Saturday, April 12, 2014
Motorcycle Cannonball writer Rebecca West recently interviewed me for thoughts on the September 2014 event, in which I'll ride Bryan Bossier's 1933 Brough Superior 11-50 across the USA from Daytona to Tacoma, in a team with Alan Stulberg of Austin's Revival Cycles. I have a curious mix of dread and anticipation for the event; it's truly an endurance rally, 17 days of 320+ mile rides, a rigorous up-before-dawn schedule, and timed checkpoints at least twice daily. Any maintenance needs to be done after the day's ride...and before the next!
Here's the interview; check out the Motorcycle Cannonball website here:
"On September 5, the Motorcycle Cannonball will be welcoming back another familiar face to the endurance run in the form of Paul d’Orleans. For anyone involved in 2012’s event, you probably remember Paul and his small but extraordinarily quick 1928 350cc Velocette in the Class 1 Division — that and his chronicling of the journey through tintype photography, but we’ll get into that later. If you’ve never met him, he’s the motorcycle aficionado behind The Vintagent and a respected consultant for Bonhams who splits his time between New York, San Francisco, and Paris. This year, he’ll be riding a 1933 Brough Superior 11-50 courtesy of owner Bryan Bossier of Sinless Cycles. In stark contrast to the little Velocette back in 2012, this particular bike is the largest model in the Brough production lineup and boasts a sidevalve v-twin JAP engine featuring a 60-degree configuration that Paul claims to be very smooth.
Having gotten into the antique motorcycle scene well ahead of the curve, he loves Broughs and has owned many over the years. He views these beautiful, old British motorcycles as grand touring machines along the same vein as Harley or other American touring bikes. Ironically enough, by his own admission, he’s not a touring kind of guy, though. Like the seductive sounds of Calypso’s siren song, racing is what actually calls to him. It speaks to his soul and is his true passion in motorcycling.
We were fortunate enough to catch up with Paul in between his busy schedule (he’s in the process of publishing his third book in the last year!) in mid March regarding the upcoming event, the bike itself, the team he’s assembled, and their efforts to put a Brough Superior across the continent this fall. All in all, this multifaceted individual seems pretty confident at the prospects for success and what lies ahead.
Q: In regards to a Brough Superior making a transcontinental run, to your knowledge, has it ever been done before?
A: I don’t think so, at least not in modern times. I think this is the first time anybody’s done it, or at least tried — but we haven’t done it yet (laughter).
Q: Bearing that in mind, I guess the $64,000 question is: will it make it?
A: I do. I really do. I think we’re going to take it easy. The bike’s a little bit of an unknown quantity, because I know more about its history from when it lived in England than America. But I’ve been in touch with some of the people who worked on it back in England for the preparation of its more recent sale, along with my riding partner and the man who will be doing most of the preparation — who is certainly a capable mechanic — and we’ll be bringing the right spares and hoping to make it all the way through this time. It’s a strong bike.
Q: Will it be a challenge for the mechanics?
A: It’s so unpredictable. Some of the other folks who really didn’t have many problems in the past on the run have spent years developing these motorcycles. We’re basically taking an old motorcycle. It’s pretty much as it is — which may seem foolish in light of previous experience (more laughter) but, you know, we’ll just see how it goes. It really is the only luxury motorcycle intact in the event and definitely the only Brough.
Q: What's special about this model?
A: This was considered the most robust of the Broughs. It was used a lot by police forces in England, Canada, and in South America. It was actually a surprisingly fast sidevalve that would do 100 mph, but it was always intended as more of a sports tourer and not like a full house racing machine. Interestingly, it was also George Brough’s favorite motorcycle back in the 1930s. This was probably due in large part to the point he was at in his life.
Q: Any weaknesses or drawbacks?
A: Weaknesses of the bike include the timing side bush on the crankshaft, which drives the dyno. That bush is known to be slightly weak, so we’ll need to keep an eye on that. But otherwise the frame, the forks, the wheels, and the brakes are good. The gearboxes are standard. It’s basically the same gearbox as on a Norton Commando. It’s a good, strong bike. Broughs aren’t exactly known for their handling (limited cornering clearance), but it’s just a matter of getting used to it. It’s nothing dangerous.
Q: Speaking of brakes on old bikes, have you ridden this on any steep grades or inclines yet?
