DENTON, N.C., MAY 16–18 — For the last five years, the Antique Motorcycle Club of America (AMCA) has held their Southern National Meet down in Denton, North Carolina. It was hosted by the Blue Ridge, Catawba Valley and Dixie chapters, which did a wonderful job of organizing and directing the event. The highlight of most AMCA meets is usually a large swap meet, but even those not looking for parts had plenty of other activities to keep them busy during this three-day event. Guided motorcycle rides, field events, parades and bike shows were all held throughout the weekend and folks could participate or spectate as they saw fit.
Before I get into the meet itself, I’d be remiss if I didn’t spend a little time describing the location. When you hear the word “swap meet” you probably envision a large field or parking lot filled with rusty motorcycle parts. This event is not hosted in such a bland venue, but rather a historic farm park that covers over 100 acres. The park features 35 restored buildings including a fully operational belt-driven machine shop, general store, a church and plantation house. There are 500 camping sites situated in the wooded section of the property, with water and power hookups available. They even have one and a half miles of track circling the grounds and a working steam engine. Everywhere you turn is a piece of farming history; everything from old tractors to gristmills are on display throughout the park. Now just imagine adding 1,000 vintage motorcycles to the mix and you can get an idea of what a great venue it is.
The swap meet, of course, was the main event and vendors were spread out around the park. At least half the vendors opted for the wooded section, and although it wasn’t extremely hot, it was nice to be able to get out of the sun. The majority of the parts being sold were for American marques, with some European and Japanese items available in much smaller quantities. Good deals could be found across the park, and I even heard tell of a Knucklehead that went for $15,000. One of the great things about this swap meet is the vendors are true vintage motorcycle enthusiasts and are a wealth of information. If you’re looking for cheap T-shirts and leather jackets, you won’t find that at Denton, but if you need a few hard-to-find parts to finish your latest restoration, then you won’t go away disappointed. I was lucky enough to pick up a Linkert carburetor and top motor mount for my 1933 VL project, both at an excellent price.
For those who wanted to see some of the surrounding countryside, there were two antique motorcycle road runs held during the weekend, which were open to both old and new bikes alike. Both runs lasted a few hours with the first making a stop at the American Classic Motorcycle Museum in the neighboring town of Asheboro. This gave participants a chance to see even more vintage motorcycles, just in case they hadn’t gotten their fill walking around the farm park. The second run had the honor of being led back onto the grounds by the Motor Maids, who took the participants for a parade lap around the park.
My favorite event of the weekend had to be the field games. There were five games in all including classics like the slow race and ring toss. The recent resurgence in 70’s-style choppers brought some interesting competitors out for the barrel race, but it was soon obvious that extended front ends and rabbit bars did not make for the most maneuverable machines. Still, I have to hand it to the guys that weren’t afraid to get out there in front of a crowd and give it a try. Even the one rider who dropped his motorcycle was a great sport and got back on with a smile on his face.
Saturday evening featured a banquet catered by Bob’s Backyard BBQ along with an invited speaker and raffle. The speaker was “Round the World” Doug Wothke, who entertained us with pictures and stories from his four motorcycle trips around the globe. Not wanting to just take the easy way out, Doug chose motorcycles a little out of the ordinary to circumnavigate the globe. I bet he got quite a few looks riding off-road on a 1948 Indian Chief, or through Russia on a hardtail chopper. The evening wrapped up with a massive raffle filled with so many prizes that nearly everyone walked away with something. I won an event T-shirt and a couple of beer koozies, but had really hoped for the 2-for-1 poker chips for the Wheels Through Time Museum.
While most people were packing up to leave on Sunday morning, a couple dozen vintage bike owners sat nervously as their motorcycles were carefully judged. The AMCA uses a point system (100 being the highest) to judge the correctness of a restored motorcycle. Judges go over every inch of each motorcycle, checking every detail, right down to the finish on each nut and bolt. For those few that score 95 points or more, their motorcycle has the chance to become part of the “Winners Circle.” This is probably the highest honor bestowed on a vintage motorcycle enthusiast and shows that is motorcycle is truly first class.
Attendance was up this year over last with 136 vendors on hand and approximately 2,300 people through the gates over the three-day event.
With rain in the forecast and a few more hours of judging left to go, I decided to pack up and hit the road. This was my third time attending the Southern National Meet, and it certainly won’t be my last. It has come to be one of my favorite events of the season, and if you have any interest in old motorcycles, then I encourage you to attend next year. Even if you don’t currently own a classic bike, you may find yourself loading one onto your trailer by the end of the weekend.
(This article A Gathering of Classics was published in the July 2014 issue of Thunder Press, South edition.)