Just last week we at Martin Motorsports announced some important details about the 2014 edition of our increasingly significant vintage motorcycle show The Modern Classics. First the date – The Modern Classics 2014 goes down on Saturday, March 1, 2014. Only 9 months to prepare, so get polishing! Equally important, we announced some details on our “special class” for 2014. Special class you say? Yup. While the fundamental focus of The Modern Classics remains the bikes of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s each of the past couple of years we’ve identified a special sub-category of bikes from that era for special recognition – in 2012 it was the Cafe Racers, and just last year we brought in a great collection of pure competition bikes. For 2014 the special sub-group will be Two Stroke Street Bikes. Do you wonder how we picked that group? It’s really fairly simple. As part of the selection process our steering committee takes a good look at several criteria. Does the group have a “back story” that matches our 60s-70s-80s time period? Without question two strokes meet this criteria. Think about it. In 1960, at the beginning of the motorcycling boom, a huge portion of that sales explosion was fueled by two strokes from Japan and Europe – Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Bridgestone, Bultaco and more. At the time they were mostly tiddlers and beginner bikes (anyone out there got a Yamaha Rotary Jet 80 they want to exhibit? Maybe a Bridgestone 90?) Then, through the 60s and 70s two strokes grew bigger, more powerful, and faster – by the mid 70s the benchmarks for performance were mostly two strokes (think Kawi 750 H2 “Widowmaker.”) Two strokes also led the “dirt bike” craze of the same era. But then, a funny thing happened – through a combination of regulatory influences and the unstoppable march of technological progress, the two strokes rapidly died off, replaced by an amazing selection of new generation four stroke machines. By the end of the “Modern Classics” era two strokes were essentially extinct. Back Story? Geez, Two Strokes might be THE story of The Modern Classics Era. The planning committee then takes a look to see if the selected group offers the potential to populate 30-50% of our 100 bike show with high quality show pieces. Here again, the Two Stroke group works. We’ve had a smattering of Two Strokes in the show in the past, and there are other big Two Stroke Events as well as websites, clubs and such active on a regional and national basis. Earlier this month the annual gathering of Two Strokes at Deals Gap, NC laid down a smokescreen from 100+ two stroke riders across the legendary Tail of The Dragon. So there you have it. Two Stroke Streeet Bikes are our special class for 2014. We’re interested in ’em all – starter bikes, tiddlers, maybe even a scooter or two. Japanese, European, even domestic – it’s all good. The high performance variants as well as those early “enduros” (*we didn’t call ’em dual sports yet.)
Just to get the juices flowing and the thought process moving we thought we’d we’d drag out some pics and notes on about a half dozen significant Two Strokes from the era that we’d love to see at the show. If you have a lead on any of these bike models (or anything else) be sure to let us know!
Bike: Suzuki X6 “Hustler” also known as the T20
Why?: Reputed to be the first 250 street bike capable of 100 MPH (It probably wasn’t.) When four speeds was pretty standard, it broke the mold and offered a six speed transmission!
Bike: Honda MT125 Elsinore
Why?: Most enthusiasts recognize that Yamaha, Suzuki, and Kawasaki all made their initial inroads in the US market with two strokes and that Honda was the four stroke alternative. Few remember that Honda offered a street version of their stunning Elsinore dirt bikes. Two stroke Honda? Oh yeah!
Bike: Suzuki GT750 AKA “Water Buffalo”, “Kettle” or “Steam Kettle”
Why? Perhaps the ultimate evolution of the “big” two stroke. A 750 cc two stroke triple with liquid cooling. Relatively quiet (when it’s contemporaries sometimes weren’t), relatively reliable (when it’s contemporaries sometimes weren’t), the big 750 was reputed to be a pleasant touring motorcycle.
Bike: MZ TS 125 (or any Eastern European Two Stroke Brand or Model – Jawa, CZ, Zundapp?)
Why?: The fact is that, before the Japanese, it was the Europeans who developed two strokes to a high level of power and reliability. In your spare time do a search on Ernst Degner and learn how this East German factory motorcycle racer defected and ultimately ended up at Suzuki with a full measure of knowledge of then current two stroke technology that fueled Suzuki’s race success for years.
Are these the only bikes we’re looking for? Certainly not. We’d love to find a Yamaha Twin Jet 100, A Kawasaki Avenger, a Suzuki TS250, any Jawa, any two stroke Harley/Aermacchi, a Hodaka Ace, a Bridgestone 350GTR, Kawi Mach III or other Triples, A Yamaha 250cc YDS3, or any of a thousand other interesting two stroke street bikes from the era.
The Modern Classics show is an invitational event. Learn how to nominate your bike for the 2014 show HERE.
Even if you don’t have a bike you’d like to exhibit, make plans to attend the show to check out all the great bikes from that era!
Saturday, March 1, 2014. Be there.