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Retro + Vintage Motorcycle Reviews

Retrospective: Velocette MAC 350: 1934-1960


The reader may be surprised that this motorcycle is not in more immaculate condition, having a shabby saddle, abbreviated aluminum front fender, chromed oil reservoir and a bunch of other blemishes. Truth be told, around here we are not much interested in concours machines, motorcycles to be found on mantelpieces, but are more amenable to what we loosely call “riders.” ...

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Hercules W2000 and Suzuki RE5—Short History of Wankel-Powered Motorcycles


In March 1972, Cycle Guide suggested it was “inevitable that the Wankel rotary engine will shortly invade the 2-wheel domain…and they just might take it by storm.” That storm never happened, even though rotary engines would seem good candidates for motorcycles. They’re compact, make good power for their weight and have just two moving parts, the rotor and the crankshaft. ...

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Retrospective: Harley-Davidson M65S Sport Leggero: 1967-197


This is one cool-looking motorcycle, with Harley-Davidson writ large on the gas tank and molded into the crankcases. A bit on the small side, but what the heck—if you were the coolest newspaper boy in town, who cared? The M65S had a price tag of a mere $265, which even the bag boy at the supermarket could come up with. ...

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Retrospective: Indian Chief Police Special: 1940-1945


Wouldn’t the new Indian Motorcycle people just love it if the San Francisco Police Department ordered up some Indian police bikes? Just like it did a mere 70 years ago. Back in 1945, this would have been the pride of the SFPD. World War II was coming to an end and American factories were already gearing up to satisfy civilian ...

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World Records Achieved at Bonhams' Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction


Classic motorcycles from Britain filled the ranks of the top grossing machines at Bonhams’ world-famous motorcycle auction in Las Vegas on January 8, 2015. The Vincent brand in particular saw two world records achieved. The first was a 1950 Vincent Series C “White” Shadow—one of just 15 produced—which was the most valuable Shadow ever sold at auction when it brought ...

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Retrospective: Honda NX650: 1988-1989


Here was a slightly new approach to the widening dual-purpose market, an electric-start 650 single with a bikini fairing, a couple of plastic body panels on the tank, a couple more to cover up most of the two mufflers, and a 21-inch front wheel with a close-fitting fender. This was a perfect round-town bike with some minor pretensions at dirt-roading, ...

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Retrospective: MZ Saxon 500 Country: 1992-1996


Nice half-liter thumper, this MZ Saxon 500 Country, looking like a somewhat dated dual-purpose machine, powered by a dependable Rotax single-cylinder engine. But it was being built in the old East Germany. And to Americans that aroused suspicion of shoddy work. What gives? Most motorcyclists will scratch their heads when they hear MZ. What’s that? It was a motorcycle factory—Motorradwerke ...

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Retrospective: Yamaha XT600: 1984-1989


As an inveterate reader of motorcycle travel articles and books, in the 1980s and ’90s I noticed that many of our European friends, when headed off to Africa—the equivalent of our southwest—opted to take Yamaha’s big 600cc single-cylinder enduro bike, known as the XT. If you really wanted to go someplace rough, like the backroads of many African nations, you ...

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Triumph Thruxton Ace Cafe Special Edition – First Look Review


At the 10th Annual Barber Vintage Festival, held October 12-14, 2014, at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama, Triumph Motorcycles unveiled the Triumph Thruxton Ace Cafe Special Edition, which will be available in North America by the end of the year. The limited-edition Thruxton made its U.S. debut at The Ace Corner, a café racer-themed hospitality area sponsored by London’s ...

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Retrospectove: BSA A65S Spitfire Mark II/III/IV Special: 1966-1968


Back in the early 1960s, many British bike companies were cheerfully warring with each other, paying no attention to the threat coming from the Orient. The major market for their 650 twins was the U.S., and Americans wanted horses—lots of horses. The more the better. Well-mannered commuter twins did not sell worth a damn to the power-crazed Yanks, who looked ...

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