Back in the day: Brian Slark when he worked at Matchless, circa 1963. That’s Brian, fourth from left.
Former Matchless/Norton employee, motocross pioneer, bike restorer extraordinaire and Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum technical director/restoration consultant Brian Slark will be inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame as part of the 2012 AMA Legends Weekend at the Red Rock Resort in Las Vegas, Nev., Nov. 16-17, 2012.
“Brian Slark is a true renaissance man in the world of motorcycling,” said Jeffrey V. Heininger, chairman of the board of the American Motorcycle Heritage Foundation, which raises funds for the Hall of Fame. “Not only did he help create motocross in America, but he also created works of art while working at some well-known motorcycle museums. His expertise is second to none.”
Born in London, England, on Feb. 2, 1938, Slark was a moving force in the creation of a vibrant motocross-racing community in the United States during the 1960s. He helped organize motocross tracks, and promoted the sport by teaching famous people — including then-teen heartthrob Bobby Darin — to ride motorcycles. He also imported and built Rickman Metisse and Cheney motocrossers.
Slark later assisted the late Dave Mungenast — who is also a member of the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame — in the creation of a motorcycle museum in St. Louis. He then helped create the world-class Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum in Leeds, Ala. Slark also played a key role in setting up the bikes for the immensely popular “The Art of the Motorcycle” exhibit at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City in 1998, which later traveled to the Field Museum in Chicago and then Bilboa, Spain.
“As my wife said, for once I was absolutely speechless,” Slark said, reacting to the news that he would be inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame. “[Working with motorcycles is] something I’ve been doing nearly 60-plus years and I love it. I never ranked myself in the league of other people in the industry. I’ve just done what I love to do.”
Brian Slark (middle) with Motorcycle Classics’ editor Richard Backus (left) and former Moto Guzzi brand manager Rick Panattieri at the 2011 Barber Vintage Festival.
Slark said he is particularly humbled and honored that he is being inducted to the Hall of Fame where his longtime friend Mungenast is honored.
“Dave was an incredibly multi-talented person,” Slark said. “He did so much for kids and everybody. He was a mentor. He was a wonderful guy and a good friend. To be in the same league as Dave is an incredible compliment. I can’t express how I feel.”
Slark’s motorcycling career spans more than 60 years. It began in 1957 when he started work at Associated Motorcycles (AJS and Matchless) in London, England, testing and evaluating bikes. He soon moved to the factory race shop.
In 1964 he spent a year in California riding desert events and helping organize motocross tracks. His experience prompted him to move to California the following year.
In 1969, Slark managed the service and competition departments for Norton and AJS at the west coast factory facility. Later, he became marketing communications manager for Norton-Villiers and advised designers on models for the North American market.
Slark decided to strike out on his own in 1976, and he opened a British bike shop in Southern California. Two years later he became the volunteer technical editor for the International Norton Owners Association-a role he still holds today.
In 1986, Slark sold his bike shop and moved to St. Louis. Ten years later, he joined the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum as technical director and helped elevate the museum to its present position of the largest collection of motorcycles in the world. He remains in that post today.
Slark is the fourth member of the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame class of 2012 to be announced. He joins the late Rod Bush, KTM North America president and industry visionary; pioneering female motocrosser Sue Fish; and Jimmy Ellis, 1975 AMA Supercross champion. The remaining 2012 inductees will be announced in random order in the coming weeks.
The class of 2012 will officially be inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame on Nov. 16 as part of the AMA Legends Weekend. The weekend also includes the 2012 AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Dave Mungenast Memorial Concours d’Elegance on Saturday, Nov. 17, featuring many of the country’s most impressive original and restored classic motorcycles.
In addition to the current class, the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame induction ceremony shines the spotlight on two previously inducted members of the Hall of Fame, reminding the motorcycling community of the amazing careers of these Motorcycle Hall of Fame Legends. For 2012, the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Legends will be 1998 inductees Malcolm Smith, a pioneer in off-road motorcycling and a star in the motorcycle documentary “On Any Sunday,” and Mert Lawwill, the 1969 AMA Grand National Champion whose title defense was the central theme of the timeless film.
Tickets for the AMA Legends Weekend are now available through this online registration form: http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?oeidk=a07e5r7zy8ea4316694&llr=vw9ldxbab or by calling (800) 342-5464.
The AMA Legends Weekend will be held at the Las Vegas Red Rock Resort, a world-class spa, hotel and casino, featuring a range of entertainment, dining and family-friendly attractions. The facility’s expansive ballrooms provide a stunning backdrop for the AMA Legends Weekend. Room reservations are available now at a special group rate by calling (866) 767-7773 and referencing group code RCIAME or AMERICAN MOTORCYCLIST. Online room reservations are available at www.redrocklasvegas.com.
More information about the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame can be found atwww.motorcyclemuseum.org.