A generous offer, plus some perfect timing had “MrHonda” visiting the great state of Washington (no, not DC) to take in some awe-inspiring motorcycle events for five days. Being a SoCal native, it is easy to just be immersed in the “local” motorcycle culture with friends and acquaintances, ignoring the rest of the country and all the possibilities that abound outside the Golden State.
The sale of a set of my books, listed on eBay, brought me in contact with a gentleman from the Seattle, WA area who requested that I come up and review his considerable vintage motorcycle collection, which has been growing steadily since 1988. We had some extended conversations, but he never really revealed much about the content of his personal collection efforts, preferring for me to just come up and view it in person. Checking my schedule and the possibilities of what else might be available to experience in the Pacific North West, it appeared that Aug 21-26 would work for me, allowing time to review this particular collection and include two other events.
An email contact in Eastern, WA regularly sends photos of various events which he attends and he made mention of the “Backfire” motorcycle get together which happens on the third Wednesday of each month, during the summer. I checked the Backfire website http://www.backfiremoto.com/ and it did indicate an event on Aug. 21, so it was included in the itinerary.
Despite an initially ill-planned flight schedule on the way from San Diego to Seattle, I was able to juggle my flight times to allow an early afternoon arrival at Sea-Tac Airport, then grab a rental car for the trip to Ballard, just north of downtown Seattle. The early flight schedule gave me time to get the car, find the location (thanks for my Garmin) and find a close-by parking spot. There are at least four micro-breweries and café/bars adjacent to the event, which has been growing steadily for the past four years. In speaking with one of the original organizers, he stated that it was originally just an informal get together with riders of café racer type machines, with other “one-off” machines welcomed. Big Cruiser and Choppers were not necessarily encouraged, but with 200-400 bikes coming in on a good weather Wednesday, just about everything you can imagine seems to show up.
As my arrival had coincided with the start of the event, the stream of incoming bikes and riders were mine for the watching and for photography. More than a few women riders were in attendance, some arriving on vintage bikes and others on more modern machinery. This was a great start to my fun adventure in WA. After wandering up and down the side streets, admiring various two-wheeled creations, it was time to head out towards the beckoning ferries, which run across the straits between the “mainland” and the peninsula, where my host was awaiting my arrival. This 9-10 mile journey took forty five minutes, which put my rental car in as the next to last car for that crossing.
After a 20-minute crossing, the GPS picked up the trail and in about forty-five more minutes, the final destination was achieved. My host and his wife were sitting outdoors, enjoying the warm evening and rising full moon. I accepted their glass of wine and we began our introductions and established more rapport, as the evening continued. I was shown no motorcycles, at first, just a jaw-dropping collection of mostly white vintage/classic sports cars, from both Japan and Europe. This was just a warm-up for the following day’s big reveal…
After a comfortable night in the “guest house” (equipped pretty much as a 1BR apartment) with an attached 3-car garage, I arose the next morning, shared some breakfast with my hosts and then was directed to go visit the garage next to the garage I had seen, previously. This building is equivalent to a 6 car garage. As I entered the access door on the side of the building, I was greeted by the sight of four rows of handlebars, all neatly arranged on a carpeted floor. As I entered the garage and surveyed the scene, it was obvious that there were something close to 100 motorcycles housed in this elegant structure which had been designed with radiant heat in the floors to help stabilize the temperature shifts experienced through the four seasons of the Washington peninsula. There were some CB750 K0 models, which were aligned just inside the roll-up doors, but the remainder of the bikes were arranged from small cc to large cc sizes, starting with a beautiful and rare “all chrome” Honda C100 Cub, which was offered in very limited quantities as a “Thank you” to US Honda dealerships for outstanding sales performances during the early 1960s.
Next to the little Cub was a blue “Sports Cub 50, “also in mint condition. Moving down the line was a PA50 Moped, NS50, some step-through 90 models, S and CL90s, interrupted by a large wooden crate with AMERICAN HONDA stamps on the outside supports and then a gaggle of Z50 mini-trails. All told, there were approximately twenty-five mini-trails in all ranging from 1966 to 1988. In the unopened Honda crate was a pair of CM91 Honda singles, residing quietly inside since they were built in the mid 1960s.
