Thursday, January 26, 2012

Moto-Voyeur: Tom (don't call him "Cat") Turnbull's new space.



the practice of obtaining sexual gratification by looking at sexual objects or acts, 
especially secretively.

We all like to look inside the lives of other people (whether we admit it or not). In Alfred Hitchocks classic, rear Window, Jimmy Stewart explored his voyeuristic side by spying on his neighbors (was that not the longest lens you've ever seen?) Hmmm. Bikes can also give us the same excitement and arousal as secretly-seeing someone's intimate moments. Likewise, our relationships with motorcycles are intimate; they express ones passion and desire - and riding, like sex... well there's just no other feeling like it. Today i bring you a secret look into Tom Turnbull's new space. View it, feel it, be a voyeur - get inspired.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

PVR York Swap Meet, January 2012

York, PA, January 22nd, 2012: Second year in a row that the parking lot was an ice skating rink making unloading bikes very tricky. Inside, however was a warm and friendly environment full of fellow vintage enthusiasts eager to shake the winter blues and do some buying, selling, swapping and all around BSing. The deals, as usual, seemed to happen between 6am and 8 am -before the general public gets to pick things over. I had the opportunity to get there early, but blew it as I was still recovering from Saturdays NYC trip for the International Motorcycle Show. No worries, I was there to sell and I came out ahead on cash which is a very rare thing for me. I won't bore you with a picture of every bike at the meet - you've seen it all before. I picked a couple of highlights and interesting photographs to share. Hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed this cold, snowy Sunday at the York Fair Grounds. Thanks to the AMCA for putting on another great swap meet (they always do!)

Ohio Valley BSA Owners Club raffles off a restored Beezer every year. This late 60's Lightning looks mighty nice!

HAHAHA, got love the stuff you find at the swap meet.

Author, David Gaylin selling copies of his newly revised Triumph Bonneville and TR6 restoration guide. A must have for any British restorer. Tons of great info you will not find anywhere else.

Haul Ass, literally. Original Triumph poster for sale.

Mr and Mrs John Melniczuk at J and M Enterprises. Rabbit ears!

Kenric Strohm of Quaker City Motor Works.

A fantastic painting of the late great Gary Nixon.

A beautifully restored Norton.

Peugot beauty.

Getting artsy fartsy.

A nice cabinet full of NOS triumph and lucas parts.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

International Motorcycle Show NYC 1.21.12- 961 Norton Commando

This years IMS at Javits was plagued with the first significant snow storm of the 2012 season, but that didn't keep the hoards of people from swimming through a sea of alien skin painted "kustomz" and unrideable show ponies to hit up vendors for free key chains, beer cozies and other useless corporate giveaways. While crowds oooohed and aahhhed over a hydraulic-hopping chopper, a few, more refined folks snapped pictures of a couple of well used British Flat Trackers and an unrestored 56 MV Agusta 175 sport covered in heavy patina. While a sight for sore eyes, there was one small booth a few were buzzing about. The newly relaunched Norton Motorcycle company was there with one of the new 961 Commandos. A small but eager crew of enthusiasts gathered around the single bike to catch a glimpse of what might be the first, new-generation of classically inspired, modern bikes to hit the U.S. Since Triumph relaunched the Bonneville 10 years earlier.
57 glodie dbd34 flat tracker

56 MV agusta 175 sport

68 T100 Triumph

2012 Norton Commando Cafe

The familiar grey tank with red and black lettering drew people in to the 270 degree twin air cooled motor that certainly looked every bit of what a new commando should look like. Clean, sporty lines, dual Brembo twin piston disks up front, a hydraulic clutch, Ohlins suspension front and back with beefy 43mm forks - the bike looked well thought out and the repeated question of "when" was heard over and over amongst the crowd.

2012 Norton Commando Cafe

"when" is a good question indeed, as Norton took pre orders last year that left many buyers of the 20k cycle in the lurch for months until receiving a refund due to lack of inventory. Would this bike be available in the U.S. market this year? Would there be dealers with inventory on hand? Would Norton be able to finance the amount of pre orders or would they come up short changed again? Smoke and Throttle along with team at RetroMoto tv had a chance to sit down for lunch with Nortons new head of U.S. sales, Dan Van Epps (formerly of Ducati) to get the details.

