After a two year gap courtesy of the pandemic, INFO MOTO’s Ian Falloon and Spannerman will be frocking up again to judge the best of the best at the 2022 Australian International Concours d’Elegance event, Motorclassica. Spanner takes us through the arduous task of concourse judging.
“How much did you say it was worth?” INFO MOTO’s Ian Falloon adjusts his glasses before fixing me with his steady gaze and telling me this particular 1951 Vincent Black Lightning was sold at auction in Las Vegas in 2018 for AUD$1.16 million.
To the uninitiated it looks like a barn find probably worth $500, tops, but there’s a collectors’ world out there most of us know nothing about. Further down the hall was Jon Munn’s 1922 Brough Superior Mk 1 90 Bore V-twin. Jon has fully restored this bike to make it one of possibly only three which still exist but he relied heavily on assistance from the American show host, Jay Leno, who owns one of the other two.
Images from the Leno bike allowed Jon to fabricate long-lost parts and components over the 20 years it took to complete the restoration. Yes, it runs and, yes, it won the concourse class.
Motorclassica celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2019 and is acknowledged as Australia’s premier national concours event. When they finished counting that year’s crowd, around 200,000 enthusiasts had passed through its doors during the decade.
Motorcycles have been there from the beginning and the INFO MOTO firm of Falloon and Spanner keeps getting invited back to do the judging. The bike categories have evolved over the years and Ian and I look after the concours bikes while the very experienced Colin Osborne from Pro Auto Solutions handles the ‘preservation’ class where bikes like the (very) unrestored ’51 Vincent can be entered.
Here comes the judge
Judging at the concours level involves inspection of almost every single component of the bike for authenticity and condition. A checklist of 20 sections encourages a detailed examination of components down to whether or not the oil and fuel lines are of the proper type and are of the original material. Similarly, wiring type, colour and connectors are checked and particular attention is paid to mounting hardware like nuts, bolts, ties and wraps.
Each bike starts at 100 points and deductions are made in half-point increments when faults are found. While I enjoy the practicality of cable ties, they weren’t used on bikes before about 1967 so a bike will lose points if they’re discovered in place of the original rubber or metal ties.
Matching original paint colours is another area fraught with danger along with pin-striping which, on many bikes including Bill Arsenakis’ BMW R90S which picked up third place, was originally done by hand.
A bike can also lose points for being too good – over-restored to ‘better than new’ condition. Thick chroming on early Japanese bikes is usually considered with raised eyebrows.
All the bikes judged end up with a score and there’s provision for a tie-breaker if needed: provenance. A bike with a known, interesting history can have up to three points added to its score. Phil and Marilyn Turner’s 1958 BSA B31 didn’t win at the last Motorclassica but their bike belonged to Miles Wordsworth, a direct descendant of the British poet, William Wordsworth, and the bike’s restoration story is fascinating enough to be the subject of a self-published book.
Such is the quality of the entrants to Motorclassica that judging can turn out to be a very nit-picking affair. Points can be lost for the wrong type of tyre valve cap and often the winners are decided by the smallest of margins.
Before you conclude Motorclassica is just for millionaires, some of the entries in the last iteration of the event stood out for their modesty including a Honda C100 Cub, a Honda C71 Dream, a 1970 Suzuki T125 Stinger and a Lambretta scooter. Restoring bikes like these can be harder than restoring, say, a 1969 Triumph Bonneville where all its parts are still available. Try finding a pressed aluminium gearchange lever which Honda used for one year on its 1959 Honda Cub.
Motorclassica is a great event and worth planning for whether you decide to enter or simply spectate. Come Friday, October 7 – 9, look out for a short, stout man and his taller, bearded companion who will be heading for the Melbourne Exhibition building and both be wearing suits (sort of) for the only time this year. If you want to enter or want further information, visit www.motorclassica.com.au
1960 ROYAL ENFIELD METEOR MINOR SPORTS
You want rare and unusual? Try Richard Badham’s RE Meteor Minor Sports. Just 325 of the 500cc four-stroke twins were built in 1960 and Richard is the third owner from new.
A revised cylinder head gasket and exhaust camshaft provided three extra horses to the model on which it was based and it had lower handlebars and a chrome tank with rubber knee grips to set it apart from the standard ‘De Luxe’ model.
It also had a 17-inch front wheel instead of the period 19-inch unit which would have considerably sharpened up the steering and handling. The finished product answers the question of what Richard has been doing with himself since he acquired the bike via Ebay in 2004.
