Motorcycles: the Good, the Bad, and the Custom

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Motorcycles: The Good, The Bad and the Custom

Local exhibit is both diverse and historical

When the Guggenheim "Art of the Motorcycle" exhibit toured the United States it was all the rage. When it hit the West Coast people were jumping on their bikes, into airplanes or just taking off in their cars to get to Vegas in 2002 to see the rare display.

With that, many local museums saw the interest from the public for motorcycle exhibits. The Whatcom Museum of History and Art caught on and in 2003 began to curate an exhibit for 2005 that featured local bikes, local history and local people involved in Northwest motorcycling over the years.

Entitled "Motorcycles: the Good, the Bad and the Custom," the exhibit delves deep into motorcycling and its history from the early 1900s up to the present. Pulled together by staff curator Patrick Dowling, the exhibit features more than 30 classic bikes, as many photographs and numerous pieces of memorabilia.

Photos: Above - Jumping the bridge in hopes of Annabel along the wood overpass during the Death Head derby.  Date unknown.  Photo from the archive of Tom Samuelson/Pacific Northwest Museum of Motorcycling.  Below - Norm Gerlich posses with a fully restored Excelsior/Henderson he completed in 2001.  Photo courtesy of Tom Mehren/Sound RIDER! archive.

There are more than a dozen 100 point restorations provided by local restorers like the late Fred Pazaski's trust and Norm Gerlich (at left), two local restorers who are tops in their field. 100 point restorations are rarely seen and require that not only has the bike been returned visually to its original look, but technically as well which includes things like original thread sizes and metal consistencies. Anything less than that scores a 99 or lower in an expert's book. Also on display there are the Hollywood bikes such as the desert racer used by Steve McQueen as well as James Dean’s first motorcycle – a 1948 CZ.

The exhibit makes light of many popular local motorcycle events during the 20th century including the early time-distance races from Seattle to places like Vancouver and Mt. Rainier (similar to what the current 3 Pass Blast event is based on); the Death Head derby where flat trackers raced for the ultimate trophy – a human skull called Annabel; and the Hill Climb events put on by the Jolly Rogers motorcycle club.

A number of events will occur throughout the summer including special movie screenings and public speakers from the industry including an appearance from David Hough (at left) and Sound RIDER! publisher Tom Mehren. For more information visit the website listed below.

Along with Gerlich and Pazaski a number of other locals assisted Dowling in putting together the exhibit including Tom Samuelson and Jack Macky from the Pacific Northwest Museum of Motorcycling; Victor Vorgis of Big People Scooters; Terry Barber of the Vintage Motorcycle Enthusiasts; Robert Lamphere Jr. of Oregon and the Trev Deeley Museum in British Columbia and a number of others.

Should you go? Don't even think twice about that. If you’re kicking yourself for never having seen the Guggenheim exhibit, don’t miss one that’s right in your own back yard. While it may not be as large, the diverse look at the local scene is worth the trip to Bellingham – especially when you consider it’s all free.

The Good, The Bad And The Custom
Admission: FREE!
Whatcom Museum of History and Art
121 Prospect St
Bellingham, WA
Now through December 4th 2005

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