2012 Norton Commando Cafe

Yes, Norton had blown it last year, but Dan is now in charge and the bike is currently being inspected for U.S. Sales and must pass a series of requirements before bikes can be placed in show rooms. First things first, the moment the bike gets a green light, all the pre orders must be filled. Unlike last year, where Norton was literally building each bike by hand, they now have a full scale production facility in Great Britain, where the bikes can be mass produced. Norton dealerships are being firmed up for at least 18 major markets, state side. Once these hurdles are leapt, the remaining Commandos will go to the show room floors - that is what, if anything, is left over. 2013 should be a more plentiful year for Norton, though the company has decided to keep production to a limited number of units. The bikes are expensive, but the high end parts, assembled in the UK put this in a league above, say, the Bonneville T100. The Norton 961 weighs in at 415lbs and boasts 80bhp over the 395lb 54bhp Bonnie. Precision engineering,larger displacement and higher compression gives the Norton a respectable advantage in performance. The standard, superior features such as progressive suspension and braking Make up for some of the more than double base price of the Commando - the rest lies in the fact that it's actually made in the UK vs the Triumph Bonnie which is made in Thailand.

Dan assures that this bike is not a beginners cycle, but a high performance air cooled classic. The price point is higher, the availability is slimmer (making it more unique to own) and every detail makes this the higher end machine Norton was known for throughout history.... well that may be a matter of opinion, but the 70's Commandos still fetch way more than the 70's Bonneville because they are simply a better machine to ride.

2012 Norton Commando Cafe

It wil be interesting to see if the bike becomes available as promised. We certainly hope so. A test ride for RetroMoto tv is in the works as soon as the bikes are officially cleared for U.S. distribution. More on this exciting bike will be covered in the (hopefully) very near future.

2012 Norton Commando Cafe

Skratch from LA lettering bell helmets

On the way out, we noticed famed L.A. pinstripe artist, Skratch was lettering the sides of one of Bells retro line of open face helmets. We grabbed a few pictures and liked what we saw. A Smoke and Throttle lettered helmet is on our Xmas wish list, in xl in case anyone is looking for gift ideas! Check out more info on Skratch and his PinStriping deal with Bell Helmets over at our brother blog, The Self Centered Man.

Skratch Bell Custom

Skratch Bell

More on Norton coming soon. Gotta get up early for the AMCA annual vintage swapnmeet in York Pa tomorrow. Till next time!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Jack Simmons and his "Big Bear Replica"

Jack Simmons - a name that may be somewhat unknown to those on the east coast, was a legend in his own right from the 50's as a TT rider and later on with his "Norton Gang", as they were known. The Norton Gang went against the modernization of factory road racing by campaigning a number of standard-production Norton Commandos, complete with high bars and low pegs. The Norton Gang were up against stiff competition during the later part of the 60's into the 70's when most were riding Rob North framed Tridents, Rocket 3's or Japanese two stroke multiple cylinders - but their steadfast decision to ride the way they saw fit, as they did in the old days, made them notorious rebels of the day.

Jacks biggest moment in racing history would be his 1957, third place finish at Big Bear aboard a Johnson Motors (Triumphs west coast distributor) supplied TR6. Big Bear was the periods largest "hare and hound" competion in the U.S. - riders essentially took off on a grueling dash through the desert with no real course mapped out. The first rider to get to the finishing point (likely marked by a large, smokey tire-fire) would be the winner. Out of the 718 riders, only 129 completed the event. Despite a crash and an electrical short (damn you Joseph Lucas!) Jack made it to the finish just behind Bud Edkins and Buck Smith, both also donning Triumph TR6's supplied by Johnson Motors.

Jack receives 3rd at Big Bear, quite a feat! 
Awards and Accolades. 
The beautiful lines of the high piped Trumpet.

