Rides, Rallies and Events Recap

Antique Bike Show, Swap Meet, and Races at Davenport, Iowa

Written by  September 30, 2005

Each year during the Labor Day holiday, antique motorcycle collectors and enthusiasts converge on Davenport, Iowa. Those in need of parts for restoration projects roam the Missippi Valley Fairgrounds where as many as 800 vendors sell or trade everything from nuts and bolts to complete motorcycles. Bikes such as Harley-Davidson Knuckleheads and Henderson Fours are a rare sight just about anywhere these days, but are common at this meet. Motorcycles and scooters manufactured by obscure companies that went out of business during the Great Depression or earlier abound at Davenport.
This year’s event was the 34th annual meet sponsored by the Chief Blackhawk Chapter of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America. Festivities included vintage dirt track racing Friday evening; technical seminars conducted by Michael Paquette, Erwin “Smitty” Smith, and Carl and Matt Olsen; a ladies tour and craft fair; a field meet and games; a banquet; and an antique motorcycle show. Special recognition was given to motorcycles manufactured during 1970 since this was their first year of eligibility as antiques. Donations were collected at the gates to help offset the meet’s operating expenses.
The bike show at Davenport always features many rare antique motorcycles meticulously restored to gleaming perfection. This year’s show was no exception with display bikes such as a 1917 Indian B-17, a 1935 Scott Flying Squirrel, a 1925 Douglas T5, and a 1962 Triumph Cub, to name just a few.
After admiring the show bikes, I spent some time walking past aisle after aisle of vendor displays. Owners of rare bikes enjoy showing them off by riding them through the vendor area. It’s a treat to see these old machines still in operating condition. I noticed a tent where Harley Hummers were being sold. There were 30 or so ranging from 1948 to 1966 models.
During my stroll, I had the opportunity to examine an antique racing bike and visit with its owner, Jerry Chinn from Seattle.
CC: Please describe this beautiful motorcycle.
Jerry: It’s a 1925 AJS big port racer. It has a 350 c.c. single-cylinder motor. Earlier versions of this bike were winners at the Isle of Mann TT races in 1921 through 1923 in both the 350 and 500 c.c. classes. It’s an interesting bike with a very unusual carburetor. It’s fast and sounds great. It’s really very easy to ride and quite fun.

CC: How long have you had it?
Jerry: I’ve had it about a year and a half.

CC: Do you just have it on display here or is it for sale?
Jerry: I brought it here mostly to display it, but if the amount was right, I would probably have to part with it

CC: Do you own other antique motorcycles?
Jerry: Yes, I do. I have old Indians, some complete and some parts bikes. They’re mostly racers.

CC: You’re a long way from home. Do you come to Davenport every year?
Jerry: Pretty much every year. I enjoy the whole thing—the people, the bikes, the parts, the races. To me, these are the best flat track races in the country. They even have classes for board track bikes and hand-shift bikes. The people here are like a big extended family.
CC: You really have a terrific bike here. Thanks for telling us about it. Enjoy the show.

After my tour of the grounds, I found my way to the pit entrance to Davenport’s ½-mile dirt track. Through the courtesy of Matt George, I was admitted to the pits to shoot photos and talk to the riders. I was pleased to see that some National Flat Track Racing Association riders I had met at Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City were racing their bikes at Davenport with the Vintage Dirt Track Racing Association. A classic Ducati racer was ridden by an old friend from my high school days, Doug Stewart, who now lives in Castle Rock, Colorado.
Watching these wonderful old Harleys, Triumphs, BSAs, Bultacos, and the like roar down the straights and slide through the turns, sometimes separated by inches, is almost like traveling back in time. The riders are a bit older now, but just as crazy. The classes include 165 c.c., 250 c.c., board track beginner, foot shift, board track expert, 600 pro, open amateur, hand shift, and open pro twins. Even without the other great Davenport attractions, these races would be worth the trip.
Story and photos by Stripe