Continuing an association with The Quail, Bonhams & Butterfields is here with its “Exceptional Motorcycles and Related Memorabilia” auction that includes fashionably classic BMWs to kick-ass Steve McQueen Husqvarna Motocross bike. What caught my eye before even stepping inside the Quail’s Club House Ballroom auction was this Valentino Rossi replica, the champ’s bedazzled vision of a YZF-R1 Yamaha.
By contrast, indoors is the marked seriousness of item lots, auctioneer, and the infectious pondering of a next, possibly winning, bid. Bikes of profound collector interest, and others appealing to the capricious gamut of imagination, either find new homes or remain with present custodians. Being there and surrounded by this see-saw sense of anticipation and disappointment triggered in me a reaction akin to vertigo.
An impressive figure was paid at the Bonhams auction for this cool McQueen machine “understood to be the very motorcycle featured on the front cover of the August  1971 issue of Sports Illustrated” that in photograph showed the muscular, bare-chested 41-year movie idol riding hell-bent on his pegs, front wheel lifted, an unforgettable image of the man and the marque.
Just below, outside on the grassy grounds of The Quail, something else was happening with motorcycles and entrants in this Carmel Valley afternoon fortuitously passing from overcast to sunshine. And in some inexplicable way, the nonchalance of this four-legged attendee brought me back to the reality of the show field where class winners were already bringing bikes to the ramp to receive their awards.
Of course, we anticipate the announcement of Best of Show winner, and a cheer comes up when Gene Brown, a collector of seven outstanding bikes, rides his Brough Superior SS-80 up the ramp to accept his prize from the event co-founder of both the Motorcycle and Motorsports Gatherings at The Quail, Gordon McCall. “Our goal,” he says, “is to stay on track, and stay focused with producing a very high-quality motorcycle show.”
The Best of Show award is selected by The Quail Motorsports Council, showcasing the most significant bike on the field in terms of presentation and historical significance.
What Gene Brown has to tell me of his Brough Superior is hard to believe, but true. “It was a parts bike,” he says, while also making it clear that this SS-80 was a numbers matching frame and engine bike. From something once cannibalized that became Best of Show winner at The Quail, the outcome is largely due to the work of Brough restoration expert Vic Olson of Vermont, a three-year task while this motorcycle was still owned by Herb Harris.
Winding down the day, there are a few more memories of what an excellent time it was here at The Quail with bike people and their motorcycles.
Something about The Quail Motorcycle Gathering that Gordon McCall spoke of sticks with me now after the event is over. “I love diversity,” he said, “and how the different levels of interest in different brands are so deep in the motorcycle world. The idea of bringing all of that together is a little daunting, but it actually works really well at this show. On paper, with these different mindsets, it shouldn’t work, but in the end everyone’s the same. You see Mert Lawwill chatting with Ian Barry, and I absolutely love that.”
The common denominator is where McCall, and I for that matter, have always thought of motorcycles as being just as important as cars. In fact, they co-exist, even on occasion one within the other.
Lest we forget, this Saturday Quail Motorcycle event essentially began on Friday the day before, with the extra-ticket attraction of “The Quail Ride”—a group motorcycle jaunt on scenic roads of the Monterey Peninsula, ending at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for picnic lunch and lap go-round, along with later reception dinner and guest speakers, plus preview of the Bonhams auction. It’s the same way the Motorcycle Gathering kicks-off again at The Quail in May 2012. Says the never-tiring Gordon McCall, “I was already planning next year’s event a week before today’s began.”
The Quail Motorcycle Gathering 2011 – Class Winners and Special Awards
Antique Through 1940: C.C. Kasik, 1910 Pierce Arrow 4-Cylinder.
Japanese Through 1978: Albert Catelani, 1977 Honda GL1000.
European Through 1978: Robert Jordan, 1957 Triumph TR6
Competition Through 1978: Randolf Reed, 1961 Bultaco TSS 125 Factory Prototype.
American Through 1978: Paul Pardini, 1960 Harley Davidson Duo-Glide Super Sport Solo.
Custom/Modified Through 2011: Chad Findley, Falcon Motorcycles “Black Falcon” with 1952 Vincent Black Shadow engine. Designer/Engineer: Ian Barry.
Off Road Through 1978: Blair Beck, 1972 Penton Six-Day 125cc.
Vetter Fuel Economy Challenge Winner: Fred Hayes, 2010 Hayes Diesel MD690R1.
Cycle World Award: Richard Varner, 1966 Velocette Thruxton.
Isle of Man Award: Paul Hudson, 1925 New Hudson Factory Racing.
Innovation Award: Treven Baker, 1990 DNEPR Diesel.
Competition Sport Award: Don Emde, 1948 Indian 648 B16 Base Scout.
Design and Style Award: Frank and Elizabeth Recoder, 1966 Velocette Thruxton.
Custom Award: Terry Karges, 2011 SO-CAL “Miler”.
Best of Show: Gene Brown, 1938 Brough Superior SS-80.
[Source: photo credit: William Edgar, www.edgarmotorsport.com]