Classic Motorcycles at the 2009 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance!

Classic motorcycles have finally joined the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance - the most prestigious classic car show in North America.


| November/December 2009



Classic Motorcycles Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance - 1948 Vincent Lightning

This classic motorcycle, a 1948 Vincent Lightning, became known as the “Bathing Suit Bike” after a scantily-attired Roland “Rollie” Free hit 150.313mph riding it at Bonneville. Owner Herb Harris of Austin, Texas brought it to the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.

Photo by John Landstrom

For the past 59 years, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance has been considered the most prestigious classic car event in North America. And not just any car gets in, as the classics chosen to appear at Pebble Beach, Calif., are culled from the finest collections from around the world by a jury of automotive judges and historians.

Only the very best examples of the most rare, beautiful and significant motor cars are considered for display at Pebble Beach, so to exhibit here is to reach the top of the collector car hobby.
This year, for the first time ever, classic motorcycles were included in the Pebble Beach Concours. This was a milestone event in the collector motorcycle hobby, which has struggled for years to attain the same high profile respect that’s been afforded to classic cars for decades.

Famed marques such as Vincent, Triumph, AJS, BSA, Brough Superior and Ariel shared the field with iconic automotive classics like Duesenberg, Bugatti, Ferrari, Packard and Rolls Royce. As leather jackets brushed elbows with silk blazers, everyone had one thing in common, a mutual admiration for fine machinery. Pebble Beach is more than a car show, it’s a place to make a fashion statement, a place to declare one has arrived, and a place to appreciate and admire the finest rolling art that the designers, engineers and craftsmen of the 20th century have ever produced.

The Concours comes at the conclusion of a week’s worth of motoring activities; there are the Historic Races at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, The Quail Motorsports Gathering, Concorso Italiano (which also includes Italian motorcycles), five major auctions, and the 60-mile Tour d’Elegance. These are all significant events in their own right, but the event that everyone waits for is the Pebble Beach Concours.

At the crack of dawn on show day, cars — and now motorcycles — were driven onto the lawn and the 18th fairway of the Pebble Beach Lodge overlooking the Pacific Ocean. With their headlights barely breaking through the heavy morning fog, 175 cars and a handful of motorcycles struggled to find their designated places. The sound and sight of ancient engines churning to life, belching smoke through open exhaust pipes, and the smell of burning fossil fuels was enough to make any gear head’s hair stand up straight.

Fifteen motorcycles in all filled the field, participating in a theme of pre-1959 British Motorcycles. The top three finishers included the Barber museum’s 1954 AJS E-95 “Porcupine” (one of only four made), the 1947 Vincent-HRD Series B ex-works racer better known as “Gunga Din” (now in the care of Paul Pflugfelder, who calls himself simply the bike’s “current keeper”) and Theresa Worsch’s sidecar-equipped 1932 BSA W32-6. Rollie Free’s record-breaking Vincent Black Lightning, now owned by Herb Harris, was also on hand, and was actually ridden in the Tour d’Elegance by Alain deCadenet.





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