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Classic Velocity Blog

Barber Vintage Festival 2018

Classic Velocity

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If you are a fan of old motorcycles, there is no better place to be in October than the Barber Vintage Festival. It grows each year and has seen more than 70,000 attendees. The reasons are simple. A best-in-the-world vintage motorcycle museum. A well-designed race track. Vintage racing. Beautiful grounds. Great camping. Thousands of vintage gearheads, ensuring tremendous variety and great discussions. It is all here in one place.

The museum has been covered here before (see Bowing to Barber), so suffice it to say that it is worth a road trip or even a plane trip by itself, and you should find your way there. The fact that it is just part of the reason to go to the festival makes this an even greater event. Like the Goodwood Festival (see The Revival), it is a multi-day event which surrounds the perimeter of the race track. The racing, which is part of the AHRMA series, involves several vintage classes including sidecars, novice classes, lightweight, heavyweight, and more. A stroll through the pits is an experiential history of motorcycle racing. And craftsmanship. Solutions often need to be invented and/or fabricated.

Vintage clubs of all stripes also make this event a formal gathering. You can hangout on Norton Hill, or join the VJMC contingent or the AMCA encampment, or the Airheads, to name a few. The Ace Corner catered to a lively gang of grey-haired rockers! If you can’t find members of your tribe at this event, they may be on the verge of extinction ;-) The larger gatherings had judged shows and their own mini festival. Manufacturers and vendors are also there in abundance. You could test ride a new Harley, KTM or BMW, you could enjoy an Enfield, or use a Ural. But you could also pickup some cafe racer parts or a vintage style helmet. 

If, however, you were after original bikes and parts, the swap area was the place to do it. It is now expanded due to growth, so there are two separate areas. This is nowhere near as large as Mid Ohio, but there is a significant array of machines and parts in every condition from NOS to COBAR (corroded beyond all recognition). Every other stall seemed to have a Honda Trail or a Cub for sale. And speaking of original, just like Goodwood, the parking lot can be as interesting as the show field. I have not seen so many Laverdas in one place in a long time, and not one, but three BMW R1200STs! The interesting choices for touring machines, and the innovative storage solutions in the camping area could be its own article. 

This is a must-do event for anyone in North America who is into vintage motorcycles. Whether you like racing, or concours, or touring, or swap meets, or just walking around for days looking at old bikes, this is a worthwhile event. Oh, and in case I forgot to mention it, there is the world’s best motorcycle museum with close to a thousand on display. 

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Rows and rows of interesting motorcycles from near and far

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Zundapp parts

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Signed by Kenny Roberts

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A Meticulous Munch

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Gorgeous Guzzi

 A Norton awaiting its racing class

A Norton awaiting its racing class

 A Birmingham Small Arms in Birmingham

A Birmingham Small Arms in Birmingham

 Globe circling BMWs in the museum

Globe circling BMWs in the museum

 What is your tribe?

What is your tribe?

 I’m betting that you have not seen a Tornax in the flesh recently !

I’m betting that you have not seen a Tornax in the flesh recently !

 An Adventure Scooter ?

An Adventure Scooter ?

 A beautiful Indian

A beautiful Indian

 DKW with a pillion seat way off the rear….

DKW with a pillion seat way off the rear….

 Artwork was interspersed among the vintage iron..

Artwork was interspersed among the vintage iron..

 Honda Cubs and Trails were everywhere….

Honda Cubs and Trails were everywhere….

This Classic Velocity post is brought to you by Motocron : For Enthusiasts By Enthusiasts

New is Old....Again

Classic Velocity

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It's official, we have run out of ideas. Electric cars, not new. Medicinal herbs, not new. Organic food, not new. Driverless cars, not new. Faded jeans, not new. And there is such an absence of new ideas in entertainment, that sequels, remakes, and recycling are the norm. For our more relevant space of vintage iron, there is also a movement these days to make new stuff old, and to keep old stuff…..well….old. This too is not new, as the rat rods of the mid 20th century had the same ethos. Take something old, and make it serviceable (or high performance), but leave the aesthetic looking like it was when found (or abandoned). There have even been schools within the movement that have taken something in good cosmetic shape, and distressed them, aged them, or otherwise altered them in order to look like a barn find. The spectrum is broad, so we thought that in true Classic Velocity style, we would categorize them. We did a related post on how close you are to being a purist a few years ago (see Tiers of Authenticity), so you can check that out as well.

  1. Preservation. This school is pretty straightforward. You alter nothing (or the minimum possible) to make the vehicle operate as it did when it last operated.

    1. There is even a market for non-operating preservation, where even the cobwebs remain undisturbed.

  2. Practication. You take an original vehicle as found, and make it practical to operate on a limited basis. This might involve more modern non-period-correct tires, corrosion inhibitor applied to the undercarriage, an LED bulb or two to replace the stock 1157, etc. The vehicle is not modified in any way, and the cosmetic patina is natural and continuing to evolve.

  3. Performication. Not to be confused with per-fornication. Different blog for that. This school might do any needed metalwork and then preserve the resulting aesthetic with a clear coat of the patina, so that it will not evolve further. There may be more extensive less visible structural work, suspension upgrades, engine upgrades, brake upgrades, etc to make the vehicle competent with, or superior to, today's vehicles.

    1. The closer you get it to looking like category one or two, the more impressive it is.

    2. The better the performance, the more impressive it is.

  4. Oldification. This school takes something new and typically high performance, and makes it look old aesthetically. We are not talking here about the many retro and homage vehicles produced by manufacturers.

