Normally, you'd never call Bill Little shy. Or retiring. But retiring he is, officially as from Saturday 6th August 2016. He's been telling us for years that he's been downsizing and reducing his stock from huge to merely large.
And he's long been lamenting the changes in the classic bike scene over the past decade or so. He used to have large open days at his emporium at Braydon, Wiltshire in which dozens of riders and traders turned up to enjoy a little honest business whilst soaking up the vibe of camaraderie.
But things changed, and they changed fairly rapidly. It was nothing that Bill did wrong. Just different rider/visitor habits coupled with harder-to-get parts, and also the loss of a number of once familiar faces on the scene. [More...]
This is the 60th anniversary of Mallory Park, which means that this year's Bike Bonanza will have a special resonance. It happens on the 30th and 31st July 2016, which is a Saturday and Sunday.
Now in its third year, and organised Real Motorsports Limited, you can expect the established mix of racing, trade stalls, live music, autograph signings, an open paddock, club stands, eateries, drinkeries and a hell of a four-stroke and two-stroke racket in a fume filled atmosphere.
On the Saturday, the Owd Codgers Motorcycle Club will be staging a Classic Charity Trial. We're also advised that Saturday will be given over to PR5 road machines. Sunday, meanwhile, with focus on PR6 race machines. Also expect the Mallory Masters parade.
— Queen of Sump
There's hype, and then there's hyped hype. Case in point is Mecum Auctions which is preparing to flog the above 1942 1260cc Indian Four at Monterey, California sometime between 18th & 20th August 2016.
What makes this bike newsworthy, according to Mecum, are two things. The first being that the giant US auction house is anticipating big money; specifically $120,000 - $130,000. The second is that this is the first bike off the 1942 production line.
So wait a minute; first off the last year's production line, huh? Well we can't get too excited about that. Most folk are more interested in the first ever built, and the last ever built. But hype is hype, and the world loves superlatives. So this example is the first of the last year (which is similar to saying that today is the first day of the rest of your life, etc).
[More on this Indian Model 442...]
Stefano Venier wasn't on the map pre-2012. At least, not as far as custom bikes are concerned. But today, in just four years, this Guzzi-hugging New Yorker has forged a reputation as a motorcycle designer par excellence.
To that end, his "Tractor" series of bikes has been one of the cornerstones of his custom shop. Venier began this series by customising a military specification Moto Guzzi NTX 750. He's now campaigning the fourth generation as witnessed by the bike immediately above. The Tractors are all built to order, and Venier has a waiting list.
▲ Venier V75. This is the original Venier Tractor concept. You can think of it as 01 in the series. Or you can think of it simply as the NTX 750 project. It started as a military off-roader and became a pretty cool street bike (if the stripped & clipped, wrapped-pipe brat look primes your pump).
▲ Venier Tractor 02. Based upon a 2013 750cc V7 Moto Guzzi Stone, Venier got a tighter grip on the wheels which came from a V7 racer and he fitted knobblies. The silencers are Norton peashooters. A dual seat was part of the brief. Old style rockers are fitted. The overall look is one of contrasts. Rough. Smooth. Gloss. Matt. Yin. Yang. Whatever. Nice.
▲ Tractor 03. This one's based on a 2011 750cc V7 Scrambler. Aluminium tank and fenders. Renthal 'bars. IKON shocks. Old style rocker covers.
Further details on all these bikes is pretty scant. Clearly Venier prefers to build than talk. Consequently, you'll just have to take these designs at face value and get onto Venier's website for a closer look. We're simply making the introductions.
The bike at the top of this feature, incidentally, is the 04 Tractor, also based on a 750cc V7 Moto Guzzi. That's the latest in this line of bikes and shows that Venier feels he's got a good formula with which he hasn't quite finished tinkering.
The 04 tank has been reshaped and elongated (when compared to earlier designs). Like the bodywork and handlebars, it's aluminium. The seat is leather. The lights are LED front and rear. The shocks are IKON. The speedo is a custom GPS type.
There's much more in the Venier catalogue, all created under the Art of Movement umbrella. And prices? We've got no info except that everything's negotiable.
Photos by: Alex Logiaski. www.alexlogaiski.com
— Del Monte
Check out this superlative Triumph Thruxton 900 custom from Death Machines of London. The bike is called Up Yours Copper, and we're featuring it on our General Motorcycle News pages for July 2016.
— Big End
The king of motorcycle customisers? We think so. It isn't simply the designs, the poise, the finishes, and the sheer audacity of this man's craft. It's also the dedication, the consistency and the staying power that puts Arlen Ness head and shoulders above the rest—and the competition out there is both fierce and dangerous.
