BRIT IRON #51
Hello again, friends. It’s been one helluva month. We drove a-day-and-a-half to Scottsdale AZ for Scottsdale Auction Week (classic cars), then to Las Vegas NV the next week for Motorcycle Auction Week. In between, we traced the ancient path of Route 66, and I threw out my back. Then I got the Yellow Bike running and I’m getting ready to go out on a ride with the BSA Club! Yow, what a month!
SCOTTSDALE AUCTION WEEK
As you may recall, the sister site to Classic-British-Motorcycles.com is American-Muscle-Cars.net. And just like I covered the Vegas motorcycle auction for my bike site, I covered Scottsdale Auction Week for American-Muscle-Cars.net. Before you have to ask, no I
wasn’t buying or selling. Just there to take pictures...lots and lots of pictures...and video...and live Facebook Feeds.
ABOVE: The action was nonstop at Barrett-Jackson.
Scottsdale Auction Week is one the THE big events in the Classic Car Year. It started when Barrett-Jackson Auctions, who are based in Scottsdale, began to grow their annual January auction into epic proportions. The draw of car buyers with money was so great that other auction companies began to show up during that same time each year to cash in on the action. It has grown over the years in the number of cars, days, and auction houses participating. This year it was 10 days long from January 13th through the 21st, a duration set by Barrett-Jackson, whose auction ran all those days. Sprinkled in throughout the week were a 5-day sale put on by Russo & Steele, and one-day sales by Bonhams, RM Sotheby’s, and Gooding & Co. The latter three were mostly high-priced European exotics. Cool stuff, but not my cup of tea. I’m into American
muscle cars basically, and classic American cars overall. Barrett-Jackson and Russo & Steele specialize in this sort of iron, so that’s where I spent most of my time.
ABOVE: Auction Week is like the world's biggest car show. Thousands of cars of every type, and they're all going be sold...or at least they'll try.
As mentioned, I’d managed to throw my back out just as we were leaving on this trip, driving the 700+ miles with sciatic pain shooting down my leg. The first week was pretty crappy, and while it slowed me down, I covered everything I planned to get during the week...while dragging one leg behind me. Tylenol and Coronas got me through. There was so much to see and do, especially at Barrett-Jackson, that I didn’t have time to think about my troubles. Everywhere you looked there was carguy eye-candy galore! Lots to do and see. Going to Scottsdale Auction Week was on my bucket list, something I always wanted to do. If you’re a carguy yourself, you should consider it.
The auctions themselves seemed a little soft this year. I didn’t see as much hot bidding and as many prices running up through the roof. Of
course there are always exceptions, and as usual, the high-end stuff went for crazy money. But the run-of-the-mill classics and muscle cars seemed to be going for decent prices (for the buyers), and some failed to sell. I was surprised given the optimism over the economy of late.
ROUTE 66 & GRAND CANYON
There are about 3 days between Scottsdale Auction Week and Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction Week. So my wife and I decided to go see the Grand Canyon. She’d never seen it and I hadn’t been there since I was small. We stayed in the town of Williams AZ, which has the distinction of being the last town along Route 66 to be bypassed by the interstate (in 1985). We’d already touched on Route 66 several times along our journey. We stayed in beautiful Needles CA right on the old Route 66, and ate in an authentic old Route 66 diner on our way to Scottsdale from home. Now, in Williams we
were again staying right on the old Route 66, in a classic old retro motel called “The Lodge on Route 66”. Fortunately, it had just been completely remodeled and while quite charming, was all new inside and very nice.
ABOVE: Me (Andy) and my wife Pam at the Rim of Grand Canyon. It was 30-degrees. We had on 6 layers of clothes trying to stay warm.
While Route 66 is a huge part of tiny Williams’ existence (there are 33 hotels in this 3,000-population town), the real lifeblood of the community is the Grand Canyon Railroad. Revived and run privately today, the train leaves Williams for the Grand Canyon Village every morning at 9:00 am and returns around 5:30pm. It’s a 2-hour ride each way. And what a ride. It starts with a staged Old West shootout at the train station before you get on. The train is very nice, and the first class cabin (I strongly urge you to go first class) had big comfortable seats, large picture windows, free snacks & beverages, and entertainment the whole way. We had a conductor who told jokes and kept it lively, then a singing cowboy with guitar in hands serenaded us and told jokes. On the way back, there was a train robbery also. All in good fun.
