agostini's MV three. [John Lawless]
JL: So you stayed with Yamaha for another year and then you made your way back to MV (in 1976). You gave the factory their final victory at the Nurburgring Grand Prix. Tell us about that race. Did you feel you had a chance? I know the MVs were up against their technical limits, the bikes were breaking down more often.

Ago: I was also racing a Suzuki, which was very fast. But before the race it started to rain, and I am allowed to change the bikes, so I thought about it and decided to race the MV, and I won. After that I won at Hockenheim in 1976 [on a Yamaha TZ750].

JL: And then you made a brief foray in car racing - F2 Chevron, F1 Williams - but your heart was always with motorcycles.

Ago: Yes, my heart was with motorcycles.

JL: You enjoyed great success as a Team Manager for Yamaha with three world championships for Eddie Lawson. Did you enjoy the challenge of organizing a team?

Ago: Yamaha asked me to make a team which worked out well for them. I brought the Marlboro money and took care of everything. The team was mine, I hired the mechanics, they, Yamaha, give me the bikes, and engines. After two months of racing in Europe the Japanese mechanics did not like it because the food was different, the sleeping is different. You know now a lot has changed, but before, I remember many times a big box with food inside (for the mechanics) would arrive and that helped. It was good business, they trusted me and we got three wins - World Championships.

One that got away: the MV Agusta Boxer flat-four watercooled racer in development when MV pulled out of racing. [John Lawless]
JL: After that, you stepped back from racing although you were still active, like attending Grand Prix races. This year you saw a young, great Italian talent, Pecco Bagnaia win the championship on a Ducati fifty years after you, the last Italian to win on an Italian machine. Who do you think will win the 2023 World Championship?

Ago: I’m very happy that Bagnaia won with the Italian machine in the World Championship. Because when I raced, I show to the world, the rider wins and MV Agusta wins. It is important to show that the technology is the best. Bagnaia after fifty years did the same. Not only for Ducati, but I think Ducati makes a good bike and beats all the big Japanese companies. So Ducati’s prestige is Italian also. This is why it is a good emotion. To beat these big Japanese companies!

JL: Pecco came back from a 90 point deficit after the summer break and won like a true champion…

Ago: Yeah, because I think that Ducati and Bagnaia start really riding /working hard. Also the people expect from him to win, so he says, I must do this! I must do it.

JL: And he did it.

Ago: The start of the season was complicated but he was very professional. Next year? I think we have a very nice show. Because we have Pecco, Quartararo, Marini, Bastianini, Marquez will come back, Bezzechi- next year will be very good. There’s many talented Italians – Italians and Spanish.

JL: Grazie Mille. Ti Aguro Buon Natale!

Ago: Grazie.

The spectacular double-overhead camshaft 3-cylinder 350cc MV Agusta racer. [John Lawless]

 

 

John Lawless is a freelance motorcycle writer. Check out his website here, and his Instagram here.

 

 


