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Classic Velocity Blog

Filtering by Category: Museum

Motorcyclepedia

Classic Velocity

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It has often been our experience, that you visit someplace that you think will be of some interest, and discover that it has hidden gems. And so it was on our visit to the Motorcyclepedia Museum in Newburgh, NY. When the website highlights Indians, Harleys and Choppers, we were thinking that this would be an interesting but short visit given our declared focus on machines from Germany. First of all, Motorcyclepedia is an impressive facility from the outside. It is large, and has generous grounds and parking. This is no small hole-in-the-wall  establishment. Upon entry, it continues to impress. It is a large space organized around themes. The current centerpiece is a Chopper exhibit, so Easy Rider bikes and machines by Indian Larry and Arlen Ness and Ed Roth abound. Off to the side is another large hall with what is billed as the most complete collection of Indian motorcycles year by year from the beginning to the end of the Springfield MA production. The one more relevant motorcycle on this floor was a 1975 Hercules with its’ signature Wankel engine (see A Herculean Effort).

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With low expectations for our particular focus, we headed down to the lower level. It was there that we encountered a completely different world of motorcycles. A large area was dedicated to British and other European machines of the mid 20th century. Sunbeams and Triumphs mixed with a Vincent Rapide, and a Black Shadow. A distinctive yellow Nimbus with sidecar sat near a beautiful silver DKW RT250 Twingle. A Puch 250 occupied a place of prominence above a corral containing a BMW R69S in Dover white. Another large area was dedicated to carnival attractions and full-size Wall-of-Death arenas. Among a collection of miniature single seaters used for wall-of-death attractions was one by BMW. A smaller area had a large number of Excelsior machines including board trackers.

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The highlight of the lower level though, is a collection of the earliest motorcycles, including a reproduction 1885 Daimler. This section had some European and American turn of the century marques previously unknown to us, such as Orient, Steffey, Styria, Marsh-Metz, Brutus, Terot, and Manson. The list goes on. There were also more familiar marques such as De Dion Bouton, Thor, FN, Hildebrande and Wolfmuller, and there was a lovely Bohmerland with sidecar. We are leaving out a lot, as for fans of the very earliest machines, this museum is a must-visit.

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Returning upstairs is like returning from a trip on a time machine.  The machines, activity level, and lighting are all very different. Leaving the facility is also a transition back to a large relatively non-descript  building that could be anywhere. You are eased back into the current world after immersion in the complete history of motorcycling. Motorcyclepedia is aptly named indeed.

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Petersen Porsche

Classic Velocity

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The Petersen Museum is routinely regarded as one of the world’s best.  From the building itself, now with an artistic exoskeleton, to the contents, it sets high expectations. We have visited before (see A Visit to the Petersen), but it has been a while. The Petersen is large enough to have multiple exhibits going on within its walls at any given time. It keeps it fresh for return visitors, and they have a ridiculous inventory of vehicles to rotate through and to borrow. This is, after all, Southern California, and Hollywood is a stone’s throw away. This visit was special because the museum was running a Porsche exhibit. Dubbed “The Porsche Effect”, the exhibit chronicles the history of Porsche from beginning to modern times. This is a challenge that the Porsche Museum struggles with, so the Petersen had to have an interesting approach. 

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That approach was centered around a strategic sampling of machines, augmented by some storytelling posters and placards. If you are a stickler for chronology, you could proceed in a roughly anti-clockwise direction on the first floor. If not, you could just move easily from perfect examples to prototypes that never saw production, to race cars. This show could fill the entire Museum, but it was all housed in a portion of the first floor. Despite this, it did a good job of creating a journey. An entire wall was dedicated to the memorable and iconic race cars from the 550 to LMP. A 356A started the road car story, but along the way you got to see a 904, the early 911, the 914, a slant nose, a 4 door 928 birthday gift to Ferdinand, a Ruf right in the lobby, and the last of the air-cooled 993. And, in the style of the Petersen, you could get right up close with all of the cars.

This alone would have been worth the price of admission, but there are two more floors of the Petersen filled with interesting vehicles.....

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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

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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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. 

 

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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Limerock 2017 The Motorcycles

Classic Velocity

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The Limerock Vintage Weekend has long been a great destination for a motorcycle ride. It is set in bucolic north western Connecticut, and is surrounded by upstate NY and western MA. When  the Berkshires and the Catskills are neighbors, you are in great riding country. At the track, a motorcycle parking area on a hill above the swap/paddock area has emerged over time that is always interesting, and the infield camping area often has a smattering of motorcycles. It always delivers a surprise, such as the year when a Vincent was casually parked among the commuter and touring machines on the mound. There was also a Crocker one year inside a vendor tent!

