After 2020’s COVID-induced cancellation of VMD, we were back to Lexington, Ohio for 2021 to enjoy the biggest non-Harley vintage bike and swap meet gathering—to my knowledge—in the United States. Although now rivaled by the Barber Vintage Festival, VMD is still the king of all-around old bike events. Here’s a walk through the event, as the Vintage Motor Tees team experienced it!
First—at least if you’re vending—you need a space! Even if you’re not vending, buying a vendor space makes lots of sense: it’s a place to park your vehicle, erect a tent and some chairs, meet folks, and store your stuff. We camp and cook on our space as well. At $100 for a 20 x 20 foot space, it’s certainly economical. (Motel rooms are available, but tend to be over-priced in the near vicinity, whenever there’s an event going on at the Mid-Ohio complex. Don’t you hate when they do that?) Exquisite Coleman-stove-cooked steak and asparagus, resting and ready for consumption, above.
The above vendor’s space is a favorite of mine—there’s always something I ‘need’ there. This year a nice PA Route 18 road sign, NOS chain and 4 aftermarket turn signals all went home with me for $40. Oh, they’re pleasant and do Notary work, too!
One of the most pervasive aspects of VMD is the presence—both being ridden and for sale—of very nice vintage Japanese street/trail machines. Beautiful SLs, DTs, TSs, and Kawasakis abound. This year, as we’ll see, prices seemed especially high; though, at a reduced Sunday afternoon asking price of $1800, the Yamaha’s owner certainly wasn’t unreasonable.
Can you identify the above – crusty, yet very nicely proportioned little motorcycle? Yes—it’s a Honda MR50…or at least the remnants of two. I counted at least 10 for sale, this year. This stack of mostly un-useable parts went for about $500; nicely preserved or restored versions were around the $1600-2000+ mark. The MR50 is notable for being one of the early mini-cycles; that is, it was a miniaturized motorcycle, with similar geometry, engine and manual transmission/clutch, and suspension—as opposed to a minibike. Along with Yamaha Mini-Enduros, these 1970s bikes are highly sought after. (Restored MR50 for comparison is on the right.)
You never know what will show up. While this seemed to be an off-year for the European bikes (Maico, CZ, etc.), there were still plenty of oddities. The Cooper line was created by former Maico distributor Frank Cooper, manufactured in Mexico, and—as legend has it—was very similar in geometry and design to a Maico…so much so that some parts may be interchangeable. This bike appears to be the rarer MX version (as opposed to the Enduro), converted for flat track use, and is very nicely preserved. Recognized protector and purveyor of old, weird & obscure motorcycles Stacy “Daddy” Clark can be seen looking away, pretending to not be transfixed by the Cooper and how it would look, hanging in his well-known shop (See the 3 July 2018 posting of our article on Stacy’s open shop nights, “Every Tuesday…”).
And, speaking of European bikes, there are generally more Husqvarnas at VMD than other Euro brands; this makes sense, as Husqvarna outlived many other marques. This vendor had several nice motorcycles and Husky dealer signs, which he was asking a very reasonable $50 each for. You know their symbol is representative of a gunsight, right?
One of the mysteries of old motorcycle values is the comparative decline in the value of the British brands. I recall a financial magazine in the 1980s listing British motorcycles as a place to put your money for growth; that prediction certainly hasn’t come true. In fact, their values have been declining in real terms, adjusted for inflation. Even excellent Commandos and Bonnevilles have a tough time breaking $10,000. These rough BSAs (and especially the two Gold Stars) offered real adventure for a restoration, and were rather mildly priced. Another vendor was offering three 1950s restored & running Gold Stars, starting at $9000. A running Goldie for less than the price of a new motocross bike? I don’t understand it.
…And here’s where the mystery gets more baffling: asking prices for old Japanese bikes were very definitely up. We summed it up like this: a reasonably nice mid-1970s Honda 350 street bike that was bringing $1500 last year, would come with an asking price of $3000, this year. Or maybe $3800. Perhaps it’s just the aging of the buying public, and “wanting now what you wanted, then.” While the buyer of these bikes would probably opt for a full restoration, there were many other similar-era machines that could be ridden home.
Here’s a clearly well-preserved 1975 Kawasaki 100; asking price $2400. I’m a Kawi guy, but I don’t know that I wanted one, then…or want one that badly, now… But it’s certainly “conditionally collectible,” and awaiting that special buyer. (Maybe a bookend for the H1 or H2 in his living room—it certainly has that look? In any case, a bike that nice will always retain value and be sellable.)
Everything seemed to be high-priced; the asking figure on this circa 1973 Puch 175 was reduced from over $2000, to $1800 on Sunday morning. In its defense, it did run, and came with the oft-discarded “chrome pickle” and highly sought-after scalloped Magura ISDT levers. (Factory yellow-tank Puchs of this era were the street-trail “enduro” model, equipped with a battery and replete with on-road necessities. This machine appeared to be the typical MX model with a retrofitted yellow tank. A well-restored Puch is one of the most attractive vintage dirt bikes.)
Above, Professor Andreas Piepke (left) and multi-marque dirt bike restorer Mike Adams consider whether a well-used KDX should actually have four or five speeds (it would only shift into four; they passed on the bike). Andreas teaches physics at the University of Alabama, and Mike hales from Deatsville, AL. Wearing exclusive Vintage Motor Company Maico 490 shirts, the pair are appropriately and impeccably dressed for this occasion. The right image shows the super-trick Hodaka 125 Super Combat that Mike has for sale.
The Thing To Be Avoided. Admitting that I am a spoiled first-world senior-citizen, avoiding the Porta-potty remains SOP. The crafty VMD attendee will know of the clean and air-conditioned toilet facility located in the midfield area, for apparent use by Mid-Ohio staff.
Eventually, though, it’s time for even the most dedicated VMD attendees to retire to their spacious and well-lit tent for the evening. Tomorrow will be another day of selling, buying, and avoiding rain and Porta-potties. We’ll see you, then!