Tuesday, July 15, 2014


The website Ultimate Motorcycling has a review of my 'Café Racers' book (my text, Michael Lichter's photos), based on our 2013 Sturgis 'Ton Up!' exhibit. The show featured 35 café racers, of which 12 were vintage, and the rest contemporary; several machines were built for the show, as Michael Lichter's 'Motorcycle as Art' exhibit has been running for 14 years now, and contemporary custom-bike builders are literally banging on his door to be included. This is understandable; there is no other motorcycle exhibit with 250,000 potential motorcyclist/viewers within a 20-mile radius.  Sturgis is a Thing unto itself, which needs an essay from me, but I was just too busy with the exhibit last year... 
From the book: Ray Drea, head of styling at Harley-Davidson, built this remarkable 'XRCR' for 'Ton Up!', from an XR1000 engine and lots of carbon fiber - wheels, bodywork - plus upside-down forks and killer styling.  It was my favorite bike in the show...but sadly, H-D can't build it, as they no longer make the XR engine...
I'm joining Michael Lichter to co-curate an exhibit again this August, 'Built for Speed' at the Buffalo Chip, featuring race bikes from various disciplines (drag, road, dirt, salt), plus custom bikes inspired by these genres. It'll be another great show...and I'll be there test-riding my Cannonball Brough Superior for the first time, as Revival Cycles, my team #38 partner, is exhibiting their cool Ducati 'Pyro' in the show.  If any readers are interested in an 'Alt.Sturgis' ride through the Black Hills on Saturday Aug. 2nd, let me know...it'll be vintage only, "no baggers, no do-rags, no tits".  I might relent on that last point, but you know what I mean.
One that didn't make it into the book; Mark Mederski's '69 Honda CB750 café racer, modified by him in 1970. Mark wrote the forward to the book.

Reincarnation is real — at least for motorcycles that start out as conventional, factory-built models but then are reborn to an entirely new life as cafe racers.

Unlike choppers, bobbers and some other types of customs, cafe racers are modified not just to achieve a certain aesthetic; they are sculpted in a form-follows-function high performance motif.
Noted moto-journalist, Paul D’Orleans in collaboration with photographer Michael Lichter take what is perhaps the most in-depth and sumptuously illustrated look at this decades-old motorcycle genre in their book, Cafe Racers Speed, Style and Ton-up Culture.
Ben Part (of Sideburn Magazine) contributed some 1980s/90s photographs of London's 'other' café racer club, the Mean Fuckers, and an essay by Dave Lancaster about the club is really good!
If you read about motorcycles very often, you probably couldn’t help but read D’Orleans work as a commentator for Classic Bike Guide, feature contributor to Cycle World and Motor Cycle News magazines, and publisher of the website TheVintagent

D’Orleans does an amazing thing in Cafe Racers – he provides a history of motorcycling’s earliest days and how cafe racers evolved, became widely popular in the 1960s and beyond that is almost clinical in its completeness, yet he keeps it from being as dry as a helmet owner’s manual.
For example, in describing how two of the earliest motorcycle developers might have decided whose bike was best, he lays it out thus:

“Had Sylvester Roper and Henri-Guillaume Perreaux met with their respective steam-powered creations, you can be damn sure they would have raced! How do I know? Contemporary accounts of both men record their extensive testing of their surprisingly similar beasts on the dusty, horseshit roads of 1867, the year both men invented the motorcycle.” Such pithy prose can’t help but keep you reading and grinning as you go.
Quite a few 'wet plate' photographs are included, which Susan McLaughlin and I shot in the past 2 years as part of our 'MotoTintype' project.
Add to that 200 stunning, large format, full-color studio shots of some of the best examples of cafe racers you’ll ever see, 75 period and historic black and white images slathered all over 224 10” x 12.25” heavy stock pages and you have a book that is as much presentation quality art as it is a technical masterpiece.

Along the way, D’Orleans portrays what makes a bike a cafe racer. The clip-on handlebars, rear-set footpegs, bump seat, abbreviated or absent front fender, custom paint, all arranged in a way the puts the rider in an aggressive, chest on tank riding attitude are the generally recognized qualities, but at the end of the day, it is what the owner makes it. No two are exactly alike, as Lichter’s images demonstrate.