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This year, all of that was enhanced by a display of BMW machines from Philip Richter and his Turtle Garage. In addition to a few of Bruce Meyer's hot rods on display, there was an elegant line of BMWs from pre-war to the 1990s. A most welcome surprise to us, and a delight for the crowd of attendees who appreciated vintage machinery in general.  It was particularly amusing to listen in on some of the conversations of others admiring the collection. There were comments such as "They all look the same", or "Black must be his favorite color, since he has so many of them".

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However, a few folks who knew their BMWs would also stop to spend time looking at the subtleties between models. They would comment on handlebar controls or frame gusseting.  They were always pleasantly surprised to find someone who wanted to share in the conversation.  There is a particularly strong bond that is formed between geeks who discover each other at an event not intended for them as a primary audience. You now instantly have 2 things in common. But I digress...

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The machines included a Dover white R60/2, an R69S with a Hoske tank, a superb ISDT bike, and a pristine K1. All in superb restored condition. However, the favorite bike of the collection's owner is a 1938 R51 which is cosmetically unrestored. It has been mechanically restored, but the paint and bodywork has not been touched. It is in remarkably good condition, and has a patina that you simply cannot purchase. Sharing the same year, 1938, was an R71. Judging by the interest in German cars and motorcycles, it is easy to see why Limerock voted Philip collector of the year. The Turtle Garage is on our list st of places to visit soon....

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Design and The Art of the Hunt

Classic Velocity

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As an architect, you may not be surprised to learn that Steve Smith's collection is centered around interesting designs. His successful career all but suggests it. He cites the Guggenheim's Art of the Motorcycle in part as an inspiration. Indeed, all who saw that exhibit came away inspired. He also cites a passion ignited early by riding dirt bikes as a kid. A trait that many of us enthusiasts share as well. What very few of us share in common, is the will and the effort to build a world class collection, put it in a purpose-designed space in a major city, and share it with the public. And do so for Free! 

We were fortunate to get a few minutes with Steve Smith to talk about his passion and how it came to be expressed in its current form.

CV: What first attracted you to motorcycles and when was that ?

Smith: I have been riding since I was about 14, and rode mini bikes with other kids in the neighborhood. Eventually, I talked dad into buying me a bike. 

CV: When did you first start collecting ? 

Smith: In the mid 1990s I was finally in a position to purchase motorcycles. I started buying dirt bikes like the Maico, and CZ that I could not afford growing up. Then the Internet and European EBay allowed me to begin pursuing more unusual and rare machines. I made contacts in Europe who could get a machine for me, or I flew over and picked them up myself. I also bought a few purely on faith, and then waited for them to show up.

CV: Why start The Moto Museum ? Why not just build a bigger garage/barn as many do ?

Smith: The Guggenheim exhibit, Art of the Motorcycle blended design and motorcycles and struck a chord. I also believe that beautiful and unique design should be shared.

CV: You obviously have a particular interest within the world of motorcycles. How would you describe that area of focus, and how did it develop ?

Smith: European brands were tops growing up, particularly with regard to Enduro machines and Trials bikes. The Japanese were not very strong at the time. I also wanted a collection that was historical and covered several countries, hence machines from Hungary and Switzerland and Poland, etc.

CV: Your display placards go beyond just the facts to tell a story. Is that by design ?

Smith: I always thought that the story of the people and the acquisitions was interesting so I added it to the displays. The hunt is a big part of what I enjoy. You meet interesting people who share their homes and their stories with you and who want to know why some guy from America has come all that way to get a machine that has been sitting in their old barn for decades.

CV: What motorcycle would be the "holy grail" of your collection ?

Smith: There is really no one machine that is the holy grail. I would like to add a Vincent and a Brough Superior. Maico had a model called a Typhoon, Velocettes had an LH. There are several desirable designs out there that would be great additions. Some scooters as well.

CV: Which is your favorite machine in the current collection and why ?

Smith: The Bohmerland. It is such a unique machine.

CV: How do you hope that the museum will evolve ?

Smith: In several ways. I hope to create a distinct scooter gallery, I hope to further increase the variety in the collection, and I hope to be able to get a full time Curator to keep up with the care of the collection.

CV: It would be perfectly normal to charge admission for a collection like this. Why free ? 

Smith: We actually started out charging admission, and discovered that charging for hosting events was far easier and made more sense, so we dropped admission charges. It also makes the museum much more accessible. There are only so many motorcyclists, and we can appeal to others who appreciate history or just an interesting museum. 