Being that the Triumph Jack rode belonged to the Johnson Motor Company, it went back after the season and the bike faded into obscurity. A few years ago, Jack, a skilled machinist and restorer, set about replicating the Big Bear Triumph after he found a matching numbers 1956 TR6. Going on photos and memory, Jack built the bike from the sludge trap all the way up to the custom flat front fender (designed to keep dirt and brush from jamming the front wheel and the dust out of the riders face). The results speak for themselves, Jacks bike is a beauty!

Jack and his motorcycle

After taking some pictures of the eye catching cycle, which was offered at this years Bonhams auction in Vegas, Jack approached me to see if I had any questions. We chatted a bit about the bike, the original 650's history and the replica bike Jack built. Our conversation led to Jacks line of work, a semi retired man now, Simmons runs a machine shop from his home in Lenore Idahoe. I told him I was from the Philadelphia area and his eyes lit up. "I do a lot of work for a shop just outside of Philly, over in south Jersey. Ever hear of John Melniczuk at J and M Enterprises?" I laughed "You're talking to one of Johns apprentices!" - John Melniczuk has been teaching me the skills and secret-tricks to completely rebuilding my 1966 UK-spec Triumph Bonneville - "In fact, you just did a valve job on my T120!"

Triumph Sweeps Big Bear!

Jack had a reserve on his bike, which it did not reach, though he was a bit reluctant to sell to begin with. I personally think the bike should stay with him, as it's such an important piece to his legacy.

Jacks machining work is second to none and I could not recommend him any higher. His meticulous approach to machining is evident on his TR6 and the bikes he has overhauled for John Melniczuk - who's also a "do it right or don't do it at all" type of guy. If John is satisfied with Jacks work, rest assured that everyone who uses Jacks services will be as well. "Jack Simmons Machine Shoppe" can be located by doing a quick internet search - though besides a telephone number and address, there is no website to plug. Again, Jack prefers to do things the old fashioned way.

It's amazing that nearly 3000 miles from home I found the very man who I'd heard so much about when John and I sent him my cylinder head - and to think, in this big country, so far away, I finally came to the realization that the vintage motorcycle world is a small world indeed.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Bonhams Auction: The duPont collection

Bonhams 1.12.12

"Good to see you" (implied British accent must be imagined here) "one hundred thousand dollars going once - do you care to inspect it good sir? Very well then, going twice, no regrets? Sold to the gentleman with excellent taste" 

The scene inside the Imperial Palace described above may be a gross Flanderization by a young, snarky American viewing a proper British auction for the first time, but the contrast between Bonhams and Auctions America/Mid American Auctions makes us Yankees seem like a bunch of uncouth, cattle hustlin' bumpkins.

It seems unlikely that a city consisting of garishly replicated international  landmarks would be the spot to find some of the worlds rarest classic motorcycles - but Vegas was the city of choice for collectors to congregate on Thursday, where the du Pont collection was offered as the featured attraction. 

E. Paul du Pont, was a one time owner of the Indian motorcycle company (1930-1945) and besides owning a bike collection ranging from early production Indian cycles (two Camel Backs!) to one off prototype motors, E. Paul and his sons were avid collectors and their tastes ranged from Norton (Manx and International) Vincent (Black Shadow) to a slew of triumphs, a Scott Flying Squirrel and everything from Italian to early Japanese. The collection spans nearly a century - and prices were expected from as little as three - to as much as six figures for the rights to own a piece of the lot. Condition of the items ranged from poor to well-used but functional, but the eclectic mix of common to one of a kind, left bidders of every income bracket the opportunity to take a prize home with them. 

Among the other bikes offered this year were a Brough Superior, a Flying Merkel, a limited reproduction factory Benelli racer (from Rob Iannucci/Team Obsolete) as well as the typical fan fare of British, European, American and Japanese. 

Hats off to the fine gentlemen (and ladies) at Bonhams for a splendid gathering, and while not everything offered was my cup of tea, this American left with a 56 plunger framed Triumph Cubby, and feeling "chuffed as nuts".