Saturday, January 7, 2017
BY GRAIG GRAZIOSI
Long before The Beatles landed in New York, a different product of Britain enraptured a segment of the American population: motorcycles.
Starting today, visitors to the National Packard Museum in Warren can get up close to a selection of British motorcycles – some more than 100 years old – during the museum’s 17th annual Antique Motorcycle Exhibit.
Running through May 27, the exhibit features 31 British-made motorcycles manufactured between 1912 and 2006. Motorcycles from well-known British companies – such as Triumph, Norton and Birmingham Small Arms company – are on display, alongside more obscure brands, such as Sunbeam, Velocette and Abington.
Twenty-eight of the 31 exhibit motorcycles are owned by Northeast Ohio residents.
Bruce Williams, exhibit curator, said each year the museum creates a motorcycle exhibit with a different theme. Past years have focused on American-made motorcycles and famous movie motorcycles. This year’s theme – “British Invasion” – focuses on the rise, fall and resurrection of British motorcycles’ popularity amongst American bike enthusiasts.
Williams said the interest in British motorcycles began in earnest after World War II, when returning soldiers — who had experience with the motorcycles while overseas — began buying and importing the British models.
They gained further popularity as off-road motorcycle racing became popular in the ‘50s; the British bikes were lighter and faster, making them better suited to riding on rough terrain.
Some of the motorcycles on display are over a century old, such as the 1912 Abingdon. The Morgan Motor Co. three-wheeler was created in part to get around road taxes in Britain, since any vehicle with four wheels was considered a car and cars were taxed.
The Royal Enfield WD/RE was actually dropped from airplanes in a metal box alongside paratroopers during World War II, earning it the nickname “Flying Flea.”
Throughout the duration of the exhibit, experts and motorcycle enthusiasts will periodically lead seminars on a variety of topics related to motorcycles and motorcycle collecting.
A motorcycle themed movie night at the museum will be announced at a future time along with the lecture dates.
According to a statement from the National Packard Museum, the Annual Antique Motorcycle Exhibit has attracted visitors from 30 states and nine foreign countries.
The Packard Museum is open 2 to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $8 per person and tours should be pre-arranged.