Diesels on the Podium, McQueen on the Block: Quail Gathering 2011

May 18, 2011

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The Black by Falcon

Steve McQueen was no poser.

Sometimes you get eye candy by the ones or twos, sometimes by the handful, but occasionally you get it in one of those giant Costco packages and have more candy than you can cram into your eyes at once. The Quail Motorcycle Gathering is such an event. Put on by the Quail Lodge resort and golf club in Carmel, California, the event builds on the success of the Quail Motorsports Gathering, a 10-day orgy of big-bucks automobile judging and other events. The goal, according to event organizer Gordon McCall, is to create a limited-attendence, high-end happening, complete with gourmet food and quiet, comfortable surroundings. Corndog chefs and creamed-corn wrestlers need not apply. Now in its third year, the event has grown to accommodate over 2000 attendees.

The food is good, but the draw is the vintage, custom and otherwise eye-popping machines at the show. A 1939 Brough Superior got lots of attention, as did the “Black Falcon,” a ‘52 Vincent motor in a boardtrack-racer style frame, lovingly built by Ian Barry of Falcon Motorcycles. And the famed “bathing suit bike,” the Vincent that Bonneville racer Rollie Free rode near-naked to his speed record was on hand as well. A quartet of diesel motorcycles was there, including a 128-mpg Hayes and a contraption built by Treven Bakker. With a two-cylinder Harz engine and Russian-built Dnepr frame, it was both bizarre and interesting to see. Toss in a huge variety of racing motorcycles from the last 100 years and you can imagine how hard it would be to take it all in during the 5 hours of the event.

It ends in time to catch some of the Bonhams and Butterfield’s auction of collector’s motorcycles and other memorabilia. This isn’t buying a lightly scuffed fairing panel for your 2003 GSX-R600. This is very high-end auctioneering, with the star of the show being a collection of Steve McQueen ephemera, including trophies, awards, and a 1971 Husqvarna 400 Cross signed on the air cleaner by both the actor and his riding buddy and mentor Bud Ekins. The price? How about $144,500, complete with a spare spark plug taped to the frame by McQueen himself.

It wasn’t all about McQueen. A 1925 BMW R32—one of 60 known to exist—went for $139,000. The replicas of the two motorcycles from Easy Riders—AKA “Captain America” and the “Billy Bike”—painstakingly recreated for Otis Chandler’s collection (Captain America was displayed at the “Art of the Motorcycle” exhibit at the Guggenheim museum). The bikes are being sold to benefit the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, to the tune of $52,650 for the Captain, and just $24,570 for Billy.

Proceeds from the Quail event benefit Riders for Health, an organization that provides motorcycle and other transportation to health care workers and other service providers in remote parts of Africa. But it also shows a side of motorcycling—genteel, clean-cut, and sophisticated—that can only improve the image of our passion.

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