I was asked to judge the Japanese motorcycle class this year at the annual Del Mar Concourse event on Oct. 28, 2012 and was looking forward to attending once again. For details on the event see:
Although I have been back from Hawaii for 4 years now, I hadn’t attended this event until last year, when my Honda-friendly friend, Lea Dennis, rode along with me from her place, just south of downtown San Diego. Our paths had just recently crossed, after I was referred to her by a mutual friend that I had completed some Honda repairs for, a few months previously. Lea’s mount was a 1972 CB350 with very low original miles and still wearing its original OEM tires. Although a fairly new rider, she could tell that the stock rubber was aged and hardened, so she rode it conservatively and avoided freeway stints.
We decided to avoid the freeway altogether and make the 25-mile trek on surface roads along the coast, which greatly enhanced the ride to scenic Del Mar and gave my 1961 CB77 a breather from highway running, as well. We arrived late in the morning and spent leisurely time looking at bikes. I was sidetracked numerous times when I spied old friends from the industry and customers from years before I left San Diego for a ten year adventure with my ex-wife. Lea found herself left in the custody of my long-time friend Ron Smith, who kept her mind engaged with minutia of the many bikes and owners present, while I was pulled into lengthy conversations with my biking buddies. Lea was a good sport and it gave her a chance to see bikes on her own and a better idea of how I fit into the motorcycle community as “,” too.
Lea and I had planned to ride up once again, this year, but my duties, as a judge, moved our prescribed arrival time from 8AM to 6:45AM for a Judges meeting, so she opted out. I decided to just truck the CB77 up there, rather than make a 30-mile freeway run. Given the crisp early morning air temperatures, I was happy to make the trip in a heated, Dodge Dakota truck cab, instead.
After the meeting, nearby, we all headed for the Del Mar Fairgrounds and unloaded bikes for display and then the judges grabbed their clipboards and started down the list of bikes entered for judging. Back in the 1990s, the motorcycle event was so large that it took over about half of the facility and over 500 bikes showed up for judging. I recall having to sift through over 30 machines, one year, which was just way too much for one person to handle. This year there were three of us and only five eligible bikes to review and score. I liked this method of judging a whole lot more than before and it gave all three of us time to compare notes and scoring decisions right after each machine was reviewed. The process went smoothly and we were done in about two hours, giving each machine a thorough check-over.
The themed machine of the year was Vincent! It is hard to imagine that many very rare street and race bikes on one location, but there they were in all their glory! Vincent motorcycles fetch well in excess of $100k these days, so there was a mighty expensive assortment of two-wheelers on display, just in the center of the paddock area. http://www.thevincent.com/
Bikes of all shapes, sizes and values were in attendance, all the way down to vintage Vespas and an all-chrome plated 1962 Honda Cub (special editions sent to US dealers).
There were plenty of Brit –bikes, big American brands (Indian and Harley-Davidson), a rare MV Agusta street bike, BMWs, Ducatis of many flavors and bikes from the turn of the last Century in attendance to view and photograph at length.
Arlen Ness brought a rocket-shipped full custom creation which drew lots of looks, of course. A brace of veteran racers, now in their 80s-90s were there to sign posters and autographs, while a bevy of girls from the local Tilted Kilt brought their beauty to enhance the event.
I had assumed that rounding up a gang of vintage Japanese bikes from SoCal would be an easy task, but somehow the word didn’t get out and all most all the Japanese bikes were Honda-branded, apart from one beautifully restored H-1 Kawasaki Triple. If I am invited back again next year for judging, I will work with the promoters to gather up a larger selection of bikes from other marques which are representative of the 1950-60s Japanese bike era.
It was a beautiful day in Del Mar, with temperatures in the low 80s, under cloudless skies and a faint breeze from the nearby Pacific Ocean. I can’t think of a better venue to display such a fine selection of vintage motorcycles from the past 100+ years. If you are on the West Coast next October, make sure to take in this fine event. See slideshow for just a taste of the tasty bikes that were featured this year.