The story of their 80+ year(?) survival is likely more interesting then the part itself.
The story of their 80+ year(?) survival is likely more interesting then the part itself.
The story could be quite interesting. There is likely still the odd olive green set out there still packed in cosmoline . Probably acquired by some squirrel from a HD dealer that closed down.... thinking someday heís going to use it. Iíve acquired a few odds and ends from dealers closing or dropping lines..... only Harley stuff was a few NOS 45 etc owners manuals that are still around here somewhere. I suspect youíll see quite a bit of stuff (like those forks) popping up as all the old baby boomer squirrels kick the bucket. I went to a swap meet in Washington recently and Iím sure 3/4 of folks were wearing depends.
Looking at what is going through Mecum's in January, dreaming. Not looking for Harley the forks just made me wonder about how many "well I bought them for a... and never used them" they represent in the decades of bent bikes and customizers they've seen.
a couple of years ago Dixie finally had a sale to dump what old remaining stock they had. Dixie, for the youngin's is like what tucker rockey or parts unlimited are now, before there was an internet. Think of like the JC whitney of motorcycles, except they got their start by buying all the old Harley war surplus from WWII, and then buying old dealers out of their flathead, knuckle, and pan head stock. When they had their sale a couple of years ago (2015 I think?) they had nos helmets from the 70's, riding stuff, crates of redwing shocks, 70's honda chopper stuff, and the usual fare, but they also had tons of that old war surplus that was hanging about as well. Lots of that stuff sold for pennies in bulk, including the WWII harley parts, and from what I heard there was some interesting stuff there.
I don't know how good a "story" it is what with the plot mostly being "bought in the 1950's, sat in an old warehouse forever, then sold just so it wouldn't get throw in a dumpster" but I guess it is interesting. There is a lot more out there than you think thanks to hoarder mentality of the baby boomer generation. With NOS and dealer stuff you have to be super careful though - I've looked a more than a few "inventories" from closed honda dealerships, and after the liquidators are done with them a lot of it is usually warranty take off stuff that was defective. I look at a lot of farm and estate auctions online these days and it shocks me how often someone will have a whole multibrand dealer inventory from 40 years ago in their tractor shed or barn, just because it was sold cheap at some farmers auction back then and then they never did anything with it.
What really surprises me though is the hoarder nature of a lot of these guys. A lot of them "fancy" themselves as traders and brokers of old parts and vehicles (esp cars), but often they don't sell anything and are buying voraciously anything they see as cheap (even if the market has tanked and they are overpaying). They won't come off their price for anything. Recently through word of mouth I went to go look at an old bike collection. Dude is in his late 70's and had some health problems (he took a fall). Most of the bikes were 1990's wide tire, tribal painted choppers (including a supercharged evo) with equally dated 1990's price tags, but he had a "restored" panhead in the lot. I say restored because it was restored 7 years ago, they put 50 shakedown miles on the thing, and then parked it for 7 years. It was painted the right scheme, but the hi-fi blue color was not correct, it had the wrong speedometer, a couple of reproduction parts including the tanks (which are also incorrect for an accurate resto). the price? $20K. I managed to get him down to $15K based on the fact that it had 2" of dust and was sitting on 2 flat whitewall tires that were starting to show cracks I would have to take the risk that the bike would even turn over and not be rusty inside. I have been looking at all the bike auctions (mecum, bonhams, ebay...etc...) and not only has the price for panheads been falling in the last couple of years but $15K would buy you a nice clean, correct original running bike at the last two mecum auctions. showed him all this info but he wasn't budging off the bike. I'd say, I hope his heirs enjoy selling it but I think his wife and son drank the same kool-aid. no just so you don't think I was a rat bastard lowballing him with $10K offers, I thought - for a bike that needed $3K in correct parts and a paint job to be a $15K bike $12,500 was a fair price and was even willing to come up a little, from that. It's still there, sitting on 2 flats.