CV: You have a unique concept with a restaurant and dealership attached. What lead to that concept ?

Smith: There was no grand design. The museum came first, and then with meetings, we always needed catering, so a restaurant made sense. It opened a little over a year later. I don't own the dealership, but I am an investor. Ducati NA actually approached us for that deal, and it works well for everyone.

CV: How much riding do you do these days ?

Smith: We have done multi-day tours in Europe, and have another one coming up which will include Romania, Hungary, Austria, etc. I also compete in Enduros and Hare Scrambles.

CV: What brings you the most personal satisfaction ? Serving the public ? Having the collection?

Smith: I would say that there are two primary things. First, taking delivery of an interesting machine such as the BK350 or the Guzzis. There is a real thrill to finally take possession of the item you have been chasing. The second is giving tours to the public. I enjoy educating and sharing the stories behind  the motorcycles.

See our previous blog post covering our visit, and if you are ever in St Louis, Steve Smith's Moto Museum is a must visit.

 

Another Hidden Gem

Classic Velocity

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The city of Las Vegas is not known for being understated. It is the embodiment of glitz and glamor. So when you find an auto museum in town, you would be forgiven for thinking that it would be all about the outrageous end of the spectrum and the cable TV shows. Purple 0strich seats with neon orange piping and sequins. Dollar sign hood ornaments and chrome wheels sized for a Euclid. Psychedelic Ferraris and day glow Bentleys. And in some cases you would be correct. A few places listed under museum have half a dozen novelty vehicles as decoration for one of the Casino bars. The Auto Collections did not promise much more, as it indicated that most of the cars were for sale. It sounded more like the Volo Museum that we visited a few times. Entertaining, but hardly catering to Classic Velocity core interests. To add to the pre-conceived notion, it was on the fifth floor of a casino.

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However, we are pleased to say that we were wrong. There was no neon paint or novelty cars anywhere. In fact, the only thing that sparkled was a Bradley GT, which had period correct brown metal flake paint. The rest of the collection was made up of a variety of quality cars, with a surprising number of German vehicles. First, the obvious. You should have guessed that there would be Porsches, but the models were a shock. No modern cars, but a perfect 11k mile 72 911E Targa, which had a commensurate lofty asking price of $250k. There was also a factory 924 GTR race car, one of 17 made. $375k would take that one home !  That sum of money could also buy a beautiful Pebble Beach shown 1939 Horch Phaeton in grey and black with red interior. At the other end of of the spectrum was an unrestored VW Super Beetle. A new VW Rabbit Cabriolet Wolfsburg Edition with 11 (yes, eleven) miles was not for sale. 

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A few Mercedes SLs were among the collection including a 1971, and a 1987, both in immaculate condition. There were also a couple of SSK Replicas. If those were too mundane, you could step up to the Sauber Mercedes Group C Prototype for a mere $750k. Not to be left out, Audi (although the Horch technically qualifies as well) was represented by a Quattro Trans Am car. Very Nice. BMW was only represented in the collection by a 1936 319 Cabriolet. All told, a healthy contingent of Teutonic machines. That is not to say that other Marques and nationalities were not well represented as well. Ford, Chevy, and Dodge had cars from the 50s to the heart of the muscle car era. MG, Morgan, and British Ford upheld British honor. In particular, there were 4 Ford RS2000 cars including an Evolution model. The curator clearly likes these Group B cars. Although a Ferrari, a Lamborghini Espada, and an Alfa Sprint Speciale were included, Lancia was the prevalent Italian marque. The cars ranged from an Appia, to a Delta Integrale (there goes the Group B theme again), to a Martini prototype. I am leaving out many other cars, but since many are for sale the museum is likely to look different whenever you visit. And that visit should be well worth it.

 Click here to see the complete photo album

 

The Broom Factory

Classic Velocity

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The surprises are the best. These are not the places that you have heard about, and long to visit, and then finally had an opportunity. They are the places that you have never heard of, that you did not know existed, and that you stumble across.  These are the hidden gems, the best kept secrets that are not secrets. Such is the case with the broom factory, a museum/storage facility/workshop. It even has the kind of beginnings that many of us gearheads would appreciate, being the idea of a few guys who got together around a common love of enduro machines from Spain. These are guys who restored and used and maintained the machines. They did, and still do, vintage race some of them. With too many machines and not enough place to store them, they found a willing host in a building called the broom factory. It is a fascinating old building which has been converted to offices and shops, and is a great story in it's own right, but that is not why we visited.