Divided into only three chapters, Cafe Racers covers the range from the racing bikes that started it all like the BSA Gold Star Clubman and Norton Manx to owner-conceived originals to factory-built limited editions like the Ducati 750 Super Sport, MV 750 Sport and custom bike-builder masterpieces like the Honda 450 Brass Café from Dime City Cycles, the over-the-top BSA-based Berzerker from Speed Shop Design, Kafe Storm from Brian Klock of Klock Werks and the hyper-glossy H-D XR1000-based NessCafe from Arlen Ness, and much, much more.
The discussion of café racer history includes 100 years of 'racers on the road', from the 1914 Norton 'Brooklands Road Special' to contemporary customs.  Here's a page about the 1970s/80s...
Even if you haven’t been particularly drawn to the cafe racer scene up to now, if you appreciate Spartan, essential motorcycles that are an art form unto themselves, you will find Cafe Racers Speed, Style and Ton-up Culture a fascinating read and a great addition to your library.
Book Data:

  • Title: Café Racers Speed, Style and Ton-up Culture
  • Author: Paul D’Orleans with photographer Michael Lichter
  • Published: 2014
  • Publisher: Motorbooks, an imprint of Quayside Publishing Group, 400 First Avenue North, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55401 USA.
  • ISBN-13: 978-0760345825
  • MSRP: U.S. $50.00 U.K. £35.00 Canada: $55

Saturday, July 12, 2014


The rumors are unconfirmed, but it appears MV Augusta will have a German partner soon, as Daimler is in talks to buy a minority stake of that venerable Italian company.  As you'll recall, MV was owned by Harley-Davidson for two years, did nothing with the brand, then handed it back on a silver platter to the Castiglioni family two years later...strangely, the same family who took Aermacchi from H-D's hands, decades prior.  When Harley dumped MV in 2010, they paid all that company's debt as part of the deal, reportedly losing many Millions in the process.  MV Agusta has been on shaky ground since, but has an excellent engine, chassis, and styling, and does well in World Superbike racing.  The financial strength of Daimler could be a real godsend to the small Italian company.  So, what's up with German auto companies buying Italian motorcycle brands?
The awesome DKW 'singing saw' three-cylinder two-stroke of 1953; part of Audi's DNA
When Audi bought Ducati in 2012, the world scratched it's head - a German car company adding a struggling, small production Italian sportbike to its highly successful line of cars?  It took a deeper look into Audi's DNA to find a connection - the highly successful DKW racers of the 1930s through 1950s, screaming two-strokes on which Ewald Kluge won the Isle of Man Lightweight TT in 1938, with an 11-minute lead over the next bike, an Excelsior. Between 1925 and 1956, when DKW, NSU, BMW, Gilera, and Moto Guzzi disbanded their factory GP teams, DKW won more German championships (38) than any of its rivals.  In the 1930s, of course, DKW was the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world, and part of the Auto Union (an alliance of Wanderer, Horch, DKW, and Audi), which had a deep interest in motorsport.  Auto Union became simply Audi after Volkswagen acquired the name in 1964.  DKW continued to support racing, in motocross, into the 1970s, with successful ISDT entries and motocross championship contenders, all lightweight two-strokes.
The Daimler Reitwagen; not the first motorcycle, but the first gasoline-powered two-wheelerish thing
So much for Audi.  But Daimler?  It's only motorcycle connection, if you can call it that, was a mobile test-bed for the 1885 'Otto' engine (the first four-stroke gasoline-powered engine) called the Reitwagen.  The Reitwagen had two big wheels, and two smaller ones for balance, and was clearly never intended to be a moto-cycle, ie, a powered vehicle using the unique physics of the two-wheeler.  The Reitwagen was a drais (an early, wooden-framed, pedal-less bicycle) altered to accommodate a platform holding the motor, on which the engine (designed by Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach) sat, supported by two smaller wheels.  It was ridden 8 miles on Nov 10, 1885, before the saddle caught fire, and Daimler turned his attention to improving his engine, for installation in carriages, airships, and boats.
The 1885 patent drawing of the Daimer/Maybach engine
So, why take a stake in MV Agusta?  Apparently it's the Mercedes sports-tuning branch AMG which will attach to MV, and with its considerable engine and chassis tuning experience, we may see an interesting cross-pollination of technology between the two companies.  The motivation might be pure jealousy, with BMW's long-standing motorcycle connection, and Audi's return to the fold via Ducati.  Mercedes-Benz has no history with motorcycles, but who can resist the cool of owning a very fast bike?

