ABOUT US: Andy Tallone and the award-winning Yellow Bike
during a ride through the redwoods in the Santa Cruz Mountains. This shot was taken in San Gregorio CA.
ABOUT US: About this Site
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Classic British Motorcycles.com is a site built by enthusiasts,for enthusiasts. It is the culmination of my life's passion: Classic British Motorcycles (duh...). It is intended to be an online catalog or index of all Brit bikes (except for some obscure or low-volume brands), with eye-popping photos, specifications, history, stories & more. But it will go well beyond just the motorcycles themselves. We will be covering events, auctions, rallies & shows that pertain to Classic British Motorcycles. We will check out museums, racing venues, historical sites. And we will meet & interview interesting people with something to say about our beloved Brit bikes.THE BOOM-BUST CYCLE
It is my firm belief that Classic British Motorcycles are under-appreciated & under-valued today, but that this is poised for a change. Street Rods came & went, Classic Cars boomed & busted with the dot.com-ers, Harleys had their run, & now the Chopper boom is just coming to an end (Jesse James having both kicked it off & put the final nail in its coffin). The next BIG BOOM is right around the corner & I believe it's poised to be CLASSIC MOTORCYCLES.
But we're not here just to "ride the wave" when it hits, we want to help it along, by bringing new people in, by making quality information available to the people already in & by bringing like-minded people together to learn from each other & network. In other words, we want to attract the right people for the right reasons. The people who should be here, and will remain even after the boom has busted. Unlike the 'speculators', who swoop in for the lure of quick profits, drive prices up, push
HOW TO USE THIS SITE
is arranged by make, then by model, then by year. The sheer numbers of motorcycles that entails is staggering, not to mention all the sub-classes, special editions & racing versions, etc. We have tried to present it all logically & in a format that is easy to figure out & use. It's not perfect & some models don't fit nicely into a system.
The Triumph TR6
, for instance, has been both a Triumph Trophy
& a Triumph Tiger
. But not all Tigers & Trophies are TR6s. They overlap. We will do our best to keep things simple & straightforward & will generally ere on more rather than less information. We will endeavor to deliver the best, most eye-popping photos of the greatest bikes ever, with more history, specs, inside stories & interviews.
To use this site, first select a marque (brand of manufacturer), such as Triumph
. Once on the Triumph Motorcycles
page, find the model you're interested in, such as Bonneville
. From there, you can either select a given model year, or a sub-class, in this case Pre-Unit Construction
, Unit Construction
, then on to the individual model years within each of those sub-classes. 1965 Triumph Bonneville
, for instance.
We're adding more content, more photos, more bikes all the time & we're growing fast. Please be patient with us as we grow & evolve. And please keep checking back. Thank you.
ABOVE: Andy Tallone (that's me) on a friend's Honda C90 in 1970, riding in the dirt with my cowboy boots on. And check out that Triumph logo on my T-shirt! Even then...
My Background with BRITISH BIKES
My name is Andy Tallone. Welcome to my website. Classic-British-Motorcycles.com is the embodiment of one of my life's greatest passions. Brit Bikes have been in my blood since I was old enough to drive.