Now, having been made a Sturgis Hall of Fame member in 1992, the Sturgis Museum, in South Dakota, USA has created a special category and has bestowed on Ness a Lifetime Achievement Award as an adjunct to the Class of 2016 award ceremonies.
Arlen Daryl Ness was born in Minnesota in 1939. His family later relocated to San Leandro, California where he later began his motorcycling career as an auto painter. It's said that his first interest was bowling, and it's also said that the proceeds of a bowling win was used to buy his first bike, a Harley-Davidson Knucklehead.
He began experimenting with customising, particularly with regard to paintwork, and he soon established himself as a useful bloke with a spray gun. In 1970, together with his wife, he opened his first store and began designing and retailing custom motorcycle parts.
Over the next three decades, Ness was a cornerstone of the custom bike building scene and created machines such as Two Bad (an outrageously low and double-engined Sportster with trick hub-centre steering and a supercharger), NessStalgia (think of a two-wheeled '57 Chevy), and SmoothNess (think of a two wheeled art deco Bugatti and you're getting close).
▲ You can take a close look at Arlen Ness's Two Bad Sportster (see text) when you visit Motorcyclepedia Museum in Newburgh, New York, NY. There are 500 bikes on show dating from 1897, plus some other circular attractions for fans of motordromes. www.motorcyclepediamuseum.org
Today, Arlen Ness is more than a custom bike builder. He's an industry supplying a huge and luxurious range of custom parts for Harley-Davidson, Indian and Victory motorcycles. He owns Arlen Ness Motorcycles which is located in Dublin, California.
Arlen Ness is now 77 years old. His son Cory has long since established himself as a forward-looking and quality custom motorcycle builder. And Cory's son, Zach, is following in the family tradition, no doubt mindful of the fact that dad and granddad are hard acts to follow.
— Del Monte
If you've got a satellite dish pointed at the Discovery Channel, or are connected to the network in some other way, look out for Harley and the Davidsons, a new mini-series set to air on Monday 5th September 2016. The first two hour screening will be followed over the next two nights by two more two hour instalments. The show starts at 9pm.
As the name suggests, this is a dramatisation of the early days of William Harley and the Davidson boys (Arthur, Walter and William). The stars include Robert Aramayo, Bug Hall and Michiel Huisman.
The budget for this production is estimated at $22 million. And sadly, it appears that most or all of the filming was shot in Bucharest, Romania. We've got nothing against the Romanians, but an all-American story such as this deserves a more local setting (we'd suggest Milwaukee, Wisconsin and thereabouts).
But you have to be realistic. Twenty-two mill ain't a lot of money anymore in the movie business. And the backers and financiers are no doubt far more interested in profit than fidelity. However, we're betting that the dust kicked up by the bikes won't quite look like American dust. And we're fairly sure that the scenery and the skies and the panoramas just won't quite ring true.
Nevertheless, a story such as the birth of Messrs H&D is a tale worth telling, and we've already bought some popcorn and coke and have pencilled it in the diary.
Meanwhile, we've seen some trailer footage of this series (check YouTube), and it looks pretty dramatic—in a kind of hyped-up, overblown, let's-not-stray-too-close-to-the-facts kind of way. But if you're into old time board track racing (and who isn't?), this might be the best thing you'll be doing on 5th September.
— The Third Man
A civil rights activist, a producer, an ex-US marine, a film maker, and a custom motorcycle designer, Clifford Vaughs died this month aged 79.
Vaughs is also (belatedly) credited as the man who designed the two Harley-Davidson Panheads used in the 1969 cult movie, Easy Rider.
So what's the story there? Well, Vaughs was working at the time as an associate producer on the film and commissioned friend Ben Hardy to build the Captain America bike ridden by Peter Fonda, and the Billy Bike as used by Dennis Hopper. Vaughs laid down the specifications, and Hardy set to work.
These iconic machines were by no means Vaughs' first custom bikes. And for decades numerous people had claimed the credit for these chops (it's a messy tale, and we don't want to go there). But the evidence for Vaughs' contribution seems very credible.
Clifford Vaughs was born in Boston Massachusetts. In 1953 he joined the US Marine Corp. Later he travelled to Mexico City where he earned a masters degree in Latin American Studies.
By 1961 he had relocated to Los Angeles where he discovered the burgeoning chopper bike scene and soon found himself astride a green Knucklehead chop. A black man on a motorcycle, especially a custom motorcycle, was a rare sight in the sixties (and isn't exactly commonplace today). So it was perhaps natural that he and Ben Hardy, a local black custom bike builder, should find much common ground.