2022 Auerberg Klassik

by Manuel Rosario & Minnie Freudenthal
The south of Bavaria, on the border with Austria, is a beautiful location, with rolling hills and pastures, cows grazing, barns, small woods, and beautiful lakes. The villages are immaculate and charming. The narrow twisting roads are a great fun to ride. The Auerberg Klassik 2022 was held in Berbeuren last September, and was only the third edition of this vintage motorcycle hillclimb meeting.  This year it became Germany's first motorsport event actively promoting CO2 avoidance with climate-neutral e-fuels.
[Manuel Rosario & Minnie Freudenthal]
The relaxed informal mood of the event, coupled with great attention taken to practical details, plus the large number of participants, made this event once more a success. The bikes present were stunning, with a wide variety of styles and a very cosmopolitan rider mix. Sidecar design details were particularly fascinating. Much to our surprise the number of one-star Michelin restaurants in the area (some in truly spectacular locations) was considerable. Of course we had to try several! The winner by far was Dorfwirt in Untterammergau. Don’t miss it if you're ever nearby.
[Manuel Rosario & Minnie Freudenthal]
To read more about the Auerberg Klassik, read our previous stories on the 2017 event, the 2019 event, and our 1925 Sunbeam 'Crocodile' Road Test at the 2019 Auerberg.
[Manuel Rosario & Minnie Freudenthal]
[Manuel Rosario & Minnie Freudenthal]
[Manuel Rosario & Minnie Freudenthal]
[Manuel Rosario & Minnie Freudenthal]
[Manuel Rosario & Minnie Freudenthal]
[Manuel Rosario & Minnie Freudenthal]
[Manuel Rosario & Minnie Freudenthal]
[Manuel Rosario & Minnie Freudenthal]
[Manuel Rosario & Minnie Freudenthal]
[Manuel Rosario & Minnie Freudenthal]
[Manuel Rosario & Minnie Freudenthal]
[Manuel Rosario & Minnie Freudenthal]
[Manuel Rosario & Minnie Freudenthal]
[Manuel Rosario & Minnie Freudenthal]
[Manuel Rosario & Minnie Freudenthal]
Manuel Rosario & Minnie Freudenthal are special correspondents to The Vintagent. Minnie is a doctor of internal medicine, and Manuel is a gastroenterologist in Lisbon, where he has lived since 1986.  He also writes for De Outra Maneira,

Steve McQueen's Desert Machine

'Desert Sleds' are among the hottest vintage bikes these days; a broad audience has discovered the amazing purpose-built off-road racers adapted for rough long-distance events in SoCal.  In the early 1960s, these were ordinary road bikes converted to off-roaders, as with this gorgeous 1963 Triumph T120 Bonneville owned by Steve McQueen.  His T120 is a first-year unit-construction Bonnie, which was 30lbs lighter than the pre-unit version, had a stronger frame and better handling, was generally less fussy to live with and was less prone to oil leaks.  As noted in the June 1964 Cycle World article below, Steve's bike was modified by his buddy/mentor Bud Ekins, a veteran desert racer and occasional ISDT entrant, who knew what was required for a reliable off-roader: shed weight, protect the engine and ancillary parts, circulate more oil, and keep dust out of the carbs.  It helps to add extra seat padding for long bumpy rides, too.  The result of Bud's work is purposeful, and not intended as a show bike - he didn't plate or paint anything for gloss, but preferred a clean but workmanlike finish, as a racer should.

Desert Sled then: Steve McQueen with another modified Triumph, this one a pre-unit so 1962 or earlier. Photo from his 1984 Imperial Palace estate auction catalog. [The Vintagent Archive]
Photos of 1960s desert sleds under legendary riders like McQueen, brothers Dave and Bud Ekins, and Malcolm Smith have provided inspiration for street and dirt riders alike for generations now.  In the 1960s, more desert sleds were street bikes than actually raced, a situation that has existed forever: just as road racing inspired the cafe racer movement, off-road racing inspired 'Scrambler' style [Check out our article on Terry the Triumph].  Since the 2010 explosion of what was then called the neo-custom scene, desert racers and scramblers have become a distinct, very popular, and very copy-able customization genre, and the major OEMs took note: thus we have the Triumph and Ducati Scrambler models, and now the revived BSA has entered the fray with a Scrambler prototype.  It's an enduring style because it's a cool look, and relatively easy to make a fully functional street bike that looks every inch a purposeful off-road racers.  In every case, though, from the 1962 introduction of the Honda CL72 Scrambler to the Triumph and Ducati Scramblers, road-legal factory offerings fall squarely into the 'street scrambler' category, built for show not go (at least off-road), unlike Steve McQueen's heavily modified bike, which is probably 200lbs lighter than a new Triumph Scrambler.