I grew up in the small Central Valley town of Hanford, California in the 1960s. It was a great time & place to grow up. There wasn't much ready-made entertainment in a small town in those days, & many a young man turned to cars & motorcycles for fun & some made it a way of life. I was one of the latter.NEVER TOO YOUNG TO RIDE
In the late 60s in small towns all across America, there was this strange unwritten law that if you weren't old enough to drive legally, you simply pulled the license plates off a small motorcycle, called it a 'dirt bike' & pretty much went where you wanted, as long as you were fairly discrete. For instance, to get across town, I'd ride to the end of my street, ride about a mile down a dirt road next to a cotton field, to the railroad tracks. I could then follow the tracks all the way to downtown Hanford, then maneuver through alleys & whatnot to get anywhere I needed to go. No one seemed to notice or care, not even the cops! Ah, it was a simpler time, then...MY FIRST BIKE
My first bike was a 1965 Honda 55 with a step-through frame. All my friends had bikes since they were 10 or 12, I got mine at 14. I rode it until the frame broke. Next I got a 1967 Honda 160, what a great bike. It was fast, light & trouble-free. I was 15-1/2 & just got my learner's permit.MY FIRST TRIUMPH
Two of my buddies got Triumph 650s & suddenly my Honda 160 seemed small & underpowered. It took all I could do to parley the $650 together to buy my first British bike, a 1964 Triumph TR6 & a real piece of crap. It was what we would call today a "bobber". It had a chromed, bobbed rear fender, tiny peanut tank, a banana seat & gobs of chrome. But it was worn out from the start & I soon tore it down to fix it. This then evolved into a full conversion (attempted) into what we would call today an "old school chopper". But of course, I had no money. So mostly I tore it down, but couldn't afford to put it back together again.THE CLAW
Around this time I met Ron Clawson. At the time, "The Claw" was running a shadetree motorcycle repair shop out of his one-car garage at his house & he was THE MAN when it came to British bikes in Hanford. His tiny garage & yard were crammed with bikes & parts. On top of this, he was selling new Hodakas. Back then, if you bought 2 Hodakas at once, they made you a dealer! Ron helped me immensely with my Triumph chopper project.LIFE IN A MOTORCYCLE SHOP
Soon, he had outgrown his garage & he moved into a large metal building just outside town, with a house next to it that he & his wife moved into. The shop was huge & at first way bigger than he needed. What had packed his garage to the ceiling now barely filled one small corner. I started working for him about this time, as a mechanic. I had a lot to learn but I must have been able to do something worthwhile. I helped out with everything that needed to be done. In his effort to expand, The Claw took on yet another major franchise: Bridgestone. Not Bridgestone Tires, Bridgestone Motorcycles. They were Japanese two-stroke twins (175, 250 & 350 I think) that were actually pretty good road bikes. I guess he needed some bikes to sell & he was too small & didn't have the big bucks necessary to secure a truly major franchise like one of the Japanese Big 4. So, we sold Hodakas & Bridgestones along with some used British bikes & we did OK.1971 TRIUMPHS ARRIVE
This was right around the end of 1970 & the British Motorcycle Industry was in turmoil, although no one actually knew it yet. Just a few months earlier, a small dealer like Ron Clawson couldn't touch a Triumph
, or Norton
franchise. But, they were now begging for dealers. Suddenly, Clawson's Motorcycles was a Triumph-BSA-Norton Dealer, just in time to get the first shipment of 1971 Oil-in-Frame Triumph Bonnevilles
. Just about the time we got all our Triumph, BSA & Norton stuff hung up, BSA (parent company to Triumph) was on the ropes. Triumph & Norton soon followed. It was sad really. The once-might British Motorcycle Industry was crumbling before my eyes!CARABELLA
Around this same time, Ron found yet another obscure brand to carry: Carabella Motorcycles, made in Mexico! Yep, and I bought one! A bright red Carabella 125 Calienta motocrosser. Ron bought a new Carabella 200 Carerra & we spent the next couple of years of weekends racing motocross all over Central California. Ron had been racing for years & was very good. Me, not so much. Ron is still racing to this day, at age 71. Ron Clawson, by the way, never left the motorcycles business. Today he owns a very successful Kawasaki franchise in Tulare CA.
ABOVE: Fresh from a race, mud still covering the bike & my boots. The Carabella 125 Caliente was pretty fast but prone to tranny problems that required splitting the cases to fix. Pain in the ass! Forget about doing it between races on the tailgate of your pickup. Rare bike few people have heard of. Probably because they never sold very many. I think Ron & I had the only two in captivity.
