Wednesday, October 11, 2006


My 1928 Sunbeam TT90, with rare single-port cylinder head
What is The Vintagent?  An exploration of all things Old Motorcycle; the bikes, the events, the people, the cultural connections, the art, the fashion, the writing, the films...because, as it says on The Vintagent's masthead: The world of Motorcycles has all the ingredients of a good, enriching drama; heroic deeds, political intrigue, design brilliance, cut-throat business practices, quirky characters, national tensions, cultural biases, eros and thanatos.
1933 Velocette KTT mk4, 'The Mule'
When diving into the murk of motorcycle history, we find unexpected riches...everything which makes this life interesting, and worth living.
'The Mule' on a Velocette O/C ride in Oregon...a 40 mile dirt road, which the bike handles with aplomb...she's very comfortable on the dirt, being a former dirt-track racer on the East Coast, raced by Mack's Motorcycles in the 1930s.  One of only prewar KTTs imported to the US; I owned the other one for a while, too - a mk1 KTT which was imported to New York.
Motorcycles per se are just metal; it is individuals who animate them, and inhabit the stories within this site. We provide meaning to the metal, and in telling the story of Motorcycling, we tell the story of our world.
1928 BMW R63: I've owned dozens of BMWs, this was the oldest, although it was a cosmetic restoration and sounded like a cement mixer. Caveat Emptor!
 What's my history with old bikes?  I've been collecting, restoring, investigating, traveling for, and most importantly, riding old bikes since I was 20 years old.  Something got under my skin, and vintage motorcycles became an obsession; I spent the next 25 years following that muse, and amassed a huge library of books on the subject, while collecting obscure machines, trying them out, finding my favorites.  I've owned around 300 bikes in that time, sometimes buying large collections to 'get at' one machine I wanted, especially in the days when old bikes were relatively cheap, and the financial stakes were low.  I was lucky to get in the game while it was still possible to buy just about anything you could find, and I've been offered interesting bikes I wish I'd bought, or kept!
My tiny garage ca.1988, with a Norton ES2, Ducati 900GTS, and Velo Venom.  Stuffed in the back are several more!
The following are some of the machines I've owned...its amazing how poorly I kept photographic records of the machines which passed through my garage...but a few of these bikes are still in my collection; most are not.  I kept the ones which were the most fun to ride, period.
1926 AJS 'Big Port'
I've owned many round-case, bevel-drive Ducatis; this '74 750GT was the best touring bike I've ever owned.  The Anarchist Summit is in BC, Canada, and this is the middle of a 4000 mile summer tour; the Duc gave no problems at all. 1992
1949 Ariel Red Hunter, with 500 original miles! Stored in a basement in Chicago, unearthed in 1987
My first British motorcycle, a 1966 Norton Atlas.  The frame had been 'raked', the gas tank trimmed, the front fender discarded, 'cowhorn' bars fitted, a Honda taillight over a chopped rear fender...a mess.  It required two engine rebuilds...let's say it was a steep learning curve! 1985
A humble BMW R60/2 with a large Touring tank...I did a lot of miles on 'Bertha'...
My first Brough Superior, a 1938 11-50 model, seen here on top of Mt Tamalpais, 1989, before dawn.
Garage scruffy!  1961 Norton Model 50, 350cc
Another 1966 Norton Atlas, a veteran of several Moto Melee's
A much-modified Velocette MAC 350cc, to 'flat track' style
One I let go but shouldn't have...a 1929 Norton Model 20 with racing ES2 cylinder head, and fantastic Mills-Furford 'Zeppelin' sidecar.  I used to take my daughter Zoe to school in it...her classmates were thrilled.
Half man, half Norton.  A 1959 Norton Dominator 99 under construction
The BMW I kept longest, nearly 20 years; an R26; slow but very pleasant.  It was found in a carpenter's workshop, covered with sawdust, and a seized piston.  I rode the hell out of this little thing, once hitting 74mph (downhill) in a race with a Norton!
The fastest Norton I've ridden; a much modified Atlas, with nickel-plated Featherbed frame, and lots of period race goodies.
The king of motorcycles; a 1925 Zenith 'Super 9' with JAP KTOR engine, called 'Super Kim', modified with a supercharger in a bid to take the World Speed Record.  She's a runner now...
When the Australian dollar was at $.50, I bought containers of good stuff.  This '49 Triumph Tiger 100 was hitched to a sidecar...
My 1960 Velo Venom Clubman, which has done many thousands of miles of touring...
My favorite of all, the '66 Velo Thruxton I bought in 1989, and since put 50,000 miles on.
Here we are in 1989, at the top of Mt.Tamalpais on Easter morning...'Courgette' clocked 114mph going over the Golden Gate Bridge at 4:30am...
1921 Royal Enfield Sprinter, 220cc
1925 Sunbeam 'Longstroke'; surprisingly fast, very light, a true Vintage sports machine, unmolested

My 1925 Norton Model 18 racer, a very fun and excellent-handling bike
I've owned two vintage racing Douglas', an SW5 and an OW...

Never assembled; an ex-Works Scott TT model, which had done two Isle of Man races
1929 Rudge 'Ulster', with fantastic period racing goodies, a unique first-year model, as they changed much the next year
'The Mule' in a magazine photo shoot

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