A glorious day for gearheads
Santa Ana, Calif., Aug. 18—Following a year of planning, Bikes and Bombers VII began the day before the actual event with Gayle Anderson of Gayle on KTLA Morning News and a live remote from Lyon Air Museum. It aired several times that day from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Her cameraman Bob Keets did a spectacular job of video recording and editing the feature. It’s now up on their website.
By 8:00 Saturday morning, longtime co-sponsor Triumph/Ducati of Newport Beach already had two pop-up tents set up along with complimentary doughnuts and coffee for the attendees. This was the first year Orange County Harley-Davidson joined in as co-sponsor. They had several 2018 models on display from the Sportster to the Road Glide. They also contributed three $100 gift cards that were given away during the event. There was a food vendor for the first time in the event’s history, and their offerings were perfect for the day. Several participants were spotted chowing down on some mouthwatering hot dogs.
By 9:00 a.m. the first of several hundred bikes began rolling in. Museum docents did a fine job of blocking off the entrance for motorcycles only and directing the bikers to parking areas. By 10:00, museum staff “tagged” 22 bikes to be in the People’s Choice Bike Show. Owners were requested to move their bikes into the show area and to fill out a registration card. At 11:00, the people voted for their favorite bike, from a 1921 Megola with a 5-cylinder radial engine that is mounted on the hub of the front wheel and turns with the wheel, to custom choppers, restored vintage bikes of many makes, as well as newer bikes with creative paint schemes.
The bike show was free and admission to Lyon Air Museum was discounted from $12 to $8 for participants. Inside, there were extra docents on hand, a Vintage race car exhibit featuring two of Dan Gurney’s Eagle race cars and a Cobra owned by Gurney. Of special interest inside and among the bombers, including a B-17 Flying Fortress and a B-25 Mitchell, were displays of World War II military gear detailed by men in vintage uniforms as well as more motorcycles, two of which were once owned by Steve McQueen.
While the vote tally was in progress, more OC Harley-Davidson gift certificates, along with a few Triumph Classic Motorcycle T-shirts, were given away.
With close to 100 votes in, second-place winner was Mark Greeley with his 5-cylinder radial engine-powered German-built Megola. The crowd gathered around it watching as Mark started it up a few times while it was on its front and rear center stands. He sprayed ether in the intake and spun the front wheel and that radial engine fired right up. It was amazing to see and hear it run while flinging oil as it might be a total-loss oiling system. The highly rare bike won its owner a year-long admission membership to Lyon Air Museum.
The first place winner was Eugene Garcin, with his restored 1929 BMW R63. In May of this year, Eugene had his R63 at the Gathering of Motorcycles at Quail Lodge in Carmel, California, and brought home an award in the antique class. This particular R63 has survived, which is altogether rare for a pre-war machine. The engine top, bottom and transmission all match and it was restored in the Black Forest not far from where it was first sold. The engine is very tight and it runs very strong for an 89-year-old machine, and is able to reach speeds over 70 mph.
Lyon Air Museum’s AT-6 Texan World War II Trainer sat at the ready on the flight line in front of the massive hangar doors that were opened for the participants as pilot, Lyon Air Museum president Mark Foster, along with flight coordinator Cameron Gause, helped Eugene into the rear seat. As participants gathered Mark fired up that 9-cylinder WASP engine; what a sound! Eugene had two thumbs up and was waving to the crowd.
Of note: Prior to World War II, Eugene’s dad was called in for duty. He wanted to be a pilot so he choose the French Air Force. He was on his way to realize the dream of flying, learning on a World War I bi-plane, when the German Lufftwaffe destroyed most of the French aircrafts. No more airplanes, no need for pilots. So they dispatched him to England to join a squadron of the RAF as a rear gunner on a light bomber flying escort for a merchant ship convoy in the northern Atlantic. The missions were to find and destroy German U-boats and from time to time the squadron flew with additional planes to bomb Germany. The chance to return to base was not that great. On one of those night raids their airplane got hit and they had to crash land in Germany. The next day Eugene’s father was caught by the Germans and spent the next 3 1/2 years in POW camps in Germany and Austria until he was liberated. This is why Eugene always had a fascination with military airplanes and why this flight had very special meaning to him. Eugene commented, “The T-6 Texan is exactly what military aviation dreams are made of. When you climb in and get strapped into the seat, you realized how current this 1945 airplane is. The gauges and controls are perfect, the aluminum skin with the rivets so smooth, so shiny, the sound and smell of the engine so exhilarating while waiting for the takeoff. The takeoff is short and powerful, you can feel your body sink in the seat and then the first right hand turn makes you realize the power of the T-6 Texan’s g-forces at their best. What a solid and sturdy airplane. Thanks to the pilot for a great flight. It was a great experience that would have made my dad very happy.”
Once cleared for takeoff by John Wayne Airport’s (SNA) air traffic control tower, cameras and cell phones were poised. Then, the AT6 roared past and rolled off to the right as that twin-blade propeller bit into the air. Mark then did three passes before landing and taxiing the AT6 back up to the flight line, shutting down the engine and spinning the plane around in front of the crowd. More two thumbs up came from Eugene before being helped out of the plane.
Bikes and Bombers VII is now in the flight log and plans for Bikes and Bombers VIII are already taking shape. For more information about Lyon Air Museum and to watch for next year’s Bikes and Bombers date announcement, visit www.lyonairmuseum.org.