    1. We are talking about putting a modified early 911 body on a modern 911 chassis and drive train, or putting a new BMW 1200 (now 1250) motor in a modified R60/2 chassis, or somehow using a current Mustang platform for a Model A hotrod, or a Hayabusa engine in your Isetta. 

    2. There are some pretty expensive paint jobs and interiors out there that look like they are old, distressed, corroded, sun bleached. Aircooled Vdubs (which are already old) have members of this school. A variation are motorcycle tanks with faux bullet holes painted oxidation red, and aged brown leather seats.

    3. Technically you could consider Chip Foose, Kindig-It, and their ilk to be a variation on this theme. We could also argue though, that they represent the opposite, Newification.

So where do you fall on the spectrum? Did we miss a category? Best comment wins a Motocron subscription.

Limerock 2018

Classic Velocity

The annual pilgrimage to Limerock Motorsports Park is always great for vintage racing, and a lovely drive through bucolic northwestern Connecticut. This year, Bugatti was the featured marque, and it was unique to see so many in one place.

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 A Brace of Bugattis….

A Brace of Bugattis….

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Photos courtesy of Edwin Solomon.

On Getting Soaked

Classic Velocity

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It has been a long time since I have gotten really and truly soaked while riding a motorcycle. Years in fact. It happened now and then back when I had no rain gear and had to press on in the rain. The topic is also no stranger to these pages (see Rain , Squandering the Attention Budget , and The Rain Machine). But this was different. I have plenty of rain gear. Good stuff, too. I have jacket liners and a full set of Frog Togs and rain covers for the tank bag, and even a set of rain gloves. But on this day, I had none of them.

It was a beautiful sunny morning with a few puffy clouds here and there. It was the best part of what was to be a hot and humid summer day. I enjoyed the cooler morning air and the curvy undulating unoccupied country roads. After a while, I stopped to grab coffee. While inside, a trio of joggers came in dripping wet. I went outside to see a glistening parking lot, puddles of water, and a soaking wet bike. This had been no light sprinkle. The rain squall had already moved on, and the sun had never stopped shining. I looked up to see a single light grey cloud amid the azure and cotton ball sky. I checked my weather radar app. Nothing. There were no visible signs of rain in any compass direction. Strange, I thought.  I wiped off the seat, shook the remaining water off the soaked tank bag (and put on its’ now unnecessary rain cover), put on my mesh jacket, helmet, gloves, and headed toward home in the opposite direction to the light grey cloud.

I was on the lookout for a fast moving grey cloud, but there were none visible. I rounded one of my favorite long sweepers, and a few splats hit the windshield. Big wet splats as if they came from raindrops in some land of the giants out of all proportion to planet earth. Before I could even fully assess my options, there was a torrent of splats. A full downpour while in full sun and with good visibility. The visor fogged, and I was soaked within half a minute. There were no options for shelter anyway, so the choices were to stop and stand in the open to get further soaked, or ride on to get further soaked. I took my mostly wet leather gloves off, and rode on, still looking for the cloud that could produce such a deluge. A minute later, it ended. There was a pretty well-defined line in the road where you emerged from the sunny waterfall and into sunny dry road. No change in sky, no discernible change in temperature, just a Hollywood-like transition. I looked back in disbelief, but there was not much to see. It should have looked like a waterfall, but it didn’t. The whole episode was less than two minutes.

Even in warm temperatures, soaking wet clothes are cold. Denim in particular has qualities which allow it to absorb 19.7 times its weight in water, and to simultaneously cool and stiffen. A mesh jacket allows the rain and cold to pass through to the layer against your skin. Brilliant. You try to minimize movement in order to prevent new cold wet areas from touching warm skin. It is futile, particularly on a motorcycle where everything seems to function as a funnel toward the area you would least like to be wet and cold. The fact that it is warm and the air begins to partially dry areas that you are least concerned about being wet and cold, makes it worse. Give me a good solid long-lasting downpour where everything remains soaked. 7.3 miles is a long way in these conditions, but eventually the destination is reached. You slowly climb from the machine as if you are in a full body cast, and quickly liberate yourself from the clothing.

10 minutes later, warm and dry, I looked up at the sky. The same brilliant azure now with fewer white puffy clouds. I consider myself a lifelong learner, and I like to find the lesson in every experience. The toughest part about this soaking is that, try as I might, I could not at first find any lessons to be learned. I was not about to carry full luggage and rain gear for every 1 hour joy ride with no weather indicated. I did not gain some insight about reading a summer sky. I would not change anything on the motorcycle. I finally concluded then, that the lesson was about predictability. Even as a motorcyclist where you accept some elevated level of unpredictability, we like predictability. Despite being somewhat non-conformist, we like rules. Even in a pastime driven by passion, we like logic.

The lesson is that certainty only applies a certain percentage of the time.

Down the Lane

Classic Velocity

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Nashville, Tenessee naturally brings to mind Country Music and the Grand Ole Opry, Whiskey, and the smoky mountains. A great automotive museum ? Not so much. Which is why the Lane Motor Museum is such a surprising discovery. Not that it is unknown in museum circles, as it is another of those Family-owned marvels that we the public benefit from immensely, and which are fairly well known among gearheads regionally. The museum is a 501c3 established by Jeff Lane in 2002 around his personal collection. Now there are three aspects of the Lane Museum that make it particularly attractive to Classic Velocity. First, it specializes in European vehicles. Second, every vehicle is a running, driving specimen that gets some usage. This is no small feat, as you will see. There is a real mix of near showroom cars, and many with a healthy patina. Third, the museum is housed in a 132,000 ft2 former Sunbeam Bakery complete with brick walls and maple floors. It compliments the collection and vice versa.