CAFE RACER PROJECT
By this time, I'd abandoned my foolish plans to chop my Triumph & instead started building it into a proper Cafe Racer. I traded labor with Ron for a Norton Dunstall tank & seat which I adapted. With help from VanTek Frames, I did my own oil-in-frame & lots of other cool touches, hard to do with no money. I'd get it running briefly, then it would be down again for the next round of repairs, upgrades or custom fabrication.FLAGGING CORNERS AT THE SCRAMBLES TRACK
Around this same time, 1972 perhaps, I had a night job. I flagged corners at the local scrambles track. My buddies & I would work the entire day, setting up the track, filling the water truck, you name it. Then, when the sun went down & the racing started, we'd all have a corner of the track to watch. Racer falls, yellow flag goes out. Maybe help the guy up. Oops, got my foot run over...oh well. It was all great fun. I can still smell the Blendzol!CAR FETISH
I started getting into cars around Junior year of high school & before long I wasn't working in a motorcycle shop anymore, I was an apprentice to the best automotive machinist in Hanford, Leonard Tripp of Hanford Auto Supply. I learned a lot in that machine shop, worked the parts counter & ran deliveries for a couple of years. Started junior college, bought my first house & it sort of turned into 'party central' in Hanford. Wonderful times for sure, but they had to end.NEW REAL ESTATE CAREER
I left Hanford for San Jose in 1977 to pursue a career in real estate. My Triumph was still in pieces, I never finished it. I foolishly set motorcycles aside to pursue silly things like family & career such that my wife & kids barely knew I ever rode motorcycles.CLASSIC CAR BIZ
After some 20 years in real estate, I got into the classic car business. Like my passion for Classic British Motorcycles, I love classic cars. After managing another classic car dealership, in 1998 I opened Camaro Headquarters & over the next 5 years I'd go on to sell almost 500 Camaros & Firebirds (a few hundred other cars, too). One day I was at one of the dealer auctions where I bought my cars & there were no Camaros to buy & I needed inventory. This sweet little 1996 Harley-Davidson Sportster rolled through & next thing I knew, I had bought it. I didn't have a way to get it home, so I bought a helmet & rode it home. It was the first street bike I had been on in 25 years! I was scared spitless! But I made it home & before long I was hooked. I kept that Sportster for a year before I could bring myself to sell it. By then, I was trading in Harleys, classic Triumphs & Nortons. That was around 2002 & I've been riding Harleys, Triumphs & Nortons ever since.
ABOVE: Me (Andy) in front of my hole-in-the-wall classic car dealership, Camaro Headquarters, in Pleasanton CA. I sold some Triumphs & Nortons, a few Harleys & a whole bunch of cool cars. My specialty was 3rd-generation (1982-1992) Chevy Camaros & Pontiac Firebirds (F-bodies), but I sold 1st-, 2nd- & 4th-gen Camaros also + Mustangs, Corvettes, Jeeps & more. From 1998 to 2003, I had the time of my life & got to drive literally hundreds of my dream cars. Got it all out of my system. Notice the 1974 Triumph Trident in the foreground.
