MOUNT CLEMENS, MICH., MAR. 22–23 — As the end of March rolls around here in southeast Michigan, the motorcycle community is just waiting to get out and ride. Saturday, at 44 degrees, almost felt like spring was in the air, and it was one of the first days above freezing this year. So if you weren’t quite ready to ride yet, but really ready for everything motorcycle, the Motorcycle Show & Expo at the Gibraltar Trade Center was the next best thing. All age groups and all types of riders came with their friends and families to check out bikes, do some shopping and just enjoy the show.
This being my fifth year attending, I really think it was spring fever that lured the remarkable number of folks to this year’s Expo. With $7,000 in bike show trophy money up for grabs, 98 bikes were entered in the show and many more were on display. From perfectly restored vintage models to bagger, chopper and bobber customs of all kinds, no one was missing out on their favorites.
Shopping was fast and furious in the vendor area. I noticed different vendor offerings than the typical T-shirts, patches, buttons and jewelry booths. There were many diverse motorcycle accessories vendors, some unique apparel offerings from Rebel Girl with some great corsets and jewelry, and for the guys, Cher’s tough American Rebel line. One vendor was offering a very comprehensive selection of knives for sale. Big Jim had an awesome Road King for auction to help out the Scorpions MC and get ready for the giveaway at their upcoming annual pig roast in September.
One of the most popular displays was that of Ron Finch. Not only did he have his fantastic motorcycles on display, he also featured many of his extraordinary MetaLife creatures, flowers and metal sculptures that were for sale. Ron was on hand to sign posters, hang out and chat with the visitors that came by.
Memorabilia, parts and accessories rounded out the shopping opportunities, and from the looks of the booths, everyone was taking advantage of the countless items to choose from, and the food and beer were flowing. If all this wasn’t enough, the Gibraltar Trade Center offers 60,000 square feet of shopping bargains connected to the show area, as well as a food court with expanded offerings for breakfast, lunch or dinner. And starting in May running all summer long the Gibraltar has a bike night every Friday with live music, bike raffles, food and refreshments available at no cover charge.
Not only could you find great parts from the vendors, many of the bike builders at the show were selling their custom work, too. Right in the middle of the event was a full-size tractor-trailer with the name “Chop-in Block” plus numerous sponsor names on the side. I wandered over there to find out what’s it all about. Talking with Ron Harris and Gary Maurer, a couple of the original Mis-Fits, I got the skinny on their concept. What I learned is that this is a group of independent builders and specialty handcraft artists that have come together to collectively show their custom bikes, parts and accessories across the country, throughout the year. Here, the group’s display on the show floor was over 100 feet long, not including Ron Finch’s corner or the tractor-trailer. The builders were on hand to share stories, talk shop and generally hang out and have a good time. They were more than willing to answer questions, give out tips and share their experiences. Their goal is to promote great custom products, as well as share their craft with others to pave the way for the next generation of custom builders.
After checking out the bike entries, I felt it was going to be a tough job for the judges this year. “This was the highest amount of bikes we’ve had in quite a while,” said Judge Gary Maurer, owner of Kustoms Inc. Maurer and his companions, Ron Harris, owner of Chop Docs Choppers, and Kevin Verkest, better known as “Fab Kevin” with Steel Chopper Parts, and the legendary builder and artist Ron Finch, owner of Finch’s Custom Cycles, were the official judges of the bike show. Ron Harris, who’s been judging the bike show since it began seven years ago, said, “This year the turnout was awesome, and the quality of the bikes was just killer.” They worked hard on Saturday to scrutinize every bike in the show. There was a choice of two different competitions: the Open Class, awarding trophies and a total of $1,600 in prize money; and the Super Class Competition, with a total of $5,400 in prize money and trophies. There were 36 total classes available to enter with special judges’ and recognition awards as well. The entry fees are prepaid and are only $25 and $50, respectively. New this year were The Horse Backstreet Chopper Personal Choice and American Bagger Personal Choice awards.
The highlight event on Saturday at 6:00 p.m. was the bikini contest sponsored by Gibraltar Trade Center. With seven lovely ladies competing for a total cash award of $1,200, competition was tough. Just to heat up the crowd before the ladies got onstage, Gibraltar presented some added entertainment with a terrific performance by a fire breather. He started with some fancy fire sticks action then “breathed” plumes of fire over 20 feet in the air to the large crowd’s amazement. Then it was time for the bikini show. The crowd cheered the gals on, narrowing it down until there were three remaining. Time for the final votes and the crowd didn’t hesitate to help their choice win by the thunder of applause. It was close, but finally Stephany Kelly from Lansing, Michigan, won, going home with a sweet $500.