Over the next few years, other custom bikes were designed by Vaughs (and perhaps partly or largely built by Hardy), but his interests went way beyond mere mo'sickles. Using a 1953 Chevrolet pick-up truck and occasionally his Harley chop, Vaughs travelled throughout the American South recording the black struggle for equality, and in doing so he often found himself face-to-face with black luminaries such as Dr Martin Luther King Jr, Julian Bond and Stokeley Carmichael (Kwame Ture) all of whom he interviewed on film.
Vaughs also found himself face-to-face with numerous US National Guardsmen and outraged white citizens who, broadly, weren't keen on changing the status quo and were actively resisting the oncoming US Civil Rights Act of 1964.
During this period, Vaughs received numerous death threats, and was long considered a target for whatever anti-black power radical had him in his (or her) gun sights. In short, he was not the kind of guy people liked standing beside for too long.
▲ Clifford Vaugh and his early Shovelhead chop. Springer fork. No frame rake. Slash cut drag pipes. Peanut tank. Skinny front wheel sans brake. 16-inch rear rubber. This looks like LA sometime around the mid-1960s. Chops were still rare then. Black men on chops were rarer still.
In 1967, he was asked to find and buy four motorcycles to be used in a new (and untitled) counter-culture motorcycling movie being produced by the late Dennis Hopper (1936 - 2010). Vaughs agreed and attended a Los Angeles Sherriff's auction and reputedly picked up a bargain on four Harley-Davidson Panheads. Two of those bikes were to be used as stunt doubles.
Vaughs also claimed to have suggested the title Easy Rider. The name, it's said, was taken from a 1913 ragtime song recorded by Mae West in 1933 and entitled "I wonder where my easy rider's gone..." Mae West made it sound much more sleazy and suggestive, but it was simply a "hard luck" ditty about a girl who was ripped off by a jockey following a horse race.
Of those four Easy Rider bikes, it's said that three were stolen and possibly broken for parts. But one survived. It was sold in October 2014 for $1.35million (see Sump September 2014).
During the filming of Easy Rider, there was a sudden change of management when the money ran out, and Vaughs was considered surplus to requirements. Part of the "laying off" deal included an agreement that neither his name nor Ben Hardy's name would be included in the movie credits.
▲ The Chopper by Paul D'Orleans, aka The Vintagent. Buy this classy and authoritative book to learn more about the Easy Rider bikes and the history of the chopper culture. Published by Gestalten, the price is €49.90
In 1974, Vaughs abandoned the USA. He travelled to the Gulf of Mexico where he lived for many years on a sailboat. In 2014, however, his name became associated once again with the movie Easy Rider, and he returned to the United States.
He was once asked if he'd ever seen the movie, and he's been quoted as saying "What for?" It's not clear if he was seriously embittered by the commercial politics surrounding the film. But given his experiences recording the black civil rights struggles and the atrocities that occurred, it's doubtful that the absence of his name on the closing titles would have cost him too much sleep.
Ben Hardy, aka "Benny" and "King of Bikes" died in 1994. Clifford Vaughs died peacefully in his sleep.
▲ 1964 125cc Dot Scrambler. We don't have any details of this bike which hails from Manchester, England. It's part of the Moto Talbott Museum collection and looks like a very high quality restoration. There's another image below...
We've been waiting for months to write this news story intending to time it with the opening of this new motorcycle museum in Carmel Valley, California. But clearly some things just won't be rushed, and this motorcycle museum is still being organised. So to get it off the back burner, we're running this news item now and will update it as and when.
Rob Talbott is the man behind the project. He made his name and money after spending 33 years developing the Talbott Vineyards in his native state of California. Talbott caught the biking bug as a young man, but it wasn't until 2015 that he was fully able to indulge his passion.
In that year, inspired by Art of the Motorcycle Exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum (1998 - 2003), he sold the vineyards and put his energies into creating a not-for-profit West Coast, USA museum (Moto Talbott) which will display the 140 bikes he'd already amassed, plus a few more that he's since added to his collection. He's now custodian of 160 machines, an eclectic mix of classic roadsters, trail bikes, customs, cafe racers and pretty much anything else that's caught his attention.
▲ 1970 125cc Penton-Wassell. This rare Sachs-engined scrambler owes its existence to W E Wassell, the Birmingham, England based aftermarket parts firm created in 1946 by Ted Wassell. Wassell produced everything from aluminium tanks, handlebar levers, seats, mirrors, footpegs, etc, and he ultimately developed a complete scrambles frame kit. BSA Bantams and Sachs motorcycles were typical donors.