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Tuesday, July 01, 2014


My monthly Classic Bike Guide page, with an illustration by Martin Squires
I've been writing a monthly column for Classic Bike Guide for over a year now, and I tend to focus my essays on motorcycle culture, when not simply poking fun.  A few columns have hit a nerve, but none more so than my meditation on the Custom bike-building scene, and the struggles I've observed with my friends, trying to make a business of their craft, or art, or vision. The BikeExif post on the demise of Spain's Radical Ducati inspired my thoughts last March, when I wrote 'Instafamous/Instabroke', as did a conversation with David Borras, also of Spain, who's El Solitario is recognized globally, yet he and his crew daily confront the realities of running a business to support David's radical design sensibility.  Chris Hunter of BikeExif asked to reproduce the essay, which I think is a first for his website; no motorcycle images! Not all my readers frequent BikeExif, but might enjoy the read.  Thanks to Classic Bike Guide for ok'ing the BikeExif post, and this one too:
The hilarious illustration of 'self-papparizing blogo-grammers' from BikeExif 
"I’ve been mucking around with old motorcycles since the 1980s, and like many, financed my bike habit via the sport of Arbitrage. That is, turning a profit on a bike after giving it some love.
It wasn’t an income; the only people living off the motorcycle game were (impoverished) moto-journalists and employees of legitimate dealerships. I knew lots of fellows, and a few ladies, who spent all their time repairing and modifying bikes, and none aspired to be anything but a garagiste. At the time, Von Dutch lived in a trailer, Ed Roth had long-ago lost his Revell contract, and only bands sold t-shirts.

It never occurred to us that someday we’d be aglow with some sort of notoriety. But ‘some sort’ is now within the purview of every human on the planet, via the joys of InstaFame. A downloadable phone trick has the power to make us globally recognizable in weeks. Via the savvy curation of images, we trigger a mutual oxytocin drip in our fans and ourselves, liking and being liked, tapping away like starving lab monkeys, who’ve chosen the button for ‘attention’ over the one for ‘food’.

It’s fame, man, to the hungry end, and maybe even bigger when you’re dead; is that the ghost of TuPac or Indian Larry I hear laughing over posthumous sales? Don’t think I’m judging; I owe the mysterious gods of the Internet a debt of gratitude for my own lifestyle; let’s just hope I don’t owe them my soul.

The shimmering dust of glamour has always coated parts of the motorcycle scene, and right now it’s falling on handsome, bearded guys wearing heritage work clothing and riding ’69-clone choppers or knobby-tyred customs, or girls doing seat-top acrobatics aboard same.

The original meaning of ‘glamour’ was the art of enchantment, a spell-caster’s ability to create an illusion around a person, place, or thing. And while the packs of self-paparazzing blogo-grammers crowding custom bike events are indeed beautiful and achingly cool, I fear our glamour is a spell cast in the mirror.

A mix of hopes and pleasures motivate today’s custom motorcycle builders; the joy of creativity mingled with glow of Web attention, and now there’s an established recipe for making a ‘cool’ bike, tested via the comments section on a hundred moto-blogs.

It’s easy to mistake the whoosh of online chatter for a wind to fill your sails, and a virtual wind is exactly that, while selling garage-altered metal to strangers has always been difficult. Savvy shops sell logo’d up clothing and calendars and keyfobs, scattering brand stickers in an Autumn of moto-foliage… but even such sales will only pay the bills, not the salary of a desperately-needed employee – or your own.

There are two ways to profit in business; large sales volumes with small profit margins, or high-end retail, and the successful moto-businesses sell the tanks and levers and rearsets the Wannabes need for an InstaFamous custom.