On Sunday I needed to put my heavy coat back on as the day started out with bright sunshine at 19 degrees and the high only reached 30. I didn’t see any bikes in the parking lot that day, but there sure was a good crowd of people attending. The show was abuzz with bike owners and their friends as they were eagerly awaiting the final results of the bike show. With Gary Maurer as the emcee and trophies surrounding the stage, I knew there were going to be plenty of happy bike owners. Ron Finch handed out the trophies and Sara, one of the Rebel Girls, graciously assisted.
First place in the Super Class competition went to Ken Szymanski from the Back Alley Speed Shop for his spectacular 2014 BAS Board Tracker. His award was $1,500 and a first-place trophy. His ground-up build was perfect in every detail from the knobby tires and pristine paintwork, to the beautiful leather seat with matching tank straps. Ken was also awarded first place for the Best Display. The bike set squarely on a frame stand in the center of a finely finished, long, oval wooden display giving the impression of an actual board track. A dark gray mat that followed the same shape as the wood, but extended about a foot, added a little more distance between the bike and the visitors. A pair of vintage leather riding boots, casually placed on the wood deck as if the rider had just left them behind, was a nice touch.
The awards presentation pretty much finished the show for this year. Since I’ve been coming to this show, I can truthfully say that it has gotten better each year. There are better vendors, great entertainment, and by catching the attention of the top custom builders around, it is known not just around Michigan, but also throughout the country. With 8,000 attendees plus the vendors, builders and bike owners, according to the folks at Gibraltar Trade Center this has been the best show yet. I can’t wait to see what they come up for 2015. See ya there!
Trophy Breakdown and Cash Prizes
1st Place: Ken Szymanski/Back Alley Speed Shop, 2014 BAS Board Tracker
2nd Place: AR Baggers, 2007 H-D Road King
3rd Place: Jim Robertson/Native Custom Baggers, 2006 H-D Road Glide
4th Place: Gary Romanow, 1955 H-D
5th Place: Randy Hayward, 1926 H-D B Single Pea Shooter
6th Place: Robert Gallo, 2009 H-D FLHX
7th Place: Rick Damuth, 1957 H-D FLH
8th Place: Gregg Staley, 1970 Bonneville Triumph
Judge’s Honorable Mention
Lee Ferris, 1985 H-D FXRS
Promoter’s Honorable Mention
Max Newbauer, 1974 H-D Ironhead
Best Display 1st Place
Ken Szymanski—Back Alley Speed Shop—2014 BAS Board Tracker
Best In Show Judges Choice Award
1st Place: Dan Sharrow, 1956 H-D chopper
2nd Place: Shannon Best, 1987 Yamaha FZR1000
3rd Place: Max Newbauer, 1974 H-D Ironhead
Best Display Award
1st Place: Randy Hayward, 1929 H-D Twin 45 DL
Chief Show Judge Personal Choice Award
Eric Fisher, 1993 H-D Softail Springer
Ron Finch’s Personal Choice Award
Terry Allen, 1978 H-D Shovelhead chopper
Promoter’s Personal Choice Award
Ken Davanzo/Hazardous Cycles, 1949 H-D Panhead
The Horse Backstreet Chopper Personal Choice Award
Bill Cremont, 1973 Honda CB750
American Bagger Personal Choice Award
LeRoy Coleman, 2013 H-D Road King
Special Judges Awards
Best Antique Motorcycle
Dean Stathopoulos, 1947 Salsbury Scooter
Best Theme Bike
1 of a Kind Kustoms, 2004 Suzuki Hyabusa
Best Nostalgic Custom
Jason Pompei, 1973 Triumph TR7
Best “V-Twin” Metric Cruiser
Loretta Suda, 2003 Honda VTX 1800 R
Best H-D Custom Bagger
Guy Durham, 2014 H-D Trike
Best Sport Street Bike
David Abramson, 1978 Kawasaki 1000LTD Turbo
Best Rigid Frame Custom
Wendell Turner/Turner’s Cycle Shop, 1957 H-D FLH Panhead
Special Recognition Awards
Oldest Motorcycle in Show
Randy Hayward, 1929 H-D Twin 45 DL
Bobby James, 2008 H-D FLHRC
Kelly Doyle, 2006 Kawasaki ZX 636
Best Mural Paint
Kim Mallard, 2003 Yamaha R6
Wendell Turner/Turner’s Cycle Shop, 1988 H-D XLH Sportster
Best Special Effects
Dan Tillman, 1999 H-D FXSTC