▲ John Penton of Amherst, Ohio developed the 125cc Penton. It's not clear how many of these bikes were manufactured. This example, we believe, was sold by Bonhams at Las Vegas in January 2014. The price was $4,370 (£3,296) including premium. Last time we checked, there were three or more Pentons in the Owen Collection based just outside Los Angeles, California. www.owencollection.com
▲ 1974 Honda CB550 bobber. Moto Talbott collection.
Friend Bob Weindorf has climbed on the pillion as curator and restorer. Weindorf, we hear, has donkey's years of experience as a Honda race team technician and also ran his own bike dealership in Santa Barbara, California.
The collection includes bikes from the America, the UK, Italy, Belgium, Japan, the Czech Republic (formerly Czechoslovakia), Mexico, Germany, Sweden, Spain, China and France. Said Talbott: “This whole thing wouldn’t work if I didn’t have the passion. I love motorcycles.”
If you're in the neighbourhood, you might want to check this out when the doors finally open, etc. Looks like some very high quality stuff.
— Queen of Sump
A new two-day classic bike show will be launched on Saturday October 29th 2016. The venue is Peterborough Arena. Attractions are set to include all the usual stuff such as bike displays, trade stands, club stands, food stalls, drinks vendors, motorcycle parades, loos, etc, plus special guests John McGuinness, Mick Grant, Henry Cole and Sam Lovegrove. Parking is free. Leave the camera drones at home. Advance tickets are £9, or you can pay £12 on the day. The postcode is PE2 6XE.
We called the Classic Bike Live promotions office, and we spent ages waiting on the line hoping to get responses to our queries. Classic Bike is currently owned by Bauer Media. The new show is owned by Live Promotions which hails from Spalding, Lincs, with Classic Bike magazine so far the only sponsor.
Reading between the lines, it looks like this event has a long way to go before it reaches operating temperature, and there's only a few months until the gates open. But no doubt a few people will show up on the day.
If you're interested in attending as a visitor or exhibitor, or otherwise, you know what you have to do.
— Del Monte
Harley-Davidson is being investigated by the US National Highway Transport Safety Administration (NHTSA) with a view to recalling thousands of bikes. The alert came after 43 riders complained of sudden and unexpected brake failure said to be ABS related.
Details are sketchy, but the fault appears to involve brake fluid absorbing moisture from the atmosphere. The manufacturer has warned that the fluid must be changed every two years. Many owners, and possibly HD technicians, neglect this.
As many as 430,000 bikes manufactured between 2008 - 2011 could be affected. And so far, the problem has been identified only on US bikes. The fault, however, might well be more widespread. There have been some related injuries, but (as far as we know) no fatalities.
In 2014, around 60,000 H-Ds were recalled following another problem in which the brakes unexpectedly engaged rather than failed.
As ever, wherever you are in the world, talk to your Harley-Davidson and see what the deal is.
Harley-Davidson recall, Sump, October 2013
Harley-Davidson recall, Sump, January 2015
Harley-Davidson recall, Sump, August 2015
— The Third Man
Here's a final wake-up call for Dirt Quake V which is taking place tomorrow, Saturday 16th July 2016. But the festivities and action starts tonight from 6pm.
The location is Adrian Flux Arena (formerly Norfolk Arena), King’s Lynn, PE34 3AG. An adult ticket is £15. Concessions are available at £13. 11 - 15 year olds will be charged £5. Under 11s get in for free.
Expect lots of racing, Ken Fox's Wall of Death, a mini custom show, live music, trade stalls, food, beer, and general motorcycle fun and games. Camping is available at £10 per person per night.
Need more info?
— Big End
In the UK, we still call it an MOT test even though the Ministry of Transport (MOT) has been defunct since 1970. The Department for Environment took over until 1976, and then the Department of Transport was formed which held reign until 1997.
After that, it became the Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions. Then it was Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions. And currently it's the Department for Transport again.
But this story isn't about the official appellation of government transport offices. This story is about the rise in vehicles that are currently motoring around without a current MOT certificate.
A recent motor industry survey reckons that 91 percent of UK testing stations have seen an increase in cars and bikes coming in for testing that are "out of test". And 43 percent have seen a significant rise (i.e. months out of date rather than weeks).
The digitisation of the road fund licence (tax disc) in 2014 is said to be one of the major causes of the increase. Prior to 2014, the vast majority of vehicles registered for use on UK roads were obliged to buy and display a paper "tax disc". That disc was more often than not bought on or about the time of the vehicle's MOT test.
But with the abolition of the paper tax disc, and with more and more drivers and riders paying monthly for their road tax, road users are apt to forget the MOT test completely—or until a police patrol stops them and pointedly advises them of the lapse. And in that case, a maximum of a £1,000 fine is available to the local beak.