If there is a theme for the museum, it is probably "interesting cars" as our basement tour guide described it. The main floor is 40,000 ft2 of those cars along with a history of the bicycle exhibit, which was interesting in its own right. The vehicles (they include a smattering of motorcycles and scooters) are roughly, but not entirely, grouped by the region of Europe. Scandinavia included Volvos and Saabs. A highlight of this area was a Saab 92 from 1950 which only came in aircraft green because that paint was surplus from the war. Next on my circumnavigation of the floor was an impressive collection of micro cars which crossed all geographic boundaries. Well known Isetta, and Messerschmidt shared space with a Zundapp Janus, a Heinkel and a Hoffman. Hondas and Berkeleys and Subarus were intertwined. The French and the Italians were not to be outdone with entries from Renault (a dauphine Henney electric car from 1959!), Citroen, Fiat, and a delightful Vespa. DAF, Daihatsu, and an American Davis were also included. A well executed Tata Nano from India was also present. A truly "interesting" group.

Back to the regions, Italy blurred into France which was dominated by Citroen, but had an iconic Renault 5 Turbo. At this point I need to jump back over to a small group of race cars to highlight the bright orange Citroen DS Ice Racer, complete with snorkel and studded tires. Enough said. The next section was dedicated to Tatra from the Czech Republic, so technically it was regional. However, there were about a dozen Tatras on display, and more in the basement. They are a theme of this museum, and run from a 1925 car to  a 1994 truck. Interesting design, interesting engineering, interesting history. Eastern Europe continued with a Polish FSO, Skodas, and then into Russia via Zil and ZAZ. 

I left Germany for last, given the focus of this blog. This was a great opportunity to see vehicles in person that have been covered on these pages, from marques which went away decades ago, and are not normally seen even at vintage events. Perhaps my favorite was back in the race car section where there was a 1 of 1 Shirdlu powered by a BMW 700 engine. Minimalist at 1000 lbs and top speed of 127 mph. Designed and built by 3 Californians. The collection included a couple of Hanomags, a Hansa, a few Lloyds, a Steyr, several DKWs (including a lovely Monza), a Wartburg, several NSUs, a Goliath, and more.  Incredible, and knowing that all of them were or soon would be running driving examples made it all the more impressive.

If you are anywhere near Nashville, you owe the Lane Motor Museum a visit, but pay the extra for the basement tour. It is well worth it.

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MOA Rally 2018

Classic Velocity

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With all due respect, the state fair grounds in Des Moines, Iowa would not be on the top 10 list of places to go see in the USA in July. However, it is the 2018 location of the annual pilgrimage for the 2 wheeled BMW faithful. The BMW MOA Rally. An excuse to travel somewhere relatively far away, and to weave in interesting roads along the way. An excuse to take a machine not purpose built for the constant drone of the interstate highway system or the speed of the autobahn, but which never the less is intended to circumnavigate the world. A 1992 BMW R100GS Paris Dakar. Long before BMW had an “Adventure” version of the GS, they had the PD version of the GS. A more Gelande version of the Gelande Strasse. Bigger fuel tank, a bit more suspension travel, high fender (which went on to become the segment-defining “beak”). It was the dawn of the big bike dual sport movement. The R80G/S before it was the original adventure bike, but it did not have the girth and the sheer presence of its’ 1000cc offspring. Sort of like an NFL tackle next to his normal sized mom and dad. The machine has no electronics, and no fuel injection, although it does have upgraded lighting, and luggage. 

Time did not allow me to completely avoid the interstate, so there was several hundred miles of it on the round trip. I used the throttle lock cruise control, which worked adequately for resting your wrist. The PD handles it well even if the tachometer is between 5k and 6k in doing so. It never feels strained, but it seems to be asking you why you are continuing to do this. Good question. Once off onto the divided highways and B roads, the machine is happier. It accelerates well, passes well using roll on throttle, and stops well.  It is obviously not a modern motorcycle, so it draws attention and invites questions. What year is that? How far are you going? You can often see the next unasked question on their faces. Why? Others have looks of obvious envy. Others clutch their smiling curious children to them as if you might infect them with some strange global traveling disease.

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I never cease to marvel at the variation and beauty of the landscapes in all parts of the USA, and the Midwest is no exception. What others describe as monotonous is just a different kind of beauty. How is it that you can travel down a tunnel of corn that is almost unbroken in 20 miles? When did the last person leave that little abandoned town, and who has captured that history? Why are these 90 degree turns placed seemingly arbitrarily in this billiard flat landscape? Why is there a speed limit on this road? Why did the city form at this particular point on the river? Why don’t we make more things out of corn? Why isn’t this the best place on the continent to view a sunrise or a sunset? How many places actually claim to have the best barbecue? You have time to ponder these and other questions when you travel more slowly, and you have a large fuel tank.