Desert Sleds now: Hadyn Roberts lofting the front wheel of his Triumph at the 2021 Garden Isle Grand Prix, Hawaii.  Haydn's bike is built in very much the style of McQueen's. [Monti Smith]
Enjoy this charming article from the June 1964 issue of Cycle World, 'In McQueen's Service':

Winning desert races is what this machine was set up for.  It is the mount of actor Steve McQueen, who recently won the novice class in a one-hour desert scrambles.  The victory only proved what a close look at his Triumph Bonneville suggests: McQueen takes his motorcycling seriously.

It takes some modifications to win the rough, dusty hare 'n hounds, scrambles, and enduros that are popular in the southwester desert.  McQueen's machine was prepared in Bud Ekins' Sherman Oaks, California shop. they started by replacing the stock wheel with a 1956 Triumph hub and 19" wheel to reduce unsprung weight.  The forks were fitted with sidecar springs and the rake increased slightly by altering the frame at the steering crown.  The rear frame loop was bent upward to accommodate a 4.00 x 18" Dunlop sports knobby and to it were welded brackets for the bates cross-country seat.  The bars are by Flanders, with leather hand guards, and the throttle cables run over the tank, through alloy brackets to the twin 1-1/18" Amal carburetors.

A Harlan Bast skidplate protects the underside of the motor, the footpegs were braced and the rear brake rod was increased to 5.16" diameter and rerouted inside the frame and shock (where sagebrush can't damage it). The oil tank was modified to increase its capacity and bring the filler out the side from under the seat.  It also serves as part of the mudguard, saving weight.

The engine is basically a stock Bonneville but the compression was lowered from 12:1 to 8-1/2:1 for reliability and the sagerush-snagging oil pressure indicator was converted to a pop-off relief valve with a return line back to the oil tank.  McQueens runs a Jomo TT cams and Dodge RL47 platinum tip plugs.

The important job of filtering all that dirt out of the desert air is handled by paper pack air cleaners connected by a special collector box to the carbs.  This box is finished in black wringkle-finish paint while the tanks are dark green.  The cross-over pipes are Ekins' design and are left unplated for better heat dissipation.  Perhaps if McQueen were riding this cycle in the movie, he could have made his 'Great Escape'.

Steve's desert racer was sold at his estate auction in 1984 at Imperial Palace, Las Vegas. [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.

 


The Current News: Nov. 3, 2022

Hello, dear readers and riders! Exciting news of a new EV design contest - your good idea could win $15k!  Check out the story below. Also this week, we’re taking a look at a monstrous Hummer eBike, a hydrogen Alpine, eBike makers bending the rules, and more As always, send your tips, questions, or feedback to stephanie@thevintagent.com. Let’s roll.

ENVO 'Next Move' Micromobility Design Contest

Two categories of entry for ENVO's design contest: Snow and All-Terrain. [ENVO]
Do you enjoy designing personal transportation?  Wanna win $15k?  Take a look at this Canadian EV engineering company's competition to design next-gen sustainable personal transport: ‘ENVO Next Move’.  The electric mobility business is aiming to encourage innovative individuals and teams to submit their innovative proposals that respect ENVO’s principles towards modern, easy-to-maintain, reasonably priced, electric vehicles.  Professional qualifications are not required, and the range of possibilities is wide open, as the categories include: Snow electric mobility solutions; Water micro-electric mobility solutions; All-Terrain electric platform; Weather-protected electric bike/trike; Cutting-Edge micro-mobility solutions.  The rules stipulate that your project must aim towards environmental sustainability, evidence an awareness of economy and the evolution of transport, and have some sort of long-term business viability.  Sound pretty cool to us!

Two more categories: Covered urban transport and Micro-aquatic solutions. [ENVO]
After the first entries are submitted by December 11 this year, ENVO will narrow the entries to 50 designs from all categories to proceed to the second round. These 50 individuals/teams will then be supported by a team of mobility experts over three weeks for mentoring and feedback, with the aim of improving the feasibility of the designs.  The final stage of the contest comes when the jury picks three projects as winners to receive cash prizes of $10,000(CAD).  In addition, there's a $5kCAD cash prize for designs that are ready for development, and ENVO is ready to team up to make them real in their own engineering facilities in partnership with the design winner.  If this interests you, click here for more info! 