WORKING ON BIKES AGAIN
To sell British bikes is to work on them. To work on them is to know someone whom you can trust to be competent & honest. I was fortunate indeed to meet Bob Raber of Raber's Parts Mart
in San Jose CA. This is the ultimate classic British bike shop, and reminds me of the old days at Clawson's. They have every part & tool every invented for any Brit bike you've ever heard of & they're great people. They not only helped me with all my bikes, we have ridden together & become good friends.THE YELLOW BIKE
In 2002, I bought a fixer-upper 1973 Triumph TR7 Tiger & proceeded to turn it into the Cafe Racer I'd always wanted to build when I was young, but never had the money or the time. This time I did it right, with Raber's help. I ended up with the awesome "Yellow Bike"
, which I rode for years to & from shows with the Raber's Crew (hundreds of miles on backroads, in many cases), won those shows & rode it home. It was written up in magazines. Great bike. Sold it at the MidAmerica Motorcycle Auction in Las Vegas in 2009
. Why did I sell it? I'm still asking myself that same question. I loved that bike. I guess I was done with it. I'd done everything I wanted to do & then some. There was nothing left to do to it, so I let it go & started looking for my next project. I recently found it, a 1979 Triumph T140D Bonneville Special, and it's sitting in pieces right now. But I'm racing against the clock trying to get it ready for the first ride of the season. Check out the progress of our official Project Bike
But, I never stopped riding, because in the end, it's all about the ride. Besides countless Classic British Motorcycles, I've owned numerous Harleys & currently own a 2008 Harley-Davidson Dyna Street Bob. In May 2009, I rode it from California to Tampa Bay FL last year, 3,065 miles one way. (Crated the bikes & UPS'ed them home.) We took Highway 10 the whole way, wouldn't recommend it. We were in the desert 4 days. It took 3 days just to cross Texas! But what a trip! I call it my "Once-in-a-lifetime Trip", although I plan to do more like it.
ABOVE: Out in the middle of freakin' nowhere, east of Las Cruces NM. The 3,065 miles from the SF Bay Area to Tampa took 8 days in the saddle. It wasn't all like this. We saw some amazing country.
ALL GROWN UP
Today, 37 years after leaving Hanford, I'm still in real estate (I never left it, even when I was selling classic cars), I just celebrated my 29th wedding anniversary with my lovely wife Pam, my oldest daughter Sky just graduated college and is taking a teaching job in Japan for a year. My younger daughter, Sierra is in college and doing well, and I've finally reached that point in my life where I really want to do something with the rest of it that is meaningful to me, personally. Not about the money, or paying the bills, or raising the kids or doing the right thing by my clients. This one would be just for me...the pursuit of a passion. For me, that's Classic British Motorcycles. It is the realization of my goal to turn Classic-British-Motorcycles.com into my lifestyle, living it by riding & photographing gorgeous bikes, attending auctions, shows & events, meeting & interviewing fascinating people. And having a blast doing it! Hope you'll be along for the ride. Hang on...
OH, AND ONE MORE THING...
Did I mention that Brit bikes were not my only passion? I'm also crazy about American muscle cars. So much so that I also built a site dedicated to them, in all their glory. I big part of my life has been devoted to these icons of American culture, since back in the day when they weren't considered anything more than cheap used cars! I grew up with them, and I love them. So, just as I did here with this site about Brit bikes, I built a site devoted to the love and enjoyment of the American Muscle Car, past and present (that's right, it's not all 60's classics you know...we're in the midst of the Second Golden Age of the Muscle Car!). Please visit our sister site at www.American-Muscle-Cars.net
MidAmerica Auctions graciously allowed us the use of their vast library of images from all the classic motorcycle auctions
they've done over their 25+ years as the world's leading motorcycle auction house. Alas, MidAmerica was bought by Mecum Auctions, and we look forward to a long and continued relationship with them into the future. Mecum has taken over MidAmerica's legendary Las Vegas Auction
, so you'll be seeing more of them on this website.
Special thanks goes out to Raber's Parts Mart
, the entire Raber's Crew, and to Bob Raber himself in particular. Raber's has been instrumental in my journey, helping me with a number Classic British Motorcycle projects. They have supplied parts, tools, their time & unparalleled knowledge & skill. And on top of it all, we have become friends. We have been on many rides together & shared some great times.
They are as honest as it gets, totally competent at what they do and more than willing to go the extra mile for an enthusiast. If you live anywhere near the San Francisco Bay Area and you have a Classic British Motorcycle, you need to know about Rabers. These guys are the best!! And no matter where you live, they're only as far away as the phone. Call for parts & expert advice.
In particular, they have contributed greatly to the making of this website in that they have given us full access to their very extensive library of books & magazines all about old Brit bikes, going way back to the 50s, all meticulously organized. They also help with advice & know-how. I couldn't do it without them. Thank you, Rabers!!
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