Heading for The Quail’s BBQ lunch, all part of admission, I find another Red Rapide, sans sidecar, then again come across Gene Brown’s Black Lightning, that at least tames an appetite for ribs and chicken. Brown doesn’t fire up his Vincent, but tells me about when the sound of it almost landed him in jail for a weekend.
Biker food galore is the self-serve delight of those 1500 or so present, a figure that includes over 150 Checkered Flag members that Club Chairman Bruce Meyer brought along from the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. “Pal” to so many enthusiasts from car and bike worlds alike, Meyer is “The Man” here nearly everyone knows.
“We’re converting them to motorcycle lovin’ guys and gals,” Meyer says of his Checkered Flag car bunch, “and this is fantastic! Car collectors now are looking very hard at the collectability of motorcycles. It’s the way we all started, with hot rods or bikes, Doodlebugs and Whizzers.” Hooked on everything with wheels, Meyer’s annual Father’s Day Rodeo Drive Concours June 19th in Beverly Hills is this time all about Italian cars and motorcycles—to be reported on here in Sports Car Digest by yours truly.
Coming across twice AMA Superbike—and three-time World Motorcycle—Champion Wayne Rainey over by the custom bikes, I ask him about what he sees and feels here at The Quail. “You look at all of these bikes,” Rainey says, “and you notice the passion for motorcycling and all the different styles of bikes from all the eras—you get it all. Every year it’s like I’m coming to a motorcycle show for the first time, and it’s well worth the effort to get here.”
What Rainey points out is particularly true with new custom and one-off bikes that make their debut, or hold their stand, on The Quail show field.
It couldn’t be more graphically illustrated that cars and motorcycles are DNA-connected, today more so than ever before. Unveiled next to the SO-CAL Speed Shop’s cool hot rod roadster is the equally cool, and hot, new 2-wheel creation called the “Miler”—as in a dirt track’s mile oval. The 865cc, 78 horsepower Triumph Bonneville-motored bike in lightweight frame, reminiscent of flat-track Triumph racers of the ‘60s and ‘70s, drew crowds all day long at The Quail. Says the bike’s associated Terry Karges, “The Miler is street legal, that’s the intention, and we’re excited. We are So-Cal Speed Shop, Mule Motorcycles, and Streetmaster Motorcycles, and are selling under the umbrella of So-Cal Motorsport, a new company we have set up to take these three brands to market—special edition bikes with a whole parts program for them.” Take a look.
There is, in fact, a wide developing world of custom and modified motorcycles on display at The Quail that hark back to bikes loved years ago.
Everybody knows Mert Lawwill, 1969 AMA Grand National Champion and co-star with Steve McQueen and Malcolm Smith in that be-all end-all of motorcycle movies, On Any Sunday. Here’s Lawwill at The Quail—with his Mert Lawwill Concepts “Street Tracker” he’s custom designed and built to recall Harley-Davidson’s TT race bike. Of the limited edition 19 examples Lawwill built by hand, this one was specifically made for Indy 500 winner Danny Sullivan as a birthday present from Sullivan’s wife Brenda. Powered by Harley’s 1200cc Sportster V-twin, the Lawwill bike features Buell forks, along with dual swingarms of Mert’s own design based on his innovative mountain bicycles. Go hard on the throttle with this stormer and the back end goes up, not down, movin’ on out. Lawwill’s dirt-bred Tracker carves canyon pavement in dazzling style.
A conceptual master, Mert Lawwill has also developed prosthetic throttle hands, and is now working on a prosthetic elbow, for handicapped riders.
Because they are smaller than cars, motorcycles fit easier and more economically into the broad spectrum of what can be done with a wheeled machine to make it infinitely special. Here again is the 1952 Vincent Black Shadow-powered “Black Falcon” creation designed and engineered by Ian Barry, met earlier with Falcon business partner Amaryllis Knight.
Where to begin on something this fabulous? “It all starts with a beautiful engine,” Barry tells me. “When you see it, you almost figure that this would have been a drawing or schematic of some mad scientist that never got built because of the expense, but they made it! But I didn’t want this to be just a Vincent tribute bike. I wanted something that I could make from all areas of my imagination that exemplified what we know now.”
Knight, bringing her lithe English accent from London, has her own take on what Ian’s and her work is, and has become, through their paired focused efforts. “We work with what was originally there,” she says, “and take those elements as far as we possibly can, as far as our imagination allows while honoring the soul of where it came from. It’s a passion, and it’s an obsession, but it’s also great great fun.”
Barry and Knight work on one Falcon motorcycle at a time. Of their three at The Quail, I learn that each took about a year to build. Collector, historian and worldly wise motorcycle connoisseur, Paul d’Orleans, astride this Triumph-based one-off, has insight into these Falcon customs. “Ian has a series of motorcycles he calls ‘The Concept Ten’ that are all based on British engines,” says d’Orleans, at home in both Paris and San Francisco, and here at The Quail. “He waits until he has a customer, then he starts building. I think the next one they will do is based on the Brough Superior engine. He’s a motorcycle fabricator first, but the sky’s the limit. It’s really impossible to convey how much detail there is, how much clever thought has gone into re-making everything on these bikes. I tell people, it’s like something that’s familiar but has re-emerged through a parallel universe where they’ve had a lot more time to do things.”
Could there possibly be more to see here at The Quail? How about some of these other custom bikes?
Now we come to what could be called a leading manufacture’s custom, Ducati’s brand new Diavel Carbon Testastre II that David Stone brought to Carmel from Wisconsin. The Italian street beast is a power cruiser with sports handling genes and switchable engine mapping that offers its rider a choice of either 100 or 162 horsepower. Better believe it before turning the handle.