The LeMay — America’s Car Museum, celebrates 90 years of BMW motorcycles with its The Meet at ACM.
Mix it up. If there’s one thing the The LeMay: America's Car Museum appreciates it’s the value of variety, a fact amply proven by the museum’s eclectic, 350-strong collection of special interest automobiles.
The cars at the Tacoma, Wash., museum span the gamut of the automotive universe, ranging from a 1919 Stanley Steamer to a 1983 DeLorean DMC 12. In between you’ll find Ferraris, a Tucker, Lincolns and Triumphs. But for two days this past August, the car-centric LeMay’s embrace of variety stretched to encompass vintage machines of the two-wheeled kind.
Although first and foremost a vintage car museum, just two months after its June 2012 opening the museum hosted the Meet at the Ace Vintage Motorcycle Festival, drawing 200 classic motorcycles and 10 times as many vintage motorcycle enthusiasts. The dust had hardly settled from that event before the museum started making plans for 2013. Held August 24-25, 2013, The Meet at the LeMay was an even bigger success than 2012, with 300-plus vintage bikes spread out across Haub Family Field and an estimated 5,000 vintage bike enthusiasts taking it all in.
This year’s meet celebrated 90 years since BMW turned out its first production motorcycle, the 1923 R32, whose horizontally opposed twin cylinders and shaft drive set a pattern BMW still follows today. The event inspired a strong showing of vintage airheads, with Gary Lewis’ fantastic 1925 R37, one of just 152 made in 1925-1926, nabbing top honors in the European Prewar class. Much to the delight of attendees, Lewis fired up the raucous-sounding R37 and rode it on the drive ringing Haub Family Field.
As part of the BMW celebration, Kevin and Barb Brooks of Seattle-based Brooks Motor Works joined the Motorcycle Classics tent with a couple of their record-breaking Bonneville BMW racers, on hand for Kevin’s morning seminar on the challenges of racing on the salt. Kevin and the Flying Fox Racing Team have set numerous Land Speed Records on vintage BMWs. Other notable Beemers included Jim Knauft’s beautiful 1956 R26 and Steve Prokop’s immaculate 1973 R75/5.
It wasn’t all BMW of course, with an impressive selection of pre- and postwar American iron, including the spectacular 1913 Jefferson board track racer brought by Antique Cycle NW of Mercer Island, Wash. With a patina that only comes with age and originality, the Jefferson rightly won the show’s Best Unrestored award. Joe Palkovich’s fastidiously restored 1954 Harley Hydra Glide took top honors in American Postwar. Pete Mafteiu’s fantastic 1936/1941 Harley Knucklehead took third in American Prewar. Never restored, it was bought by his father in 1960 for $50 and features a 1936 engine in a 1941 frame.
Italian iron was particularly well-represented, thanks in no small part to the huge selection of vintage Ducatis displayed by the Silverman Museum Collection. The collection’s circa 1953 Ceccato, powered by a 125cc overhead cam single penned by Fabio Taglioni before he went on to his illustrious career with Ducati, took top honors, winning Best of Show.
The Puget Sound Trialers put on a great performance next to the museum, and the Seattle Cossacks Motorcycle Stunt and Drill Team, whose 10-strong riders perform exclusively on 1930s and 1940s Harley-Davidsons, made several appearances on the field. Kevin Brooks gave an afternoon seminar on defining motorcycle restoration before the day wrapped up with the final awards ceremony.
That was almost the end of the weekend, but not quite, because the smart ones — some 100-plus as it turned out — stayed for the Sunday Ride, a beautiful 80-mile romp through the surrounding countryside concluding with lunch on the Haub Family Field.
The Meet at the LeMay is definitely coming back, and with any luck they’ll stretch it out an extra day. The museum is a must see, but with everything going on out on the field it can be a real challenge finding the time to work everything in. MC