Coyote for Accessible Mobility

The Coyote is a go-anywhere 4WD EV expressly built for folks with limited mobility. [Outrider USA]
Outrider USA is offering a 4WD EV quad that's expressly built for people with limited mobility to explore the great outdoors: the Coyote.  While it can of course be used by folks with full mobility and is big fun, the Coyote is perfect for people who want outdoor fun but have difficulty with getting around.  Outrider USA claims the Coyote is the lightest 4WD vehicle ever produced: it has a motor in each wheel and enough battery to do 140miles on a charge.  The Coyote is super compact too, at 5' long and 30" wide/tall, and will fit in the back of most station wagons/SUVs.

Royal Enfield Pursuing eBikes

Will we see an electric Himalayan from Royal Enfield? [Royal Enfield]
For several years now India's Eicher Motors, parent company of Royal Enfield, has been investing in research towards a possible Royal Enfield eBike.  They've also taken considerable government money towards such research: in India the PLI (Production-Linked Incentive) gives grants to support EV initiatives, while Royal Enfield UK was part of a consortium including Romax Technology, ZF Automotive, and the Univ. of Sheffield in a $half-Million gov't support scheme to “develop a demonstration e-motorbike concept based around a vision of a future supply chain.”  Siddartha Lal, Eicher CEO, admitted back in 2020 that Royal Enfield was investing in eBike research, although recently new CEO B Govindarajan admitted R-E was in no rush to put something to market, citing the need to understand the market more fully before committing to production.

E-Bike Makers Bending the Rules

What do you mean too fast? I swear this will only do 18mph! [Sur Ron]
In a situation repeated all over the world, the Indian government has taken note that manufacturers are taking advantage of regulations allowing low-powered e-bikes to be operated without a motorcycle license, and without registration.  "According to the rules, vehicles equipped with electric motors having 30kmh top speed are not treated as motor vehicles. Hence, norms such as type approval, insurance, and mandatory display of number plate are not applicable."  But it's an open secret that manufacturers present a low-spec vehicle for testing by government agencies, then sell more powerful but visually identical versions to the public, or offer larger batteries for more power, or simply upload performance enhancing software remotely. It's a convenient work-around on what are considered archaic rules, but it is technically illegal.

Alpine's Alpenglow Concept

A high-speed personal Hindenberg! The Alpine Alpenglow concept. [Renault]
French rally car legend Alpine (owned by Renault) is moving forward with a hydrogen-burning concept car, a single-seater supersports vehicle with a transparent cockpit and tail section.  The name Alpenglow refers to the band of red light at sunrise/sunset in the mountains, and this extravagent indulgence in personal horsepower is just as beautiful and likely just as evanescent, in a world with less space for high-speed play on four wheels, regardless its green-ish hydrogen power source.  The solo driver sits between two hydrogen tanks, which should make for a glorious instant death in case of a bad accident - go out with drama and style, like the Alpenglow!

A Two-Wheeled Hummer

Built Hummer heavy: the Recon Hummer 2WD eBike. [Recon]
EBike maker Recon Power Bikes is introducing a two-wheel drive heavyweight all-terrain bicycle inspired by the Hummer military vehicle, or suburban assault vehicle, as you prefer.  The Hummer has two 750w hub motors, in the front and another back wheels, that give this two-wheel-drive eBike 80nm of torque and a combined 1.5kW of power.  The battery is a 48V, 17.5Ah/ 840Wh item that give a 40-50mile range...which is 1/250th the size of the new Hummer EV truck, and about 1/8th the range.  But while the Hummer EV weighs 9000lbs (holy rockpile Batman!), the Hummer eBike weighs 'only' 93lbs, which is light in comparison, but pretty fricken heavy for a bicycle.  Plus, it's got a throttle, which makes it in reality a motorcycle...with pathetic range and power.  So, what is this thing?  A bruiser cruiser: for the Hummer car owner, it's the perfect accessory, and fits right into the back of the Hummer EV pickup...if you don't pull your back getting it in.  Need one?  Click here.

