PEBBLE BEACH, CALIF., AUG. 19—Here we were, writer and photographer for THUNDER PRESS, checking out German motorcycles. Listed among the dozen or so bikes are makes like Hildebrand & Wolfmuller, Megola Touring, Imme R 100, Adler M250 and DKW Hummel 155. Any of you know these bikes? Well, we sure don’t, but here we were at the Concours d’Elegance in Pebble Beach, checking out German bikes.
Every year around the middle of August, Pebble Beach holds the Concours d’Elegance. While we jokingly call this event the bike and car show, this is really the most posh event in town. Immaculately restored antique and vintage automobiles from the world’s past are paraded and judged. At various times beautiful open vintage cars are driven through the Pebble Beach lanes, as both men and women wear the elegant clothing appropriate to the car’s era. This is fun to watch, but not exactly newsworthy for THUNDER PRESS. What is newsworthy is the fact that four years ago, Chief Judge Ed Gilbertson introduced vintage motorcycles into the event. Initially, the first bikes reviewed were British classics, followed by American classics the second year. The third year we all saw Italian bikes, and this year, the marque was German.
Knowing the German classics were the featured marque, Ken and I rush over to the MidAmerica Auctions where we knew we’d find a large range of Harleys and Indians. There was even a small selection of Whizzers, Cushmans, Mustang Scooters and DynaCycle/Schwinn motorized bikes. All of these amazing machines represent unique pieces of early American two-wheeled motoring. They are a pleasure to view and fun to photograph. All bikes are for sale, although none of them come cheap.
Ken took pictures of a 1948 Indian Chief and an amazing 1939 Loren Rusnak factory hill climber in all its unrestored glory. It was dirty, dusty, caked with something green and clearly cracked. This authentic hill climber represents part of the history of Highway 99. The price tag was $125,000. Ken then focused his lens on the 1951 Whizzer Special, the 1937 Moto-Scoot, the Dyna Cycle/Schwinn and the 1949 Mustang 2 Scooter, to name but a few.
One very special restored bike was the Harley-Davidson XLCR 1000 from the AMF era. In spite of the controversies and differences in opinion between AMF and H-D enthusiasts, we need to remember that AMF kept Harley alive during many difficult years. While none of these American bikes were being judged this year, it was good to see them assembled in one spot.
Pebble Beach is not all that easy to maneuver. There is a lot of walking, and the cars and motorcycles are displayed over a large range of hills. If you want to find the bike tent, you have to walk to the very end of the displays and then slip out the side door. The auction bikes were hard to find, but finding the judged motorcycles was even worse. First you walk around the car judging area, passing various groups of wonderful vintage automobiles, and then just keep going. Eventually you will come to the bathrooms—just keep walking. When you think you are almost out of Pebble Beach grounds is when you’ll find the bikes.
The judged bikes in the Class X German Motorcycles had three final winners. First place went to 1934 BMW R7 from the members BMW Group Classic out of Munich, Germany. Second place went to a 1954 BMW R68 owned by Jeffrey M. Dean from Madison, Wisconsin. And third place honors were taken by a 1968 Munch Mammoth owned by Dale Keesecker from Washington, Kansas. However, my favorite was the 1951 NSU Konsul II 501 OS-T owned by Ziggy and Lisa Dee from Oceanside, California. It did not win, but it sure was a beauty.
There is something magical about Pebble Beach. It is not just the astonishing beauty of the sky, trees, ocean, clouds and crowds; it is the combination of all of this in one place. This beauty is our reward for learning to get around. It is not easy to check in, nor to observe all that must be seen. It is difficult to juggle time, food, energy and pictures. We come on Friday and Saturday to gawk, while Sunday is all about the judging. This year we were lucky, as the weather held up throughout the weekend. And the Pebble Beach staff treated the reporters with grace and politeness. The press tent provided enough good food, sodas and water to keep us well fed and hydrated.
Our THUNDER PRESS media badges got us into almost every exhibit and hall. The only place our press passes did not have sufficient clout was at the main lodge, where the celebrities held sway.
There is no doubt that this is a classy, important event. What makes this event so special to us is that it is only in the past four years that motorcycles have been allowed in. It is only in the past four years that bikes have been seen as important modes of transportation and worthy of restoration, reportage and admiration. Thank you, Chief Judge Ed Gilbertson.