The Petersen Museum in Los Angeles is a mecca for gearheads, be it two wheels or four. The museum is closing for a year, during which time it will be completely renovated to allow even better viewing of its eclectic collection of cars and motorcycles. As part of its ongoing involvement with the motor scene in L.A., the Petersen hosts a monthly drive-in and pancake breakfast on the last Sunday of each month. The theme of the August 2014 event was café racers. The faithful responded.
Held on a hot Labor Day weekend, the turnout still topped 200 people, with a few dozen café racers in all shapes and forms. The bikes mingled among a wide range of cars, including classic Ferraris, hot rods, vintage racing cars and even Model Ts. Enthusiasts also arrived in new cars as well, including the latest McLaren, to view the monthly car show. The event is held on the top of the museum parking garage and it quickly filled up as the attendees spiraled up the garage ramps.
The cruise-in started at 8 a.m. Among the early arrivals were two members of Hell’s Belles Car Club, a woman’s club that started in San Francisco and now is also in L.A. and Atlanta. A short chat with Kat, who rides a Triumph and Kubo and was on a Honda, revealed that these women are true enthusiasts. The club races and set a record at Bonneville.
There were a wide range of styles and levels of finish. Rat rod bikes were counterbalanced by the efforts of shops specializing in the latest iteration of the café racer craze. The middle ground was filled with examples of bikes that were daily drivers made by enthusiasts, not show bikes.
The favored marquee at this event seemed to be Honda 750s for the do-it-yourselfer, while BMW was the choice for a couple of shops that came to view and show. One ultra-clean example of simplicity was a robin’s egg blue R60S with an engine upped to R100S specs that was built by Josh Withers and his company, OSHMO. It was the perfect example of “less is more.”
Perhaps the most unique bikes were two showstoppers produced by Larry Romestant through his shop, Special Ks. Using the drivetrains from 3- or 4-cylinder BMW K bikes, Larry morphs the bikes into works of art that will turn any head. His work goes as far as new frames and layouts using the BMW drivetrain in conjunction with iconic BMW parts. Because these older K bikes are still available relatively inexpensively and are reportedly quite reliable, Larry feels that he is able to provide a great value to his clients. The workmanship is nothing short of perfection.
As the morning rolled on, folks compared notes and shared stories, not unlike any of the other hundreds of car shows around the USA on that Labor Day weekend. The start of an original 427 Cobra turned heads, as did a barely muffled 440 Plymouth Belvedere. An unmuffled 750 Honda’s wail echoed off the nearby walls, while a Zero electric motorcycle had to use its horn to get through the milling spectators because it was so quiet. Lots of contrasts.
All too soon, the 10 a.m. “close” of the cruise-in was upon us. Cars and bikes spiraled down to the street level and headed off. A few folks parked and waited for the museum to open so as to get one last look at the space that will be closed for the next year. When the reopening occurs, the café racers will be back in greater numbers. This craze will not be closing any time soon.