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It is the home of the Mid-Atlantic Ossa club. However, the Internet is not much help in tracking down this location. Even when you arrive, there are no clues on the signage, the exterior of the building, or the directory inside for that matter. You need to climb a flight of old wooden stairs beside an equally old freight elevator to arrive at a small hallway with an "On Any Sunday" poster, and a small simple Ossa logo on the door. This is the place. And it is closed....

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I eventually get Mike Slate on the phone and he drives there from a half an hour away. Once he opens the door, you begin to understand. It opens to reveal a single large room packed with vintage enduro bikes. They are mostly Ossa and spanish rival Bultaco, but they also include Pentons and a ????. Almost all are complete running motorcycles in good condition. Many are fully restored. Some are survivors. All make you want to put ona 3/4 helmet and enter the next vintage hare scramble. You would think that a theme centered around Spanish and euro bikes from the 60s and 70s would be enough, but this facility is very much dedicated to local activity, local shops, local tracks, and local heroes. The machines and the memorabilia chronicle this type of racing in the mid Atlantic area going back 5 or 6 decades. You can see pictures of the parents of the guys currently involved, on some of the bikes in the museum. A truly interesting and revealing perspective on the grass roots level of the sport. And then there are the bikes. Rare machines that we forgot existed, and pristine machines that were everywhere back in the day. Great color schemes and racing frames and weight-saving tricks from a time past, mixed with factory machines that were surprisingly competent then and fun even today. If Ossa and Bultaco are your passion, this is drool city.

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But wait, there's more. Mike leads the way to another equal size space on the floor above. It is almost as full, but houses Triumphs, and BSAs, and a Moto Beta, and a Parilla, a Greeves, a Yankee Z, and an Ariel Square Four, and a few Harleys scattered about. The enduro theme still holds, but with a more eclectic collection of machines. There are show-winning machines on both levels. The old wood floors, the exposed rafters, and the painted brick make both spaces into a pleasant space to spend time. You would almost like to sit for a while and just admire all that surrounds you, but there is no room for a chair !  

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But wait, there's more. The workshop. Whether it is a bit of metal fabrication or some media blasting, it can be accomplished downstairs in yet another space. There are five workbenches with projects in various stages of completion from rusty frame to fully restored nuts and bolts ready for assembly. And off to the side, a couple of BMW daily riders. This is my kind of place. The fact that the whole enterprise is the passion of a small group of guys is amazing. There is no charge for admission, and only a donation jar and t-shirts to offset the costs. We bought a t-shirt, but we got way more than we contributed.  We all benefit from the efforts of those who make these machines and their stories available to the public. Thanks

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A Few Special BMWs

Classic Velocity

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During a trip to New England, we got to see some nice motrcycles on the road and on display during a return visit to the Larz Anderson Museum. The grounds and building which house this museum are impressive even on approach. The estate from the turn of the 20th century still makes you feel like you are visiting the private collection of a wealthy enthusiast. And of course, you are. The museum caters to both 2 wheels and four. We have covered it here before (see Shouldn't We be Further Ahead by Now ?), so on this occasion we chose to focus on some of the 2-wheeled German machines on display as part of their Beauty of the Beast exhibit.

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The earliest machine present was a 1924 R32 from only the 2nd year that BMW was in business. It reminds us all that there were impressive characteristics from the beginning. Top speed of 60 mph, 80 mpg, beautiful styling, were all there. The 1937 R17 brings Art Deco design to a highly functional machine and is considered one of the best looking motorcycles of all time.  The 1954 Rennsport is the only racing machine included, but it marks a critical re-entry point for BMW into racing. With its massive front brakes and tank, it was built to compete with the Norton Manx. With only 24 produced, it is also unobtanium. 

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Much more common, and currently in the CV garage is the R26. This single cylinder machine is usually overshadowed by the more popular R27 which succeeded it, but it is an elegant upright single that met the needs of the postwar market. The sixties were represented by the R69US. It is hard to understand today,  but this was a 100+ mph sport bike. There were two icons from the seventies, the R90S which won the first AMA Superbike championship, and the R100RS which was the first production machine with an extensive fairing. The machines end in the 1980s with another icon, the Paris-Dakar winning R80G/S. The 1982 Krauser was a kind of "Tuning House" special that improved the suspension, aerodynamics, and engine of the base BMW to great effect. 

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Overall, a high quality sampling of the two-wheeled history of the blue and white propeller, and another visit to a great museum. 