Ultimately, the responsibility for having a valid MOT test certificate is the responsibility of the driver/rider. But human nature being what it is, people are inclined to forget, and the government knows it. But there are no figures to show if HM Gov makes more money from the court fines or from the testing stations. But we're guessing that it's the latter.
The digitisation move was, of course, simply a device to save some money, which is arguably fine in principle. But in practice, most road users need something a little more obvious attached to their vehicle to remind them that their time is nigh.
Some riders and drivers now display unofficial tax discs to help them jerk their own leads. But if the aforementioned survey is correct, which we're satisfied it is, an MOT disc or similar device sounds like an idea whose time has come. It could easily be attached to the MOT certificate, albeit at additional cost (which is something the government wants to avoid). In other words, the paper tax disc might be dead, but there's a need for a visible MOT testing certificate or sticker (which is how it works in some countries).
Meanwhile, many MOT stations now send a text message when the next test is due. But not everyone has a mobile phone, and not everyone even knows how to access their messages, and a message once read is easy to forget over the succeeding days, weeks and even months.
And by the way, that's not a new MOT disc at the top of this news story. It's just something we cooked up in Photoshop.
Better check your MOT status today.
— Del Monte
This book's been kicking around since 2006. And now it's part of Veloce' Publishing's "Classic Reprint" series, which some might cruelly suggest is a bit like serving up yesterday's leftovers.
Except that this is Harry Woolridge's book, and Harry was a time-served Meriden man, first in the Service Department, then in the Experimental Department, then in Quality Control/Inspection, and finally once again in the Service Department. In total, he worked at the factory for around 30 years right up until Meriden closed its door forever and gave him his P45. And if he hasn't learned an awful lot about the model range and the minutiae of Triumph motorcycles, he must be stupid.
And he ain't stupid.
The bottom line is that this is still a great book. It's packed with history and detail that will aid restorers and satisfy most of the questions and queries asked by diehard fans. If you're looking for technical specifications, it's probably in here somewhere. If you're looking for old sales and marketing material, Harry's serviced up dozens of examples in both black & white and colour. If you're looking for a breakdown of build numbers and engine/frame numbers, or model identification detail, or colour schemes, you're in luck. And for the hardcore anorakista it's even got a section on notable registration numbers associated with the Trophy models, and the engine/frame numbers of bikes built for various shows around the world.
There are around 140 pages in this book. And there are hundreds of illustrations, many from the factory. There's also a section (loosely) covering the 500cc and 750cc unit-construction Tigers. And to be blunt, this section looks and reads like a later add-on side dish rather than a serious look at the machines. But Veloce advises us that the Tiger content was there in the first edition.
Regardless, it's all highly informative stuff and very satisfying eye candy, and Harry spills the beans in his usual no-frills way, a mostly invisible narrator telling the Triumph Trophy tale.
If you've read Harry's earlier book, The Speed Twin Bible, you might feel that this tome is less focussed, less dedicated and less authoritative. But even if that's true, this publication is nevertheless batting very high numbers, and it's hard to see how any Trophy fan is going to whinge about it.
The design looks a little dated, but some of that is simply due to the material. Certainly, nobody's given the layout much thought. But that's not really an issue. It's not, after all, a coffee table tome. It's an enthusiast's book, and accuracy is far more important than style.
So how accurate is it? Well, Harry Woolridge knows his stuff, and this isn't stuff and nonsense.
Veloce is suggesting a retail price of £35 for this soft cover edition, and you can buy direct from the publisher. But if you go onto to Amazon (see image immediately above), you can pick up a hard cover copy for only ... £233.56 (used), or £621.58 (new).
— Big End
He wasn't exactly the most famous Hollywood director. In fact, most movie goers have probably barely heard of him, if at all. But Michael Cimino, who died on 2nd July 2016 aged 77, certainly made his mark on the film industry, but not entirely for the right reasons.
His most famous cinematic contribution was The Deer Hunter (1978). Starring Robert DeNiro, Christopher Walken, Meryl Streep, John Cazale and George Dzunda, the film explores the tortured relationships of three Russian-American steelworkers who'd served together in Vietnam and were subsequently psychologically and socially damaged by their harrowing experiences. The Deer Hunter cost $15 million to make and grossed almost $50 million. The film earned five Academy Awards including best picture and best director. The American Film Institute reckoned that it was the 53rd best movie of all time.
▲ Robert DeNiro helped Michael Cimino hit the target with The Deer Hunter (1978). But after that, it all began to unravel for one of Hollywood's most controversial and challenging movie directors...