1959 NORTON NOMAD 600
If you’ve never heard of a Norton Nomad 600, you’re joining a big club. It was built in a short production run to take advantage of the North American interest in desert racing and Jon Munn’s example is believed to be the only one in Australia.
The 597cc engine produces 36hp and claims a top speed above 150km/h but its main attraction was a special frame which provided 203mm of ground clearance. The suspension package included Roadholder forks which were the best you could get at the time.
1958 HONDA C71 DREAM TOURER
It may have been inspired by NSU but the Honda C70 and C71 are icons of late 1950s Honda styling. Ricky Grima’s Motorclassica example is a 1958 model and features a host of genuine Honda accessories including a windscreen, rear luggage rack and leg shields.
The 250cc SOHC engine produced 13.5kW@7400 but the big news for ’58 was an electric starter.
This was Honda’s first export model to Australia and was sold through Bennett Honda. If you’re wondering how Ricky managed to get original parts for it, he owns 30 of them and has plans of setting up a business in Bathurst which will attract national and international attention.
1970 SUZUKI T125 STINGER
In terms of looks, Suzuki’s T125 Stinger was a knockout when it was launched. The dual, upswept exhausts, near-horizontal twin-cylinder engine, separate speedo and tacho and racy looks pushed small capacity motorcycle styling into the future, Jet Jackson style.
A price of just $399 underscored its appeal and it was capable of 120km/h. It also had automatic oil injection and, along with dumpier-looking two-strokes from Yamaha and Kawasaki, made two-strokes more acceptable in the marketplace.
Phil Scorah’s entry to the concours looked almost original rather than restored and was a credit to his dedication to the bike.
1958 BSA B31
Unremarkable engineering is a feature of the B31, the first new model introduced by BSA after the close of WW11. Its single cylinder, 348cc engine pumped out a modest 17 horses to allow a top speed of around 115km/h. The model life stretched from 1945 up until 1959 and its popularity was based on its reliability although it’s also a remarkably handsome bike.
Phil and Marilyn Turner’s 1958 example has a fascinating history including original ownership by a descendant of famed British poet William Wordsworth after who the bike is named. It travelled all over England in boxes with its second owner and finally ended up with Kim Jones, an AMG/Mercedes technical specialist attached to the McLaren F1 racing team. Kim completed the restoration but had to put the bike up for sale when he was transferred to Italy.
That’s how it ended up with Phil and Marilyn and if you want to know how proud they are of the bike, read the self-published book they produced.
1951 VINCENT BLACK LIGHTNING
This unrestored Black Lightning was one of only 33 built and was bought at auction in 2018 by its Tasmanian owner for an eye-watering $1.16 million. It’s estimated only 19 examples still exist.
This particular Vincent was the one on which Jack Ehret set an Australian Land Speed record in 1953 of 227.7km/h. Ehret continued to race the bike and sold it in 1999, two years before his death.
The bike ended up in France where it was restored mechanically but, cosmetically, it retained its original factory paint and all the dings and scratches accumulated through years of high performance work.
1962 BSA ROCKET GOLD STAR TOURING
The impetus for this bike allegedly came from Gold Star specialist Eddie Dow who convinced BSA management to put the Super Rocket 646cc twin-cylinder engine in the Gold Star frame and running gear, making it one of the best remembered factory café racers of last century.
Thomas Weitacher’s example pictured here is a ‘touring clubman’ which was delivered with up-turned handlebars rather than clip-ons and a bigger fuel tank but it still had the ‘factory’ engine which involved balancing, porting, polishing and lightening, producing a top speed of over 180km/h.
It’s estimated 1584 Rocket Gold Stars were produced making them rare indeed, particularly in this condition.
1959 HONDA SUPER CUB C100
How can a motorcycle with a production run of 100 million and a new purchase price of under $300 compete in a concours with something like a 1922 Brough Superior? Well, the Cub didn’t win but using the International Chief Judges Advisory Group (ICJAC) scoring criteria, it put up a very good fight. This is another of Bathurst-based Ricky Grima’s bikes and was hard to fault. With his contacts and collections of original Honda parts and materials, Ricky has produced a Cub as close to the original as you’re ever likely to get, including the rare, correct pattern on the foot controls.
The Cub engine from 1958 until 1964 was an overhead valve 50cc unit which was replaced by an OHC model and the early engines are becoming rare. Australia was the first country in the world to receive the Super Cub as an export from Japan and the model kick-started the monster Honda has since become. ‘Kick-started’ is probably the wrong expression – the Cub scored an electric leg before it morphed into its OHC iteration.
Photography by Ben Galli