Well said, Larry. I'm sure the British and Europeans (I think some Brits still like to make a distinction between those two terms) have often been greatly annoyed by the aggressiveness with which Americans collected all things European (and British). This includes bikes, cars and art (Can you say Getty Museum?) amongst other things. We should indeed remember that that these bikes we hate to see leave America are, after all, for the most part European, not American. Who is to say that a Renee Herse belongs any less in Kyoto than in Kokomo?
While I don't think it matters so much where classic bikes are preserved and cherished, I do worry that prices could go so high that only the relatively wealthy can afford classic bikes in the future. I think the price of these things will eventually reach an equilibrium worldwide. I hope that price is still within the reach of those who love them but don't happen to be wealthy.
Larry Strung wrote:
> Gentlemen (and ladies of our list),
> I'd like to contribute my two cents on this subject in the form of an
> In my "lost years" when I was an avid motorcyclist and racer, I had
> witnessed a similar exodus of exotic classic motorcycles from North America
> to the land of the rising sun. Many friends and fellow enthusiasts greated
> this with anger, and sought to keep the machines on these shores. Ridicule
> often befell those who sold out to the big bucks offered by wealthy
> collectors in Japan.
> Then at some point I had an opportunity to travel to L.A. for a business
> trip which allowed me a few hours of free time (I think it was from 5 in the
> afternoon until the red-eye departed just before midnight for the return
> flight to Toronto - ah, the glamorous life of business travel). I used my
> time wisely and scouted out a bike shop in one of the beach suburbs of L.A..
> It was an amazing motobike shop, run by a Japanese gentlemen, and full of
> all kinds of interesting "collector" bikes. I recall a whole row of Italian
> road racing motorbikes from the 1950's and 60's, all less than 250cc and
> jewel-like. There was even a celeste Bianchi 175cc production racer that
> had me drooling.
> After I had made friends with the owner, who warmed to my knowledge of his
> display, he showed me pictures of a collection that he had just arranged to
> be brought back from Japan to America for auction. He plopped me into a
> chair and handed me a couple of hundred photographs, fresh out of their
> sleeve from the photo shop. What's that term that Alex Clarke uses? The
> rarest of the rare? The photos showed at least one example of every exotic
> racing motorbike you could imagine, all the way up to 4 cylinder Italian
> works Gilera and MV racers from the 50's. Pictures of Manx Nortons were
> passed quickly over as being completely blaze.
> This was shortly after the first impact of the recession in Japan, and the
> economic tables had turned. The Japanese collector had gone bust, and his
> amazing collection of bikes were now worth more money in America than in
> I wondered how many Japanese collectors would be behaving like us North
> Americans, and were upset that this gentleman's collection was leaving
> Japan. Then I thought about the Italians who first witnessed their racing
> treasures leaving their homeland for America, because it was only our
> selfishness that allowed us to think that these bikes "belonged" in America.
> I came to the conclusion that it didn't matter what country the bikes ended
> up in, because the economic forces ensured that the bikes were not "lost
> forever". Indeed, the enthusiast in Japan, or Europe, shared the same love
> and emotion towards these machines as we did. What a great calling card, a
> shared interest, to open the door to communicate with people from around the
> world. Now with the internet, and the wonderful Classicrendezvous list, we
> can instantly communicate with our fellow enthusiasts around the world.
> B.C. can comment on this topic from Holland, and a rebutal can come from
> Takao Noda in Japan. We all have more in common with each other than we
> most likely do with our own next door neighbors.
> In the end, I would rather own one great bicycle and have 9 friends who each
> had one great bicycle, than own 10 great bicycles and have no friends at all
> to share them with. But then, that's just my opinion.
> Larry Strung