Stephen Wright – R.I.P.

Tod Rafferty
by Tod Rafferty

Vintage motorcycling loses historian

The classic bike community was stunned by the recent death of its nominal leader, Stephen Wright, 73, who succumbed to cancer on April 10 in Morro Bay, Calif. A native of Kent, England, Steve was known worldwide for his self-published two-volume set “American Racer,” and “The American Motorcycle, 1869 – 1914.”

Wright, also an avid surfer and bicyclist, migrated to Huntington Beach, Calif., in the mid-1960s. He found work with Solar Productions, where he repaired and restored motorcycles for owner Steve McQueen. The twin interests of vintage bike restoration and historical research carried on throughout the ensuing decades. Steve and his late wife Cindy, who edited the books, were regulars at all the classic/vintage/antique motorcycle meets across the country. His research and collection of old photos and stories continued, and restorations for various clients maintained his hands-on connection to the sport over the years.

Steve Wright checks out Randy Aron's 1928 Harley JD at the 2013 Bud Ekins Memorial Ride

His annual Pre-16 Ride on the Central Coast became the premier spring event for those devoted to the early iron. Or as one wag called them, “Geezers on Wheezers.” The entrants enjoyed three days of riding, not always slowly, through the coastal wine country, as if the 20th century were still brand new. Following the death of his friend and mentor, Steve renamed the event the Bud Ekins Memorial Ride.

With the annual date now only weeks away, his many friends may find it too soon to christen an Ekins-Wright Memorial Ride, but all know he would approve. Maybe down the road. We have lost one of the very best. Wright is survived by his daughter Hillary, and grandsons Owen, Elias and Rainer.

[Photo by Tod Rafferty]

Tod Rafferty
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