The MOA rally is a gathering of 7000 plus people and their machines with a common love of the blue and white propeller on a two-wheeled conveyance. With that said, any gathering of humans this large will immediately subdivide into tribes. Geographic tribes, and time period tribes (I see you Airheads), and specific model tribes (I see you chromeheads), and genre tribes (I see you GS Giants). All different,  all able to poke fun at each other, all able to share the same beer tent. Many different origins, many different walks of life, many different faiths, many different world views, united around one company’s approach to combining metal and steel and plastic and rubber. Surely we can find a way to emulate this on a more important level. But I digress.

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Seminars educated and informed, test rides informed and even surprised, vendors offered solutions, attendees showered wisdom on each other. Friends reunited. I attended a particularly informative session on lighting and conspicuity. Motorcycles were admired. Oh yes, the motorcycles. Whatever model you rode, many examples of your bike were there. Like the parking lot at Goodwod, you could be well entertained for hours by walking around the grounds looking at machines. Unlike a concours, you are not looking for the most pristine example. The sheer variety of interpretation and personalization is fascinating on this scale, and every machine is a participant. I stopped to admire an R1200ST. Styling only a mother could love, and a rare sighting even at this event, but this machine was well loved and well travelled. The vintage display had a nice assortment as usual of machines from an R32 to an R90S. Green and Red and Grey and Dover White machines broke up the stellar traditional black examples. There was much to discuss at the beer garden that evening. 

The journey back took a different path, and more interstate, with a good bit of rain here and there. The rain washed the bike, and cooled the cylinders and the rider. It somehow feels good to put on rain gear and keep going rather than retreat to wait it out. Riding in the rain can even be fun as I found out some time ago in Nova Scotia. Drying out was quick, and was accompanied by a welcome end to interstate travel. Rolling hills and lush green woods lined the road rather than corn. Place names became more familiar, and the journey came to a close. A lot had happened in a week, and a changed rider stood in an unchanged driveway next to a brilliantly unchanged machine. 

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Motocron - The Classic Velocity Vehicle Log

Classic Velocity

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Like many of you who have more than one vehicle to keep track of, the Classic Velocity garage used a combination of paper folders, a whiteboard, some yellow pad pages, and even a spreadsheet at one point. However, as the vehicle count grows, or as time passes, it becomes increasingly difficult and inconvenient to find information by rifling through thick folders. And sometimes, the answer is in a folder that you have since archived or given to the new owner. Even if you only own 1 or 2 vehicles, and do none of your own work, you would probably like to keep track of  what was done when, how many miles/hours you traveled, what events you participated in, and be able to recall details and photos anyplace, anytime.

The Classic Velocity Vehicle Log (CVVL)  is an app that keeps track of all of the activities and costs (at whatever level of detail you choose to track them) over time associated with all of your vehicles. It will even let you go back in time and paint a complete picture of vehicles you already own. It lets you track todo items and deadlines. It lets you It adds even greater value by providing a series of reports on activity, costs, mileage/hours, and locations, to help you easily search and find answers. Reports can be filtered by vehicle, timeframe, type of activity, etc, and viewed in a variety of formats.  Lastly it lets you do this wherever and whenever you want on whatever device you want. $10 per year gets you unlimited entries for up to 10 vehicles.

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Use code CVVLAUNCH at checkout for a discount and help the Log to fund the Blog!

SIGN UP

Simeone Revisited

Classic Velocity

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The Simeone Foundation Museum is not one of those that has an entirely new collection periodically. It focuses on a core group of sports cars with fenders that are rare and famous. Just about every vehicle in the main exhibit hall is a multi-million dollar vehicle. They do host some special events such as the vintage motorcycle event, that happen during the course of the year, and which bring in other vehicles (see Simeone Motorcycles). On this visit I simply returned to revisit the collection itself. You can read the original post for background, but for newer readers, it is a great venue that presents the cars in context via grand period settings. A board racer on a section of Brooklands track, or a Mille Miglia winner going through a quintessential Italian village, or a series of Le Mans competitors along a recreated pit lane complete with refueling rigs! It is this kind of atmosphere that resulted in the facility winning museum of the year once in 2011, and then for the second time in 2017 from the International Historic Motoring Awards.

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it is very hard to declare the “star” of the Simeone collection. The museum has many cars which are one of six or one of three or one of one. The Shelby Daytona Coupe would have to be on the short list, but so would the Porsche 917 and the Mille Miglia winning Bugatti. All of the cars run from time to time in the rear parking lot, so you can see and hear them in action. Many also participate in events around the world. If I were a retired high performance sports car, I think this is the life I would want. 

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On this particular visit though, a surprise was in store. The museum was almost empty but for a few staff, and as I wandered toward the back, the Mercedes SSK was sitting outside alone! In a nanosecond, I was circling it in a way that would not normally be possible. Up close, it is a magnificent giant of a car, and you can readily see why it spawned an entire replica industry. Great performance, a great body, and a great interior. 

 

Rabeneick Rules Rebranding

Classic Velocity

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August Rabeneick started a manufacturing company near Bielefeld (which was the origin for multiple bicycle and motorcycling manufacturers) in 1930. Initially he produced grinding machines, and then went on to producing bicycles. It did not take very long for him to transition to motorcycles in 1933. Like many others, he transitioned the ability to make steel frames into a motorcycle business using engines from other companies such as Fictel&Sachs and Ilo. 

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The first machines were small displacement at 75cc and 98cc. Post war, that transitioned to 125, 175, and eventually to 250cc two stroke machines. Rabeneick further developed the relationship with Ilo to one that allowed him to brand their engines as his own. As the 1950s began, Rabeneick also went to smaller 50cc mopeds to make sure that the segment of the market needing very basic and efficient machines wa covered. They also produced a line of scooters which they rebranded as Binetta in the UK (sounds very Italian, si?).

