(ED: Tim Finn is a serious photographer, and these shots are absolutely superb. If you love vintage machinery of any kind, don’t pass this one by. And make sure to click on the images to see them in maximum size)
I have been here before and done exactly the same things. I recently bought a new camera, and thought that taking photos of antique motorcycles would be fun. The last time I was down in Corvallis Oregon to attend the annual May motorcycle show and swap meet, was May of 2005. I had just bought a Fuji Finepix S3000 that I wanted to play with. Photos of that show were the subject of one of my first CC submissions.
Fourteen years and four cameras later, I found myself at the same show, this time with my new Sony A6000 mirrorless camera. Digital photography technology may have moved on, but it’s likely that some the bikes from the 2005 event were here again this time, still preserved in their nearly original condition.
This year’s featured marquee was Triumph Motorcycles, so I will begin this photo essay with a look at some beautiful classic Triumphs.
This 1952 Thunderbird marked the first year of the 650cc twin. The famous Edward Turner designed motor would endure into the 1970’s.
When I look at this 1956 T100 it really dawns on me how much sportier these were than the Harley Davidson’s of the time. Those low handle bars and the position of the foot pegs tell me this was made to go around corners much faster than the American bikes. I wouldn’t doubt if the original owner also owned a Porsche.
This Triumph “Twenty One Bathtub” leans a bit more to the practical and efficient side. It was powered by an Edward Turner designed 21 cubic inch (350 cc) motor with one carburetor and a four speed gearbox.
This 1928 Triumph was not much larger than a bicycle. It was in immaculate condition. The owner is seen filing out the information sheet for his bike. He looks like he might be an interesting person doesn’t he?
This 1953 T100C has been beautifully restored. This has to be one of the most elegantly designed motorcycles of the 50’s. I love the fabric insulation on the wiring.
I’m assuming this one is a drag racer or some kind of racer. The custom paint and extreme weight saving measures really reflect the period. It’s likely that many of today’s entry level motorcycles can do the quarter mile quicker with a massive improvement in reliability, but it sure looks cool.
At the same time you could waltz into your local Chevy dealer and drive away in a new 1957 Bel Air, this was the equivalent of a modern day dual-sport. The entire bike is a classic piece of art, but the gas tank is to me, is one of the most beautiful designs ever.
I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the Triumph Cub. I almost bought one as my first real motorcycle, but the dealer wisely suggested I buy a Hodaka Ace 100 B+ instead. The Hodaka was a much better choice for a teenager with a paper route, but those unreliable little Cubs sure looked cool.
With the trend for retro cars and motorcycles, I’m surprised Triumph hasn’t resurrected the Cub as an entry level dual-sport. I could picture one of these today as being a little more street oriented with a higher quality fit and finish compared to the modern competition. Triumph could use an entry level machine. I hope they send me a check when they turn my idea into millions of dollars.
This one took me by surprise. The rubber tracks and wheels on this “Sno-Go” conversion looked brand new. I assumed the owner had fabricated it somehow. But no, you could buy one of these and adapt it to almost any small motorcycle of the time. This one is street legal so you could leave the car at home and ride this to work. Every day would be an adventure.
If you are a fan of the classic 70’s motorcycle movie “On Any Sunday” this short track racer looks like something Gene Romero might have ridden in the film. This 1961 T100 features period correct items like a Track Master racing frame, Akront rims, and Ceriani forks. This motorcycle was spotless. I wonder if it even leaks oil like most of them do.
Speaking of “On any Sunday”, this road racer looks like it could have come right out of the Daytona 200 scene.
This is perfect bike to transition to the other European motorcycles because it is part Triumph and part Norton. This Triton has a Triumph 650 cc motor in a Norton frame. They were supposed to be one of the best handling bikes of the time. It’s not a bike I would recommend riding in sandals. (CC’s story on them is here)
This next bike was one of my favorites of the day. It’s a 1958 Maico Taifun (Typhoon). I remembered the Maico motocrossers and enduros of the 60’s and 70’s, but I didn’t know they ever made large street bikes. This one has a 400 cc two stroke twin engine. It certainly is an unusual machine.
Parked next to the Maico was this beautiful 1965 BMW touring bike. It looks like it could still take you coast to coast in comfort and style with no problems along the way.
We will return to Great Briton with this 1968 Norton Atlas 750. It looks like it just came off the showroom floor. As I’m sure you all know, this was the last year for the Atlas.
I’m not sure of the year of this nice BSA 650 Lightning. It too, looks brand new.
This 1958 AJS 500 looks like it must have been a bad ass dirt bike in its day. The Matchless 650 scrambler behind it was a typical off roader of the time. A heavy twin cylinder bike with no air cleaners, low exhaust, and short travel suspension hardly seems like a fun bike to ride quickly in the dirt, but it’s definitely a good looker.
This stunning Matchless is a 1955 G9B. Its 550 cc twin made 26 hp. I really like the red accents on the wheels.
With the hundreds of motorcycles I saw and photographed that day, I somehow didn’t get any information about this beautiful Norton. Finding out who was on the coin that is fitted into the engine cover was easy. That’s a King George the VI 4 pence limited edition coin. Looking for a similar motorcycle on Google proved difficult. It’s possible this is a really well done custom motorcycle. I’m sure someone out there must know a little more about this beauty than I can find.
This cool old Ducati was the inspiration for their new Scrambler series. This one looks to be very original. The single cylinder motor used a desmodromic valve train just like the later road going V twins.
This colorful Zundapp is a rare sight these days. I wonder how many of these little guys have survived. In sea of Triumphs, this motorcycle really stood out.
I will finish up this report with a look at a couple of Spanish Bultaco Alpinas. These were based on trials bikes but with more comfortable seats, bigger fuel tanks and better ergonomics. They were meant to be more practical trials bikes rather than race bikes. These two (three if you count the one on the trailer) look like survivors.
Stay tuned for Part 2 where I will show you some of the cool Japanese and American bikes that were at the show. There are lots more beautiful old motorcycles to come.