Nine people and one organization were inducted into the Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame on Oct. 27 in a packed ceremony at the Toronto Airport Hilton hotel.
The event was sponsored by the Canadian International Motorcycle Heritage Museum Foundation, founded by Bar and Hedy Hodgson. Inductees are nominated by the general public, which may explain why they were as distinctive a group of individuals as the motorcycling community itself.
The two best known inductees are probably Montreal’s Yvon Duhamel and Coldwater, Ontario’s Michelle (Mike) Duff. Both are renowned world class racers, yet they couldn’t be more different. Yvon made a name for himself racing everything from snowmobiles to NASCAR and just about every motorcycle discipline in existence with dogged determination. Meanwhile, Michelle earned most of her accolades on the world stage of motorcycle racing against the likes of Mike Hailwood, Giacomo Agostini, and Phil Read among others. Both had immense successes.
Pat Gonsalves hosted the event and introduced the inductees. His most memorable comment referred to “a special place in heaven reserved for those who died who were not afraid to live.” This description seemed to apply to the late William “Billy” Mathews, born in Hafford, Saskatchewan. Billy was the first non-American to win the Daytona 200 back in 1941, actually crashing in that race but remounting to win.
This comment was also applicable to the late Jim Robinson from Wheatley, Ontario. Many of us may have driven by his dealership on several occasions, but few of us likely knew of his racing exploits in several motorcycle disciplines, or his tactic of entertaining crowds by crashing through flaming boards and ramps.
Windsor’s Bob Williams was also inducted, and he brought his red streamliner along. Bob was involved in setting land speed records since the mid ’60s, and is still active in his attempts to break even more records. Look inside his streamliner and you just may see a sticker that says “wide open till you see God, then brake.”
Helmut Clasen from Dundas, Ontario, was another inductee, a German with mad skills on anything off road, still winning his class at 72 years old. Others included Marc St. Laurent, a tireless motorcycle advocate from Trois Rivières, and J.B. Bernie Nicholson from Calgary, a pioneer in do-it-yourself motorcycle mechanics literature and training.
The late great “Iron Chief Charlie” Mahoney from Campbellford, Ontario, was also inducted, renowned for his expertise with Indian motorcycles. His daughter Mary Jo was in attendance and she spoke proudly of the Indian four that she still rides with 98,000 miles on it.
The Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group was the only organization inducted this evening. The 1,700 members collectively own 7,300 bikes and 200 brands…wow! Courtesy of these folks, all that history is being preserved and shown throughout Canada. Nice, eh?
This eclectic group now has a permanent place in Canadian motorcycle history. As different as they all are, they’ve shared a common thread: a passion for two wheels and a motor.