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Little Bikes Go Over Big at Amelia Island in 2016

Bikes at Amelia Island

Preliminary lineup of bikes.

March 13, 2016, was the 21st anniversary of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in Amelia Island, Florida. Amelia Island has always had a motorcycle class included in the Concours, and each year a theme is selected and appropriate bikes are sourced and invited. This year’s theme was Italian motorcycles under 175cc — “Jewels of the Motor Valley,” which is in the Emilia Romagna region of Northern Italy and home to Ferrari, Lamborghini, Ducati, Maserati ... and a gear head’s Silicon Valley.

It is hard to remember that these small bikes were once considered big in postwar Italy. But while small in displacement, they are still large in style. Many give the appearance of a small racer, with clip-on handlebars and rear-set foot controls. Until 1957 these types of bikes ruled the Italian racing scene in cross-country events such as the Moto Giro. Win the Moto Giro on Sunday; sell the bike on Monday!

Sadly, those types of events were outlawed due to the hazards of cross-country racing. The legacy of these tiddlers remains in honor of a time when there was even a 50cc class, a highly competitive class thanks to the ever growing scooter market. Innovation ranked high among manufacturers in postwar Italy. Given the scarcity and premium paid for gas, small bikes had to deliver maximum power. Dual overhead camshafts, pressed steel frames that guaranteed strength and lightness, and bevel drives (a complex but efficient and reliable way to drive camshafts) were standard in these Italian bikes made in the Fifties.

Rich Lambrecht's 1949 Mondial 125S

Rich Lambrecht’s award winning 1949 Mondial 125S.

At Amelia, Rich Lambrecht’s 1949 double overhead camshaft Mondial 125S with its pressed steel forks, somewhat akin to Vincent’s Girdraulic fork, was a marvel. A plunger suspension in 1949 was very innovative and the engine was capable of taking the bike to 100mph, if you could hang on! No wonder the judges awarded it first place in class. Rob Talbot from Moto Talbot museum brought out his 1953 Capriolo with its small engine and pressed steel frame. Rob was the recipient of the Amelia “Wind in Your Face Award.” Amelia doesn’t award second and third place awards, but rather “Amelia Awards.”

Yet just to be there was to be a winner. The Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum displayed its 50cc Italjet Deluxe for an award. Also Vintage Motos Museum’s 1968 Guazzoni Matta 50 was a winner and an excellent preservation example. Finally, Peter Calles’ 1954 MV Disco Volante 175 was another winner. This bike pays homage to the Fifties Italian obsession for flying saucers — literally translated, flying discs.

Of course the real winners were the spectators, who got to see a field of rarely seen and stunningly beautiful small Italian bikes. Next year’s event is scheduled for March 12, 2017.

Somer Hooker is an internationally recognized Vincent specialist and vintage motorcycle broker.

Peter Calles' 175 MV Agusta

Peter Calles 175 MV Agusta “Disco Volante.”

Rob Talbot's 1953 Capriolo

Rob Talbot’s 1953 Capriolo. Easy to see yourself tucked in with those clip-ons if you were 14!

Brian Slark with judges and a 1965 Italjet

Brian Slark with judges and the Barber Vintage Motorsports entry, a 1965 50cc Italjet. Left to right: Dale Walksler, Brian Slark, Vicki Smith and John Duss.

1968 Guazzoni Matta 50

Vintage Motos Museum’s 1968 Guazzoni Matta 50.