Returning to the beginning of the second row, I viewed a CB100, SL100, then a 1959 Benly with distributor cap ignition (one year only), a CB92 Benly Super Sport, CL and SS1125A twins, a CB125S single, then a series of 160cc models, including CA, CB, CL and two D-kit Scramblers, one if which was brand new and never serviced. Beyond the 160s were 175s, then 350s and finally a brace of 450s.
The third row started with a CB72, CL72, CL77, CS77, CB77 and three more CL77s. CB/CL350s blended into a set of CB/CL450s.
The 450s continued on the back row, after it started with an MT250, a “D-kit 450”, a CB350F, a couple of CB400Fs, a new GB500, then a pair of CX500-650 Turbos, bracketing a GL650 “naked” version. A 1979 CBX sat next to a Rickman CB750, an RC30 Sport bike and a seemingly out of place 2nd generation Suzuki Rotary bike. Unfortunately, my borrowed “automatic” camera was having issues and conflicts with how I was using it, so many photos were not usable for viewing. A few of the photos provided here, give a good feel for what the quality and quantity of the collection contained. Another twenty-five bikes were distributed among the other garages which dotted the large property, mostly Hondas, but Suzuki, Kawasaki and Yamaha are also represented with some rare, mint-condition machines.
After viewing the amazing Honda bike collection, I was invited to take the owner’s brand new CB1100 Honda out for a visit to my friends at Retrobikes, about an hour away from his residence. I started with 89 miles showing on the odometer and brought it back with 190 miles indicated. While the owner isn’t all that keen to do a great deal of street riding (preferring off-road/trail riding), he picked up this particular machine because the serial number was #12. Obviously, this man has a keen eye for what might be collectible and desirable in the future and concedes that he has been both diligent and at times very fortunate to be able to acquire the bikes and cars, which he has collected to date.
“MrHonda” has been fortunate enough to have owned many examples of the bikes in this particular collection; however those bikes were bought and sold over a span of about forty years. It is amazing to see these same bikes, all at once, all in one carefully-curated collection. It was a rare opportunity to be able to view these bikes and give feedback on some anomalies found, which were few and far between. Most of the inconsistencies were already known and a “wanted list” is readily at hand for reference. With some assistance from MrHonda, many of the remaining requests may be fulfilled.
With the Backfire meeting and viewing the private collection completed, the remaining third “planned” event was the Vintage Motorcycle Festival http://www.lemaymuseum.org/news.php?nid=467 was next on the list, but located in Tacoma, which is south of Seattle. Because of the location, it was more expedient to take the peninsula roads down to the bottom of the sound. My collector host sent me ahead in my rental car, assuring me that the Lemay museum was easy to find, across the street from the Tacoma Dome and adjacent to the Best Western Hotel, where he had booked me for three nights! I was pretty much playing the weekend by ear and going from one stop to the next, finding support at every turn. There was a pre-event meet and great at the museum lobby, just after normal closing time which I was invited to attend. After a nice helping or two of wine, cheese and snacks, my host arrived with a truckload of vintage machines to display at Saturday’s big festival event. He brought the truck with bikes to the hotel parking structure and backed the truck into an assigned slot, tailgate towards the solid concrete wall for security.
We got checked into our rooms, then went into town for a meal and finally retired around 10PM. The next morning we grabbed the hotel’s continental breakfast offerings and then went off to the showground. I assisted with the unloading of the three bikes, then we went off in different directions as I began to view the considerable number of high-quality and very rare machinery which was assembling upon the large grassy lawn. Hundreds of stock, modified, classic, retro, racer, vintage motorcycles lined up in appropriately designated rows for viewing that day.
Among the options, for ticketholders, was to be able to see either of the two sets of demonstrations of the Seattle Cossacks motorcycle drill team http://www.seattlecossacks.com/, as well as a team of talented trials riders, using a beat-up automobile as a riding obstacle. Each demonstration was repeated twice during the day, much to the delight of the assembled crowds.
