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Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming:
"WOW, what a ride !!!"

"It's a Disease" - Collecting Vintage Motorcycles

Stu Osborn

I find myself in my car going down the road with this feeling... it's a giddy sort of feeling of anticipation much like knowing a pretty girl is waiting for you at her house, and it's Midnight. But this feeling inside is even better than good sex in several ways. It's also a feeling of elation and triumph, a sense of accomplishment and a deep sense of pleasure welling up knowing you're headed toward buying another motorcycle. The fact that I've found one I "need" is a conquest in itself. I've arranged all the others all in a line in my garage, handlebar-to-handlebar front wheel to rear wheel with just enough room for one more. There's always just enough room for one more. These old bikes were the stuff of dreams from my youth, today worth three or four times more than what they sold for back then, but as I approach the last years of my working life, so am I... worth three or four times what I was back then. So now I can afford to pick up a hulk Husky Mag, a Yamaha YZ rolling frame, a CZ side-piper with no side pipe, maybe a Hodaka Combat Wombat that has seen too many battles, a '74 Maico in a picnic basket, a Penton Six Days on it's 7th day, a Suzuki TM with a bunch of RM parts, a cracked up Montesa Capra, a Sachs Cross-Country that kind of sucks, a rained-on AJS Stormer or if I'm lucky I'll find that rare American Eagle basket case or a broken down Moto Beta in a box that I'll eventually just throw away.

"Before" shot of 1972 Hodaka Wombat 125
(current project)

"Before" shot of 1971 Hodaka Super Rat
(future project)

You have to love the long hours of wrenching, picking up all your tools, putting them neatly away, pulling them out and wrenching again. Schematics have to make you smile and you can't get impatient reading Clymer manuals trying to piece together repair procedures. Sure, we all get impatient and bang knuckles when crescent wrenches slip off stripped nuts or hammers hit arthritic fingers, but you've got to love the look of blood mixed with engine sludge and carbon mixed with unburned pre-mix, dirt and WD-40. You've got to love the many happy hours of staring at projects underway smelling gasoline fumes from leaky carburetors. Finished projects must put you in a very positive and contented frame of mind while always hankering for more. One of my good friends Brad Price said it well...

"After" shot of 1971 Hodaka Ace 100B+
(before painting)

"After" shot of 1967 Hodaka Ace 90
(before painting)

I am not sure why I needed (wanted) another bike. I bought a basket case KX450 and have started looking for parts. I think it will be a great bike if I ever get it done. I need a seat base or a seat I can borrow to copy. Will something like .062 gauge aluminum work? What do you think about custom seat pans? STU - I heard you are building a Vintage Open Bike? Those 100cc bikes just aren't a thrill anymore, huh? We need MORE POWER!! Any leads on parts would be very helpful. I know most 1973 F12 MX450 parts will work, and some '75-76 KX400 parts. I also need a tank... A Clarke universal looks good, but can they be ordered in green?"

Stu in his garage shop

"Before" 1967 Hodaka Ace 90

He's got the disease. "WELL Brad... yes I am. I just need to sell my Yamaha project, a $500 1978 YZ 250E and with that cash in hand plus more, I'm running right over and picking the darn thing up. It's all hush-hush about 'what' and 'where' 'til I get my hot little hands on it. That would be bad luck. Some guy may get there before me. I'm also working on a 1981 YZ 250H with a DG kit for the +50 class later in the season and my Wombat frame just came back from the powder-coater... It's a disease I tell ya, Brad... and we've both caught it."

"Before" 1971 Hodaka Ace 100B+

Stu's 1983 Yamaha IT 175K

FIFTY bikes isn't going overboard, is it? Wait 'til you hear this. I met a guy in Puyallup who sold me a cherry 1983 Yamaha IT175 who told me he's probably got $750,000 tied up in vintage bikes and vintage bike parts!! (I guessed 1 $Million) This guy must've had over 200 bikes in a huge storage container, standing up and stacked up in his garage and getting rained on in his back yard!! Bike parts were spread out all over the darn place with the best stuff and rare stuff carefully placed in and hanging neatly from the rafters in a separate storage shed and on several shelving units in his garage. (Which by the way, still contained a car) There, to my amazement was a rare vintage Kawasaki KX 250, all restored including the super-rare original plastic tank waiting for this summer's vintage bike show in Sumner. Gold anodized head and swing arm and the thing just sparkled!! His projects in storage were organized all together, and included a couple of rare factory works bikes. He even had another project he had just picked up for cheap in his pickup cab, another 1983 IT175!! He also had hanging in his garage, a custom-made Harry Taylor Enterprises tuned pipe slated to go on a Yamaha project. It must've had a hundred separate welds. And here's the kicker, even though he didn't have a single Hodaka project, this guy would not sell me either of his Hodaka Webco high compression cylinder heads for early and late Super Rats. He would only trade me parts for them!! Anyone know where to get my hands on any Yamaha MX strap-tank engine parts, circa 1972-73-74!!?? As I drove home with my new bike blinking my eyes remembering all the neat rare stuff, I was just aghast!! I thought I was BAD having just acquired an even dozen motorcycles, now going on a baker's dozen. Oops, nope. Lost count. I now have 13 going on 14.

Stu and Mike Young from Spokane with his Maico MC440

Stu's Maico MC440 resting at Stu's house

"I need a cure... Bad!!" Another racing buddy Scott Clark uttered those mournful words and he's also got the disease. "Well..." Scott said, "I thought I was doing good by letting one of the bikes go last night... It was a 1979 RM100 that you'll see at the track. My buddy has it now... He came over at about 6:00 and got it. Here is the bad part. No later than he left than I was in the truck (drug the wife along) heading north to pick up another bike!! Did I need it? No! Did I want it? Yes! Kind of like the Husky '79 CR250 I snagged the other day, Did I need it? No!! But I like it!! Back to the story.. Heading north we got off in Marysville and ended up about 4 blocks from my buddy's house. What did I get?... a 1975 YZ80 in great shape for $100. Needs some clutch work but a very nice cute little bike. It's for the wife to putt around on! I am truly addicted and now searching for a cure!? Anyone got a potion or an elixir to cure my problem?"

The thing is... there isn't a cure. Maybe you run out of space in your shop, barn, garage, storage unit, pump house, utility room, spare bedroom, closets, kitchen cabinets, under your bed, the top of your closets, in your attic and under your house. Oh yeah, your friends and relations are going to get really tired of having your bikes in their shops, their garages, barns, yada - yada, etc... The drive-in storage shed rental fees are ridiculous!! So what did I do last weekend? I just picked up the motorcycle of my dreams, a 1980 Maico MC 440 with the M1 chassis!! I'm not done yet and neither are my friends... The first taste of vintage "heroin" is free. The next taste brings with it that feeling.. that giddy, excited feeling that you get driving somewhere with $100 bills sweating in your hand anticipating beating the next guy to the bike by 5 minutes. The "cure" is when you run out of money for the month, it's only the 10th and you have no food in the pantry or beer in the fridge and the bills equal twice as much as your bank account minus your eBay fees and motorcycle shipping costs. And you just pray that your cat or dog doesn't get sick and your wife's lawnmower keeps running!!


Stu Osborn is MR's Roving Reporter


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