Photos: Dean Edamura
One of the must-see displays at the Toronto Spring Motorcycle Show is show producer Bar Hodgson’s collection of vintage bikes. His best-known machines are his Vincents, but he has much more in his collection, and lots of other interesting machines on display.
This weekend at the show, we took a few minutes to talk to Bar about some of his favourite bikes, and find out why they turn his crank.
Alf Hagon Commando Drag Bike
“This originally was a Vincent dragster from the ’60s.”
The most interesting Brit bike in Canada? Not quite, but this Frankenbike is very close.
At first glance, it’s a vintage Norton-powered drag bike, with a Commando engine in a custom Alf Hagon frame. Very cool stuff, and certainly collectible. But then, Hodgson points out, the frame wasn’t originally built for that parallel-twin engine. If you’re in the know, you can see it was first built for a Vincent V-twin.
The bike came into Canada via Herb Becker, who found it in Daytona, Florida without an engine. In its current configuration, the bike has done some burnouts at CVMG meet-ups, that sort of thing, but its days of lining up at the Christmas tree are over. Hodgson has big plans for this bike. He’s got a 1300 cc short-stroke Vincent V-twin he’s planning to put into it, returning it to its roots.
Art Robbins’ Suzuki 1000 Superbike
“This is the correct engine. He had six frames; he balled up the bike, so we switched frames.”
Legendary Canadian roadracer Art Robbins hooned this Suzuki litrebike around the track in the early 1980s, in competition with Lang Hindle. Although the original chassis was a bit of a mess after Art the Dart binned it, there were enough spares knocking around that all Bar and company had to do was swap frames, and presto, back to stock. Or whatever you’d call the original configuration of this piece of Canadian racing history.
Lang Hindle’s Kawasaki 1000 Superbike
“These are both Lang’s bikes he campaigned while he was racing.”
Two of Lang Hindle’s Kawasaki former racebikes were on display: one belongs to Hodgson (pictured above), the other he once owned, but gave back to Hindle. These machines both had the legendary S1 factory racing engines; look closely at the crankcases, and you’ll notice there are no serial numbers.
The bike that Hodgson kept saw use on the street for a while after Hindle was done with it, then was pressed into vintage racing duty. However, the other one (which he returned to Hindle) is basically untouched. That machine also saw use at the Daytona 200, with Yvon Duhamel behind the bars. Definitely a very cool piece of CanCon racing history!
1950 Vincent Mike White Special
“This was the last bike he built.”
The last project of legendary Canadian vintage bike mechanic Mike White, who had a worldwide reputation for his capability to restore and rebuild Vincent machinery.
For this bike, White rebuilt the engine and constructed his own chassis, installing a Comet 500 cc single-cylinder engine with a Commando gearbox and a Norton front end. This is a true piece of art, and was run at the Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group’s Ganaraska G250 event.
1955 Vincent Series D Black Prince
“This was the first motorcycle use of fiberglass.”
Today, fully-faired motorcycles are everywhere. In 1955, you only saw such things on racetracks, where dustbin fairings helped streamline bikes for speed.
However, Phil Vincent saw the advantages of adding a fairing to a street motorcycle. He took a Black Shadow and added fiberglass bodywork, turning what was the era’s most high-tech naked bike into the world’s first modern sport-tourer. Hodgson says Vincent made “staggering” contributions to motorcycles, and seeing the Black Prince, you can see why.
1952 Vincent Black Lightning
“It was raced into the ground and disappeared.”
The Vincent Race Department built this machine and shipped it off to Singapore in the early 1950s, where it was raced, and raced hard. It reappeared in the GTA in the 1970s. Mike White rebuilt this machine as well, and it was a lot of work, as it was thoroughly thrashed. At its core, it’s a hot-rodded Vincent Black Shadow, but its racing days are over now.
The Black Lightning is another example of just how advanced Vincent’s creations were. The chassis was drastically restructured from other machines at the time: the heavy frame front downtubes are gone and the swingarm is attached to the rear of the motor, with centralized dual shocks, almost a monoshock. These design principles took decades to catch on with other manufacturers.
1974 Ducati GT
“This was a really, really rough bunch of parts.”
When Hodgson bought this bike, it was in pieces, and had a long way to go. It’s just been restored, after being stored in a baggie, with dessicant, for 35 years. Hodgson loves the engineering on this bike — it was a revolutionary machine for Ducati, the company’s first L-twin. He’s joking, but he says this is the machine for his old age, as it has electric start.
1948 Vincent Series B Rapide
“The older you go, the harder it is to find the parts, and the harder it is to authenticate the parts.”
This is another of Hodgson’s machines that is freshly restored — Phil Mahood has just about finished this one, and wanted to have it at the show. It’s a fine example of earlier Vincent technology, as the company was figuring out how to make things efficiently.
It’s also a good example of just how difficult it can be to restore one of these older machines. As the company was constantly transitioning to new designs, it can be difficult or impossible to find the right pieces to reconstruct the bike to the way it was when it left the factory floor. Sometimes, you have to manufacture the part yourself, and hope to find a factory original part to swap in later. Sometimes you might find the piece, but its history may be sketchy, and you won’t know if it’s actually an original part.
Those challenges mean that for many of these bikes, restoration can be a long, arduous process, and it can be expensive. For this specific machine, Hodgson figures it’s the first time it’s been re-assembled as a complete bike for decades, maybe since the 1960s.