There was a large tent setup for food and drinks, plus numerous vendors tents placed around the periphery of the grounds. After lunch and during the entire day, the entry tickets were honored at the nearby museum, which contains four floors of classic, vintage and collectible autos (and a few motorcycles, too). MrHonda’s feet and knees were ready for a big dose of Tylenol to ease the accumulated aches and pains which were enhanced by hours of being on his feet, viewing attractive sights and interacting with numerous new and old friends who were in attendance. The show wound down in the afternoon and it was time to retire to the hotel for some much-needed rest. This was a fabulous 2nd year event and it was a pleasure to be able to add it to the week’s schedule of activities. After three big motorcycle events, what could be better than that? How about ONE MORE motorcycle collection viewing on Sunday, arranged by my host who is a good friend with the owner of the collection which is housed at the Honda dealership in Auburn, WA, about a half hour’s drive from the hotel!
After Sunday’s breakfast, the rental car was pointed to Hinshaw’s Motorcycle Store http://www.hinshawsmotorcyclestore.com/ guided by my trusty Garmin GPS navigator, which was wisely packed in my luggage to ensure successful transportation guidance. This was a wise choice because the rental car provided was not equipped with a GPS system and I would have been very lost without it. Hinshaw’s was pretty easy to locate and I was warmly welcomed by owner, Ron Orr, who gave me the behind the scenes tour of HIS motorcycle collection, partly scattered on the showroom floor, on an upstairs mezzanine and then down some halls, followed by a visit to the “backroom” where vintage bikes were sharing space with new inventory. Hinshaw’s was one of the first Honda dealers, dating back to 1961, so are well established in the state and have had opportunities to purchase some rare local machines, which were well-kept due to their short riding season there.
On public display were a Yamaha XS650, Suzuki X-6, and Kawasaki H-2 750. At the top of the stairs in the mezzanine was a very nice C110 Sport Cub and then there was a long lineup of classic bikes, most of which were Hondas. A Honda CL72 Scrambler began the lineup, followed by a C72 Dream and a CS72 Dream Sport model, then a beautiful S90, CB750K0, CB450K0, a Suzuki Stinger, CB500Four, CB400Four, the obligatory CBX Six, a CX500 Turbo, Bultaco Metralla, Suzuki T500, Suzuki XN85 Turbo, Yamaha R-5, another XS650, followed by a H-1 Kawasaki 500 Triple. Rounding out the remaining space upstairs was a Harley Davidson Sprint H, Ducati Diana 250, TS125-185-250 Suzukis, a Maico, Husky and DT-1 Yamaha.
Down the hall I spied a JC58 Benly 125 and a very rare ME Honda 250cc single. Downstairs started with a CB77, Kawasaki Z1, another XS 650, a Honda GL1000 LTD, 1959 Yamaha YD-1, a GS1000 Suzuki, later Kawasaki H500, GT250 Suzuki, a “modern” Excelsior Super X, a DT-1 Yamaha, Norton Commando and another CBX. Another JC58 Benly (unrestored) sat next to a BSA Lightning. Elsewhere there were CL90s, a 1961-62 Dream, a 150 Benly, a Hodaka and a Trailmaster 90 Yamaha, just to name a few. Ron brought three bikes to the show: 1962 CB92, a 196? Pointer Super Lassie and a Meguro 250! I think that Ron has never met a mint condition motorcycle that he didn’t like and wanted to acquire for is collection. Ron’s store was also chosen to display a pre-production Norton Commando 961, which he will be selling once the EPA requirements are completed and regular production can get underway.
Ron acknowledges that there are visitors who come to the shop with the express desire to just see the bike collection. Hinshaw’s has become a multi-line dealership who can move 1,000 units a year in sales, plus support all the various maker’s products in the service department and wrangle all the necessary parts for service and for customers.
The trip to Hinshaw’s was the last step of the “Fab(ulous) Four” motorcycle events and opportunities which I was privileged to be a part of, during my brief 5-day visit to Washington State. Being MrHonda certainly has had its advantages in the past few years and I was honored to be asked to fly up and be a part of this great Pacific Northwest Adventure. The weekend after my return, I was asked to be a featured speaker at the VJMC West Coast Rally, located in Big Bear Lake, CA. so my month has been busy and full of adventures.
Obviously, I cannot post all the photos taken during this trip, but you can get a strong sense of the treasures which abide in Washington and elsewhere. There is a great big motorcycle world full of treasures residing beyond the borders of California. I’ve learned that despite the presence of AHMC in SoCal since “Day One,” we are NOT the center of the motorcycle universe or even the Honda motorcycle universe.
That’s for sure!
Bill “MrHonda” Silver