A: Actually, I haven’t been on this particular bike yet.
Q: I can only assume you’ll be remedying that soon . . .
A: Oh, absolutely. I just haven’t gotten round to it yet because it’s currently in Austin and I’m looking at a May deadline on my last book, but I’m not too worried about it. I’m going to be going to Austin probably during the summer to hang out with it.
Q: Who’s your team comprised of?
A: Bryan Bossier, the very generous owner of the bike I’ll be riding who lives in Baton Rouge, LA, should be along at some point; Alan Stulberg of Revival Cycles in Austin, TX, who is my riding partner and who will be bringing his No. 1 mechanic along; and Susan McLaughlin, who is my photography and life partner. I want to express my extreme gratitude to all of them, especially Bryan for the loan of the motorcycle. It’s pretty amazing when you think of it.
Besides being a rider with a need for speed and a self-professed flea market junkie, Paul’s also into tintype photography, as mentioned earlier. The tintype process was patented by Hamilton L. Smith back in 1856. A cheap process used mainly by beach photographers and other itinerant lensmen, it was also commonly used during the Civil War by photographers following the military encampments and early Western explorers. He was introduced to it two years ago by his paramour, Susan McLaughlin, who is an alternative process photographer, and he’s been smitten with both ever since.
Much like old bikes, the thing Paul loves about tintype is he doesn’t feel like it’s an obsolete process. He considers it a photo process that has a lot of character; it takes a lot of attention and the same kind of interest and dedication and love that it takes to get the best out of an old motorcycle. It’s a very natural relationship for him because, as he says, he’s already got something very much like that in his life with his strong connection to old bikes. The process is very unpredictable, which is surely akin to riding antique motorcycles, and a real draw for him.
This year, as in 2012, they’ll be using a mobile darkroom on the road with all kinds of temperature and altitude variants beyond their immediate control, which makes it all the more exciting in his view. If you’re not familiar with tintype, check out Paul and Susan’s latest joint endeavor at MotoTintype.com where you can visit several galleries consisting of their amazing work. Though all of the galleries are visually arresting and capture the viewer’s imagination, the Cannonball and Bonneville pix will be of particular interest to riders in this event. The love and enthusiasm brought to these intriguing images can only be matched by Paul’s love and enthusiasm for living life full speed ahead. We wish him and his entire team the best of luck in 2014."
Tuesday, April 08, 2014
|WX179, the '29 TT Scott I found 10 years ago (and featured on TheVintagent.com in 2007), as photographed by the factory before the Isle of Man TT that year...|
|The Real Deal; a completely original condition, ex-Factory TT Scott, as owned and ridden by Phil Vare, for sale at Bonhams Stafford, April 27th. A few unique details of the '29 TT bikes; two oil tanks! One for the engine oil, another for the chains (the small tank seen above, behind the larger oil tank...road-going Scotts don't use a separate oil tank; normally they have an oil compartment in the fuel tank. Note also the 8" diameter drum brake up front, and the girder/telescopic front forks, which were also used on the TT Replica models...|
|Phil Vare rounding a hairpin on the Isle of Man TT course in 1929|
|Vare passing through town during the '29 TT|
In 1929, Scott fielded six riders on completely re-worked racers with distinctive frames and running-gear and much more powerful engines. Owing to the late arrival of the machines, the Scott riders had to practise on earlier bikes or their own machines. P A E (Phil) Vare qualified on his own 1928 'TT Replica' Scott, with only brief rides on a Works machine before the race. All six started, but five went out, Vare being the last to go on the final lap. After a fall at Quarter Bridge damaged his twist grip he used the cut-out button when changing gear. This caused the holed piston that forced his retirement. Only Tommy Hatch finished, coming thirteenth in the race.
