ANAMOSA, IOWA, June 8-9—I had my sights set on the National Motorcycle Museum’s 2013 Vintage Rally long ago. The opportunity to check out the displays at the museum along with the largest Evel Knievel collection in the world, the new Dirt Track Heroes and “Scooters!” exhibits, a swap meet, autograph and book-signing sessions and much more was a no-brainer. And on the opening morning of this year’s retro shindig, the stars were the bikes showcased outside for the 2013 Vintage Rally Bike Show.
Show and tell
Judging began Saturday morning at 11:00 with 66 pieces of history shining in the sun—symbols of each owner’s passion for old iron. Many were set up with accompanying documentation chronicling their background, and owners were eager to chime in and share their own stories. The bikes were separated into four categories—American, Japanese, British and European—and there were 34 individual classes including awards for Best Preserved/Unrestored and Best of Show overall.
Tony Rusteberg of Thunder Alley Promotions handled the emcee duties and managing of the bike show, and said, “This is a great turnout. There are some really rare bikes and collections here the public doesn’t get to see that often, like the Rokon Bridgestone café racer and great dirt track bikes to feed off the exhibit in the museum.”
National Motorcycle Museum President John Parham, who is also the founder and president of J&P Cycles just a few miles north of the museum in Anamosa, was in the bike show area and I asked for his thoughts on the turnout. “This is a great way to kick off a huge weekend,” he said. “We have a solid group of judges with their work cut out for them, and the assortment of bikes and spectator traffic out here is great.”
Without question, the most entrants were found in the American section of the lot. Immediately catching my eye was Dennis Henderson’s 1936/’39 “Half-Breed” Harley bobber, powered by a rebuilt ’36 U-model Flathead lower half and a top end from a ’39 Flathead. Dennis’s wife came over and mentioned that Clete “Old Dude” Borchert out of Georgia rebuilt the ’36/’39 Flathead motor, and that the circular designs found within the tank, battery cover and rear fender’s gold-accented paint were done with a Dremel tool. Bits of info like this regarding custom builds, restoration work and the knack of uncovering these timeless treasures could be heard from owners all afternoon. The Hendersons, from Marquette, Michigan, took first place in the American 1930-’47 Flathead Mild Custom class with Half-Breed, and first place in the 1886-1932 American Stock class with Dennis’s ’31 Henderson KJ.
Other winners included Zach Cole taking first place in 1936-’47 Knucklehead Stock with his ’47 FL, first place in 1936-’47 Knucklehead Mild Custom with his ’37 EL, and two second-place finishes in other classes. Greg Hayes took first place in the 1976-’88 Sportster Stock class with his faultless ’78 XLCR Sportster café racer, and Gene Payne nabbed first and second place awards in the American Dirt Track class with his ’68 and ’64 H-D KR750s.
Teenager Hailey Braunsky brought her replica 1920 80cc H-D Board Track Racer she built herself, “with just a little help from Dad.” Rusteberg introduced Braunsky to the throng and announced that, “This is our future, ladies and gentlemen; give it up for Hailey,” and the crowd erupted with perhaps the loudest ovation of the day. Hailey flashed her best board track racer-esque pose on her build for the cameras with her first place award for Competition Street and Track.
The Hagerty Insurance-sponsored Best Preserved class in the American category went to a downright badass ’42 Harley WLA 45 with original army-green paint, artillery box and rifle holster. The bike was entered by Motorcycle Specialties out of Davenport, Iowa, and was attracting admirers all day.
Best of Show this year went to a ’72 Honda CB500 café racer owned by Robert Westercamp. (See full bike show results at www.nationalmotorcyclemuseum.org.)
The Allstate Motorcycle Dirt Track Heroes exhibit presented by J&P Cycles was officially dedicated on Saturday afternoon, despite being open to the public just prior to the rally. Dirt track racing legends and mechanics from the AMA Grand National Championship series, the best beach racers to ever scorch the sands and an assortment of dirt track relics were part of a fantastic display.
Bikes were spread throughout the presentation including Chris Carr’s Harley-Davidson XR750 he rode to win the 1992 Grand National Championship, as well as the late Jim Sumner’s ’75 XR750 and countless others. There were a few dozen worn racing leathers dangling from the ceiling and staged around the floor, a Ken Maely display featuring examples of the steel-shoe mastermind’s work, streaming videos showcasing the men and their machines in action, and a photographic timeline printed on the floor breaking down the history of dirt track racing dating back to 1954. Trust me; it was awesome.
Motorcycle Hall of Fame members Jay Springsteen, Chris Carr, Bubba Shobert, Bill Werner, Rich King and John Kite participated in a public roundtable Q&A where each racer shared personal stories. Mark Mederski, special projects director for the museum, led the discussion, allowing each member of the panel to answer before moving to the next. Topics ranged from favorite bikes to what sparked their interest in two wheels—and even Springsteen’s hunting exploits. After the panel spoke the discussion was opened for questions from the audience.
Other hall-of-fame racers on hand included AMA flat track and beach-racing legend Dick “King of the Beach” Klamfoth, the only three-time winner at Daytona Beach (’49, ’51 and ’52); Bobby Hill, former Grand National Champion (’51 and ’52); Bill Tuman, member of the famed “Indian Wrecking Crew”; and Bill Baird, who won seven consecutive national enduro championships. There were autograph sessions with the racers and dirt track historians Greg Pearson, Gerald Foster and Bob Herrick—and the lines were endless as fans savored the opportunity to meet these living legends.
It’d be a crime to not mention the appearance of Mike and Margaret Wilson during the Vintage Rally. Celebrating 70 years of marriage, the motorcycling couple received heartfelt congratulations by friends and fans all weekend. Mike and Margaret have spent their lives committed to the lifestyle: Mike, by helping racers like Leo Payne succeed and leading the Harley Sportster to dominate in the late ’50s, while Margaret, a lifelong member of the Motor Maids, continues to attend the club’s events around the country. Congratulations on 70 years, Mr. and Mrs. Wilson.
Sellers set up their tarps and tables for the swap meet by 8:00 a.m. on both days, and the dealin’ game was on shortly after. Although rain dampened the pickin’ on Sunday, there was still a good turnout according to the soggy few I spoke with. And for those searching for a fine deal, a second panel discussion was held for the non-speed freaks and featured six established motorcycle collectors sharing years of knowledge with attendees.
Also for the non-speed freaks, the new “Scooters!” exhibit included more than a dozen classics from American, European and Japanese marques. Artwork, photos, videos and literature surrounding the lifestyle accompanied the scoots, as well. Lastly, rounding things out was an over-the-top collection put on display by Evel Knievel Enterprises.
I spoke with Mark Mederski and he said that attendance seemed to be right around the 2012 mark of a little more than 2,000. I can’t rave enough about the 2013 Vintage Rally or the countless museum volunteers that went out of their way to ensure attendees had the best possible visit. This little gem hidden among the cornfields and rural farmland of Iowa is not to be missed—Vintage Rally weekend or not—so make sure it’s on your motorcycling bucket list.