Vincent in the Barn

With Jamie Leonard’s “Monster in the Barn” feature currently heading the CMG features list, it seems to be an appropriate time for a review of The Vincent in the Barn: Great Stories of Motorcycle Archaeology.


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With Jamie Leonard’s “Monster in the Barn” feature currently heading the CMG features list, it seems to be an appropriate time for a review of The Vincent in the Barn: Great Stories of Motorcycle Archaeology.

The author, Tom Cotter, has made something of a career of writing about vehicle discoveries and resurrections, having already written two books, The Hemi in the Barn and The Cobra in the Barn — which might make you believe that there are untold numbers of fabulous machines of all kinds out there just waiting for you to stumble over them.

In reality, Jamie’s experiences are by far the more common (such as the 1973 CB125 in my garage …). Still, even though most of the finds are made by people doing it for a living such as professional restorers or museum curators, it’s fun to dream and to read about some of the stuff that’s been located and bebuilt.

My favourite stories in this book (which, I might add, is lavishly illustrated, well-written, and expensively produced) are some hilarious tales of a group of guys trying to follow up stories of lost hoards of motorcycles in Soviet-era Russia, and one from Jay Leno, who appeared on his show one night on crutches after an accident on his Black Shadow and asked if anyone who had a spare tank could give him a call. He ended up with an entire, almost brand-new Vincent, driven in the back of a half-ton from Florida by an old man accompanied by his dog. Turns out the guy had bought the thing new while with the military in the U.K. after WWII, had parked it in a shed after returning home when a minor part broke, and never thought about it again until he saw Leno’s broadcast.

The tales about the piles and piles of Indian parts located by the Barber Museum people are also amusing, especially the one about the guy and his wife who’d split their property in half, one side Homes and Garden perfect, one side a junk yard full of mechanical bits. Really, there isn’t a dud story in the book. They’re all short enough that the book is an easy one to pick up for half an hour whenever you’re in the mood.

By the way, the Canadian price suggested by the publisher is $32.50, but as of December 6 Amazon.ca has it available for $20.38, and they ship fast enough you can almost certainly still get one for Christmas. I think the original price is pretty good for the quality of the book, so for 20 bucks it’s a steal.

The Vincent in the Barn: Great Stories of Motorcycle Archaeology, by Tom Cotter, 256 pp, hard-bound, illustrated. Published by Quayside Publishing Group, Minneapolis, MN, quaysidepublishing.com, 612-344-8100. $32.50 Cdn.

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