|The other side of the very special factory racing Scott; note 'TT side' oil filler with quick-action cap|
What makes '7M' so unique a works Scott is that, after the race, Phil Vare negotiated a deal with the cash-strapped factory, in which his 'Replica' Scott was part-exchanged for the repaired '7M', which, when taken home to Norwich, was registered as VF 6543. Riding again for Scott in 1930, Vare rode the Senior TT on a spare '29 machine - retiring again with piston trouble - the supplied 'works' bikes being the 'vertical' Scott twins, described by him as 'un-rideable'
|Yes, a two-stroke with an oil pump! Scotts don't use premix, but have a measured drip feed to the big ends. Note drilled lower frame forging, and 'TT3' engine number|
Phil Vare kept VF 6543 for some years, riding it at short-circuit events until selling it on when he was a Scott agent. Amazingly, it has had only three owners, the third, the vendor, acquiring it in the early '60s from the second owner Mr J F H Roberts (of Brentwood, Essex). Very commendably, and fully realising what a unique Scott he had, the vendor resisted the temptation to do a cosmetic restoration, restricting work to mechanical reconditioning, or the careful replacement of missing parts with period replacements, such as the '600' cylinder block now fitted ( a contemporary blind-head '500' block and pistons are amongst the spares offered with the lot). The engine has never run, nor has the machine been ridden in his ownership and thus re-commissioning will be required.
|The modified Velocette gearbox, as used by Scotts for years, here marked 'TT8'|
Trophy winner at the 2012 Scott Abbotsholme Rally, and most emphatically not a racer 'reconstructed from parts' but an arguably unique, original and beautiful reminder of that pre-war era, VF 6543 comes with not only a V5 and old style continuation log-book but many papers relating to its history and copies of period photographs as well as detailed autographed letters from the late Phil Vare containing important details of this racer's - and Scott's - TT history."
|A smiling Phil Vare in what look like Lewis Leathers racing kit, on his factory racing Scott.|
I'm often asked what motorcycles are the most collectible, and I'd say this machine ticks almost all the boxes...except it isn't a big V-twin. It will take a little more imagination to appreciate how truly exceptional it is to find an original-paint 1920s racer with full documentation and history from new; you simply can't do better.
Friday, April 04, 2014
Motoring journalist Christopher Head recently interviewed me on the subject of the mysterious factors which really bumps a motorcycle's value on the auction circuit. It's been published all over the Internet; below is the article as found on Astaire.com:
"What Really Makes a Motorbike Collectible?
by Christoper Head 2014
|Still the most expensive motorcycle sold at auction: this 1915 Cyclone bitsa fetched $520k at a MidAmerica Auction in 2008|
by Christoper Head 2014
Vintage motorcycle connoisseur Paul d’Orléans talks about what really makes a classic bike desirable, how the Steve McQueen factor influences auction prices, and his fear that demand and prices for collectable bikes could be about to rocket thanks to growing interest from speculators priced out of the classic car market.
|This 1939 BMW RS255 Kompressor sold for $480k at the Bonhams Las Vegas sale in 2013|
Paul d’Orléans laughs at the suggestion that because a bike’s old or rare it is going to be collectable or desirable: “No! That’s never enough. Just because a painting is old doesn’t mean it’s valuable,” begins the author, journalist, Bonhams auction house consultant and all-round classic motorcycle expert. Indeed, just like their classic four-wheel counterparts, what gets collectors falling over themselves and pushes auctions into bidding frenzies is legacy and luxury.
“If a particular model did something at the racetrack in any one of many kinds of races that motorcycles do — grand prix racing, road racing, flat track, dirt, speedway, whatever — if a bike was considered an important, successful racer that makes it valuable,” he explains.
As for the second criterion, luxury, if a bike was the epitome of premium in its day, so not just refined, but exotic and desirable too, then it will be even more so today. But then there’s the noise it makes too, by which d’Orléans isn’t referring to engines or exhaust systems. “Probably the biggest factor of all is the buzz,” he says. “If it is something that has a lot of press and a lot of folklore or mythology around it, or popular songs, or has been seen in movies or television shows or with movie stars that definitely does something. And that can be a huge factor.”
|This 1929 Brough Superior SS100 sold for $465,000 at H+H in 2010|
That’s why the top 20 and indeed top 30 lists of the most expensive bikes ever sold at auction features more Brough Superiors than any other make of motorcycle. Considered by many as the Holy Grail, the British brand, which produced bikes for just 21 years between 1919 and 1940 was known as the Rolls-Royce of Motorcycles in its day and with an asking price greater than the average British home at the time, they were similarly priced.
|This fantastic 1926 Brough SS100 with JAP KTOR engine sold for $453,000 at the RM Battersea auction in 2012|
Fast forward 70 years and it’s common for an SS100 model to go for upwards of £200,000 ($330,000) at auction and its less powerful SS80 sibling for £100,000 ($165,000) or more.