Grand Canyon itself was stupendous. Of course its so bloody big that you can only see little bits of it. From Grand Canyon Village the views are amazing, and the canyon is 10 miles across at that point, yet you’re only looking at a tiny offshoot of the big canyon which runs across your view. You can only see of the top edge of it, of course, because its nearly a mile deep at that point. My wife and I came away once again totally blown away by all the incredible things to see right here in America. We used to long to travel abroad, but no more. Things are too crazy over there anyway. And besides, we’d rather spread our money around at home, giving it back to other Americans. And there’s so much to see and do, where do you start? We used to think about those expensive European river cruises. Now, we’re considering a Mississippi River cruise, they’re totally cool. We plan to fly to Florida someday, attend the big Mecum Auction in Kissimmee, buy a classic convertible,
then spend a couple of weeks driving down the Florida Keys with the top down, just taking our time, stopping when we want. Like I say, where do you start?
What we didn’t realize was that we had climbed from the 1,500-foot elevation of Scottdale to 6,200 feet and the air was thin...and cold. It got down to 18-degrees that night. This whole Grand Canyon-thing had been an afterthought for us. We’d only brought clothes for Scottsdale and Vegas (70-degrees most of the time). We weren’t dressed for the cold, and we were going to be out in it all day long on the rim of the Canyon. So, we layered. I wore 2 T-shirts, one long-sleeved pullover, a flannel shirt, and sweat shirt and my jacket, along with 2 pairs of pants and 2 pairs of socks. I bought a hat and some gloves at the train station, and it wasn’t too bad. My wife bundled up the same way and he had a great time.
While in Williams, I picked up a book on Route 66, read it through and discovered yet
another passion of mine, along with another item I need to add to my bucket list. First off, we continued to explore Route 66 on our way home, hitting patches of it in Barstow again. What I’d really like to do when I retire is retrace as much of the old “Mother Road” as can still be done today, from Chicago where it starts, out to its terminus in Santa Monica CA. For now, I plan to build a section in American-Muscle-Cars.net devoted to Route 66. I’ll post my photos and videos, and welcome others who live near the Old Road or have traveled it to submit their own thoughts, words, pics and videos. I’m in the formative stages with it right now, but when I get ready to launch it, I’ll let you all know.
LAS VEGAS MOTORCYCLE AUCTION WEEK
ABOVE: Mecum planned to sell 1,750 bikes over 5 days!
I go every year to Vegas for this auction. It used to be the MidAmerica Auction, as they were the only ones in Vegas at the time. It used to be 2 or maybe 3 days with 500 to 700 or so bikes. Classic car auction giant Mecum Auctions bought out MidAmerica in 2014 and has been putting on bigger and bigger auctions every year ever since. This year they were up to 1,750 bikes over a 5-day sale. Where do you begin? For guys like us, this is heaven. And if you get there early in the week, like I do, there’s hardly anyone around so you can take your time and really ogle them. Or in my case, take lots of photos. Again, I wasn’t buying or selling, just taking tons of great pictures, videos and doing Live Feeds on my Facebook Page all week long.
ABOVE: Bonhams had far fewer bikes, but what a collection! Lots of old American iron along with some other stuff.
Bonhams also has a one-day sale each week on Thursday at the Rio, but this year they had only around 100 bikes. But they were obviously hand-selected because nearly every one was a top-quality, high-value piece. Very nice stuff, and this year they were in a much larger venue within the Rio, where last year they had twice as many bikes in a much smaller space, which caused problems. Mecums as always was at the South Point Resort & Casino, which is enormous. That’s where we stay every year. The auctions were great, Vegas was fantastic as always, I even snuck away for a quick tour of the Shelby Factory in Las Vegas. It’s free, and what a tour. If you love cars, you’ve gotta see the place where they build the Cobras and the Mustang Super Snakes. Check out the page on my site at www.american-muscle-cars.net/shelby-museum.html
And take in the entire Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction Week,with photos and more from by visiting my website at www.classic-british-motorcycles.com/2018-las-vegas-motorcycle-auction.html
YELLOW BIKE IS ON THE ROAD!
Last month I told you, and showed you how my good friend Andy Mattos helped me get the Yellow Bike started, for the first time in 9 years. After having built it from scratch, ridden it all over the place, won shows with it, made appearances in magazines, I sold it at the Vegas auction in 2009. I always regretted selling it, and got a lead last year that led to my finding it again and buying it back from the guy who bought it in Vegas. He never even started it in all this time. The same old gas was still in it, now turned into a solid blob of plastic. I had to rebuild the carbs, rework the fuel tank, new petcocks, new battery, tires, etc., and we got it started. That was the first step. But it still wasn’t ready to ride any distance.
ABOVE: Here you can see the 4-inch section I cut out of the middle of the stock '79 side cover.
