OVM Classic Motorcycle Show Part 2 – American and Japanese Motorcycles

After a brief delay due to a deceased computer, I’m happy to present part 2 of my photo tour of the Oregon Vintage Motorcyclists annual May motorcycle show. In part one, I looked at a number of Triumphs as well as the other European bikes that I found interesting.  

This time I will show you some of the American and Japanese motorcycles that piqued my interest. You might notice that there aren’t a whole lot of Harleys and Indians here. I don’t think there were nearly as many American bikes at the show as the other makes, and I have to admit that’s not where my taste in motorcycles lie, so I probably missed some good ones. 

Let’s start out with a look at a beautiful old Indian Chief that is apparently receiving an IV of some sorts. Who knows what it takes to keep some of these antique machines on the road? 

Here is another old Indian, that is set up for racing. You would have to be pretty brave to ride a bike like this at high speeds. On the other hand, it looks like it’s going 60, just sitting there. 

While most of the other bikes in this show were cleaned and polished with great care, for some reason the American bikes had a bit more patina shall we say. This 1929 Indian doesn’t look like it recently came out of a showroom, but for a ninety-year-old motorcycle, it looks like it could still function pretty well for a long day trip. Modern V-twins don’t look all that different today, do they? 

They aren’t pretty, but they keep chugging along. Here are a pair of Harley flat heads that don’t exactly look pampered. But I can see the charm bikes like this bring. Fifty years from now these two old beasts will still occasionally wake up the neighbors and scare young children, just like they were designed to. 

Now let’s take a look at some Japanese motorcycles that were at the show. I have to confess; these were the bikes I always lusted after as a young man in the seventies. I remember a time when most of the major Japanese manufactures didn’t make bikes bigger than 500 cc, and grown men could ride 250’s and no one would snicker at them or feel sorry for their lack of a “real motorcycle”. 

The Japanese kicked everyone else’s technological butts during this period and pretty much decimated the British brands. These bikes didn’t shake themselves to pieces and rarely leaked a drop of oil. Many of these bikes were game changers in the world of motorcycles. 

I’m going to start with one of my favorites of the day. It’s not a glamorous bike, that will be worth the big bucks in the future, but I remember this bike fondly, and would love to own one if I had a motorcycle collection. It’s a 1972 Yamaha G75. I used to deliver newspapers to a family with one of these, and always loved the way it looks. It’s kind of like a café racer version of the famous Yamaha Mini-Enduro. It looks like it should be shrieking around the high banks of Daytona while in fact it’s most at home on a college campus or running errands in your neighborhood. 

Another Yamaha that caught my eye was this beautiful Yamaha SR500. This one is mostly stock and still has all the good looks of a classic British single with much better performance and reliability. Yamaha still sells the SR400 that is a direct descendant of this 40-year-old design. 

I like this DT 400 that has been modified with some Suzuki road bike pieces. I always wanted to do something similar with an old 2 stroke dual sport. It seems like it would make a peppy fun little café racer. 

There are stock motorcycles and there are motorcycles that have been modified. This XS 650 is about as far from stock as you can get. Someone has made a beautiful street tracker out of this old Yamaha. 

Let’s take a look at some old Hondas. I would say that today, all the Japanese manufactures are about fairly equal, but in the Sixties and seventies Honda ruled the world. 

For a few years in the sixties the 305 cc CB77 Super Hawk was the largest motorcycle in the Honda line. It had an OHC engine that revved to 9000 RPMs, electric start, didn’t leak oil and was very reliable. Some people consider it to be the first modern Honda. 

This CL77 is the scrambler version of the 305 Super Hawk. 

Here is another 305 cc Honda. I believe this one is a CA76 Dream model. It has tubular handlebars instead of the pressed steel ones. 

This final Super Hawk looks like it could have brought its young owner and his camping gear to Woodstock in 1969. It nice to see these machines still running strong. (ED: I think this might be a Honda 175)

This is the motorcycle that got me started. When I was about 7 years old, a teenage girl down the street had a boyfriend with one of these. I would watch them ride through the neighborhood, and wanted nothing more than a ride on that little red motorcycle. 

It was advertised at the time that “You Meet the Nicest People on a Honda”. Wholesome clean-cut people rode these. After what had probably been a lot of begging, the boyfriend offered to  take me on a ride around the block on his Honda 90. It was absolutely thrilling, and I was hooked. It took about 5 more years, but eventually I was able to get my very own Rupp Scrambler mini bike. There were many bikes after that one, but the Honda 90 is where it all began. 

This Trail 90 has much in common with its 1960s brother. These had a dual range transmission, folding handlebars and a small spare gas can. They were slow, but could go almost anywhere. Nice ones today fetch prices well above $3000. 

Another bike that baby boomers grew up with, that is setting price records are these little Honda Mini Trails. This beautifully restored one was spotless, and looked brand new. 

 I really do have something for small old Hondas. This sporty S90 is another bike I’d like to add to my dream collection. This looks like an incredibly fun motorcycle. 

There was a time when the Honda 350 (CB/CL/SL) family of motorcycles were the best-selling motorcycles made. They were everywhere. This is a 1968 CL350. It still looks pretty modern for a bike made the year before man walked on the moon. 

If Easy Rider had been a Japanese movie, maybe Peter Fonda’s character would have ridden something like this. I’m not a big chopper fan, but this one is very nicely done, and got plenty of attention. 

This tidy looking dirt bike is a Champion framed Honda XL350. There was a time when Japanese motors were quite a bit better than their frames and suspension, and it was common to buy a new frame for your dirt bike 

The CX500 was an unusual bike to begin with. This highly modified custom version is way out there, but I don’t mind it. I still think the motor on these looks like it came from an air compressor.  

This 550 Four represents the UJM (Universal Japanese Motorcycle) that was so common on the streets on the 70’s. I loved these bikes because you could do pretty much anything with them. Put on a fairing and some bags and it was a tourer. Lower handlebars and stiffer shocks made them into sport bikes. And of course, they were excellent commuters.

 This 1976 Kawasaki KZ900 was also a UJM, but this one was one of the fastest bikes ever at the time. I remember motorcycle magazines wondering how much faster a motorcycle could be. Bikes got much faster and better handling, but there was a time when this bike was the king. 

Here is a motorcycle I hadn’t seen in decades. It’s a Bridgestone 350 GTO. Bridgestone made motorcycle tires, and decided to try making the entire bike. These were powerful hi-tech bikes for the time, and I’ve heard that they were pressured to get out of the motorcycle business if they wanted to keep selling their tires to the other Japanese manufacturers. 

I will conclude this installment with a look at a pristine 1971 Suzuki T350. Among the things that seemed perfectly normal at the time, but now seem weird are large 2 stroke street bikes. Everyone but Honda had big 2 stroke twins and even triples in their line-ups. They sounded like chainsaws, left clouds of blue smoke, weren’t very efficient, and required an occasional top end rebuild, but they were inexpensive and pretty fast. They sold like hotcakes. 

Thanks for looking at all these photos. It was a pleasure to attend the show and see all of these cool motorcycles in one place. I’m also happy I had the chance to share the pictures with a group of folks that are likely to appreciate them. If you like old motorcycles, the Oregon Vintage Motorcyclists hold this show every May in Corvallis Oregon. If you live anywhere near by, it’s a show you shouldn’t miss.