The demand for the Brough Superior has also been helped by the fact that it was the transport of choice for a number of celebrities of the day, including T.E. Lawrence and if a bike is associated with one famous name in particular, it can go from being interesting to desirable to threatening to set a new auction record.
|The fame factor: this Von Dutch-painted, ex-Steve McQueen 1926 Scott sold for a phenomenal $276,000 in 2009, at an Antiquorum watch sale!|
“The Steve McQueen factor can be a real wildcard. You know it can bump something up by ten times its normal price. There’s no rationality to it with McQueen, it’s all about desire,” says d’Orléans.
|The Pope's 2013 Harley-Davidson Dyna sold for $327,000 at the Bonhams Paris auction this year|
But does that make him unique among automotive collecting circles? “I don’t think anyone would care about a Bruce Willis or Peter Fonda or Arnold Schwarzenegger bike,” d’Orléans responds, “But the Pope! That was a big one!”
|Crocker big twins occupy 25% of my Top 20 Auction Price slots...|
The current Pontiff’s 2013 Harley Davidson Dyna Super Glide is the 14th most expensive motorcycle ever sold at auction. It went under the hammer in Paris this February for a scarcely believable $327,000. As such, it is one of only three bikes built in the 21st century to make it into the all-time top 30 list. The other two were incredibly rare, genuine factory racing Ducatis.
The sale of the Pope’s two-wheeler underlines that “It’s like any marketplace, whether wittingly or unwittingly, if desire is generated then you have price bumps,” says d’Orléans, who thinks that perhaps the only other living celebrity or sportsman that could add such a huge premium to a modern bike would be Valentino Rossi. If a bike that he had actually ridden to one of his nine MotoGP World Championships came up for sale, it could make the list. “A real Rossi world championship bike would go way up. But that hasn’t happened yet,” he says.
|The 2010 Ducatis GP2 CS1 which sold for $320,000 in 2012 at RM Monaco|
Unlike the classic car market, where the record price paid for a vehicle at auction stands at $29.65 million (€22.7 million) for Fangio’s 1954 F1 race-winning Mercedes-Benz, a lot at a classic bike sale is yet to come close to $1 million. The record is currently held by a 1915 Cyclone Board Track Racer which fetched $520,000 at auction in July 2008 in Monterey or $551,200 when adjusted for 2014.
|This 1907 Harley-Davidson 'Strap Tank' single sold for $352,000 at a Gooding sale in 2006|
Nevertheless, there are fears that as speculators and investors are priced out of the car market that they will all decamp, en masse, to the closest bike show and start driving prices up. As d’Orléans explains: “When you consider what a really nice classic Ferrari is costing now, you can pick up the equivalent motorcycle in terms of historical scale of importance in its genre for a pittance in comparison. You could spend $100,000 to $200,000 this year and pick up what anyone would consider one of the top 100 motorcycles of all time.”
|This spectacular, original-paint ex-Daytona BMW 1938 R51RS sold for $132,000 at the Bonhams Las Vegas sale in 2010.|
And if someone were to switch allegiance from four wheels to two, would they be able to ride it on a daily basis or would it have to be mothballed indefinitely to protect its value?
“I don’t think too many people use them as daily riders, but for pleasure, why not? You wouldn’t want to commute in downtown New York or LA but I know lots of people that use them for rallies and small tours. I’m riding a Brough Superior in this year’s [Motorcycle] Cannonball which is from Daytona Florida to Tacoma, Washington,” d’Orléans answers with a laugh that signals he’s aware of what he might be letting himself in for; that the course is over 4150 miles (6678 km) and will take 16 days to complete on a bike that uses technology that dates back to the 1930s and has no suspension other than a sprung seat."