At the rich end of the spectrum, the market for hundred grand choppers evaporated in 2008, and I know exactly one builder who’s sold an art-gallery motorcycle for big bucks. Every other shop, then, is in competition for a limited audience, even if it seems at times that ‘everyone’ thinks we’re cool and ‘everyone’ wants your bikes…but is that the magic mirror?
The demise of Radical Ducati, as per this example, inspired this essay...
The first signs of iCustom casualties have recently appeared even in the luminous portal of Bike EXIF; shops going belly up, euphemistically ‘starting other projects’, i.e., jobs which pay. It hasn’t exactly been a Gold Rush (that’s happening in the App-creation world itself), and I know young bike builders don’t expect to get rich.

Still, it seems the business of pushing aesthetic boundaries with a motorcycle is best trod with a trust fund springing your step, or proceeding with deep humility and little expectation of worldly increase; the hackneyed rule for artists.

I’ve spoken with genius motorcycle builders whose controversial but gloriously innovative customs have netted them almost zero sales. A ‘like’ isn’t a dollar. But then again, as they slowly go broke or accustomed to reduced circumstances, the refrain is ‘there’s nothing I’d rather be doing’.

The coolest bike boom since the 1970s has kids buzzing like bees at Wheels + Waves, DirtQuake, and Born Free, and featured in popular books like the ‘The Ride’, to which I contributed. Riding bikes while young, beautiful and creative is a heady cocktail, as is the glamour of InstaFame.

But let’s not confuse the rain of electrons, following our every move, for a rain of cash. Because in the end, bikes are just motorcycles, but business is business."

[Want to read this in Spanish?  Click here.]