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Back To Bob's

Classic Velocity

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BMW Motorcycle dealers seem to fall into two basic camps; local/regional dealers, and national dealers. Bob's is in the latter group. National dealers have recognition and appeal beyond their local market and become "destination" dealers. Harley Davidson has the same phenomenon (and probably invented the concept). Bob's stands out for a few reasons. First, it has a thriving mail order business and caters to vintage machines. That has been helpful more than once. Second, they appear nationally at rallies and other events. Third, they have a small onsite museum. 

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The museum is always a good excuse to stop by. It is not large, but it is packed with significant machines and unobtanium memorabilia. An R80 G/S is a personal favorite, but many other items command your interest.  Among them, a restored 1929 R57, and a great cutaway of a vintage boxer engine and gearbox. Bob's is always worth a visit. 

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Volo Revisited

Classic Velocity

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3 years ago was the first time we visited the Volo museum. That visit was a rather hurried affair wedged in between obligations. Regardless, it was an entertaining visit. This visit was a bit more relaxed. Most of the Hollywood displays were the same, but the rest of the cars rotate as they are bought and sold. The focus is Americana, but some European cars and exotica are mixed in. This mix of displays and cars for sale is an interesting blend. Volo can be considered a classic car dealer where the showroom has some pretty spectacular memorabilia. A Gone in 60 Seconds Mustang, a Knightrider Trans Am, a Miami Vice Ferrari, etc. 

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The museum/showroom is spread over several buildings. A few have themes, like military vehicles or pre-war cars. The rest have are predominantly muscle cars from the sixties through seventies. There are some nice examples, at least to my untrained eye.  Also interesting were the trucks. Pickups from the 1920s to the 1960s were in the last building. A pretty good picture of the evolution of light commercial vehicles.

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Another theme that could easily be missed are the two-wheeled vehicles. Here too there was a mix of Hollywood such as the machine from the Ghost Rider movie, and early machines from Harley, Indian, and Excelsior.  There were also scooters in several of the transition areas between buildings. Vespas and Cushmans and even Stellas.

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Volo was worth the return visit for its mix of entertainment, and history.  

Mt Dora Museum of Speed

Classic Velocity

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The Mount Dora Museum of Speed is located in central Florida in one of the few areas of the state with hills (read minor undulations), and turns (read minor changes in direction). It reminded me of the Volo Museum (see Visiting Volo) in that the main cars had a story, and are presented in a setting complete with memorabilia. It also compares with Volo in one other respect; most of the cars are for sale. In that sense, it is a classic car dealership as well as a museum. On a rainy weekday, I had the place to myself, and got to chat a bit with the owner, Kerry Bogard.   

It packs a lot of content into a small space. Just about every inch not taken up by a car is covered in Memorabilia. manakins are around many of the cars in period garb.  Neon signs, tin signs, and posters adorn the walls. One unusual decorations are the many midget racing cars that are hanging from the ceiling. You might miss them if you are not paying attention, but there are quite a few. If there is a theme to the cars present, I could not figure it out. American hot rods seemed like a good candidate given the cobra and the Corvette, and the Rat Rod pickup. Speed might have been a candidate with the corvettes and Indy pace cars. But then, there was the vintage Hearse, the 356 Speedster, the 911, the Jag, the 1980s Mercedes, the restored pickup, etc. Museum of Speed seems only partially accurate given the contents during my visit.

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Favorites include the Gremlin X Levi's Edition with its Denim interior, the complete 1940s Texaco gas station (yes, the complete building is in the museum), and of course the 356. I chuckled at the 1959 Cadillac Sport Coupe, as it was gigantic and had doors longer than cars I have owned. Toys, coolers, spark plug testers and other automobilia is everywhere, and you need to watch your step. You also need to look 360 degrees from any point to fully take it all in. I ended up doing a couple of laps. The good news about a combination museum and classic car dealership is that it is sure to be different each time you visit...

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Dave's Place

Classic Velocity

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For almost all of us vintage iron gearheads, nobody would confuse the place we keep our cars and bikes with a museum. You would have an exquisite set of examples that was large in number and displayed in an immaculate setting. Solvang is a museum. The Simeone is a museum. Likewise, people would not call our various pieces of vintage iron, running and non-running, a collection. You would need more than just a few pieces laying around and perhaps even more than one building. Jay Leno has a collection. However, there are a few folks around whose collection would easily qualify as a museum as well. Folks like Dave.