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Keeping with the theme of rebranding, Rabeneick struck a deal to produce the shaft driven 500cc boxer twin from a company called....wait for it.....Universal, out of Switzerland, as his own. This gave him a complete range of machines from sub 50cc moped to the largest popular displacement at the time. Diversification was an attempt to stave off a declining market. The strategy was good enough to attract the attention of Fichtel&Sachs who then purchased Rabeneick in the late 1950s. However, the factory eventually closed, and was sold to Hercules, although the brand lived on into the 1960s on a few mopeds. 

The Cult Turns 50

Classic Velocity

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In the course of the average human life, you don't get to celebrate too many 50 year anniversaries that happened entirely on your watch. Even fewer for products that you still use and enjoy! A few years back, the Porsche 911 celebrated 50 years, and since the model is still in production, it allowed for a grand time-lapse of evolution, memories, and memorabilia.  In 2018, the BMW 2002 celebrates 50 years of production. Two German icons, two vehicles that have fortunately inhabited the garage, and two vey different automobiles. The 02 is a very different celebration, as the last ones left the factory in 1976! They justifiably get labeled as a "cult car", and there is a famous book on the car with that title. Inevitably the factory and a variety of organizations throw grand birthday parties, and this year was no different. The best way to celebrate a big birthday is with a group of passionate fans of this single model. As David E Davis famously said in his 1968 review, "Now turn your hymnals to Number 2002 and we'll sing two choruses of Whispering Bomb . .."

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So where to find a group of passionate fans ? Hhhhmmmm.....Well there are probably a few hiding in your general region, but it just happens that a group of said fans have been heading to North Carolina, USA every year for over a decade. Scott Sturdy has given us rabid fans a great excuse to drive first to his vineyard when the group was small, and then to Winston-Salem which the group also outgrew, and now to Asheville. It is no longer just an 02 event, but it started that way, and the 2002 remains the core of the event. This gathering and the cars have been featured on these pages many times (see Proper Procrastination and Of Propellers And Cobblestones), but this time is a bit special. 

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At the front end of the event, the BMW CCA Foundation hosted a special sold out open house at their facility in Greer, SC near the US manufacturing facility. It was a celebration of the 2002 with cars, memorabilia, speakers, and merchandise. Effectively, the facility became a BMW 2002 museum for the day. Among the many special cars including a Bauer and a Cabriolet, was a better-than-factory Ceylon car. They should have put it on a rotisserie so that you could marvel at the underside as much as the top side. An immersive sensory overdose for the 02 addict, complete with music from 1968 into the early 1970s. I hate to keep using the drug analogy, but we are talking 1968.....The written word (at least our written words) simply cannot do justice to such an event. It is like writing about Woodstock. Imagine getting to attend a private Jimi Hendriks concert for about 200 people. Then imagine that the attendees included rabid fan friends of yours going back a decade or two. Now imagine that you are perfectly sober for the whole thing and can remember it!  

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But wait, there's more. That evening, the entire host hotel parking lot was turned into a BMW pre-show that went on well into the night. I think the only non-BMW in the parking lot was the hotel shuttle. On behalf of the entire BMW 2002 community, I apologize to any guests that were not part of this event. On the other hand, you will have stories for your grand children! 

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But wait, there's much more. The official show is always the next day, Saturday, now at a picturesque park in Hot Springs, NC. As always, 02s have a field unto themselves, this year including a few lovely Neue Klasse cars, and several of the immediate precursor to the 2002, the 1600. It is in this setting that you could readily appreciate the many individualized creations that make up the community. It is nothing if not diverse. The foundation event was the curated version, but the park was a canvas for everybody. The album will do the talking here, but suffice it to say that just about every color and variation was present in treatments from mild to wild. And almost all driven to the event from far away. Oh yeah, there were other cool BMWs there as always, but this one was about the icon. The cult car. 

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As a true driver's sedan, you can pay no greater tribute than to drive these cars., and after a great long weekend, they were driven back home hundreds of miles away. A fitting 50th birthday party if ever there was one. 

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Don Garlits Museum

Classic Velocity

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Your eyes do not deceive you. You may be asking, what could the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing possibly have to do with a blog about classic and vintage German vehicles, and why is a Karmann Ghia the lead photo? Good questions, I am glad you asked. 

First, it has been our experience that museums in general often have surprising content despite their main theme. In fact, we have yet to visit a car or motorcycle museum that did not have some unusual items related in some way to this blog. Check out this link to museum posts, and you will see what we mean. Second, it is a museum about cars going fast, so there is an automatic interest. With that said, we did not have very high expectations about this unplanned stop. Going as fast as possible in a very short straight line, is not exactly where our motorsports interests lie. It is the conceptual and philosophical opposite of the Dakar, Formula 1, Moto GP, and World Rally. However, it is serious business, the speeds are ludicrous, it is dangerous, and the machines are incredible manifestations of brute force.