Tuesday, April 01, 2014
|It would appear the historic Vincent-HRD marque is hurtling towards India!|
|The latest model Bullet from Royal Enfield, the 2015 'Sideburner', co-designed with Gary Inman of Sideburn magazine, and Nico Sclater of Ornamental Conifer, who is rumored to have already moved to Madras to head up Cosmetics at Eicher Motors Ltd.|
|Siddhartha Lal, MD of Eicher Motors Ltd, and now the Vincent marque|
|In a Vintagent.com exclusive, I can reveal that the new Vincent Black Rapier will be based on the remarkable Bernard Li design of 1994, using a supercharged engine co-designed by Lamborghini.|
Sunday, March 30, 2014
BikeExif and other custom bike blogs are already familiar with the name 'Matt Machine'; his Moto Guzzi LeMans Mk1 was voted a 'Top 5 Moto Guzzi Custom' by that blog, and the work from his shop 3 hours south of Sydney earned him a spot in the global custom bike survery 'The Ride', which I co-authored with Chris Hunter, Gary Inman, and David Edwards. In his former life, Matt was a popular architect in Sydney, but the lure of working with his hands was strong, so he set up shop on motorcycles, earning a worldwide reputation quickly, and lots of attention to his blog, Machine Shed.
|My text for File #001 of The Machine Files, with ultra-clear layout and super hi-res photographs|
Thursday, March 27, 2014
|Marty Dickerson aboard his Rapide, the 'Blue Bike', at Bonneville|
|Joe Simpson's Lightning in '52|
|Another shot of Simpson in '52|
Next behind Dickerson is the 1949 Vincent Black Lightning of Joe Simpson, the first Lightning imported to the USA. Simpson was also out for a record that day, and succeeded, averaging , before it evolved into the blown monster you can see today in the Solvang Museum. Note the interesting black fairing above the front wheel of the Lightning...it almost looks like the hood of a Ford! If this photo was taken in 1953, Simpson's Lightning is running on methanol, and producing about 90hp @6000rpm, and he recorded 160.69mph, taking the American record away from Rollie Free's 1950 Vincent record of 156.71mph (the only time a Vincent held the World Speed Record was Russell Wright's 184.83mph run in New Zealand in 1955).
|Marty Dickerson wheel-starts the supercharged Lightning with Matchless power, from the looks of it a c. 1952 G9 twin with a single-sided front brake hub. Rollie Free observes in the plaid shirt, while the owner of the Lightning, Joe Simpson, stands right in the t-shirt|
|Marty Dickerson aboard the supercharged Lightning ca.1955; he was the only rider brave enough! Note the protective racing leathers and heavy boots - saving his skin|
|The Indian Brave was a product of England! In 1950, Brockhouse Engineering bought a bankrupt Indian, and began badging its own 250cc sidevalve lightweight as an Indian, while still producing the Chief and vertical twins. It was built through 1953, when Indian went bankrupt again, and Floyd Clymer bought the name... Here is the Del Branson Brave in Bonneville guise in an Indian ad from 1953.|
|American Velocette importer Lou Branch placed this ad touting Lloyd Bulmer's accomplishments with his KSS Velo in the Dec.1952 issue of Cycle magazine|
|I couldn't find a better photo of the Bonneville Triumph with reversed heads, but they're fairly common in drag/sprint racing. This machine - Mirage - is pictured in a 1968 Alf Hagon parts catalog|
Somer Hooker who forwarded this photo, adds this about the Lakester cars:
"This is a pretty iconic shot. It reflects on the days when the Salt Flats was casual and not a 'profiling' event. The coupe on the far right is a 33 or 34 Ford 3 window coupe. It has what is known as a 'lakes chop'. The top was chopped and made to slant back to increase the aerodynamics. They later had to incorporate a rule about how far you could go with this. Note the white 1936 Ford five window coupe has also been chopped in the same manner. The white roadster in the LH side is a modified 1927 Ford roadster. It was a popular body because of its aerodynamics. This one has the engine in the front but quite often, they moved it to the rear and the driver sat in front. Black coupe behind Simpson bike (#9) may be a Chevy? There is a DeSoto grille which was a popular modification. Note the Triumph in lower LH corner has a board on back. This is where the rider would put his body for high speed."
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
|The gearheads behind TheFuelist.com; Matt Hamilton, Dr.Thomas Rand-Nash, and Eric Maas, here with a Ducati 175 in their Berkeley warehouse/office|
|Home page of TheFuelist.com; the start of your data search, and possibly the loss of many minutes of your time!|
|Even at this early date, TheFuelist has nearly 1300 BSAs listed in their auction sales ranks over the past 10 years.|
|Here's a Fuelist comparison on 750cc Triples from the 1970s; BSA Rocket III, Triumph Trident, and Kawasaki H2|
|TheFuelist.com office...gearheads one and all...with an Austin Healey 3000 keeping a Honda Super Hawk company|