But it was actually Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974) that gave Cimino his first shot in the directorial chair. The movie, starring Clint Eastwood, Jeff Bridges, George Kennedy and Geoffrey Lewis cost $4 million to make and grossed around $25 million. It was the tale of a robbery (actually, the second robbery) on a Montana bank vault by means of a 20 millimetre cannon. The film has since achieved near cult status and is variously described as a buddy movie, a crime caper, and a comedy drama. Except that it's no comedy. If anything it has more of a road movie feel.
Cimino also co-wrote Silent Running (1971) starring Bruce Dern, and he co-wrote Magnum Force (1972) starring Clint "Dirty Harry" Eastwood.
Where things went seriously wrong for Michael Cimino was his third directorial effort, Heaven's Gate (1980). With a stellar cast that included Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Walken, Isabelle Huppert, Jeff Bridges, John Hurt, Sam Waterston, Joseph Cotten, Mickey Rourke, Brad Dourif, Geoffrey Lewis, and Willem Dafoe, the movie cost around $40 million to make and—oops—made barely a tenth of that in the USA (the distributors were so upset with the film that they put the brake on a worldwide release).
▲ A one room schoolhouse in Warsaw, Montana. That's the key to the plot of Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974). Clint Eastwood (as The Thunderbolt) maintains the gravitas, but it's Jeff Bridges (as Lightfoot) who walks away with the movie. Gary Busey makes an appearance too.
Heaven's Gate was quite simply a 325 minute (subsequently cut) epic western disaster that all but wrecked United Artists and pretty much wrecked Cimino's career. It bombed with the critics, and it bombed with audiences. Indeed, it was hard to find anyone who had a good word to say about the movie. Ultimately, the film marked a sea change in the relationship between the big studios and the talent, and it left Michael Cimino in the doghouse thereafter. Moreover, it damaged the western genre and made cowboy flicks generally too risky to contemplate. It wasn't until Kevin Costner's Dances with Wolves (1990), and Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven (1992) hit the screens that westerns were once again considered to be big box office tickets.
After Heaven's Gate, Cimino's career wasn't at an end. But he had been summarily relegated from the premier league to somewhere out in the wilderness. However, whatever went wrong with the movie was nothing compared to the bad blood that began flowing leading to accusations of creative incompetence, artistic bullying, rampant egotism, obsessive behaviour, and animal cruelty (relating to horses used in Heaven's Gate). In short, where Cimino's star had blazed fiercely with The Deer Hunter, it suddenly collapsed into a commercial and reputational black hole.
Later films included The Dogs of War (1980), The Sicilian (1987), Year of the Dragon (1985), and finally Sunchaser (1996). But there was to be no redemption; at least, not from the big studios and Hollywood players, many of whom kept their axes and tongues honed. Cimino was considered too "out there", too complex, too commercially unstable, too ... too Ciminoesque.
From most accounts, including his friends, he was certainly an oddball character who appeared to enjoy playing oddball characters in his private life. He was a small guy who dressed in cowboy boots and experimented/flirted with unconventional hair styles and outfits. He was apt to say "odd" things and respond to questions from oblique angles during rare interviews. Even his birth date varied.
He was born in New York City and grew up on Long Island. He was rebellious at school and, although considered a child prodigy (or perhaps because of it), he showed delinquent tendencies. His father was a music publisher. His mother was a costume designer. He had one brother. And he never married.
Cimino lived remotely in a world of very private friendships and was always a soft touch for his detractors. He published a couple of novels, wrote numerous other scripts, produced many films, spent years working on stillborn private projects, and remained "out there", wherever that might be.
In recent years, Heaven's Gate—with its huge panoramas, its slow, drawn-out camera work, its improbable silences and its ponderous characterisations—has been re-appraised, and many now consider this western to be a masterpiece.
Michael Cimino will be widely remembered as one of the most controversial, most divisive and most maligned figures in the history of modern movie making. But here at Sump, we'll be content to remember him as the bloke who entertained us many times with Thunderbolt and Lightfoot which is a great moment in cinema with a great vibe, a great cast, a great beginning, a great middle and a great ending.
Watch it again sometime and spare a passing thought for the late Michael Cimino who, from all accounts was (like most of us) a far from perfect individual, but one who perhaps didn't really deserve the treatment that Hollywood gave him.
If you're looking for a classic motorcycle with extra good vibrations, look this way, stranger. This 1966 650cc BSA A65L Lightning was once the property of the late—and exceedingly great—Beach Boy Carl Wilson, brother of Brian and Dennis; a man possessed of one of the most soulful voices in the history of popular music.