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Monday, June 30, 2014


Daniel Kessler on his 1933 Universal-JAP 680 - the 'Swiss Brough' - has a go around the grounds of Villa Erba
Concours d'Elegance are marvelously silly things.  Lining up a bunch of expensive cars and bikes seems at times an exercise in pride (of ownership) and envy (of same), with a dressing of greed (the value bump from a win); deadly sins all.  Owners sweat while judges - and who anointed them? - pronounce 'winners' and 'best of show' over a display of obsolete industrial design.  I was one of those judges at the Concorso di Villa d'Este; so why did I readily accept the inviation? It was equally silly for me to fly to Italy from San Francisco for a long weekend, especially as I was scheduled to fly right back to Europe 10 days later, to show my MotoTintype photography at Wheels+Waves in France.  So again, why do it?
23 hours of this in 4 days...
...but the first view of Lago di Como is always breathtaking
The best concorsi are curated as exhibitions, with much thought given to the classes and categories, which vehicle goes next to the other and the story thus told.  In the best case, the public is enlightened by the mix, discovering connections and influences, observing the movement of history, delivering a few 'aha' moments with the inevitable 'ahh's.  They provide an opportunity to see ultra-rare machinery in the metal, and on the grass, albeit in a no-touch environment, which is understandable but frustrating at times.  Then again, if everyone who so desired was allowed to caress Ernst Henne's original-condition 1929 BMW WR750, it would be worn to a nubbin by now; we all missed our chance to be flying-helmeted Heroic World Record Breakers by not being born in 1900, with prodigious natural riding talent, and in Germany. Henne was the one who did the work, so we must be content to watch; it was the same in '29.
A chance to pose on the 1929 Ernst Henne world-record supercharged BMW, with George Cohen supplying the proper 'flat cap' for period correctness (Henne's streamlined aluminum helmet not being available...)
The concorso in question is sited on one of the world's beauty spots (Lake Como), on the grounds of two fantastic old villas, neighboring Este (for the cars) and Erba (for the bikes), and has a generous benefactor (BMW) who takes care of the details, like building the interesting pavilion for the bikes, plus security, and cars/drivers to get people around, and plane tickets for mugs like me. The organization is excellent, as is the curation of the vehicles, invited according to themes; for 2014 the motorcycles fit categories of 'The Great Gatsby', 'The Elegance of Sidecars', 'First Steps from Japan', 'Sixdays in the Sixties', and 'Top in Class', plus a once-in-a-lifetime display of supercharged World Speed Record motorcycles, who battled each other between 1929 and 1937. That is, when BMW took on the world, and vice-versa, with manufacturers as large as BMW and Gilera or as small as Zenith and OEC building technically brilliant machines. It was the last truly romantic era of pan-European motorcycle speed competition, and between the builder/competitors, the speed wasn't abstract; it was personal.  Seeing those 5 bikes together was reason enough to attend the show, and I was happy to do the 'work' which paid for my ticket.
The lineup of 1929-37 World Speed Record machines; Henne's 1937 BMW streamliner ('Henne's Egg') with the 1937 Gilera Rondine streamliner behind.  The BMW provided Henne's retirement ride, and it held the record for 15 years, until broken by competitor NSU.
A four-day trip to Italy leaves no time for jetlag, and I arrived Friday morning for a judge's meeting with my esteemed comrades at Villa Erba, headed up by the immortal Carlo Perelli (and here's hoping - he started working for Motociclismo in 1947!), with English journalist Mick Duckworth, BMW's head of moto-design Edgar Heinrichs, French journalist Francois-Marie Dumas, and Italian TV star Lucca Bizzarri.
Peter Nettesheim demonstrates his 'world's oldest BMW' 1923 R32; an easy starter!
I've judged with Carlo before (this was my 3rd go at the Villa), and knew my other colleagues personally, barring our celebrity judge, who was the only one of us hounded by autograph-seekers.  Our proceedings were overseen by author Stefan Knittel, the mastermind behind the concorso di moto, plus our master of ceremonies Roberto Rasia dal Polo.  After our jury pow-wow, it was cocktail time at Villa d'Este proper, to mingle amongst the beautiful, fabulous, and rich involved with the automobile concorso.  
Edgar Heinrichs, Ola Stenegard, and Stefan Schaller - BMW moto in a nutshell, with their prototype hotrod
It's also BMW's moment to unveil their prototypes for the year; perfectly understandable given they've paid for the venue (and our drinks).  If you've ever hankered for an electric convertible Mini, the little blue cutie which crunched silently up the gravel path was for you. The prototype two-wheeled BMW hotrod which Ola Stenegard and Edgar Heinrich cobbled up in their workshop was equally silent, although it wasn't electric - an aftermarket micro-switch had been left on overnight, and the battery was flat. So much for dramatic flourishes, but the bike looked great, and we got plenty of chance to hear it the next day.
Dinner with friends at Villa d'Este; entrants, judges, and BMW brass...
The motorcycle crowd separated off to a gigantic green chandeliered dining room afterwards, the judges and entrants and BMW's motorcycle design and museum heavyweights.  I had the good fortune to sit beside Stefan Schaller, head of BMW motorrad, who asked my opinion - what did I think BMW should do next?  Ever the diplomat, I replied, in a nutshell, 'Less R&D, more RSD...and where's your electric motorcycle?'  I'm not sure he was pleased, but he got what he asked for...
The 1922 Beardmore-Precision with sleeve-valve Barr+Stroud engine (350cc) and full leaf-springing front and rear - plus that fabulous 'trout' sidecar in original condition.  A technically fascinating motorcycle...
Saturday morning was open to the public at Villa Erba (for the first time - and quite a crowd had queued up), while judges scanned the bikes, a less formal process than at other shows.  It's expected all the bikes run, and they do, so there's no moment of tension for owners as 5 guys in blue blazers (the bikies don't wear them, but the car guys do) stand around and watch you work up a sweat.  The focus of this Concorso is 'eleganza' and 'best of theme' with no points system; less subjective than it sounds, and our discussion in the judge's chamber mid-afternoon was enlightening.  In a first for me, it was suggested one bike was 'too shiny' to be a winner, and that a gorgeous Brough SS100 shouldn't win because it isn't American, in the 'Great Gatsby' class (I've been overruled at a show when the chief judge simply assumed a Brough should win for Brough-ness itself, and so it did).
