Back to New Jersey: Nesco 2021

Hammonton, NJ

Recently I’ve encountered many grateful motor enthusiasts from the Northeast area. They recognize how fortunate we are, not only to be finally post-COVID, but to be in such an epicenter of vintage motoring activity. After all, (and especially if you’re in the southeastern PA area, as we are) we’ve got the The Big One—the Fall Hershey National Meet—as well as a full spring-through-fall roster of Carlisle events, just down the pike. Added to this are the many small town meets and ‘cruise-ins,’ AMCA regional antique motorcycle meets, the events put on by wonderful organizations such as the Potomac Vintage Riders (the York meet), the Broom Factory guys, and the Robin Markey & friends’ annual Vintage Japanese meet. Of the spirit of dedicated citizens like these, who work together to create worthwhile community events, are Joe Bilazzo and his family & associates, who have assembled the annual Nesco, New Jersey meet for over 20 years. And, it’s back!

Joe operates his own motorcycle business in next-door Hammonton, NJ, specializing in high-quality vintage engine repair (Nesco Dirt Works). He’s a particular fan of OSSA machines, and also owns an eclectic collection spanning the multi-national off-road brands of the 1970s. Joe started the Nesco meet in 1999 to bring vintage riders and collectors together. Even as that weekend was traditionally in early November, Joe had the uncanny good fortune of nearly always providing beautiful weather. For 2021 the meet was moved to September 25th (track day) and 26th (flea market day), so warm, early fall days were even more predictable. 

For those of us coming from out-of-state, there’s an honestly good feeling about returning to “New Joisey.” Crossing the Ben Franklin bridge from Pennsylvania, we take a glance down at the old S.S. United States moldering on the Delaware waterfront, and head onto the Atlantic City Expressway—just like our parents did, coming to the Jersey

beaches for nearly a century. Then, past suburban communities outside Philly, once filled with hard-working folks, coming home after a world war to pick up their lives again; people who knew a trade, could fix anything, who loved baseball and being American. Then, into the flat sandy piney woods and the reddish acres of cranberry fields moving by. It’s a cool fall morning, we’ve got coffee and things to sell, a few bucks in our pockets and some big dreams, and we’re nearly at Nesco! Let’s take a look.

The first thing we noticed this year was the lack of the traditional Nesco welcoming…uh, thing. Joe used to have a ‘sign’ built from an old OSSA engine on a pipe framework, marking the turn into the fields, but he must have modernized. Now, just a banner saying BIKE MEET, HERE, or something. No matter. Down the sandy path and pay your money to the ladies. Then, find a spot to park and set up for selling, or take a quick walk to see what’s there. 

Nesco Volunteer Fire Company food truck

Wait—more coffee! The food truck is from the Nesco Volunteer Fire Company, and not only provides energy-sustaining goodies, but helps Joe muster community support for the meet. (“No Mr. Commissioner. It’s not just a gathering of ‘motorcycle hoodlums.’ It’s a fundraiser!”)

Nesco Swap Meet
Nesco vender spaces

Vendor spaces are roughly laid out in rows, but aren’t limited or policed. You take the room you need and get along with everyone.

Nesco vender

The Nesco shopping experience: a pick-up truck, an interesting old dirt bike to consider (in this case a circa 1985 IT490), lots of reasonably priced objects, other people who like to talk about such things, and all surrounded by cranberry fields and the Jersey sun!

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Nesco Moto Guzzi moped

Several scooter/mo-peds for sale. Both were very intact, said to run, and the owners were asking $300. However, being near the sea and salt air, corrosion had done its part on these machines.

Hot rod go-cart at Nesco

You can never be sure what will show up at Nesco or any other vintage motor vending event—vendors almost always bring items other than motorcycles or cars (or whatever the theme is). This ruggedly built go-cart (or, miniature hot rod?) needed an engine, but would seem to have immense possibilities for a fun family project.

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Here is another example of not being able to predict what will be for sale. This well-preserved Japanese bicycle from [probably] the late 1940s was offered for $450. Nice enough that one wouldn’t want to restore it, and a wonderful piece of engineering art. It didn’t sell; antique bicycles—despite often remarkable engineering detail and beautiful paint schemes— generally don’t conjure strong interest in the US.

