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History Visits The High Desert
For the 12th year Corsa MotoClassica turned back the hands of time for a weekend of vintage road bikes, from pre-1940s machines to bikes that were on showroom floors what seemed like only yesterday. And for one veteran racer, history came bearing a gift of memories.
MotoClassica is a weekend chock full of just about everything the vintage road bike enthusiast could want in one-stop shopping. Spawned from a mutual love of and desire to ride, race and just plain show up and enjoy vintage road bikes with friends, Yoshi Kosaka, founder of the
Incorporated into a full weekend of vintage racing organized and run by AHRMA is a vintage bike show put on by Bator International. On top of the bike show and racing is a vintage swap meet – a vintage lover's garage sale if you will.
The bikes on hand run the gamut; from pristine MV Agusta race machines to tiny CB160s out for an exhibition race. The neat thing about a weekend like this is how many of the bikes present aren't in Best-in-Show condition. Many are rough-looking old roaches. But they get ridden. Nay, they get raced!
AHRMA (American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association) had 32 different classes running during the weekend. To give you a sense of how broad the spectrum of old bikes, consider some of the classes: BOT (Battle Of Twins) Formulas 1, 2 and 3; Classic '60s and '60s 650s; Formulas 125, 250, 500 and 750; Class C - Hand; Class C - Foot; Production Heavyweight; Triumph Thruxton; Open Two-Stroke; Pre-1940. Those are but a few of the aging bikes buzzing, burbling and bombing 'round the weekend.
Of special note this year was the unveiling of a part restoration project, part replica 1969 Kawasaki A1RA to Walt Fulton by restorer/builder Dave Crussell. If you've never heard the name Walt Fulton in motorcycle circles, you've certainly seen his work.
But first, a little history on the bearer of such a great gift of history. Dave Crussell is a British ex-pat who left London years ago and brought with him his love of old racing motorcycles. Crussell has been riding since he was 16, and for several years rode only a motorcycle, doing all things on a bike in the "rainy English summer and cold, rainy winters." He purchased his first Kawasaki, an H1, when he was 18. But that was just the beginning. To date he owns 35 bikes ranging from a modern Ducati (1098), a Suzuki TR750, a Yamaha TZ700 and "a whole bunch of Kawasakis."
As a matter of fact, Crussell is such a Kawi fan that many of his prized possessions rest comfortably right in the middle of his living room. His house serves as a shrine to Kawasaki's racing past. Crussell has readily admitted that when he's shopping for a home he assesses potential abodes based upon "bike wall space."
But Crussell is more than just an old-bike packrat. When he's not keeping the taxman off of his porch by running a software business, he's probably out racing an old Kawasaki somewhere. For the past nine years he has been flogging old machines well enough to garner three AHRMA national championships (F500 2003, F500, and F-Vintage 2004), three AFM championships (Vintage 2001, 2003, 2005), and recently a Canadian national.
As mentioned above, one of Crussell's latest ventures was the restoration of what would have been a bike just like Walt rode as a Kawi factory racer more than 30 years ago. The only part originally tied to Fulton was the engine. Most everything else is an original A1RA part, but not specifically from Walt's bike. Crussell scoured the globe in order to source the exact parts that would have been found on the original bike.
Crussell relays some of the lengths he stretched to recreate this green classic: "The frame was used to house a Bighorn-engined racer in Georgia. I found the engine and exhaust collectors in Oakland, and the carbs came from Australia, the front wheel from the UK..."
As you can imagine this didn't happen overnight. Crussell spent at least two years hunting down the major components with smaller parts like levers, cables and the like taking an additional year to locate or fabricate. And it wasn't simply a matter of clicking the "Buy Now" button on eBay. Many of the acquisitions went a little something like, "If I had the frame, would you sell me the engine?" And, "If I had the engine, would you sell me the frame," according to Crussell. Tricky business this rebuilding rare old motorcycles.
Fulton had seen the finished work on Crussell's website two weeks prior to this year's Corsa MotoClassica and contacted him about seeing it. As fate would have it, both would be at the event, and the opportunity for Fulton to relive a piece of his personal history and motorcycling history at large presented itself.
Fulton was thrilled at the work Crussell had done to ol' number 99. Putting it succinctly, Walt proudly exclaimed, "Thirty-seven years old and it's just as good as new!" The crowning moment was when Walt signed the fuel tank, sealing it in history with authority. Nice.
A veteran of the race track, Fulton captured three Daytona wins in his time and rode for Harley-Davidson as well as Kawasaki. Perhaps even more interesting than his racing success is the history he helped create for the empire of motorcycledom: Fulton was a featured rider in Bruce Brown's 1971 classic, "On Any Sunday," bringing millions of viewers a racer’s eye view by wearing a giant helmet cam. Today, Walt actively instructs in Streetmasters, a precision cornering workshop that he co-founded with Bob Reichenberg.
This was certainly a highlight and rare gem of an occasion at MotoClassica, but not unheard of. This kind of blending of past and present is what this 12-year-old event is all about. If you live in Southern California or happen to be in the area, make certain to block out the last weekend in April next year and see what new things might come from the past.