The fabulous 1929 Opel Motoclub with sidecar owned by Matthias Hühn
Sorting through the 'Elegance of Sidecar' class was the most difficult, as they were all brilliant, and a passionate discussion arose regarding the 'fish', a Beardmore-Precision with sleeve-vale Barr+Stroud engine with a trout for a chair!  It was my opinion the sidecar outshone the condition of the bike, which was very badly faux-patinated, but then again, the bike itself was the most technically interesting machine of our judged classes (the watercooled, supercharged, DOHC, four-cylinder Gilera record-breaker wasn't judged...and besides, one already made 'Best in Show').
Another shot of Daniel Kessler with his 1933 Universal-JAP 680 with groovy sports sidecar
Our judge's panel had collectively around 250 years' intensive/professional experience with motorcycles - let that sink in for a moment - and the round-table talk while sorting out winners is the real reason I come here; it's the most stimulating discussion of the year, men (yes, gents only this time) with a lifetime of passionate motorcycle study, discussing bike history, culture, and preservation in a closed room with no interruptions. It's brief (2 hrs max), heady, and I wish it happened more often, because it charges my batteries to be in such a room.  As our professional obligations divert attention through the year - deadlines and events and travel - big shows like Villa d'Este and the late-lamented Legends of the Motorcycle Concours are a magnet for real devotees of motorcycling, and such a private seminar is rare indeed.  We don't need much time as the 'groundwork' is long ago done - just dig into the big questions at hand - and while we don't agree on everything, we all smiled simply to be present in such company.
The fantastic supercharged 1930 Zenith-JAP world record holder, from the 'scandal at Cork'...
Post-judging left time for a free Riva water taxi to Villa d'Este, a breathtaking ride, to check out the car show going full swing. The gravel terraces easily accommodate 52 cars, with a stunning view of the lake to rest the eyes between dazzling show vehicles. There's no crowding, as there's no public entry; it's entrants and professionals only on Saturday for the car show, but on Sunday all the cars are driven to and around the expansive parklands at Villa Erba for the public's pleasure.  While we motorcyclists have a charming purpose-built pavilion in a park, the 'car people' parade slowly through the Villa's outdoor café, amidst hatted ladies and summer-suited gents, potted geraniums, roses, bougainvilleas, mahogany Rivas burbling over the lake; the environment is absurdly lovely, and why the Pebble Beach crowd (and I use the term advisedly) has set its sights on Italy as the better place to go.  Because it is, if you're pockets-deep into the car thing.
The Concorso at Villa d'Este; no bad angles, no bad viewpoints...
Sunday morning the top 3 bikes of each category were lined up on the red carpeted bandstand at Villa Erba, and we judges had a chance at the microphone to explain our thoughts to an audience. The 'silly' part is that, of course, all the bikes entered in the Concorso were worthy of red-carpet treatment, but we had a job to do, and the winners were spectacular.  Our 'Best in Show' was a surprise this year, because it wasn't on the carpet as a category winner - the glorious red-tyred Opel/Neander outfit was ridden up the gravel path at the last minute, a dramatic flourish, which also (truth be told) gave us an extra slot in the winner's circle for the too-good sidecar class.
Dressing the part; the original concept of the Concours d'Elegance was a mix of fashion and vehicles, and Matthias Hühn and his Opel Motoclub hit all the right notes
The remainder of the day was spent milling around the cars which now occupied the grounds of Villa Erba, and, my job done, catching up with far-flung friends. Two 'side exhibits' at the Villa included a Maserati anniversary cluster, and a platform with customized BMW motorcycles (customs at Villa d'Este!), reflecting BMW's foray the past two years into collaborations with various small workshops.  Last year the Roland Sands 'Concept 90' débuted here, and this year a dozen bikes were on show, including 'Sonic Seb's Lucky Cat Garage dustbin sprinter (seen in action at Wheels+Waves) and El Solitario's 'Impostor', which I dubbed 'the world's most hated motorcycle' for an upcoming article in Cycle World, and is more popularly known as the 'flying shopping cart'. BMW was brave to display it (in the far-back corner), although they haven't braved it in their press announcements. Then again, you never know what you'll get back when you hand a bike to Spanish anarcho-artisan David Borras.
Test riding 'the world's most hated motorcycle' and chatting with builder David Borras of El Solitario
That night the car concours announced its winners at a black-tie dinner, with a substantial fireworks display at the end, reflected in the lake's waters.  Bikers aren't invited, so I had a no-tie dinner in Cernobbio with friends, and enjoyed the spectacle from nearby, while soaking in a last bit of Como's magic.
The Riva water-taxi service between the two Villas
I think it's safe to say Villa d'Este has the best programs of any concours - hardback, with separate books for cars and bikes.
The Flash Gordon bodywork of the 1937 Gilera supercharged record-breaker, which did 170.27mph that year on the Brescia-Bergamo autostrada
Pinch me.
Most amusing car was this fabulously lowbrow green '72 Fiat Aster 132 Zagato coupe, complete with a box of 8-track tapes on the passenger floor.
Terribly crowded around the Maserati brigade...well, not.  This is as crammed as it gets at Villa d'Este, except for the bars, which take a fight to get at; a thirsty crowd...
The poster showing last year's winners, including the Soviet IMZ M-35K, a controversial Best in Show
Riva parking only at the floating pool/dock of Villa d'Este
Lovely '34 Rolls-Royce Phantom II with Gurney-Nutting boattail; used here as a party centerpiece on Friday night
A bit of downtime/boat time with BMW's Ola Stenegard, David Borras of El Solitario, and yours truly
The trophy girls were dressed by a Milanese fashion school, and their hats were auctioned off for charity
Terrific original-paint 1913 Wanderer of Ulrich Schmid, with an equally fantastic Motosacoche sports twin behind (and Edgar Heinrichs wondering how to judge them!)
The 'Great Gatsby' lineup, all American twins and fours, plus the odd Brough...
Peter Abelman aboard his '59 Yamaha YDS1, yes, at Villa d'Este, smoking where the patrons can't....
Best at the Lake, or just best of the best, the original-paint 1929 BMW WR750 in all its sensual glory