This bike was bought new by Wilson (1946 - 1998), and it's his name on the Californian documentation (care of Beach Boys Enterprises, no less). The mileometer/odometer is showing 2,923. The engine and frame numbers match (A65LA163). The condition looks to be generally pretty good and mostly original. It just needs re-commissioning, and then it's ready to rock and roll.
▲ Left to right, Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine and Brian Wilson. Carl sang backing vocals on the Beach Boy's hit, Little Honda. But at heart he was a BSA man and knew a great sound when he heard one.
The unit construction 650cc A65 appeared in BSA's catalogue in 1962 and superseded the very worthy, but "ageing" pre-unit 650cc A10. The A65L arrived three years later as an up-tempo sportster gunning for machines such as Triumph's pack-leading Bonneville and Norton's hard-boiled 650SS.
With its bore of 75mm and stroke of 74mm, BSA dealers claimed 54bhp and anything from 108 - 120mph. The lower figure is, naturally, the more accurate, and the 54bhp claim is nothing if not wildly optimistic. Nevertheless, the twin-carbed short-stroke parallel twin offered a lusty feel, competent handling and reasonable brakes, and it did its best to be worthy of the factory's reliability claims.
This example is to be sold by Mecum Auctions at Monterey, California on 18th - 20th August 2016 (no exact times yet). It's Lot R463, and so far there's no estimate. But we can see a long queue of bidders for this motorcycle.
▲ A twin cradle frame, a two-way damped front fork, 19-inch front wheel and an 18-inch rear. Oil leaks were a problem. But re-engineering has (mostly) fixed that. We've seen Lightnings with very high mileages.
▲ The A65 platform suffered numerous teething problems related to vibration and drive side (plain) bearing failure. Early bikes failed to impress, performance wise. But a new, twin-carb head and 9:1 compression helped mitigate complaints. Modern engine improvements have since made this bike as fast as BSA intended, and reliable to boot.
At Sump, we're generally not too interested in purchasing the ephemera of late (or extant) celebs. But we'd make an exception for Rory Gallagher's Fender Strat, Marilyn Monroe's knickers, and Carl Wilson's A65L. It's silly, we know. But everything Wilson did sounded fantastic, and it just might be that there a special kind of soulful harmony locked into this motorcycle.
Think it's possible?
Meet the Van Buren sisters. That's Augusta on the left, and that's Adeline on the right. It's 100 years since these two gals, on 4th July 1916, straddled their motorcycles and set out from Sheepshead Bay Racetrack in Brooklyn, New York City headed for Los Angeles, California, and beyond. The intended route was largely the Lincoln Highway (New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado/Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California).
"Gussie" and "Addie" each rode a 1915 1,000cc Indian Powerplus V-twin heavily loaded with food, fuel, spare parts, clothing, maps, medical equipment, camping gear and suchlike. They travelled 5,500 miles, much of it on unpaved roads and dirt tracks through storms and deserts, and arrived at their destination on 8th September 1916. Note that we've seen conflicting information on the dates and arrivals location. But it seems that they travelled by way of San Francisco, down to LA, onward to San Diego, and finally called it a day at Tijuana on the Mexican side of the US/Mexico border. They'd spent 60 days in the saddle.
Aged 24 (Augusta) and 22 (Adeline), the girls were descended from Martin Van Buren (1782 - 1862), the 8th president of the USA. President Van Buren was often referred to as Martin Van Ruin having been largely blamed for the US depression of 1837 (he also opposed Texas joining the union).
Consequently, it could be argued that these biking babes had something to live down and were anxious to restore some credibility to the Van Buren name. But it's said that the real motivation for their motorcycle expedition was that they were active members of the US Preparedness Movement; an organisation founded in 1915 to get America ready for entry into WW1 (which finally happened in April 1917).
The Van Burens believed that girls should be allowed to serve as military despatch riders, and they were also keen advocates of US national suffrage (all American women got the vote in 1920).
They were clearly a privileged society pair (Augusta a librarian and later a pilot, and Adeline an "educator" and later a lawyer), but they could evidently get down and dirty when duty called, and their epic ride across a potentially still hazardous continent has become an inspiration for other women to get out there and make their mark, be it industrially, commercially, socially, politically and—it has to be said—recreationally.
▲ "WOMAN CAN. IF SHE WILL" T-shirt from Van Buren. This one is for the girls, and you can have it for $35. Note that shipping is available only to residents in the USA and Canada. See the link below for ordering, or click on the T-shirt.
On the ride, the women became lost in the desert in Utah and were perilously close to dying of dehydration, and along the way they became the first riders to scale Pike's Peak in the Rocky Mountains (14,109 feet) on a motorcycle.