 

 

Stephanie Weaver is the EV Editor at The Vintagent, and a Philadelphia-based freelance writer. When she's not locked to her laptop, she can be found riding horses and motorcycles.

 


The Motorcycle Portraits: Hugo Eccles

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 Hugo Eccles, a motorcycle designer who's work has won many design awards and been included in several museum exhibits, including at our current Petersen Museum exhibit, Electric Revolutionaries.  His XP Zero - a collaboration with Zero Motorcycles - has been celebrated around the world for its futuristic embrace of new tech.  You can follow his Instagram here.

The Motorcycle Portraits of Hugo Eccles, taken in Alameda Point on April 13, 2021. [David Goldmann]

Tell us about yourself.

I'm Hugo Eccles, the co-founder and design director of Untitled Motorcycles in San Francisco. I'm originally from England, near Oxford, and have been in the Bay Area for the past seven years.

How did you first get interested in motorcycles?

My first introduction to motorcycles was probably my dad: he was an amateur racer. We had lots of cars - a Sunbeam Tiger when I was a kid - and he had a Suzuki 250 that he would commute from the English countryside where we lived into London, with a suit and tie under a cover.   All very sort of James Bond to my mind.  And I think that probably seeded it. And then I was into cars,  I'm sort of a car guy really, I like cars a lot and but I've always ridden motorcycles, and have ridden for about 25 years. But at the same time, I've been a professional industrial designer, and about seven years ago when I moved to San Francisco, I decided to combine motorcycling and design, to design motorcycles.

Hugo Eccles in his San Francisco design workshop, Untitled Motorcycles. [Simone Mancini]

Tell me a story that could not have happened without motorcycles in your life:

So I think one of the greatest experiences was a couple of years ago, a friend and I went on a road trip across from England across France and Italy, in the middle of the summer. I mean, it was just beautiful, you know, through the vineyards of France, over the mountains through Monaco, down the length of Italy. Unfortunately, it was a heatwave that summer and was just unimaginably hot. I mean, the heat coming off the road was like, opening the door of an oven. And then at some point, my Ducati decided to give up the ghost and the ECU kind of died. And we limped it to a motor repair guy in the back streets of in the middle of nowhere, some beautiful little town. He was very kindly, it was a Saturday, and I think we were really lucky that he was even there.  He was welcoming and repaired the bike for us, and took us out to lunch. And it was fantastic. You know, we never met him before and never met him since but those are the kind of experiences you get with motorcycles.  People stop, they help you. You know, the Ducati world. There were a couple of occasions like that with the Ducati; another when it decided not to start in the morning, and there was some guy traveling to work in his little van. He said 'wait here', went home, came back with his van full of tools, fixed it for us on the side of the road. We tried to thank him in our terrible French.

The XP Zero by Hugo Eccles, a collaboration with Zero Motorcycles. [Aaron Brimhall]

What do motorcycles mean to you?

Motorcycling very much kind of dominates my life nowadays. You know, I design motorcycles, I ride motorcycles. I've met most of my friends because of motorcycles. Yeah, it's been it's been great, really. I met a whole group of friends in San Francisco because I got invited to go on a ride. My wife jokes that she can't leave me alone for five seconds, because she comes back and I've befriended someone, usually by saying 'nice bike', and that just kicks the conversation off.  That's what's really nice about bikes: if someone likes bikes, they're already kind of halfway, it's really a kind of opening to talk to strangers.

 

 

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. Explore all his stories for The Vintagent here.

