Sunday, February 3, 2013

EVENT: 2.2.13 The Broom Factory, Baltimore MD. Celebrating OSSA motorcycles.

Presentation is everything, at least in my opinion. Mike Slate, Scott Rosenberg, Jimmy Foster, curators of the permanent (and semi private) installation of classic motorcycles at The Broom Factory takes presentation to the next level. The backdrop of early 20th century industrial architecture, with modern renovations and amenities  provide a brilliant juxtaposition for the later 20th century motorcycles contained within. So how did this massive  4 story factory become the ultimate clubhouse for a few older boys with an impressive interest in classic motorcycles? Quite simply, the building has been in Scott Rosenbergs family for over 100 years - and yes, they did make their fortune in the broom manufacturing business. In 1989, the Atlantic Southwestern Broom Company shut it's doors for the final time but fortunately someone had the insight to see the value in the buildings architecture and history and recognized the potential in commercial real-estate. Street level spaces have been rented by retailers while upstairs suites house offices, photo-studio, casting agency and yes motorcycles - lots of them.

For the past three years, the three men have been generous enough to hold an open house for friends (and friends of friends) to view the collection and celebrate some of the great brands from the glory days of racing. This year, the featured marquee was OSSA motorcycles but included a number of Penton's, Bultaco's as well as a few Triumph and BSA scramblers from the late 60's and early 70's.

The hosts at the Broom Factory had exceptional design on their posters and signage.

The Spanish OSSA brand was first launched in 1924 and was originally known as Orpheo Sincronic Sociedad AnĂ³nima (O.S.S.A.) - their leading product being movie projectors. After WWII the focus on inexpensive lightweight transportation in the form of two-stroke motorcycles became the companies leading product. By the 1960's, the sports of observed trials, motocross and enduro racing saw an increased demand for lightweight, powerful competition bikes and OSSA became a leading exporter to Europe and the United States. As the British motorcycle empire was waining in the 70's the European invasion was booming. 60's Stars like Dick Mann became involved with the Spanish label with a Mann signature model to follow. The Yankee Motorcycle Company (United States) made a twin cylinder OSSA based 500cc monster in 1972 - also with the help of frame designer Dick Mann. Watch the iconic Bruce Brown documentary On Any Sunday and count the OSSA's Bultaco's Maico's Pentons and Husky's. They dominated the burgeoning off road competition but fell short as the Japanese market made lighter, faster and cheaper bikes in the later part of the decade. By the early 80's OSSA went bankrupt.

The original stairwell the workers would've used on their way to the production floor.

The dangerously powerful twin cylinder 500c Yankee - 1 of 750 produced.

Broom Factory's key men: Scott Rosenberg, Mike Slate and Jimmy Foster cut their teeth racing during this exciting era for motorcycles, so it's no wonder they want to preserve the history and the legacy with their impressive collection of bikes, riding gear, trophy's and memorabilia. The show room on the third floor trumps anything a dealer would have put together. Rubberized wood chips cover the floor, bikes highlighted by strategic lighting, signed photographs adorn the walls, trophies, jerseys, helmets and everything involved with the European Pillaging of the US dirt track scene of the 70's - a virtual two-stroke Valhalla.


Tidy Triumph Bonneville "Street Tracker" complete with Bates seat and headlight and Cerianni forks.
Cheyney framed round barrel BSA Victor 441cc. - the dying days of British off-roaders.
The 70's are long gone and with it, so are the great names like OSSA motorcycles - well not entirely. OSSA was relaunched in 2010 with a focus on observed trial riding. Penton Motorcycles eventually became known as KTM - another dominant force in dirt track and dual purpose motor sports to this day. The Broom Factory may not be producing sweeping devices - but the commitment to preservation of not only the building but the contents inside is quite remarkable. 

Being a product of the 70's myself, the disco era of dirt bikes never seemed "vintage" to me. I guess because admitting this era is vintage, might mean that I am getting older - but I digress. Witnessing the evolution of anything over the course of 30 some years, it's sometimes difficult to see the change happen - because it's so slow and gradual. This weekend I was presented with a comprehensive look at the golden era of off-road two strokes and it looked beautiful.