Dave's collection is scattered over several buildings in and around a lovely little town in Pennsylvania. Some collectors start around a specific type of vehicle or a theme. Some like a particular marque. Dave seems to enjoy an eclectic mix of cars and motorcycles that are linked only by their exquisite condition, be that restoration or preservation. They are also displayed in superb surroundings. Wood paneling on the ceilings, tasteful memorabilia, artwork, soft lighting, and comfortable seating create the atmosphere of a library in each building. You could easily enjoy spending a day in any one of them with a pile of books and a good Brandy. In one building you could choose from a few Rolls Royces or perhaps a blower Bentley for your seating. In another, you could choose a Stutz Blackhawk or an Auburn V12 Speedster. You could saunter over to Lena Horn's Drop Head Jaguar, or Tony Curtis' Gullwing Mercedes. Any one of the buildings would be a fine collection of its own. Competition cars are also sprinkled about the buildings. A Stanguellini Formula Junior, An Alfa Romeo Guilietta Zagato rally car, and a Shelby GT 500, to name a few. The jewel though has to be Juan Manuel Fangio's 1935 Alfa Romeo Tipo 159S grand prix racer.

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Motorcycles are as well represented as cars. Several BMWs included a green R50 with matching Globe sidecar, an R51/3 with a Stoye sidecar, and an R26. Other marques included a 1935 AJS 350, a pair of immaculate Bonnevilles, and a 1948 Indian Chief Dresser. These machines were often overwhelmed by the sheer size of the cars around them, but they were every bit as impressive. Competition motorcycles were also in abundance. They ranged from a 1954 MV Agusta 175CSTL Sport, to a 1929 Indian Beach Racer. In between were Moto Guzzis, a Norton Manx, a Velocette KTT, and a Matchless. Among my favorites though was a Moto Morini 500 Racer, which looked right at home next to the Stanguellini. Every motorcycle was immaculate, just like every car. 

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If this sounds like a little bit of everything, it does not present that way. Like a fine multi-course meal, it feels like a carefully selected and orchestrated combination designed to stimulate, surprise, and delight the senses. It leaves you reluctant to leave and eager to return.


Celebrating Innovation

Classic Velocity

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It is always surprising to me how often the efforts of one man are responsible for showcasing an entire museum worth of special vehicles. Fine examples include the Simeone Museum, the Vintage Motos Museum in Denver, and the Petersen Museum in LA. These collections are often more interesting, because they were not driven by the need to get visitors through the turnstiles. They were the particular interest or area of focus for a single individual and eventually grew large enough that they needed their own space. As I have mentioned several times before, we are all the better for it as pristine or interesting examples of vehicles that often do not exist anywhere else are sometimes found in these collections. Which brings me to Alain Cerf. Alain is an innovator who developed a shrink wrap packaging system and moved his business from France to the US. It became very successful and fueled his passion for cars. The collection grew, and eventually needed a separate building next door to the factory. Then, as a few others have done, Alain decided to share his passion with the public. He formed a museum with the nondescript name of the Tampa Bay Automobile Museum. However, this is not just another collection of great cars to be found elsewhere....

The hallmark of this museum is innovation. Every vehicle within it is there because it has introduced some facet of innovation that went on to influence many other vehicles or which is commonplace today or perhaps even an innovation that never caught on. The cars are mostly European, but include a Ruxton, two Cords, and a Willys Knight from the US. The collection covers vehicles from Czechoslovakia, Germany, England, Ireland, Austria, The USA, and of course a core from France. The museum starts with some interesting products from France. The French cars begin with a Peugeot Dal Mat, a Salmson, a Talbot and a lovely Delahaye coupe with a unique "butterfly" hood. Tops in this area though had to be the stunning Panhard Dynamic from 1938 which from a styling and aerodynamic perspective had to be well ahead of its time while still finding a certain Art Deco flare. The cute Claveau and the elegant Voisin rounded out the section. Suffice it to say that my knowledge of French cars increased significantly within a matter of 40 feet. One marque prominently featured in both race and street trim was Tracta. They pioneered CV joints and supercharging. Citroen's groundbreaking SM, and iconic 2CV continued the French innovations.

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The British are represented by a BSA 3 wheeled car reminiscent of a Morgan, a very nice all-aluminum Jensen sportscar prototype, a legendary design Jaguar E-Type, and an Allard. Czechoslovakia is well represented in the museum. Tatra is pretty well known for its design, and its rear engine placement. However, the T75 featured independent front and rear suspension and overdrive in 1933! German innovation was also on display. Small "sporty" sedans from DKW, Adler, and Detra were featured, and there was a magnificent (if deteriorated) Audi cabriolet from 1935. Stars of the German show (pun intended) were a pair of rear-engined Mercedes cars from the 1930s, a 130H, and a 170H. They had just returned from a concours where they had both won blue ribbons. An NSU R080 (see NSU R080) was a more modern German innovator. 