Round-the-World Reisch at Top Mountain

The star of our ADV:Overland exhibition at the Petersen museum was Max Reisch's very special overland-kitted 1932 Puch 250SL, on which he became the first person to travel over land from the Middle East to India by land using a motorized vehicle.  The Puch was a star because it remained in exactly the condition Reisch left it after his journey, with all his packs and panniers, ropes and stickers and tools intact: it is truly an amazing artifact of global travel, when such journey were undertaken only by the brave.  It's estimated, in fact, that only 50 people went around the world in a motorcycle before 1980.  Reisch was indeed a brave fellow, as you can read for yourself in one of his many books, especially India: the Shimmering Dream, which is one of the only of his very many books that only covers his motorcycle journeys, and has been translated into English.

The Max Reisch 1932 Puch 250SL at the Timmelsjoch Pass outside the Top Mountain Motorcycle Museum in Austria last September, with Paul d'Orleans aboard. [Mark Upham]
Reisch made two major journeys on Puch motorcycles: his India trip and a journey the year prior on 1929 Puch 250T across Europe and the top of Africa. Being an Austrian, he thought it prudent to use Austrian vehicles...and it was a great way to get financial/technical support for his very extensive and difficult adventures. His 6000mile trip across North Africa was the first for an Austrian vehicle, and gave Reisch very useful experience on what to do, and not to do, with an overland vehicle.  It also made him something of a celebrity in Austria, and spurred his ambitions to be the first to conquer the recently-rediscovered overland path from Afghanistan to India.  His 1932 Puch 250SL was ridden two-up with Hubert Tichy, who later had a career as a mountaineer and explorer.  I first encountered that remarkable time-warp Puch at the Concorso Villa d'Este, and was entranced: the bike is as charismatic a motorcycle as ever I've seen.  When I conceived the idea for the ADV:Overland exhibit at the Petersen Museum in 2021, it was the first vehicle on my list, and it still amazes me that the family entrusted an unknown curator in a faraway country with such a treasure.

Max Reisch's first overland vehicle, a 1929 Puch 250T. [Top Mountain Motorcycle Museum]
After his motorcycle journeys, Reisch went all the way around the world using a 1934 Steyr 100 car, which was also outfitted specially by the factory for the 24,000mile journey: from Vienna across the Middle East again to India, then Indochina to Shanghai, Japan, the USA and Mexico, and across Europe.  By now a veteran traveler, Max Reisch was yet only 22 years old in 1935, and began this automotive journey with 19yo Helmuth Hahmann, and engineering student. Before the construction of the Burma Road, driving from India to southern China meant weeks of difficult travel, constantly sinking over their axles in mud through jungle paths, crossing wild rivers on plank rafts, and meeting fascinating communities who'd had little contact with Europeans. Reisch arrived back in Vienna in December 1936, and wrote about his epic adventures in An Incredible Journey.

The amazing Steyr 100 convertible used by Reisch for his around-the-world journey in 1935/6, with Alban Scheiber, co-owner of the Museum. [Top Mountain Motorcycle Museum]
When Austria was annexed by Germany in 1938, Reisch soon found himself drafted by the German Army.  His familiarity with North Africa and his skills with vehicles saw him handed a wrench instead of a gun, and he spent the war repairing everything with wheels under Rommel's Afrikakorps.  His book Out of the Rat Trap is an entertaining document of his time with a vehicle maintenance unit in Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia, his desert escapades with a captured Jeep, scavenging destroyed vehicles for spare parts, and visiting desert oases like Siwa.  He foresaw the German defeat and made plans for his escape, stealing an old fishing boat with seven colleagues and a dog, and making their way out of Africa to Italy through terrifying circumstances.