[Note: due to a hard drive failure, my 'real' camera's photos were unavailable, so I've used iPhone pix here, mixed with BMW's press photos]

Sunday, June 22, 2014


Only one week left to enter far your chance to win the Cannonball Golden Ticket raffle 
In one week, Matt Olsen, specialist extraordinaire of Harley Knuckleheads (along with his father), will announce the winner of his raffle for an all-expense paid seat aboard his 1936 H-D EL Knucklehead on the 2014 Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Rally.  Called the 'Cannonball Golden Ticket' raffle, the grand prize winner will have full use of Matt's personal Knuck, which has been thoroughly sorted and is extremely reliable.  The winner will also have Matt's services during the rally to keep the bike running well - basically all the winner needs to do is show up at Daytona with a helmet and a motorcycle license on Sep.4th, and go riding for 17 days across the USA, to Tacoma Washington.
Matt Olsen's ultra-reliable 1936 H-D Knucklehead, which some lucky rider will take across the USA with full support, and all expenses paid...
The Cannonball rally filled up its 100 available rider slots within two days of the announcement of the rally dates, and Real Riders from around the world are banging on organizer Lonnie Isam's door in hopes of getting a slot in case of a cancellation...and now the waiting list is as long as the entry list! Put simply, even if you wanted to ride the Cannonball this year, unless you got Lonnie's email blast and responded immediately, you're S.O.L.  The 'Golden Ticket' is the most likely way someone will gain entry on the ride, and what a way to do it - to have the motorcycle, maintenance, and all your expenses (hotels, meals, fuel, even your flight to Daytona from anywhere in the world) paid for if you win the Grand Prize.
Michael Lichter's photo of 2012 Cannonball riders Sean Duggan and Bill Buckingham riding through Wyoming through the Grand Tetons.  The Cannonball is epic, and the toughest vintage motorcycle ride in the world.
Matt Olsen conceived of this idea as the rules of the 2014 Cannonball include motorcycles built before 1937, which means only owners of the first-year model of Harley's first OHV twin-cylinder production bike, the model EL Knucklehead, are eligible.  First-year 'Knucks' are incredibly collectible (one sold in Las Vegas earlier this year for over $150k) and rare, and Matt would in any other year simply hop on his bike and go.  But this year, he and wife Britney have a new baby, so Matt decided to participate in the Cannonball in a different way, by offering his bike to a stranger.  He decided a raffle was the only way to recoup the considerable expense of participating in the Cannonball (I estimated the expenses of my 2012 Cannonball at $14,000, plus full month of late night bike rebuilding beforehand), so is selling 'Golden Tickets' for $500 each.  As of this date, less than 15 people have signed up, so the chances of winning are excellent.  And if you think $500 is a lot to spend on a chance for a 3-week vintage motorcycle holiday with all your expenses paid, you shouldn't enter.  I support Matt in keeping the bar high - after all, he's got to spend 3 weeks with a stranger who's riding his bike.  Would you want some random Joe who spent $1 or $20 on an off chance, or someone who Really wants to do the Cannonball, and will risk $500 for the opportunity.  Makes sense to me.
Michael Lichter photo of yours truly blasting my 1928/33 Velocette Mk4 KTT through the Rockies; all the mechanical trouble I experienced was worth 1000 miles of riding like this...
There's a second place winner spot in the raffle too; an all-expense paid trip to Milwaukee for personal tour of the H-D museum and archives, which was donated by the Harley Museum itself. As you can see, Matt has generated a lot of goodwill in the past, and shown his bike-building skills with his 'Born Free 4' winning custom Knucklehead.  He says of the H-D he'll loan out for the Cannonball, "I have owned it for over ten years and ridden it and pushed it to its limits.   It is the oldest Harley Davidson to complete an Iron Butt Run, and the oldest bike to do it with a passenger.  I am comfortable in saying that it is the only bike that will be running the Cannonball in September that has been ridden 24 hours straight and  gone 1100 miles in less that 24 hours. Even though a '36 EL is over 75 years old, it performs like a new bike, and holds up really well.  Whoever wins the Cannonball Golden Ticket will have 2 of the best weeks of their life."
The 'wet plate' print included in every Golden Ticket entry was made by Susan McLaughlin and me (MotoTintype.com) exclusively for Matt Olsen, in support of his Cannonball raffle
All entrants get some groovy swag, including a 'wet plate' print taken by yours truly (with Susan McLaughlin of MotoTintype.com) of a Harley Knucklehead on a dirt road in Marin County.  This shot, and the print, were made exclusively for Matt, to support his generous loan of his personal machine to a stranger, so they can experience the remarkable Motorcycle Cannonball.