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The main theme of the museum is to provide a chronicle of the life and times of Don Garlits, who is probably the most famous drag racer period. From the late 1950s into the 1980s, he created and refined the most dominant machines in the sport. He started with a repair and service shop in Tampa, FL but soon started to build hot rods and that naturally lead to faster quarter mile machines and drag cars. "Big Daddy" as he came to be known, and his "Swamp Rat" machines as they came to be known has a long and colorful history, and his personal and political views have often been controversial. Like all forms of Motorsport, the early days had crude machines and astounding levels of risk. Steel frames from 2 street cars welded together to create length, highly volatile fuel mixtures running through rubber hoses secured by hose clamps, an exposed engine 12 inches from your face, overalls and goggles for safety gear, etc. Garlits began in those days and moved with the sport into the modern era.  However, he paid a price in losing half of his foot in an accident where his transmission exploded and cut the car in half. He went rear-engined after that and continued to race!

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The dragsters are the most ungainly looking masters of speed. They have massive engines originally in front of and now behind the driver. They have a 25ft wheelbase. Today they are estimated to generate north of 10,000 hp in top fuel form. In order to put that power down to the ground, the massive 3ft wide slicks run at 5-7psi !!  The top fuel runs are over in 3.7 seconds or less, but the driver is subject to 5.5g at the peak, 4g sustained, and speeds exceed 330mph !! Fan, or not, you have to respect the engineering and marvel at the spectacle that such numbers represent.  

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Tucked into one small area amidst two buildings of pure Americana, are a Volkswagen Beetle, a beetle chassis cutaway, and a pristine 1974 Karmann Ghia. The Beetle is one that Garlits restored, but the 1974 Ghia was purchased from a bank auction of a new car dealership, driven for 27 dealer test miles, and has never been titled ! Arguably, the best example in the world, located in a museum dedicated to the exact opposite of an under-powered non-american street legal air-cooled basic transport. Who would have guessed?

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Cross Continental MZ

Classic Velocity

For those of us that believe we need to have a well-equipped electronically-assisted modern touring machine in order to contemplate a cross country trip, Kim Scholer begs to differ. He is taking a 1970 East German 250cc MZ pulling a Czech trailer ! And this is an upgrade compared to his last such trip !!

 Kim's Blog  MC Classics Article  Classic Velocity MZ Blog Posts

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Martin Classics 2018

Classic Velocity

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This year, for the first time in many, we missed the Martin Moto Classics show. It always coaxes local, and now with growth, regional owners to bring their classic treasures out to share with the public. There is always an assortment of German machines on hand with BMW featuring prominently, but accompanied by things less common. 

This year, there were nice examples of machines featured in these pages or formerly inhabiting the garage, including MZ, Kreidler, DKW, Condor, and Victoria. I have picked a few machines consistent  with the theme of this blog, but thanks to Todd Trumbore and Images from Walter Barlow, you can still enjoy a larger variety of impressive machines via the album link below.  

Martin Moto Modern Classics 2018

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A Bavarian Shoe

Classic Velocity

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Even from the official launch, the E36/8 has produced polarizing reactions. Love it or hate it. It is hard to believe that these cars are now 20 years old and already considered a classic, but there it is. At the time, the swoopy styling quickly gave rise to knicknames like the bread van, and then the clown shoe. Not flattering. However, just like the BMW GS, 2000 CS, and many other BMWs over time, this was an example of the engineers winning over the accountants and the sales people. The legend maintains (with plenty of evidence to back it up), that a group of engineers led by Burkhard Göschel, worked after hours an on weekends to turn the Z3 platform into a vehicle which would realize its full potential. They toiled away into the night, and developed a car with more than 3 times the torsional rigidity of the roadster, and with the M3 engine shoe-horned into the engine bay. They then asked BMW for permission to produce it. The answer was yes, with two big caveats: First, in order to control costs, it would have to share as much as possible with existing cars. Second, it could not outperform the mighty M3. 

The engineers were thankful, and with a wink and a nod, went off to figure out production. The result is a true driver's car worthy of the purist M label. The wink was that it did in fact outperform the M3 due to a superior power to weight ratio, and so gearing was altered to slow it down a bit. The nod was that from the nose to the A pillar, it shared sheet metal with the Z3, so costs were saved. Mission accomplished. The result is patently unique, and for some people, beautiful in its own way. Rear wheel drive, 0-60 in 5.3 seconds, top speed electronically limited to 155 mph, and a beast not easily tamed. Three engines were used over the short 4 year production life, eventually producing 321 hp and 253 ft/lbs of torque from a 3,130 lb car. The design of tokyo-born Joji Nagashima is officially designated a "shooting-brake", although it can also be considered a hatchback. Almost immediately upon production, the M Coupe began to rack up both design and performance awards and accolades. Road & Track, Automobile, Car & Driver, Top Gear, etc. All placed it in the top 5 or top 10 M cars of all time. All acknowledged a future icon. 

As is often the case however, sales were not as kind. While the regular Z3 enjoyed robust sales, the M Coupe struggled. It was already aimed at a narrow slice of the market, and the styling was enough to further limit appeal. 6,318 M coupes were produced over the 4 year production span from 1998 to 2002, with 2,870 of those being the US market version. It was replaced by a much less polarizing, and less insane, Z4 M Coupe. Regardless of how you view these cars, they represent perhaps the last time in modern times that the engineers at BMW were left in charge. As a driving enthusiast, however that happened, I am very glad it did.

