Ton Up! Café Racers at Sturgis?

“Ton Up!” is the work of 12 artists and photographers, along with 35 cafe racers, on display in Sturgis, S.D.

| November/December 2013

  • Showroom floor at Sturgis
    A 50-year survey of café racers right in the heart of Sturgis Bike Week, cheek by jowl with 250,000 Harleys. The “Ton Up!” display.
    Photo By Erick Runyon
  • Side view of the 1982 Yamaha on display on Sturgis
    A 1982 Yamaha Virago SV920 built by Greg Hageman of Doc’s Chops.
    Photo By Erick Runyon
  • 1974 Ducati on display at Sturgis
    1974 Ducati 750GT “Full Sport” built by Bryan Fuller of Fuller Hot Rods.
    Photo By Erick Runyon
  • Shinya Kimura on display
    “Flash,” Shinya Kimura’s Ducati 750 round-case.
    Photo By Erick Runyon
  • Side view of the 1999
    Brad Richards of Ford Motor Co. built this 1999 “Sporty TT."
    Photo By Erick Runyon
  • Photographs by Michael Lichter
    A collection of photographs by Michael Lichter adorned the wall for the “Ton Up!” display.
    Photo By Erick Runyon
  • Cafe Racer on display at Sturgis Bike Week
    A 50-year survey of café racers right in the heart of Sturgis Bike Week, cheek by jowl with 250,000 Harleys. The “Ton Up!” display.
    Photo By Erick Runyon
  • Sturgis Bike Week
    A 50-year survey of café racers right in the heart of Sturgis Bike Week, cheek by jowl with 250,000 Harleys. The “Ton Up!” display.
    Photo By Erick Runyon
  • Bike display at Sturgis Bike Week
    A 50-year survey of café racers right in the heart of Sturgis Bike Week, cheek by jowl with 250,000 Harleys. The “Ton Up!” display.
    Photo By Erick Runyon

  • Showroom floor at Sturgis
  • Side view of the 1982 Yamaha on display on Sturgis
  • 1974 Ducati on display at Sturgis
  • Shinya Kimura on display
  • Side view of the 1999
  • Photographs by Michael Lichter
  • Cafe Racer on display at Sturgis Bike Week
  • Sturgis Bike Week
  • Bike display at Sturgis Bike Week
It was certainly unexpected: a 50-year survey of café racers right in the heart of Sturgis Bike Week, cheek by jowl with 250,000 Harleys. What might seem an odd venue made perfect sense to Willie G. Davidson, who sent his personal 1977 XLCR, Serial No. 1, to be a star of “Ton Up!,” sat on a plinth beside a Velocette Thruxton, amid 34 other café racers.

Photographer Michael Lichter has curated a “Motorcycles as Art” exhibit in Sturgis for 13 years; they are usually Harley-centric, but this year he wanted to explore café racers as a parallel universe to the custom Harley world. He invited me (Paul d’Orléans, aka The Vintagent) to co-host the “Ton Up!” exhibit.

Together, Michael and I assembled 35 bikes from across the U.S. and the work of 12 artists/photographers for the walls. Seven bikes were built exclusively for “Ton Up!,” including an amazing update of Willie G’s XLCR by Ray Drea, the new chief stylist at H-D. Loaded Gun Customs built a 1967 Triumph with a radical aluminum-plate chassis, and Steve “Brewdude” Garn built his own super light chassis for a Yamaha RD. Machines ranged from an original-paint 1962 Manx (displayed as the bike most café racers emulated), to NorVin, Triton, Gold Star, Thruxton, seven Harley based specials, CB customs and more. “Ton Up!” opened Aug. 5, with 1,280 attendees that day; everyone was blown away that these machines had come so far, literally and metaphorically. The exhibit will live on in a “Ton Up!” book, surveying 50 years of café racer history, with an emphasis on the post-Ace Cafe years. MC

Paul d’Orléans started a café racer club, the Roadholders, in San Francisco in the 1980s and was featured along with his lovely 1933 Velocette KTT Mk 4 in the July/August 2008 issue of Motorcycle Classics.



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