Europe's first mobile home? The little Atlas 800 in deep sand in Saudia Arabia, 1953. [Max Reisch Archive]
After the War, when motorsports were allowed once again, Reisch won the Austrian Rally Championship in 1950 with a Steyr sedan.  Despite marrying and having two children, his wanderlust was ever-present, and in 1950 he commissioned what is probably the first European motorhome from the coachbuilder Jenbacher on a Gutbrod delivery van chassis.  Dubbed the Atlas 800 (for its 800cc / 18hp motor), in 1951/2 Reisch and his wife Christiane.  They first drove to the Arctic Circle to test the Atlas, then the following year Reisch made an extensive tour of the Middle East, including an invitation to Riyadh, which was then banned for infidels.  In 1953 he toured North Africa once again, for the Austrian Tourism Ministry, and his trusty Atlas was re-dubbed 'Sadigi' - friend in Arabic.

It's all there - the bags and boxes and ropes and tools used for overlanding in the 1950s. [Top Mountain Motorcycle Museum]
Amazingly, all the vehicles Dr. Max Reisch used on his journeys were kept in exactly the condition in which they finished their travels, despite the decades and the wars, and displayed in a private family museum along with extensive souvenirs from his travels.  The family maintained his extensive archive and vehicles for decades (check their fascinating website here), but time has taken its toll, and the family has decided it best to relinquish these treasures to a museum better able to present them to a wide audience.

Alban and Attila Scheiber are handed the keys to the overland kingdom by Peter Reisch, Sep. 14 2022. [Top Mountain Motorcycle Museum]
What better place than another Austrian museum?  The Top Mountain Motorcycle Museum was of course, the perfect place, visited by hundreds of thousands of travelers every year.  On September 15th, I was privileged to attend a press ceremony for the handing over of the Reisch vehicles and archive in Timmeljoch, Austria, my first visit to the Top Mountain Museum owned by the brothers Attila and Alban Scheiber.  Many members of the extended Reisch family were present, with Max Reisch's son Peter representing this amazing estate.  Along with the vehicles, Reich's office is re-created in the museum, his desk and library, along with many of his photos and souvenirs.   Most amazing, though, are the specialized vehicles, with all their tools, bags, stoves, and gear still intact, along with stickers and graffiti from their travels scratched into the paint or painted on.  It must be the most extensive and complete display of vintage Overland vehicles anywhere.  If you're in the north of Italy, or Austria/Germany/Switzerland, you owe it to yourself to visit the museum: not just for the extraordinary Reisch collection, but also because Top Mountain Motorcycle Museum is situated in the most breathtaking location possible, at the top of the Tyrol mountains, overlooking the world.

Max Reisch on his 1932 Puch 250SL en route to India. [Max Reisch Archive]
Can't beat the view at the Top Mountain Motorcycle Museum, atop the highest road over the Tyrol. [Top Mountain Motorcycle Museum]
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.

 


Flat Track: Winning Respect

By Catherine OConnor

Rivals on and true teammates off the track, AFT Premier Twins Yamaha riders #32 Dallas Daniels and #95 JD Beach show enormous respect for one another. Heading to Volusia, the last nail-biter contest in the 2022 race series, the Estenson Yamaha Racing Team personifies the concept of 'watershed moment'.  During his rookie year in the Premier class, 19-year-old Dallas Daniels is only 16 points behind series leader, 7-time champ Jared Mees [see 'What's Mees Got?' here]. The other half of Estenson’s dynamic duo, JD Beach sits in third position by a slim two points, cool and confident, nipping at their heels. It’s been an action-packed series, gripping fans who‘ve watched the Yamaha MT-07’s of Beach and Daniels, taking turns giving Nat'l #Uno Indian factory star Mees, a run for his money, race after race.

Where it all happens: AFT Premier Twins Yamaha riders #32 Dallas Daniels and #95 JD Beach.

I caught up with Daniels and “Jiggy Dog Beach” at American Supercamp in Springfield, Illinois just two weeks before the grand finale in Florida, where the AFT Progressive Supertwins championship will be won or lost. Beach is 31, with decades of expertise on asphalt and dirt, and a veteran student who's now a coach/mentor.  He's recruited newcomer Daniels to assist Supercamp founder Danny Walker with classes for up-and-coming, returning and current amateur racers, and street riders alike.