  • ECE S50 (LHD): 2,178 built from 04/98 thru 06/2000
  • ECE S50 (RHD): 821 built from 08/98 thru 06/2000
  • NA S52 (LHD): 2,180 built from 07/98 thru 06/2000
  • ECE S54 (LHD): 281 built from 02/2001 thru 05/2002
  • ECE S54 (RHD): 168 built from 02/2001 thru 05/2002
  • NA S54 (LHD): 690 built from 02/2001 thru 05/2002
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Framo 2-3-4 Wheels

Classic Velocity

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Innovation in frames and platforms was the norm in the early days of the internal combustion engine, and many companies were simply trying to find the most efficient means to accomplish a task. One such company was Framo, founded in 1923, the same year as BMW. Although founded in Saxony, Germany, it was started by Dane Jorgen Rasmussen, who also founded DKW. The main idea was to use Framo to produce components for DKW motorcycles. After 3 years, that lead to the production of a commercial motorcycle-based vehicle, Basically, it was a trike with a cargo platform. This TV300 model emerged as a Framo vehicle in 1927. Variations for Framo included a single wheel at the front driven by an engine directly above it, a single wheel at the rear, enclosed cockpits, and open trikes with a covered rear. In other words, many permutations and configurations were tried.  Three-wheeled experiments in turn lead to the 4-wheeled Piccolo and Stromer models in the 1930s. All models were powered by 200cc-600cc 2 stroke motorcycle engines. Sales were simply ok in many instances, and weak in others, with no real sales successes.

Postwar, the factory was dismantled and shipped to Russia. Production resumed however in 1949 with what was essentially a pre-war model. Although there were further attempts at passenger vehicles, commercial applications were the only consistent sales. Even this was not to last very long, as the company became VEB Barkas and then concentrated on compact passenger vans. But that is a story for another time....

Collecting Nuances

Classic Velocity

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In visiting museums and collections, I would always be intrigued and amazed by those who were very focused in their acquisitions. Just one marque, or just one model of one marque, or all of the models of one marque for a single year, or all of the yellow Ferraris. These curators have a specific theme or quest, and set out to achieve a focused goal. I always thought of these as rather eccentric collectors. I imagined that they were bored with gathering the usual suspects like Gullwings and Vincents. Perhaps they just wanted to outdo a fellow collector by saying "I have every shade of green BMW 2002 ever offered" or "I have every model of the Norton Commando ever offered for sale". This is the "Inch wide and mile deep" approach to contrast the mile wide and inch deep collectors. 

In a recent conversation, I realized that I am not immune to this tendency. I was speaking with an inch-wide enthusiast friend about the new Goldwing. This is relevant because he has 12 Goldwings (13 if you count the Silverwing). This is impressive just based on the space required, but also based on the dollars. He can spout chapter and verse about the nuances between model years. Three of them are yellow. He even has a model that is widely regarded as bad. It is the mark of a true inch-wide enthusiast, that they even have the bad version of the vehicle. He also has models that the ordinary motorcycle enthusiast would consider to be the same. He has special editions, and first-version-to-have-X models. He knows his Goldwings. And then, he pointed to a couple of my airheads and we had the following conversation.

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"Those look identical to me. Those are your Goldwings." He was pointing to an R75/6 and an R75/7.

"They are not, see the tank on this one and the instrument cluster....." I fell right into the trap and was explaining nuances between the models that only airheads would appreciate, and probably just a subset of them at that.  

"They are both the same blue." Hhhmmmm, he did have a point there as they were the identical blue. Although, one was far more faded than the other. 

"Yes, but see the spoke wheels versus the cast wheels, and the switchgear is totally different......." He was smiling now, and I was digging a deep hole. 

"Was there a big performance jump between these, or some big functional improvement?" He was honestly asking this question, fully expecting to find the rationale for having both.

"Well......not really." I did not want to tell him about the few horsepower difference, or the infamous $2000 o-ring. That could easily be considered the bad version. I quickly ran through the years of knowledge and the memorized contents of the Ian Falloon book on Airheads. There was nothing of substance to offer a motorcycle enthusiast not pierced by one of cupid's horizontally opposed arrows. Nothing.

"Is one more of a touring model that goes with that fairing?" He was pointing to the color-matched blue Vetter fairing that I had removed, and had no intention of reinstalling on the /6.

"Well......not really." He was now fawning bewilderment.

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"Is either one super rare or collectible then?" His knowledge of BMW Airheads was like my knowledge of Goldwings; an inch wide and a half inch deep. I could easily have lied.

"Well this one has fairly low miles, but.........no" He was now implying that I was even worse than him, since I had no redeeming special editions or rarity cachet.  

"This one says R75 as well. Why would you have multiple versions of the same bike?" It was the /5 toaster tank. Beautiful and so different, but he had scored a knock down blow. Yes, I had gathered all three versions of the R75 over time, quite intentionally. This was a great motor for BMW, and I appreciated the subtle nuances between iterations of this platform from early 1970s to late. It goes even further if you include the R80RT. Yes, I was an inch-wide enthusiast. But when you have no substantive retort in a debate, when you have no defense, you must turn to offense. You must attack a flank where you at least have some advantage.

"Oh yeah, well I can park all three of these in the space taken up by one of your behemoth Goldwings!".  

East African Coronation Safari 1953-1954

Classic Velocity

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With the Dakar underway, long distance endurance rallies are on the mind. Going back in time, these rallies were really extended reliability trials. If you finished on Sunday (winning was even better), it went right onto a poster for the sales department to use on Monday. Even today, I wonder how many manufacturers would send a bone stock production sedan vehicle off to race across sub Saharan Africa, wth just a couple of tires and a gas can strapped on the back. But I digress.....