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Motoring about the meet was a curious Montesa 247 Cota trials/sidecar rig. Checking the internet, I discovered that sidecar trials competition was indeed a thing. Seems like man’s desire to compete on motorized things has no limits.

Montesa 247 Cota at Nesco, NJ

This very complete (and mostly restored) Montesa King Scorpion 250 needed a piston, but has definite possibilities. No doubt the owner will get it running; vintage Montesa parts are actually fairly common in the US.

Rickman/Hodaka at Nesco NJ

Two interesting machines: a very rare 1971 Rickman/Hodaka (100cc) and a Bultaco Astro project. The Rickman had a recently rebuilt engine and was mostly complete. It was offered at about $2000. With an additional $2000 investment—mostly re-plating the frame, new rims & spokes, and overall paint—this could be a very valuable item, based upon some recent transactions. Bultaco Astros, a factory flat/short-track line, have always been in demand by collectors, while Bultaco as a brand seems to have curiously slipped slightly behind OSSA in overall vintage interest. Montesa—actually the oldest and largest of the three Spanish manufacturers, and still producing bikes under Honda’s ownership—has always trailed its two cousins as a presence in vintage motorcycling.

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Speaking of Spanish enthusiasts, here are some. On the left, Scott “Kawasaki Kid” Nicholas and Ray Weir try to placate and talk sense into “Yankee” Bob Fornwalt, seated. On the right, Mike Slate of The Broom Factory in Baltimore looks to see if the photographer is carrying any OSSA parts. These guys are all biggies in the northeastern vintage motorcycle scene.

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The bike show competition is always a part of Nesco. Here are some of this year’s entries. Joe has plenty of classes, but concentrates on off-road machines, giving dirt bike owners a chance, for a change. (It’s nice to know a stock, modern Harley won’t show up and sweep the awards.)

Pete Noneman Amex at Nesco, NJ

Pete Noneman entered his rare Gary Jones designed Amex moto-crosser in the show. Pete logs many miles around the northeast, transporting a collection of unique and historically important motorcycles to events and museums at his own expense. The support by Pete and folks like him is a big factor in the success of the events we enjoy.

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Here’s proof that vintage motorcycle events aren’t just for grouchy old men! Sarah Rasmussen entered her 1975 DT-1—which she rides regularly—and took home three trophies. Sarah writes: “I picked up the bike about 3-4 years ago from a gentleman on Facebook Marketplace, as he was moving to Ecuador and could not take it with him. I had also picked up his ’75 Montesa King Scorpion 250 to make a package deal for both bikes! I gave the Montesa to my father to restore as he simply fell in love with it from the moment I brought it home. The Yamaha is 100% original, including the rubber. The only pieces missing were the flashers and mirror; thankfully I found all those OEM pieces from Speed and Sport Yamaha in Bloomsburg, PA. After working out a few bugs, throwing in a battery, attaching the flashers, and giving the bike a good clean, she fired right up and has been running like new! I just put the bike on the road last year, for little cruises in town or to take to shows (such as Nesco) and after doing so, it is amazing to see just how much of a head turner the bike is! It’s also quite funny to see the reactions of most when they realize some 20-year-old is the owner! I absolutely love that this old gal brings back so many memories and stories for all who I meet and talk with. The vintage bikes really connect you with everyone in the industry, and the folks you meet that either rode, had a dealership, collect, or simply love bikes all have a special spot in the history of making these bikes last. From getting the bike to riding on the road, this bike has truly given me a much bigger appreciation for vintage Yamahas, motorcycles, and racing!” Beautifully said, Sarah! And, yes, that’s a 501—likely the Yammie’s new BFF—behind Sarah.

Dodge Power Wagon at Nesco, NJ

We don’t know what class it was entered in, but there must have been one! This sturdy circa 1950 Dodge 4×4 Power Wagon was one of the first medium-duty all-wheel-drive vehicles produced for the civilian American marketplace. Looks like it could go most anywhere!

That’s the story from the 2021 Nesco bike show and riding weekend. Plan to attend, next year!

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