“Why vintage?” I ask.
“Why not?” responds 47-year-old Warren Lane, standing next to his running 1912 Harley-Davidson X8A.
“It’s the beginning of all of this,” he adds, as he waves his arms to point at the roughly hundred other machines around him on display, and the hundreds more parked around the perimeter of the Ninth Annual Dania Beach Vintage Motorcycle Show in South Florida.
The old thumping machine draws a crowd as others take note of this rather odd machine with a leather drive belt from an era way gone by. It’s safe to say there’s nobody here who was around when this machine ran on the dirt roads of its day.
That’s the great thing about a vintage show. These motorcycles give us a sort of time transport to see and hear what our motorcycling forefathers must have felt and enjoyed. It’s our connection to the past that really shows how far the engineers and designers have come — and provides inspiration for others to draw and create modern machines that evoke these styles of old.
A 1936 Harley VLH sits right next to the thumper, and its owner, not to be outdone, fires it up. The styling cues are unmistakable and the crowd moves over to experience another piece of running history.
Neither bike is the oldest, though. On another aisle sits a 1911 Pierce Arrow, an in-line four-cylinder machine showing its century of patina, but with just enough oil weeping out to show that it’s still a runner.
Looking around, it’s a virtual United Nations of motorcycles. A Union Jack shows where the British machines sit, and further down is a Japanese flag. Nearby the British machines are an Italian flag and a German flag. Admittedly, there are some flags I just don’t recognize, nor the bikes under them.
It seems the old machines designers’ cared a lot about how things looked, as well as ran. For instance, if you look at how some brass oil lines are routed, you see it’s not necessarily the most efficient way, but it’s visually stunning. Exhaust pipes are grouped together, to give a meaty look. Thought was put into the graphics on the bikes and even to the font on the odometer.
Unlike other vintage shows, this one isn’t limited to untouched, original-condition machines. The Dania Beach show welcomes old bikes that have been modified by their owners. There’s a café racer category, a competition section with hillclimbers and other race bikes, and, of course, a custom area with both old and modern machines. There’s even a bicycle area that shows off some of the earliest forms of pedal power. On display among hay bales sits an old wooden bike with pedals on the front wheel.
Even the parking area has some rather fun, unique and curious creations. Take this fellow who only gave the name “Giovanni,” riding up on his 1987 Honda Shadow that he’s… well, the word “customized” just isn’t really going to cut it.
Everything on the bike has been modified, and not necessarily in a way you or I might do it. His exhaust has been modified with plumbing that brings the ends up to just under the rear luggage rack, which has a model motorcycle and rider that looks oddly just like our friend Giovanni. He’s added a stereo with four sets of speakers that he says only plays classic rock. He’s got bullet-hole stickers all over the thing, and a horn that sounds like a horse whinnying. He’s added lights to the fork sliders and an eagle’s head to the front fender. He’s added leather bags on top of his saddle bags. The list of add-ons is endless and he admits it’s still a work in progress.
Back inside the show, a full third of the area is dedicated to a swap meet with just about everything from, and for, every make. There are the usual tools and vendor paraphernalia, but also motorcycle-themed art and drawings of partially nude women on classic bikes.
Inside the show, the band is playing classic rock, and down the block is a rather authentic-looking British Pub called the Kings Head. In front are a number of bikes, whose riders have decided to sample some fish and chips whilst enjoying a rather good one-man band knocking out some cool vintage riffs.
It’s a 70-degree, blue-sky day in South Florida, just a couple days away from Groundhog Day. We subtropical motorcyclists don’t have much to brag about road-wise, but we can hang our helmets on the fact that we can at least enjoy the weather, and a gathering like this.
I hop onto my own rather vintage 1981 Harley-Davidson Low Rider, fire her up, and I’m immediately transformed back to the mid-80s, when I first rode her. And that, my friends, is why we love vintage.