Classic motorcycles share the stage with classic cars in Monterey, California.
Mention the name Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance to anyone and they immediately will talk about visions of high end cars and snooty owners, or as Jay Leno once said, “Where billionaires learn to get along with millionaires.” For years motorcycles have been as much of the program as cars. Scratch a car enthusiast and you’ll usually find a motorcycle enthusiast. Every key event in Monterey has a two-wheel presence.
This year is the Centennial of BMW, and their motorcycles came to the forefront in many shows. (I always love annoying car owners by saying, “They made cars too?”) Friday at The Quail Motorsports Gathering, classic BMWs from 1927 to 1989 were in evidence. Rob Talbot’s stunning R47 racer was chosen by its peers as a winner. Brian Fuller’s Honda Four had many people examining the minute engravings that covered the bike, even its rims. Revival Cycles also had a café-d Velocette single. In May The Quail Motorcycle Gathering hosts close to 400 motorcycles in what has become the premier motorcycle event in the U.S.
On the other side of the Los Laureles Pass, Legends of the Autobahn has been the go-to show for classic German cars. This year BMW motorcycles had a large presence with an early BMW R32, an R52, an assortment of multicolored /2 BMWs, as well as several flavors of the R90S. This event was free as was the display at the Spanish Bay Lodge, where BMW had a large display of vintage motorcycles from the private Nettesheim collection in Long Island. The selection on view varied from an early unrestored R63 to /2 police bikes in green livery.
As some say, you get what you pay for. At the Pebble Beach Concours d’ Elegance there were 10 superlative vintage BMW motorcycles on display. How about a supercharged ex-Meir RS255?! Or an original BMW RS54 road racer, one of few sold for road racing, not sidecar racing, and believed to have been ridden by Ed LaBelle. Or feast your eyes on Robb Talbott's R37, one of five in existence, interspersed with several sidecar outfits from the 1930s and ’60s. A perfect original BMW R90S was the youngster on the field.
There are other venues here that feature motorcycles. Several are free. The Concours on the Avenue in Carmel has always had a motorcycle class. This year a Harley and Indian board tracker fought it out once again. In Pacific Grove The Little Car Show is always a big hit. This year several small Hondas were displayed as was a BMW with sidecar and even a few cycle-powered cars such as a Morgan three wheeler. Fantastic, but not free, the McCall’s Motorworks Revival, aka “Hanger Party” featured a litter of Manxs, as well as displays of Keanu Reeve’s and Brian Fuller’s handiwork.
In case you haven’t had your fill or are itching to buy, there were several auction companies with bikes on offer. Gooding and Company sold a 1974 Ducati 750SS for $176,000 including buyer’s premium. Mecum matched that number with a Brough Superior and sidecar for the same amount. Several Vincents were sold for reasonable money. Seven early BMWs were also there to try to cash in on the Centennial. If you’re a gearhead, Monterey in August is the place to be. If you’re a motorcyclist you can survive quite well, too.