The New Oldness

“They’re doing a little rally on those motorcycles they make, and I’m going to drive his old Ford F-1 pickup as a chase car.”

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Delivered via text message, those were the words that got me to this spot amongst a group of friends, a ’49 Ford F-1, and a bunch of…motorcycles?

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Well, technically, they’re considered “motorized bicycles”.

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They have a license plate, but no registration tags; it’s just a one-time $18 fee to register a motorized bicycle. Plus, they’re completely smog-exempt. The downside to this classification? California imposes a 30mph top speed, which is incredibly slow. Even with the tiny amount of horsepower these things make, they can easily exceed that. So, like any motorcycle club, there’s an element of rebellion here.

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These bikes are made by one man in his home shop here in Northern California, and their construction is impeccable. This is actually a prototype electric bike which, on this day, was using this mini-rally as a vehicle test.

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Sup dog! This furry little guy would be our companion on the front seat of the truck.

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After a quick meeting to confirm the route and riding etiquette, the rally was underway.

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We collected the little pupper and rolled out slowly in the Ford. By that time, the group of bikes had dusted us! The roads started off straight, but then progressed into rolling hills and curves.

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Due to a misunderstanding, we actually missed the first stop, which meant some inadvertent extra cruising through some twisties. Then we reached the half-way/turn-around point at the entrance to the park.

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I love this truck. I grew up cruising around in my dad’s ’36 Ford pickup hot rod hauling 60’s and 70’s Japanese bikes, so far from being a wild new experience, it actually felt familiar and comfortable.

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As for the truck, it was right at home too. Back in the 40’s the interstate highway system hadn’t been developed yet, so this truck was designed mainly for moderate speeds on slower roads–just like the two-lane roads out here in rural northern California.

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Those are some awesome gauges, but not a single one was hooked up except the tachometer. Luckily, there was an auxiliary pod of gauges below the dash that showed water temp, fuel level, and oil pressure, so it’s not like we were flying blind. Except for the speedometer, that is. But a quick GPS-verified check on our speed showed that 55mph felt fast, so it was highly unlikely we’d be going much quicker than that.

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And then they arrived!

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They all parked up on the side of the road to relax and chill out for a while, which gave me some time to look over the bikes.

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So what the heck are these things anyway?

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Well, it’s called a Sportsman Flyer, but there are a few other models too (this red one is a Bonneville Flyer, which is a more powerful version). They’re heavily influenced by old board track racers from the 1910’s, particularly Indians, which is why this dude’s bike was decked out in a few Indian parts.

1913 Indian board track racer

See the resemblance?

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No air filter needed, because as Jay Leno says, “air was a lot cleaner back then.” 😉

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And then the electric bike arrived! Her testing procedure involved a steady 30mph cruise, and the length of the rally could only be described as perfect: she ran out of charge just as she was rolling into the entrance to the park. Watch that shoelace though!

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Lately the hip thing in design seems to be looking toward the past for inspiration. Even though this is a brand new electric bicycle, it has an awesome vintage aesthetic. World’s coolest electric moped? I think so.

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The other chase truck rolled up carrying supplies, an extra bike, and some family members, so it was officially time for a very crucial part of any rally: hanging out on the side of the road!

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Beverages and snacks were consumed, stories were told, and laughs were had.

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I actually had to wait a while for this moment, but finally the bikes were alone!

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Pretty cool lineup. I like how the bikes are generally similar, but each one has its own suite of details that distinguish it from all the others.

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My only regret on the day was not spending more time on the details. They’re very well built with plenty of interesting touches. Like this friction damper, which is adjusted by simply tightening or loosening that bolt. And the material in the middle? Leather, exactly like in the good ol’ days.

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The seats are another period correct detail. It’s funny to me how normal bicycle seats have such an ugly connotation; not only is the standard bicycle seat a phallic nightmare of aesthetics, it conjures imagery of Lycra-clad fitness enthusiasts clogging up twisty mountain roads. But take the same seat, cover it in saddle leather, and add those skirts on the side? All of the sudden you’ve got a classic motorcycle! Am I the only one who feels that way?

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At this point there was some bike sharing, which is another fun part about going on rides like these.

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Another cool detail is this portable electric starter. You can start these bikes by the usual moped way of pedaling, and they actually do have onboard electric starters. But the coolest way to get going has to be using this portable starter that’s normally intended for the racing bikes.

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We eventually rolled out of there, and this time we managed to stay close to the bikes.

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There was another little stop at a huge, dirty turnout in the middle of a valley.

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Even though it was deep into April, the hills were remarkably green; normally by March in Northern California the vegetation is dry as a bone. The only reason I bring it up now is because I got two socks full of that nasty foxtail barley for that shot!