Go to the Cannonball Golden Ticket website to enter, and I recommend you do!  It's the ride of a lifetime, and one person out of a small batch of entrants will be very lucky indeed.


From the YSL L'Homme Sport fragrance campaign featuring Olivier Martinez on a Godet-Egli-Vincent
The new ad campaign for YSL fragrance L'Homme Sport features French actor Olivier Martinez riding a Godet-Egli-Vincent Black Shadow through the Mojave desert just east of Los Angeles. The bike is a Patrick Godet creation (the only officially sanctioned builder of new Fritz Egli frames), and uses fresh-cast engine cases for a capacity of 1330cc, giving around 110hp...which gives stunning performance, especially with an all-up weight of less than 200kg.  While Godet has built and raced Vincents for decades, his series production of complete Godet-Egli-Vincents began in 2006, with financing from his partner, the French singer Florent Pagny.  The new-spec engines can be ordered in various capacities, with the example used in the YSL ad campaign the largest and most powerful street machine offered.
The Godet-Egli-Vincent featured in both the ad campaign and the 'Ton Up!' exhibit at Sturgis
Michael Lichter and I featured this very machine last year in our 'Ton Up!' exhibit at Sturgis, and it garnered plenty of attention with its menacing all-black livery, half-fairing, and upswept Gold Star exhaust pipe.  You can examine the bike in detail in Michael Lichter's stunning photography within our book documenting that show, 'Cafe Racers' (Motorbooks 2014).  The stunning black Godet-Egli is considered by many to be the ultimate vintage café racer, and can be ordered/purchased for less than the cost of a restored 'standard' Vincent Black Shadow these days...I know which one I'd rather have!  But then, I have a café racer heart...
The Godet-Egli-Vincent through the artificial water splash...
In the ad shoot, Olivier Martinez, whom Americans might know as the husband of actress Halle Berry, rides the machine himself with no stunt doubles (as per the Chanel ad campaigns with Kiera Knightly featured previously in The Vintagent), at times through an artificial water ford for dramatic effect.  Enjoy the 'making of' video below, which gives an idea of how much effort/money is required for a simple fragrance ad campaign, which can typically budget $15-20M for a single fragrance... but then, perfume is a hugely profitable, mega-$Billion industry, selling what is basically scented water in a groovy bottle, and needs the romantic associations attached through advertising...
From the 'making of' video (below), the high-dollar photo shoot involved helicopters and dozens of crew
Olivier Martinez and his wife Halle Berry...

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