I’d originally built Yellow Bike in around 2000, and it was intended to be the bike I could never afford to build when I was young. It turned out great. In 2004 I took it on a 350-mile (each way) cross country ride with the boys from Rabers down to Lake Cachuma for the annual British Motorcycle Rally. Backroads the whole way, no freeways. What a ride. But it taught me a lot about the bike, so when I got back I took it apart and made numerous improvements. What I ended up with as Yellow Bike 2.0. Way better but still not quite what I wanted. As such I took it to Cachuma again in 2006, wiped it down and won the Modified Class in the show,
against several 'trailer queens'. I rode it that way until I sold it in ’09. Now I’ve got it back, getting it running again, and it’s time to finish it up.
ABOVE: Now with the 4-inch section removed, I'm ready to fiberglass the two halves together from behind. You can see that the surfaces don't quite match, this will have to be corrected with lots of filing and bondo.
The main thing I wanted to do was work on the under-seat wiring area and the side covers. I’d fabricated my old side covers our of sheet aluminum, and while they looked okay and they did the job admirably, they also looked homemade. So, this time I vowed to fab some side covers that looked more like a factory-made piece. Bob Raber was nice enough to give me an old beat up set of side covers off of a ’79 T140D Bonneville Special. They had a nice shape to them, but were too long, stretching forward all the way to the carbs. On those post-’78 bikes (the smoggers), the carbs were set in parallel instead of splayed outward in the traditional way. The air cleaners under
the seat, and the ducting between the carbs and the air cleaners was ugly, and since the carbs were so close together, Triumph simply extended the side covers far enough forward to cover all the plumbing. Of course I have the old splayed carburetor setup, and pancake air cleaners, so I had to shorten the side covers by 4 inches. I cut them each in the proper spots, then fiberglassed the two halves back together on the backside. The shape of the front half wasn’t exactly the same as the back half, so some sanding and shaping along with some bondo was necessary, but they came out fantastic.
ABOVE: Here you can see the finished product...well, almost, it's not painted yet. But the side covers came out great. I rubber-mounted them, and mounted the new solid state rectifier under this right side cover and you can see how I mounted the coil, yellow wires and all. I love the look, and it frees up lots of space under my seat for storing stuff when I ride.
I also tidied up the wiring under the seat and remounted the coil from under the seat to a new bracket just behind the gearbox. I also eliminated my old Lucas rectifier and Zener Diode in favor of a new solid state unit, which I mounted under the right side cover, just behind the new coil location. The plug wires are also yellow, a nice bonus. The whole look is just what I was hoping for.
Of course, it’s largely black primer right now. The only yellow on Yellow Bike right now are the front and rear fenders. My new side covers and the tank are primered right now. I’ll worry about the looks
next month. For now I’ve got to get ready for this ride coming up.
RIO VISTA-DELTA RIDE
This is my favorite ride that the BSAOCNC (BSA Owners Club of NorCal) puts on. They do a ride every month rain or shine and this is one of them. Each year in February, we meet up in Rio Vista on the Sacramento River Delta, and start out riding up the west side of the Delta all the way to West Sacramento, then down the east side back to Rio. It’s gorgeous river country, with boats, and cute little towns, farms, vineyards, horses, lots of bridges and two ferries we have to use to cross. It’s a wonderful ride that usually consists of around 30 classic British bikes, some dating back to the 30s and 40s. 50s and 60s bikes are the norm. Breakdowns are common. And it’s all part of the experience. We all pull over and use our
ingenuity and whatever tools and parts we have with us to get them back on the road. And if we fail, the chase truck isn’t far behind. We do lunch in the little historic town of Locke, where Chinese workers lived in the 1800s when they were building the levy system that is the Sacramento River Delta today. This river system is the basis for California’s rich agriculture statewide, and just like they built the railroads, workers from China built it all. The whole town of Locke leans, having been built on silt. There’s a little old bar in the middle of town called “Al the Wops”, where we always stop for lunch and a cold one. Every table has a jar of peperoncini, peanut butter and marmalade. I know it sounds weird, but it actually doesn’t taste too bad. I don’t know who came up with it, or how it happened, but it’s a local favorite and when you go to Al’s you need to try one. I like it better without the marmalade.
Check out prior Rio Vista-Delta Rides, and
lots of other great rides I've gone on by visiting our Motorcycle Rides-page. So, I’ll be covering this trip and adding it to that page very soon. The ride is this coming Sunday, February 25 at leaves the Rio Vista Bridge Park at 10am. My buddy Andy Mattos is bringing his very original 1973 Triumph Bonneville, and I’m bringing my highly-modified ’73 Bonneville. It should be a good ride and a great day. I’ll be building a page about it and will let you know how to find it.
Well, that's all for now, friends. I'll be telling you all about this ride when we meet again. In them meantime, keep your eyes sharp and your powder dry. Be safe out there.