I CAN STILL REMEMBER those Triumphs. There
must have been 10 of them in a row at the dealerships that day
in 1968. These were Bonnevilles, agile 650cc twins that could
reach a thrilling 110 mph. As a college student, I vowed that
I would scrape up the $1,375 by any means necessary and own
But instead, Honda's watershed
750 four cylinder stunned the motorcycle world the following
year, and soon the superior engineering and production
facilities of the East were submerging the classic marques.
Many familiar brands crashed and burned, victims of their own
inability to change, adapt, and compete. Triumph, MV Agusta,
Norton, Laverda, Benelli and others joined the ancient names
of Excelsior-Henderson and Indian on motorcycling's scrap
Fortunately, the death of these
marques are only the beginning of our story. Each of these
once-defunct brands has either returned to production or is on
the verge of doing so. With some fast footwork, you could own
four historic marques by evening.
Many riders fondly recall the bike
brands they owned-or wished they had-many years ago. The siren
call of youth and nostalgia intertwine with the marquee's own
mystique to conjure up a sepia-toned haze of memories, or
pseudo memories, that convinces the rider that it can all be
like it once was.
As for the manufacturers, a company
can buy into an authentic, romantic history that start-up
brands cannot offer. Still, these comeback kids are not
tooling and musty blueprints. Rather, they are
state-of-the-art machines that reflect design and technology
changes as if they had never disappeared from the scene. Each
manufacturer has attempted to be true to the machine's roots,
the machine's roots,
and that's where we return to our story.