Much of the contemporary press, however, had little or no time for the sisters. Their ride was variously described as a "vacation", and they were much derided for their immorality and affront to Yankee conservatism. Indeed, they were arrested on numerous occasions for wearing men's clothing (military breeches).
"Woman can. If she will," said Augusta Van Buren. And these women clearly would and did. One hundred years on, The Sisters Centennial Motorcycle Ride is recreating that journey, coast to coast. It began on 3rd July 2016, and the riders are on the road right now hoping to raise funds for Final Salute, a national women’s veterans’ organisation, and The Women’s Coalition of Motorcyclists which helps provide motorcycle training. The journey began at New York City and will end on 23rd July 2016 at San Francisco with a Grand Finale party.
The original 1916 ride is said to be the first time that two women crossed the USA on separate motorcycles. But it's worth mentioning that the year before (1915), Effie Hotchkiss and her mum (image immediately above) travelled 9,000 miles on a Harley-Davidson sidecar outfit to San Francisco. And back. That journey took three months.
In 2002 the sisters were inducted into the American Motorcyclists Association Hall of Fame. In 2003 they were inducted into the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame.
Sponsors for the Van Buren centennial include BMW, Indian Motorcycles, Women's Motorcycle Tours, Suzuki, and Kuryakyn.
— Queen of Sump
He was Elvis Presley's original lead guitarist and was better known for his sound than his looks. But Scotty Moore, who has died aged 84, is unquestionably one of the founders of the classic twanging, bass-loaded, heavy-rhythm rock'n'roll slapback sound of the 1950s and deserves a heavy round of applause for his unique contribution to the "devil's own music".
If you're familiar with the songs That’s Alright; Mystery Train; Blue Moon of Kentucky; Jailhouse Rock; Blue Suede Shoes; Hound Dog; Money Honey; Baby Let’s Play House; and Milk Cow Blues Boogie, you know exactly what Scotty Moore's finger/thumb-picking technique sounds like. And that was the wonderful racket that Sam Phillips of Sun Studios fame heard way back in the early 1950s when Phillips was searching for a new sound and a new act.
It was a teenage Elvis Presley who came along to Sun Studios in Memphis looking to cut a track or two on Phillips' recording equipment. Phillips was impressed with what he heard, but needed convincing that this was a marketable sound.
Phillips introduced Presley to Scotty Moore (lead guitar) and Bill Black (on bass) and switched on the mics and watched and listened. The sound was good, but it wasn't really happening until Moore began fooling about with a handful of fingers and a thumb and fretboard of strings, and Phillips tried a slapback idea he'd been experimenting with. There was no drummer. Just the lead and bass guitar with Presley on rhythm. But it was enough to light up the studio decks, and a new sound was born.
So okay, there was plenty of Chet Atkins in the mix, plus a lot of familiar blues licks and even a hint of gospel. Nevertheless, the music had youth, energy, vitality and even sex appeal, and a few platters were cut and sent out for airplay. And you pretty much know the rest.
Scotty Moore was born in Tennessee and began playing the guitar at age eight. He joined the US Navy at age 17 and began seriously developing his talent with the help of a gold Gibson ES 295 guitar built for jazz, but more closely associated with rockabilly. During those early years touring the USA with Elvis Presley, Scotty Moore, Bill Black and a new guy named D J Fontana (on drums) developed that sound and became an integral part of Presley's stage act. The combo was always right there whenever Presley needed it, filling-in as and when required, musically ad-libbing and punching out the right chords and beats on demand.
Sounds easy, perhaps. But Presley was constantly improvising on stage, and he needed his backing musicians to be always on message. However, during the late fifties and early sixties, Moore and Elvis drifted apart. The Presley management were looking for new commercial sounds, and Moore's approach and technique was considered "old" and too small for the wider music arena. Consequently, Moore and Presley collaborated for the last time in 1968. It was, by all accounts, a great reunion. But it was a dead end for Scotty Moore.
It's said that Moore never earned much from his association with Presley. At least, not in terms of hard cash. But he was a huge influence on guitarists such as Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, George Harrison and Keith Richards. And if you were playing rock'n'roll guitar at pretty much any time since the 1950s, there's probably some Scotty Moore in you too.
Post-Presley, Moore pretty much mothballed his guitar and became a producer working with the likes of Ringo Starr and Dolly Parton. But in more recent years, Moore boarded the comeback train and discovered first hand how much he was revered by fans, old and new. He found the opportunity to record a number of albums, married three times, divorced three times, and is survived by a son and four daughters.
In the year 2000 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and certainly not a millisecond before time.