All aboard TTR 125’s, riders as young as 10 to over 50 years old gather at the Illinois State Fairgrounds for back to back Supercamps Sept 29-Oct 2. [Sam Evans]
JD’s strength comes from a sense of brotherhood. From his earliest friendships with the Gillim and Hayden clan, the power of sibling / rivalry has helped Beach grow into a force to be reckoned with. Beach can’t say enough about the positive aspects of working with teammate Daniels. “It’s really made me dig deep to be better and realize the more I can help him, the better it’ll make me.” At their core, Dallas and JD are professionals who know aggressiveness is a strength. “Having him on the team is good for me because we’re constantly pushing each other, and we don’t like to get beat. I guarantee, when it’s me and him out on the track, fans can see we’re not gonna be nice. We can work together but fight too.”

AFT Premier Twins Yamaha riders #32 Dallas Daniels and #95 JD Beach

Beach is a confidence man in the best sense of the word. Overcoming hurdles and rising to the top is what he’s done, taking Tim Estenson’s Yamaha vision to reality. “This is something Tim does because he loves the sport. He’s not selling anything.” Staying grounded in the racing life, his social media Beach Report feeds a panorama of track days, golden retrievers and splashing in the pool holding toddler-nephews, the next generation of the families of Hayden and Frankie Lee Gillim. When asked what it feels like to have the perfect lap or perfect corner, a humble JD tells you, "I don’t know. I’ve never had one. There's always something I could better."

Beach and Daniels, featured pros, engage and demonstrate bike handling and agility skills, as Supercamp’s Walker calls the shots. [Sam Evans]
In the same way that JD Beach credits the Earl Hayden legacy, family ties to the expertise of Hart Racing, may help explain Dallas Daniels’ meteoric rise to the top. His father raced with Receil Hart, whose cousin James Hart is now Dallas’ mechanic. “When I was young, I’d come home from school I would just ride, ride, and ride. They’d have to get me to eat dinner. Then I’d kick and moan when I’d have to come in because it was dark outside.” When the elder Daniels started working for Triumph, young Dallas traveled the country over the summer hitting races along the way. "New York, California, Texas, Florida, I raced 30 to 35 races per year, as many Amateur classes as they’d let me in,”

Chores for Daniels and Beach at Supercamp include “care and feeding of the livestock” (refueling Yamaha pit bikes), between classes at the IL State Fairgrounds. [Sam Evans]
To say that Daniels looks up to Beach as a mentor, is an understatement. “Pre-2019 when he was in Superbike, I was doing Junior Cup road races, and he just kind of took me under his wing. JD's a special character. He won’t brag about himself, so I’ll brag for him. He eats, sleeps and breathes motorcycles, just like me. So, we’re alike. We really get along, because we live for this.” Daniels also offers much credit to his sponsor Tim Estenson, and the years of struggle to develop this Yamaha team. “It’s meant alot to him to win an oval. First one since Kenny Roberts in the 1970’s” Hailing from small city Mattoon, Dallas is poised to carry on the legacy of the Fast Boys from Illinois, in the land of Bill Tuman, the 1953 Springfield Mile winner-take-all National #1. Now as then, this year’s Grand National Championship series victory could come down to one slim race moment, when the competition breaks.

AFT premiere class racers, #95 JD Beach and #32 Dallas Daniels, winning respect behind the line all the way to the podium. [Sammy Sebedra/ Estenson Racing]

 

Historian and Journalist, Catherine OConnor looks at the past, present and future of motorsports with an eye for the human experience that brings us all closer. She has reported on women in supporting roles, the roots of the Springfield Mile, the DuQuoin Magic Mile, and a story in images of the Hogroast: When Honda Smoked Harley in the 1980’s.