The Honor Guard at The Quail Motorcycle Gathering

Two Matchless G80 CS singles, towed with an Austin-Healey 100-6 and a vintage Allstate trailer, make a road run for The Quail.


As urban legend has it, the hamburger was a spontaneous pairing of a beef patty and a bun. Likewise, the Amphicar was a sly fitment of a Triumph drivetrain and propellers into a water-tight convertible to form a car and boat, all in one. And Alice Cooper, the mash-up of a minister’s son and a makeup mirror was … well, go watch Wayne’s World for details! Laud or lament these cultural icons as you please, but such disparate elements sometimes do yield splendidly offbeat successes. 

Might this include the odd quartet of barn-find vehicles seen here? Let’s take a visit. The beefsteak of 1950s English motorcycling, these 500cc Matchless G80 CS singles were among the first factory scramblers, a full decade before motocross arrived stateside. With aluminum engine cases, aluminum heads and magneto ignition, the big Matchboxes were simultaneously maximum and minimalist. Many, like these 1954 and 1955 models, were stripped of their lights, re-geared and reshod for offroad work, and then summarily trained America’s first generation of dirt riders. These two bikes were siblings, asleep at the back of a garage for nearly 50 years after their owner bought a new Yamaha RT1 in 1970.

The slinky black 1958 Austin-Healey 100-6 roadster endured a similar slumber — nearly 30 years in a garage after its owner withdrew from the world, closing the garage door and piling boxes and housewares atop and around the car. In its day though, 61 years ago the Big Healey (so-called, as it’s big brother to the Bugeye Sprite) was a formidable sports car, with a 2.6-liter, dual-carb inline six, a lightweight aluminum central body, and few creature comforts. And the little 1964 Allstate trailer? It was purchased new for $138 at a neighborhood Sears store by a gentleman who used it sparingly before retiring it in the side yard, where it sat for nearly a half century.

It’s not unusual, really, that such vehicles would be sidelined, squirreled away or forgotten over time. There must be millions of such cases across America. But what’s eerie is the common denominator of these four: Family men just like us bought and used the machines during their prime, and as they aged out of the game, they still retained them — right to the bitter end.

Which raises a question: Why do we connect so indelibly with machines, keeping and protecting them long after they can serve any real purpose for us? Some may call this hoarding, but I call it honoring. And so, in honor of their former owners, car racer friend (and classic motorcycle enthusiast) Randy Pobst, photographer Seth DeDoes and I decided to combine them for a trip to The Quail Motorcycle Gathering. The inspiration for this came from racer John Morton’s excellent book Inside Shelby American, where he describes using a Jaguar XK150 as a tow vehicle for his Lotus Super Seven race car during the early 1960s. “If a Jag can tow a car trailer, why can’t a Healey tow a bike trailer?” I thought. So we hatched a plan, and as Sergeant Friday drawled in Dragnet, “The story you are about to hear is true.”

9/10/2019 4:14:22 PM

Just to keep things accurate which this mag always does... The Austin Healey 100/6 was the "Big Brother" to the previous gen Austin Healey 100/4. A 2.6 liter 4 cyl engine that had industrial use in it's earlier life. Not the big brother to the Sprite.. Blue Strada

9/2/2019 1:23:11 AM

The Canadians did a heck of a lot more with the Rolls and race bikes in early 2000s, They were frequently photographed every where they went and appeared on many forums and media. I took pictures and posted them on the Oregon Vintage MC forum, and was astounded to see them in Portland at the Sandy Bandit-Cycle hub sale around 2002, but they traveled all over the US to Ohio, Atlanta, Utah and California for several years, where ever there was a AHRMA road race. I am told that yes, the Grey Poupon joke DID get old.

8/29/2019 2:07:38 PM

The picture of the 3000 pulling a couple of bikes made me laugh and brought back memories. In the early 70's, I rode a Yamaha DT-1B with Gyt kit "sponsored" by Houston Yamaha. We raced at tracks from Forest Hill, LA to Corpus Christi, TX, and I pulled my bike on a one rail trailer and trunk load of spares with my red 64 Mustang. It seemed as though everyone else had a van, but I had to be in a "sporty" car. When the 73 Triumph TR6(yes, a car- same engine as the 3000 in the photo) hit the market, I had to have one. You could hear the dealer screaming all over Texas when I told him that it had to have a trailer hitch and air conditioning!! He finally relented, and that season the little blue Triumph was seen all over Texas and Louisiana pulling the one rail trailer in AC comfort. 73 years and still at it - Moto Guzzi Griso, Honda RC 51, H1 Kawasaki, and a couple of CB 550's converted to cafe racers, Gerald Delaney pps please excuse my confusing a 3000 with your 100 - never could tell the diff.

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