The weather reports were grim for the 4/9-4/10 2016 La Jolla Concours Auto show, which includes an array of vintage motorcycles from all eras. Tickets for the Saturday night fund-raiser were $200 each and it was scheduled to be an open-air event right in the middle of where hundreds of classic and vintage autos were to be shown on Sunday morning.
Event organizers scrambled at the last minute and hired a local company to erect a circus-sized tent in the middle of the grounds to keep the participants dry and warm. The rain was forecast to begin around the 6PM start time on Saturday night and continue overnight then well into Sunday morning. You can imagine the concerns of those owners of million-dollar vintage cars, including open cars, that their precious vehicles would get caught in a downpour and ruined. Still, the word was out that the “Show must go on” and so it would.
One of the long-standing members of the judging team tapped Bill for judging duties this year, as a raft of vintage Hondas were on the docket for judging. There were numerous benefits to being chosen as a judge, as it turned out. For one, there was free admittance to the Saturday night benefit party, the one with the $200 each ticket pricing. Obviously, admittance to the Sunday event ($50-60 per person) was included, as well as free food and drinks for most of the day. Even nearby paid parking was complementary; however it was located uphill in the La Jolla village parking structures. This wouldn’t be a problem in most cases; however recent knee surgery did present a problem in the elevation challenge.
The Saturday night party was well-attended and an opportunity to see how the “other half” enjoys their nightlife. Folks of all ages and status lined up for exotic eats and drinks, while a silent auction was going on in the midst of live music and some very odd, but engaging stilt-walkers with various themed garments and makeup. One was even dressed up as a tree and others dressed in somewhat ethereal outfits. But, despite the dire weather predictions, the whole night went off without a drop of rain, until a light drizzle began around the 9PM closing hour.
Event judges were requested to be in attendance for a morning meeting at 7:45AM on Sunday, requiring a 6:45 launch time from Spring Valley in the newly acquired 1965 Mustang 2+2. There had been heavy rain overnight; however the skies were less threatening than predicted early Sunday morning. The Mustang was parked in the secure underground parking and a 10 minute stroll ended at the entrance to the event, with wonderful cars streaming in from nearby trailers, if they were not driven in despite the rain predictions.
Honda enthusiast, Don Stockett and his friend Geoff who formed Vintage Motorcycle Rescue, brought down the bulk of the vintage Hondas in a 12ft trailer all the way from beyond Sacramento, CA. His mini-fleet included a highly original 1972 CB100K2, 1969 and 1972 CL350s and a lovely 1970 CB750K0. A scheduled CL77 from the list was a no-show. Non-Hondas included a 73 Harley Chopper with a 6ft long front end which is apparently driven daily around SoCal, a heavily-modified Yamaha RD400, a Ducati Paul Smart special edition and a restored 1942 Navy Cushman scooter with San Diego Naval station provenance.
It had been a few years since the last judging experience at the now-defunct Del Mar Concours, so it was necessary to brush-up on what this event’s expectations were for motorcycles. The bulk of the entries were mostly high-dollar vintage cars, which carry their own list of requirements and specifications for judging. Beyond the obvious marks down/up for originality many other factors weigh in at the final tally. At many meets, the vehicles being judged are asked to start up and run, while electrical system functions are tested. San Diego’s fire department has frowned on these kinds of demonstrations, insisting that the vehicle keys not be available AND that fire extinguishers be present at each entry. Those limitations restrict the scope of the judging inspections, obviously, but you have to work with what you are presented.
The judges meeting emphasized that all entries start with 100 points and then deductions are taken off from that start point. Preservation vehicles often trump the full-on restorations and finding the fine-line between the two worlds can be subjective as much as objective. Even the narrative of the vehicle’s history can come into play, in the end.
For an all-original motorcycle, like the CB100, which still had original tires, one looks deeper into the condition of the fasteners, cables and general wear and tear which occurs during maintenance or general usage. Replacing a damaged screw or bolt with a factory original part isn’t necessarily a points-off situation. Non-standard fasteners or aftermarket replacement cables or rubber parts might incur a deduction, though.
The larger displacement Hondas were an attractive array, but most had undergone some extensive restoration work, mostly done to a high quality. It’s a tough call whether to repaint a black frame during a restoration process, as the factory single-coat over bare metal doesn’t fare well over a 40 year lifespan, no matter how well it is maintained. Once the original coatings are replaced, then the effort falls out of the preservation status into the world of restoration. The two Scramblers had lovely OEM exhaust systems, one of which was NOS and a difficult find these days. The 1972 CL350 had the wild and wacky “Dragon” factory paint schemes on the fuel tank and side-covers. These were limited-run factory kits which fit the 350-450s of the early 1970s and are rarely seen or widely recognized as being actual factory Honda offerings.
The imposing CB750 was a vision in Candy Red, but was brought back to its former glory courtesy of a number of very expensive aftermarket parts, most of which come from Japan. While not OEM/NOS items, they are done close to factory appearance and specifications and certainly give the bike a sense of presence and command which they presented when first introduced in 1969-70 as the “K0” series machines.
The big dilemma for motorcycle judges occurs when a fully restored “small bike” is being compared to a “big bike” during final judging. A bike with 100 parts vs. one with 1,000 parts brings up a lot of issues and concerns. Rarity and the “story” behind the machine can often add up to “extra points,” which causes the smaller machine to out-point the larger version. It’s a tough call as the “cost” of restoring or just maintaining a full-sized “real motorcycle” heavily outweighs that of a Mini-Trail or Scooter or some kind of oddball bike from the past. Where you draw the line often requires a consensus among the judges present and each case must be evaluated on its own merits.
Such was the case this event, where the “local” Military Cushman Scooter, which had provenance and a history going back to WWII came out as the sentimental favorite, despite having a minimum number of parts vs. any of the other entrants. Perhaps, if the Cushman was shown in Iowa, far from its original home, the results might have turned out differently. In the end the judging process is both objective and subjective, which often leaves entrants with unexpected surprises or deep disappointments. Often the low number of entrants in a class or just the small number of categories can create insurmountable disagreements among judges and entrants alike. It is not a pure science, in the end. Sometimes you have to choose with your heart.