At least I can say that out of the stuff I bought, I turned over most of what I knew I would never use and put a dent in the "some day I'm going to use that" pile. Some I hung onto for trade bait. I actually had things totally under control until my brother decided to cash in his chips a few years back....so back to having way too much shit. I'm sure a version of your pan head example is being played out thousands of times over. Add in the fact that very few of the younger folk have much interest in pre 70's stuff. I suppose partly because some had a maintenance/repair/ride ratio comparable to a Sea King helicopter.
honestly, I have to say...the decline in "vintage" stuff is a product of it's own success. Right now there are so many affordable retro bikes on the market, why would any "youngin'" looking to ride buy an old bike as a first bike when they can finance a triumph/Royal Enfield/kawasaki/harley-davidson/yamaha that comes with a warranty? I am actually falling victim to this myself, my trusty regular rider 1975 cb750 has started to become a little finicky about the backlog of maintenance I haven't been doing on the thing. I mean it's a fair complaint from the machine - some days I treat it like a 1982 chevette with 2 different color body panels and a dent in the door, because as long as it runs and gets me where I need who cares right? After demo riding the new RE 650 continental GT at the AIMExpo, I'm sold on buying one.....as soon as my city gets a dealership. At which point I will press it into regular rider service and finally put in the time on my honda to make it reliable again.
Sure I could buy something really cool and vintage for the $6K they are asking, maybe a norton or a /2 bmw (because yes the prices have fallen to that level) but why? I kinda want a bike I can ride and not care about and it's harder to do that with a vintage bike, even one as forgiving as a honda.
I have been accused of being a hoarder in the past by my friends, esp when I lived in NYC. Truth is I gave away a lot of stuff too, and sold plenty, sometimes at a loss, but because I had stuff I wanted to keep (and sometimes more than I had space to store), people were fond of calling me that. So maybe I am being a little unfair to those old timers who just would really rather let their heirs deal with it than meet me at my price....but I don't think all that unfair. I've been to farms here that have had 20+ cars in fields and the cars were nice enough to restore when they got put in there. I bought a bike last year out of a barn that had motorcycles stacked up like cord wood and only when the old timer moved to AZ and couldn't take them with him did he sell. Yeah at one point I had 22 motorcycles, but 22 motorcycles (where 1/3 of them ran) isn't the same as 20 field cars + half a dozen motorcycles + broken old farm equipment + antiques like you see at these auctions.
I would whole heartedly agree that they should be avoided as a first bike... and quite frankly they should be avoided at all costs by most of the folk that have been consuming the Cafe racer Kool-Aid. It doesn't really make sense for most to have one as a daily rider although there are a few local folks who have pre 60's stuff and wouldn't think twice about heading out on a 500mile ride just for fun. Wearing a monkey suit and commuting to work on a Commando wouldn't be my cup of tea either.
Just makes me wonder (and a bit sad) when I think about what is going to happen to this stuff. I can understand the Enfield and wouldn't be surprised if one ended up in my possession, although I would much prefer riding something like one of these. My first choice would be the Inter because it has open hairpin valve springs and pisses oil all over your pant legs. They certainly have more soul and personality than the newer stuff. Not sure most folk even understand what I mean by that.
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I once heard someone once describe "soul" or "mechanical sympathy" as the flaws in a machine that people ascribe human characteristics to. It has always stuck with me, and I find it kind of funny. yes every bike has a certain experience it delivers, and yes older bikes tend to be more "viceral", but a lot of that is dependent on how good the modern stuff works as well.
When I first started riding, all the brit bike guys and the harley guys told me that honda inline fours have no soul. What they really meant is they don't vibrate enough to make your taint tingle and don't break down often enough to make you really bond with it when you fix it roadside to get home (because every breakdown is an adventure). Now all I hear about from people transitioning from new bikes to old cb750s is how much soul it has and how analog it feels. Plus they are old enough that now they break down once in a while...so....it's all perspective.
I would 100% ride a norton commando, or kawi triple, or a cb750 on my daily commute (that's why they invented overpants or chaps, right?) what is shying me away is how much work I need to put into the bike to keep riding it on my daily commute. for 20 years I got away with doing very little to keep racking up miles on a cb750, now I am having to do more and my solution is to buy something new that looks 100% the part and requires less garage time.
Not sure I could ever think of a CB750 having all that much of a soul. I suppose a CR750 might do the trick. BTW I’m not anti CB by any means... Never thought about a tingling taint being a quantifier of soul.
Actually.. I suppose I could ride a Commando as long as it had a reliable electric leg. Think I’ve mentioned before I had a kick starter pawl snap mid stroke once and I still occasionally wake up screaming. Kawasaki triple would be fine too as long as I wasn’t spending much time in traffic.
Anyway... I’m starting to feel like one of those old farts sitting in the balcony on the Muppets show and need to get back to assembling those mounds of shit I have in the garage.