With all of this variety and innovation, there was one vehicle that clearly stood out as the king of all vehicular innovations. It was the 1770 Fardier de Cugnot, and it was the world's first self-propelled vehicle. It runs on steam and is a large and impressive vehicle. Back in 2007, Alain Cerf decided to build an exact functioning replica of the machine. He told me it took 3 years and that finding the right wood and making parts as they did in the mid 1700s, was no easy feat. Talk about hard to find parts ! Seeing the machine at full scale up close is awe inspiring. One can only imagine what it must have been like to see this thing roll through the local village. It takes the concept of a vintage restoration to a whole new level. Just what you would expect from an innovator like Alain Cerf. 

See the full album from the Tampa Bay Automobile Museum 

Munching at Maucher's

Classic Velocity

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Snow, salt, and freezing temperatures are usually not the friends of vintage iron. They relegate the machines we love to the sidelines in places that have real winter. Thankfully, we have guys like Dennis and Bill that realize it is a public service to relieve us of our cabin fever and arrange some kind of Gearhead activity. And so it was that we descended upon the premises of one Gary Maucher, proprietor of Maucher Auto Upholstery. This was not the first visit (see The Undiscovered Bounty) but the shop had relocated a few hundred yards, and his motorcycle collection which literally adorned the walls of the old shop, was now more of a small museum space.

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Gary is our kind of guy. He is at once the holder of a dream job involving vintage four-wheeled vehicles, and a passionate two-wheeled aficionado. By day, he upholsters vintage vehicles that most of us dream about. On this day, the shop had an Aston Martin DB4, a Mercedes 300SL, a Ferrari, and a Porsche 356, to name a few. The value of the vehicles assembled in his shop was astronomical. This speaks to the quality of his work and the clientele it attracts. I try to be careful around my garage so as not to add any more "accidental patina", but working on someone's freshly painted 7 figure machine must take a special kind of care and confidence.

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A separate area of the shop now houses Gary's collection of motorcycles. This brings up another reason that he is our kind of guy. He collects what he likes. This is a guy who clearly knows enough to just assemble the cream of the crop, but that is not the sense that you get from talking to him, or from walking around the bikes. There are a number of BMWs from a R90S in custom red, to an R1100S. There are also a number of Harleys and a number of Indians (he vintage races an Indian). However, there is also an MV Agusta Senna, a couple of Nortons, a wonderful survivor Triumph, a Ducati Pantah, a Brough Superior, a Moto Guzzi Eldorado, and (my favorite), a Gilera 250 with sidecar. And many more. 

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To top it off, he is a nice guy. He opens his shop to a bunch of vintage Gearheads, educates, answers our inane questions, and allows us to wander about freely amongst a lot of precious metal. This is exactly the kind of guy you want to apply his craftsmanship to your project, or to have a few beers with and swap lies. 

Ace is the Place

Classic Velocity

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Few places currently in operation are as central to Motorcycling history as the Ace Cafe in London. Regardless of the type of machine you ride, you have probably heard of it, but if you like British bikes, then it is one of those places to which you have made (or plan to make) a pilgrimage. This is because it is a place that was both influenced by, and in turn probably influenced postwar motorcycling in England. The Ace cafe first opened in 1938 in North London as one of many Transport Cafes, which were conveniently located off major motorways. It was destroyed in a WWII bombing raid, and reopened in 1949. The Ace was one of few places open 24 hours, so it naturally attracted truckers and became a hangout for young men and women out late motorcycling and listening to emerging Rock and Roll. This in turn lead to several legendary facets of the Ace. Races to a fixed point that started when a song began and the challenge was to be back before the song ended. Essentially a 3 minute time trial. The cafe was a natural gathering spot for the Ton Up Boys, so named because they had an affinity for speeds 100 MPH and above, which was an accomplishment on a motorcycle in the mid 1950s.

As you might expect, the Ace also attracted its fair share of fights and bad behavior which have made their way into the folklore of the place. This in turn gave rise to the efforts of father Bill Shergold, who helped to provide a more positive outlet for wayward youth via his 59 Club. After a long run, the Cafe closed in 1969 and part of it became a tire shop. Fast forward a few decades, and Mark Wilsmore decided to host an Ace reunion on the original site in 1994.  It was a success, and continued for a few more years. Things went so well, that he decided to purchase the place and return it to its original function in 1997. Mark is a great approachable guy that really comes across as a bloke who loves to ride bikes. He told us that taking on the Ace was a pretty risky move at the time, and that there is a big difference between organizing an annual event, and running a venue like the Ace on a daily basis. Remember, this is well before the current resurgence of Cafe Racers. We are glad he took the plunge, and it now stands as an must-visit place for gear heads from across the world.  During our visit, we talked to patrons from the USA, Australia, Belgium, and India.

