Photography by Ron Kimball
Well, well, well…haven’t we come up in the world? This just in from the organizers of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, since 1950 the crown jewel of American classic-car shows. Now, it seems, motorcycles will be welcomed onto the golf course alongside Duzys, Rollers and Gullwing Mercs. ‘Bout bloody time, we say!
Wonder if bike and car nut Jay Leno had anything to do with this turn of events. It was Leno, a previous concours class winner, who said, “Isn’t Pebble Beach great? Where else can a simple millionaire like me compete with billionaires…?”
From the official press release:
The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the annual showcase for the most elegant automobiles on the planet, is inviting motorcycles to appear on its show field for the first time.
On Sunday, Aug. 16, amid the classic Bentleys, Bugattis and Ferraris, a select group of motorcycles, including Vincents, Brough Superiors, Nortons, BSAs, Velocettes, Triumphs, and Ariels, will debut on the 18th fairway of Pebble Beach Golf Links. This year’s class of motorcycles will focus on British bikes built through 1959, and collectors with unique and storied examples are invited to request an entry application (contact Sean Jacobs at email@example.com). Future motorcycle classes are also likely to focus on bikes from specific countries or regions.
“International interest in collecting classic motorcycles is on the rise, and we want to celebrate them and do all we can to support their preservation and restoration,” said Sandra Kasky Button, chairman of the Pebble Beach Concours. “These motorcycles will both complement and contrast the automobiles on our field. In a very real way, they expand on the history of the car; many early automakers started by making two- and three-wheelers—and some still do!”
Included among the British motorcycles heading to the 18th fairway will be two legendary Vincent HRD V-Twins—the famed 1947 works racing machine known affectionately as “Gunga Din” and a 1948 bike built for U.S. sportsman John Edgar and often nicknamed the “Bathing Suit Bike” due to the scant attire of its primary rider, Roland “Rollie” Free. Edgar hired Free to make the attempt at the Bonneville Salt Flats on Sept. 13, 1948. Free initially removed the bike seat and laid flat out on his stomach to minimize wind resistance, and when the stitching on his leathers failed and they began flapping in the breeze, he discarded them too, opting instead for a simple pair of tight bathing trunks, a swim cap, and a pair of tennis shoes. Tragedy could have been the result, but Free averaged a smoldering 150.313 mph, smashing the previous American speed record and establishing a new world record for unstreamlined and unsupercharged bikes.
The Edgar bike, now owned by Herb Harris of Austin, Texas, has had just two legal owners throughout its history. The works racer Gunga Din was not so lucky. After Vincent concluded production in 1955, its assets were sold, and Gunga Din eventually made its way to the United States. At one point in the late 1960s an owner began to dismantle the bike and sell off parts, but then enthusiast Keith Hazelton of Chicago stepped in to buy what remained of it and set about re-gathering its components.
“Keith saved this bike,” said the current owner Paul Pflugfelder of Concord, Mass., who is now completing its restoration. “Keith gathered the parts and began to piece it back together. I’m just the current keeper.”
The resurrected Gunga Din will get a chance to prove itself, alongside the John Edgar bike and others, on Aug. 16 when it comes under the eye of the judges at Pebble Beach. For more information and to purchase concours tickets, visit pebblebeachconcours.net.