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Dirt track bikes take the stage

20th motorcycle show delves into local history

For its 20th edition, the National Packard Museum’s Vintage Motorcycle Exhibit hits the dirt track.

“Two Wheels at the County Fair” is the theme for the annual show, which opens Saturday and runs through May 16. Executive director Mary Ann Porinchak said the idea was hatched during last year’s display.

“We realized the dirt track is something we haven’t delved into in the past, and there is a lot of local history tied to the dirt track,” she said. “There’s a long history of dirt track racing at the Trumbull County Fairgrounds. It was one of the best tracks to race at. That started when it was downtown (Warren), before it moved to Bazetta.”

Trumbull County was one of only five counties in the state initially to be sanctioned by the American Motorcycle Association to host events. The area had a large number of motorcycle racers, and area motorcycle dealers sponsored events and stocked the machines and accessories to cater to that clientele.

The museum drew on those resources and the connections it has made with collectors from past shows. About 30 motorcycles will be on display, ranging from a 1906 Neckarsulum to a 2006 Long Tracker.

The second-oldest motorcycle — a 1909 Grey Hound — was restored by collector Bruce Lindsay of Chagrin Falls after being found at the bottom of a lake in New Hampshire.

“The guys around here say if you can find a bolt from a vintage motorcycle, Bruce Lindsay can build a bike around it,” Porinchak said.

Bill Beck of New Bedford, Pa., has two motorcycles in the show, a 1966 Bultaco built for the dirt track and a 1970 model designed for motocross.

“I bought them both new,” Beck said. “The ’66 I raced flat track, TT, hare scrambles, all that. Back in the day, you raced what you had and made it do what you wanted to do.”

He started doing motocross after buying the 1970 bike.

“I rode it for awhile, but I really didn’t like it. It wasn’t my cup of tea,” he said.

After he broke the bike in half after crashing in a 1974 race, he quit competitive racing and satisfied his passion for motorcycles by riding for fun.

The two racing motorcycles stayed in a shed unused for more than 40 years, until Beck and his son decided to restore them. They started with the ’66 but also were able to salvage the original parts from the 1970 Bultaco and restored it to pristine condition.

“When we did the first one, the yellow one, I called it Lazarus,” Beck said. “(In the Bible,) Lazarus was dead in the grave, and he was resurrected; so my yellow one is named Lazarus.”

Porinchak said many of the motorcycles have similar stories.

“It’s nice to see all these guys are preserving history like this instead of letting it disappear,” she said.

The motorcycles are accompanied by photographs and information about the region’s racing history.

“I took probably 150 slides and condensed it to a 10-minute DVD with race sounds and everything,” Porinchak said, and it will run continuously in the main area. “There were just so many good images to use.”

“Two Wheels at the County Fair” is sponsored by the Lake Erie chapter of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America, Motozilli, Thom Duma Fine Jewelers, West & Main Bar & Grill, Warren Harley-Davidson, Ridin’ On Magazine, Little Wing Cafe, 2 Wheel Power Hour, Pizza Hut, The Vintage Movement and Dynamic Designs LLC.