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I’ve always thought wearing nothing less than a full-face helmet on a motorcycle seemed like an absolute no-brainer, especially in California where there are quite a few bugs flying around. It blows my mind when I travel to other states that don’t have helmet laws; the number of dudes I’ve seen riding with nothing more than hair on their head is absurd.

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The last stop was supposed to be here, where we’d eat tacos on the patio and look at the bikes. But when we arrived just after 2:30, they were already closed! Banker hours, even on Saturday, eh?

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Oh well, it wasn’t a huge loss. The start/end point for the rally was actually in the parking lot of a restaurant, so we ended up just eating there instead.

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This day went to 13! I had such a blast just hanging out on a beautiful day. Sometimes I think people try to do too much in the pursuit of adventure, but I think this movie cliché sums it up well: “Life moves pretty fast; if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Return of the Barn Find: Pebble Beach 2016 (part 2)

If you haven’t yet read the original Pebble Beach 2016 “barn find” post below this one, make sure to scroll down and check that out first. What follows is the rest of the photos from that original 2016 post, but written now in 2017 to give some closure to the coverage I never finished.

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They’re watching you. Quite literally, in fact–I peeked up at one point to see an ominous figure keeping track of the people below. When you have hundreds of millions of dollars worth of cars being swarmed by thousands of people who are drunk before brunch, it makes sense to have people keeping an eye on the proceedings.

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Here’s a “station wagon” for you. You get picked up from the station, throw your bags on top, and you can even stand up inside.

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These days, there’s not much artistry under the hood. Back in the day, every facet of the best cars was painstakingly designed.

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How many of these cars are actually restored to be nicer than when they originally came out? Sometimes I feel that’s a bit of a shame, because then it’s not a time capsule, it’s just a modern recreation.

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This was the most immaculate black paint I have ever seen in my entire life.

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Another spectacular engine bay, this time in a Rolls Royce.

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With its big sexy curves, the MkIV GT40 stands alone. It almost doesn’t even look like a GT40 anymore.

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This one was a bit “rougher” and all the better for it. Race cars aren’t perfect, and neither was this.

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This show was themed around the 50th anniversary of the GT40 winning Le Mans, so there was no shortage of GT40’s there.

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The car went through many evolutions; check out the scoops on this MkII.

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In my opinion this is one of the most beautiful race cars of all time, in probably the most beautiful era for race car design.

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Although there were a lot of beautiful designs out there before impact bumpers came on the scene and ruined everything.

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Here’s the inside of another Miura. Very basic, and yet super cool.

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I peeked inside this Auburn and noticed something on the dash…

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101 miles per hour in the ’30s. Not too shabby.

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Sometimes it’s amazing that certain cars even exist, like this 1937 Bugatti. Who would have bought this car at that time, and how did it survive the war?

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Ahh, the Ferrari 330 P4. This or the GT40? Hard to say.

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Right hand drive since Le Mans and most European tracks run clock-wise.

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Police-spec BMW Isetta, which seems a bit odd now, but maybe in Germany in 1961 it had a purpose.

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Here’s the E9 CSL from the other post, but this time with its spoiler on.

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These old gliders look fast even going just a few miles per hour.

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You hardly ever get to see cars like this motion, which is why so many people show up for “dawn patrol”, as well as these events where the cars are driven to accept their awards.

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Impossibly low Bizzarrini P538 Can-Am.

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Who needs seatbelts, right?

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Wonderful Iso Grifo racer with two laughing gentlemen.

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One of my favorite 50’s race cars is the Maserati “Bird Cage”, so called because of its intricate tube frame.

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Seriously, wow. It’s more like a bird’s skeleton compared to most race car frames of the time.

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I returned back to the McLaren tent, where the party was in full swing. I recognized clients from my own dealership, as well as celebrities from the internet and beyond; here’s CJ Wilson chatting with David Lee.

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I also saw Alex Roy standing in line for drinks. And in a “small world” twist, I found out that one of my coworkers used to party with him years ago in their younger days.

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McLaren really had a prime location, right over the heart of the lawn.

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We gathered at the stage because the yellow Ferrari 275 would be up for an award. It was my coworker’s uncle’s car, who also happened to own the entire dealership group I worked at, so we had a bit more emotional stake in it.

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But right after they staged the Ferraris, proceedings were halted. Then Jay Leno came on stage and did a pretty funny monologue, which he segued into a fundraising auction-type event. It was a couple months before the 2016 election, so his material was mostly political as you’d expect, but he kept the crowd laughing.

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After that, we took the shuttle bus back out to the area we had parked and strolled down to the beach. What you can’t really see in this angle are the dozens of seals (or sea lions?) and hundreds of birds perched on that rock! It must feel like quite the safe place for the animals chilling there. Click here for the full size of a closer shot and you can almost see them.

And that was that! It only took me 7 months to get these photos out, but better late than never, right?