story and photography by Clement Salvadori[This International Concours d Elegance motorcycle travelogue October 2006 issue of Rider Magazine]
Nothing like wandering along acres of ocean-front lawn, admiring scores of beautifully turned-out motorcycles parked on the well-mowed grass….
A dozen Crockers here, a dozen Brough Superiors there, a handful of Vincents, a couple of Hendersons, a 1915 Cyclone right off the board track, a 1975 Yamaha TZ750 that might just have come out of the pits at Daytona. With more than 200 machines on display, there was something here for everybody to admire. This was the first Legend of the Motorcycle Concours d’Elegance. For anybody not quite clear what a C.d’E. might be, it is a collection of aging machinery, generally classy stuff, buffed out to the nth degree, made to look as attractive as possible. The cut-off date here was 1975, while many of the early machines in competition were more than a century old—and running. The owner got extra points by firing up his engine for the judges. Several dozen more modern bikes, such as a Britten and a Morbidelli V-8, were on display just for viewing purposes. Putting together such a show requires a lot more work than I am willing to do, from having the idea to turning it into reality.
It also takes a remarkable bit of bravery to pull something like this off, because money is what greases the concours’ wheels, and if finances are not thoroughly sorted, there could be trouble. Out of nowhere, seemingly, Brooke Roner and her husband Jared Zaugg have created an event which may become the two-wheeled equivalent of the annual Pebble Beach automobile concours. No mean feat. Apparently the planning began about four years ago.
They contacted the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Half Moon Bay, California, a rather impressive place that sits on 14 seaside acres with 260 rooms, and has a couple of adjacent golf courses. Would the Ritz be amenable to hosting such an event? Appreciating that the interest in motorcycling was increasing every year, the management wisely said yes. Roner/Zaugg had a site, now they needed sponsors, and some two dozen companies were persuaded to ante up, from Triumph motorcycles to Bentley automobiles, Godiva chocolates to Hennessy cognac, AGV helmets to Belstaff jackets.
Since this is a judged competition, reputable judges were needed. They brought in Mike Jackson from England, a man who has been around the motorcycle business for more than half a century and has definite opinions. Bud Ekins, motorcycle racer and movie stuntman extraordinaire, was asked to come, along with a dozen others; though, regrettably, no woman was present.
Now, all they needed were the motorcycles, and not just any motorcycles, but those with provenance and rarity and beauty. They sent letters to scores of collectors around the country and around the world, as well as placing ads in appropriate publications asking owners to submit motorcycles for possible inclusion. About 120 of the collecting elite were signed up. There was a token $10 registration fee, which came with two free tickets to the event, but the owners had to get the bikes up to Half Moon Bay themselves. Michael Kron flew his 1921 Mars in from Germany via DHL, while Scott Young only had to load his 1930 Scott Flying Squirrel in the back of a van and drive up the 300 miles from Santa Barbara.
It is traditional to have a featured marque, or marques, at a concours, and two famous brands were selected for the Legend, both from the 1930s. One was the American Crocker, the other England’s fabled Brough (pronounced bruff) Superior. I had never seen so many Crockers and Broughs in one place, and don’t expect to again.
This was certainly not all play for the exhibitors, as they had to get their machines properly sited in the early morning hours. But by 10 o’clock all the motorcycles were in place. And more than 4,000 people bought tickets to come and spectate—not cheap tickets either: $50 in advance, $65 on the day. This was not a rowdy crowd, but motorcyclists who knew their motorcycling history, knew their machines. And they were pretty much in awe—especially of the quantity of Crockers and Broughs.
The cough and roar and yowl of the occasional engine being started was a delight. Peter Gagan fired up, literally, with briquettes, his steam-powered Roper. A throaty MV Agusta played basso profundo, a Vincent timpani could be heard, and the drum-roll of the Indian twins provided a percussive background. (Block that metaphor!)
Up on the stage Bonham & Butterfield held an auction to benefit worthy charities, the star item being the modified Triumph Scrambler that was featured in Tom Cruise’s latest movie, Mission Impossible 3. Awards were awarded, speeches were made, honors were distributed.
All through this the judges were judging, and finally came to their many and difficult conclusions, far too many to list here. The big one, the Best of Show, went to a 1940 Crocker owned by a modest fellow, Californian Michael Madden, who seemed quite surprised at the honor.
The event was, in my unhumble opinion, a success. A few minor teething problems were apparent, but this was the first time out, and all can be fixed. I’m already looking forward to next year’s Legend, which will take place in May, featuring Vincents and Excelsior-Hendersons.