Mark Wilsmore, Owner

Mark Wilsmore, Owner

As an indication of the stature that the Ace now holds, it was the site of the UK launch of a new model from Royal Enfield called the Continental GT. Enfield brass from India were milling about along with press and some of the Royal Enfield faithful. Nice examples of Cafe'd and original Enfields were in the parking lot on a wet and rainy evening. There was a healthy flow of people having a pint and a bite, and grabbing something from the gift shop. They now have club nights for Minis, tuner cars, and Yanks (US classics), in addition to multiple bike nights. The Ace is much more than a transport cafe next to a motorway and around the corner from a busy hub for the postal service (Royal Mail). It has transcended location and function to become a living piece of history. Branches are opening across the Atlantic and others are under consideration. Merchandise gets shipped worldwide. However, something about being on the original site, in London, in the rain, as dark descended, connects you with history in a way that no museum probably can. You just want to twist the throttle on your Manx as the needle drops on the jukebox....

Sammy Miller Museum

Classic Velocity

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On previous occasions, we have commented on the tendency to locate impressive museums in nondescript industrial warehouses (see hidden treasures).  In the UK, the equivalent is a nondescript country road in the middle of nowhere. In this case, the middle of the New Forest in southwest England. There, near the town of New Milton, you will find the Sammy Miller Museum. Sammy Miller is a famed British motorcycle racer on dirt tracks, grass tracks, trials, and road racing ! Something that would never be possible today. He also started a successful business producing racing parts bearing his name. For his efforts, he is an AMA Hall of Famer, and has been awarded an MBE.

 

 

What started as a small collection of his own former racing bikes, developed into a much larger world class collection of machines that is among the most impressive that I have seen.  There are over 350 motorcycles in the collection, and although they span the globe, the vast majority are British. They also span over 90 years beginning with the early 1900s, but the vast majority are from 1910 to 1970. There are several broad distinguishing features in this museum. The first is the number of extremely rare machines. There is a surprising number where the placard reads "The only one known to exist", or "One of two existing. The other is in the factory museum".  These are marques I was never even aware of, much less seen. It is a reminder that there were hundreds of British manufacturers that were around for a few years, but did not make it. The innovative (if ultimately impractical) ideas for valve actuation, levers and controls, engine layouts, etc are fascinating. The second unique facet is the presence of a disassembled engine right below or next to the assembled motorcycle. It is incredible to see thimble-sized pistons, and attempts at overhead cams, going back well before they were in routine production. It is also incredible that the museum could find a second engine for 100 year old machines where only 30 were made in the first place!

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The motorcycles themselves are obviously the stars of the show. The staff suggested a route through the museum, and we followed it. You don't get 10 feet before you are stopped in front of a  1902 Bouton engine, a Clamil sprung wheel hub from the early 1960s, and a cutaway of a BMW R engine and a K engine. If you get beyond that, you can view several great examples of Ariels, includinng a Golden Arrow. There is also a magnificent 1929 Scott Pullin, which was probably my favorite motorcycle in the museum for its styling. Off to the side on the first floor, there are several rooms dedicated to a theme or a few marques. One contains a number of Vincents. Most think of Vincent as a producer of high end sporting machines, but the 1953 Vincent Firefly on display was a 50cc two stroke moped which cruised along at 20 mph! For someone with a minimal knowledge of British bikes, it seems like there are inumerable marques that I was encountering for the first time, or had only seen mentioned in books. NUT (Newcastle Upon Tyne), Rex Acme, Haythorn, Ratier, etc.

Other special rooms include the Norton room, a tribute in examples, to the rich storied history of the marque. My favorite in there was the F 350 racer with oil in frame, which was unfortunately never raced. However, many examples from military machines to a rotary were on display. It was easily the best quality display of Nortons that I have seen. Sammy Miller was a racer, and the racing room was as impressive as his racing records. Win after win, after win on many different machines. Highlights once again include a 1954 BMW RS54 Rennsport, and a NSU Sportmax (see Of silver dolphins and blue whales). Regular readers will know that when we encounter a place as rich as this museum, describing it in detail in words is not adequate. Even pointing out the highlights leads to an impossible mission, as there are too many notable items to fit within our typical format. To give you some indication, the museum publishes a book which captures a good chunk of the collection. Even so, you would need to experience the museum to get a good sense of how superbly they have fit that many rare and special motorcycles, and memorabilia into a compact space. Brilliant.