The East African Coronation Safari was first run in 1953 crossing Kenya, Uganda, and Tanganyika. It was initially held to celebrate the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, since She was in Kenya and became Queen, when King George died. It became widely regarded as the toughest Rally on the circuit, if not in the world. 3000 miles, punishing terrain, and unpredictable weather, all combined to cement the reputation of this Rally. However the first two instances of this Rally really set the stage. The initial rally had three starting points, although the majority started in Nairobi. It wound its way around Lake Victoria. Performance on the cars was required to be showroom, meaning no mods. Four classes were determined based on vehicle price. There were only 57 entrants for the first Rally, including DKW, Ford, Mercedes, Peugeot, Tatar, and Volkswagen. There were only 27 finishers, with the top spot (least penalties) going to the split-window Volkswagen Beetle of Alan Dix and Johnny Larsen. In 1954, Volkswagen triumphed again but this time at the famous hands of Vic Preston and D P Marwaha. Average speed decreased due to the increase in mandatory rest stops and control points. The following year, the Rally adopted FIA rules and an RAC permit was required, effectively ending the initial minimal regulations approach. 

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On Receiving Gifts II

Classic Velocity

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 A bit of recycling here from 2012, but it became relevant once again due to this quote we stumbled across this holiday season in Santa Fe, NM. "Always give without remembering and always receive without forgetting.”

The car sat under a tree, wedged in between a rusted out Plymouth Valiant and a tractor-trailer that was being used as storage. It was covered in that grayish greenish brown mix of pollen and dirt that renders all of the glass opaque. It also made it hard to tell exactly what color the car was. The final top had split in several places due to the ravages of sun and rain and tree sap. The engine compartment had more acorns and leaves than the tree under which it rested. The tires were remarkably round and still held some amount of air, but were dry and cracked on the side walls. The driver's seat was shot, and someone had cut the dash for a more modern stereo. The chrome was mysteriously pitted in random places as if to emulate some strange rash. It was a mess, and I had to have it. I mean, who would let such an icon just sit outside and deteriorate? This was a not inexpensive sportscar that was desired, acquired, and pampered at some point. Now it was just another case where eminent domain should apply (see The Theory of Eminent Domain)

I had stopped by a few weeks earlier and left a note, but no call. This time, I caught the shop owner, Steve. It was a typical case of a customer who had brought the car in for some repairs, and found that those repairs were going to be more expensive and extensive than he bargained for. The car sat. Steve vowed to contact the owner that night, and I left once again. Two days later I got a call. Yes it was for sale, but for more than it was worth. Today it would sound ridiculously cheap, but at that time, things were different. We haggled a bit, but the owner was sticking to his guns. I wondered if he had seen the car recently. No deal.

A few days later, I was about to call and up the offer, such was my craving. Before I had a chance, the owner called and accepted my initial slightly low offer. He had been to see the car and was surprised at the condition. He told me that Steve had promised to keep it inside, finish the work, etc, etc. I was at his place with the money the next day, even though it would take a few weeks to pick up the car. Then, with title in hand, I returned to the shop and took a more complete inventory. A lot of work, but doable. It even turned over with the battery from the shop, although it did not fire. I hauled my gift home and began the discovery process.

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Three weeks and an awful lot of work, diagnostics, and a few parts were required in order to get the car running. That first time it fired and ran was a gift worthy of a sacred garage celebration. Too bad nobody was around to see it. It became a rolling restoration, although I hesitate to use the word restoration as the intent was to make it a driver. The body and interior cleaned up remarkably well, and over the years, the ailments have been mostly addressed, while delivering the gifts of wrenching and the parts hunt, and the community of like-minded madmen. The stock 2.2 litre flat six engine has been solidly reliable and has taken the car on many trips and many hundreds of miles with nothing but oil changes and tuneups along the way. It has gone around the track at LimeRock and Watkins Glen. It has toured New England in the fall with a rebuilt targa top stowed in the trunk. It has attended many a club event with two small children in the back. It has given the gift of joy and laughter.

And more than a decade later, on the way to a breakfast one weekend, the car delivered more gifts. While I was getting gas, a woman smiled and said "That's a lovely car" as she walked inside to get coffee. On the way out she asked what year it was and we chatted for a minute. She never stopped smiling. A few minutes later, the car flew down a lonely section of interstate at 120mph. The speedo wavered back and forth between 120 and 125 as I kept going. The car always begins to feel good above 80mph, and it sees triple digits on occasion, but it is not usually up in the 120mph area. We were only there for about a minute, but the car did not feel strained, and I had more tach to go. I was not far away from the top speed of the car when new, and this car is 43 years old. Stock points and ignition, stock Zenith carbs, stock motor, stock wheels, stock steering wheel. I never stopped smiling, and I am pleased in this Holiday season to once again receive a gift from a vehicle which keeps on giving.

NYC IMS 2017

Classic Velocity

As seen through the eyes of a vintage enthusiast, this annual pilgrimage is a chance to see what is new and trendy, and to lay eyes on what has heretofore been the stuff of articles. This year, there was an impressive number of “standard” motorcycles. This means relatively upright seating position, handlebars rather than clipons, very little bodywork, no winshield. Among them were the Yamaha MT09 and 07, the MV Agusta Rivale, Kawasaki Z900, BMW RNineT, etc. Nice looking machines that can be versatile as well. Everybody now has an “Adventure” bike, including Royal Enfield with their new Himalayan. Honda and BMW now offer “Baggers”! There is plenty of coverage of the event on major magazine sites, so here is a select sampling of images through the Classic Velocity lens.

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