Once again, a great show – with some special surprises – at THE QUAIL MOTORCYCLE GATHERING 2023!
Sometimes you just have to trust that the Motorcycle Gods will smile upon you and that the predicted rain showers wouldn’t materialize over the emerald green show field for THE QUAIL MOTORCYCLE GATHERING 2023 on May 6th at The Quail Lodge & Golf Club in beautiful Carmel Valley, CA.
I arrived extra early and had to wear my motorcycle jacket to keep warm for the first 2 hours. By the 10 AM show time, the heavy cloud cover and nippy temperatures eased into a classic California spring day; the two-wheel treasures on the field began to glisten. There were over 3,000 attendees and 300+ vintage and modern motorcycles at this year’s Gathering, presented by Medallia.
One of the first bikes to grab my attention was Craig Rodsmith’s radical Ducati 916 Superbike, top. Sure, the sun reflecting off its polished aluminum monocoque skin was hard to ignore but it was the side-mounted, twin-Weber-topped supercharger that popped my eyes. Craig is a master fabricator who for the past 25 years has been building one-of-a-kind pieces of motorized art – including Hot Rods, Cafe Racers, Bobbers and Choppers.
John Goldman is no stranger to the Winner’s Stage and I wish I had placed a bet around the same time I whispered to John that his very rare (one of three known to exist) Miller Balsamo 200 Carnenata would take Best of Show honors at THE QUAIL MOTORCYCLE GATHERING 2023 – and it did! Miller Balsamo, a historic Italian motorcycle brand, was founded in 1921 in Milano by Ernesto Balsamo and Edgardo Mario Balsamo. Before building their own bikes, they were initially importers of the U.S. brand Excelsior and the British Ariel. The factory closed in 1959.Did I mention there were some special surprises at the Gathering this year? Of course, I did because I wanted to show you one of my favorite WTFs from this prestigious show. It was impossibly long, slammed to the ground, filled with holes, adorned with brassy Steampunk accoutrements and powered by a Honda 550 Four. And, much to my surprise, it fired-up with its eccentric builder Keith Young in the tractor seat and then rolled up onto the Winner’s Stage to take the Arlen Ness Memorial Award!If you’ve ever been to a Vintage Trailer show there’s a good chance that you’ll find a vintage Honda Dream strapped, hooked or parked by one of these camper trailers. Maybe it’s the word Dream that fits so well for a place you’ll eventually lay your head. And then there’s ex- Dick Landy drag racing driver Brad Yuill, who along with his wife and Border Terrier hauled three show-stopping Dreams to the Gathering. It was this beautiful dark blue ’66 CA77 Dream that transported Brad to the Winner’s Stage to accept the 2nd Place trophy in the Japanese Class.Be still my heart; be swift my ride! I can only imagine that one fortunate enough to have this classic ’62 BMW R60/2 W at the ready for adventures, would indubitably have a flutter in the heart and an impossibly wide grin on their face as they secured their helmet and engaged first gear. This beauty is outfitted with a sleek, ’69 Steib S500 side car and hand-crafted leather luggage.The way I look at it is, well, from every possible angle – before I begin to think there are few motorcycle builders on the same plateau as Max Hazan of Hazan Motorworks. He builds one-of-one masterpieces like this ‘20 blown twin-engine for Marco Diaz. The engines are Velocette MACs. Each is a 349-cc air-cooled single cylinder. The custom frame is fabricated from chromoly steel and the supercharger is a positive-displacement Eaton TVS R410. The design sensibility is Hazanesque, i.e., Minimalist-Mad-Mastery.It was the late afternoon on the day before the big show, and I was sneaking as many peeks as possible at the early-entry bikes. I was lost in thought and snapping pictures of an all-original, historically significant ’74 Ducati 750 GT when its owner Scott Somers showed up to finish detailing the bike. I learned that he has been a lifelong motorcycle enthusiast who at this point in his life can also be called a collector. He had his eye on this GT and, with patience and fortitude, he managed to acquire it in Canada and have it shipped to the States. If you think Scott also looks deep in thought, that’s not so. He’s in an endless ingestion of happiness – and beware – ownership of a two-wheel gem like this can do that to you!Stare into this wheel. You are getting sleepy. Ahh, but don’t fall asleep because you will soon be riding this hypnotic Roland Sands Design ‘10 Harley Davidson 883 Sportster through the Carmel Valley. When I snap my finger, you will meet Jason Casper who brought this bike and a truckload more to the Gathering from his impressive Roland Sands Design private collection. Thanks for putting us under a wicked motorcycle spell Jason!Another day-before-the-gathering pleasure I had was meeting Mark and Brandon Smith who brought their “just off the assembly-line” ‘64 Triumph TR6SC to the Gathering on Friday afternoon. The condition of this rare and early TR6SC is perfect. It looks like the bike you would have drooled-over in a showroom back in 1964. On show day, Brandon rode this classic up onto the Winner’s Stage to receive the British 2nd Place award. His dad Mark was no doubt smiling as he so easily does. Congratulations gentlemen!When you’re on the show field at the Gathering you’ll often hear a bike revving its motor to please the crowd or impress the judges. The Luna Racer from TARFORM electric motorcycles has an audio signature unlike any other. It’s a futuristic attention-getter created by amplifying the electromagnetic waves from the motor. But it’s not just the sound of the Luna Racer that’s appealing. Its design is a revival of the classic Cafe Racer style from the 1970s, with a heavy pinch of “fast and futuristic” carefully integrated into the esthetic. To learn more about this Made-in-Brooklyn marvel go to https://www.tarform.com/When I spotted these bikes from a distance, I thought Confederates! Founded in the 1990s and known for building fast, loud and expensive motorcycles, Confederate Motorcycles went through a metamorphosis in 2017 when founder Matthew Chambers announced they would change the name to Curtiss Motorcycles and only build electric motorcycles. Around 2020, the petrol-burner contingent of the company decided to relaunch as Combat Motors – and that’s the trifecta pictured here. From front to back is the X132 Hellcat, the Combat Wraith and the P51 Fighter.Another big surprise at THE QUAIL MOTORCYCLE GATHERING 2023 was this ‘37 Mercier Moto Chenille. It’s a 350cc JAP engine-powered, track-driven hill-climber prototype conceived by Adrien Mercier, a Swiss inventor who during the 1930s was building small mopeds in France. In 1937 after the French military tested the Chenille (the French word for caterpillar), it was deemed too impractical and unwieldy. Only five were ever built.When I previewed this photo montage on my Facebook page a friend commented “What were you thinking?” I jested a reply saying “Apparently, I wasn’t.” Truth be told, when I met Tim Cunha co-owner of the Salt Flats motorcycle streamliner on Friday, he asked if I’d like to slip into the Costella-Cunha Nebulous Theorem VIII on show day. I enthusiastically accepted his invitation and could not stop thinking about my upcoming cockpit inspection. This motorcycle engine powered land speed vehicle holds over 20 world records set at Bonneville and El Mirage. For the record: The fit is extra tight and I needed a helping hand to get out!
Words & Photos ©Jim Palam, https://www.jimpalam.com/
For more information about The Quail Motorcycle Gathering 2023,
please visit https://www.peninsula.com/en/signature-events/events/motorcycle