Monday, October 4, 2010

AMA Superbike Racing and the Past: Museums and Crushers


Reknowned master tuner Mike Velasco talks with future 3-Time AMA Superbike Champion Fred Merkel in what was then the paddock area at Road America for the AMA Superbike Series races in May of 1984. Merkel is sitting on his '84 model year #84 VF750F Honda Interceptor
HRC Superbike which he went on to win the 1984 AMA Superbike Championship with. He also repeated in '85-'86 and then went on to win the first two World Superbike Championships in '88-'89 riding Honda RC30s for Team Rumi. Merkel and Velasco won a boat load of races, and Velasco has tuned for some other respectable names in AMA Road Racing as well, including Fast Freddie Spencer with the Two Brothers Honda team in '90-'92. Velasco also teamed with Dave Sadowski to win the '94 Formula USA Championship on a Honda 900-based rocketship.
The Interceptor first arrived on American soil in the Spring of 1983 as THE must-have bike of all sport riding enthusiasts, club racers and professional level racers as well. To put it into comparison, if you look at all of the GSX-R1000 Suzuki's on the AMA Superbike grid today, there were almost as many VF750F Interceptors on the grids in the '80s because of the level of popularity, cutting-edge engineering and relative-cost at the time to put a competitive effort together.
After originally putting the V-45 motor in their Sabre and Magna street models, Honda came up with what was the game-changer in sport bikes with the Interceptor in 1983. But due to various problems, it was Merkel who won the marque's first championship after Wayne Rainey won the '83 AMA Superbike Championship riding for Rob Muzzy on the Kawasaki GPZ-750.
Racing bikes such as these works of HRC art are hard to come by today, as many were either broken up or simply put to death in the Japanese crushers. Fortunately, some were spared and went to a few museums and private owners. Personally what I would do to have one of these in the great room or the garage in glass!

I came acrossed a great article put together by Dean Adams over at his great site that talks about race bikes from the past and what happens to them after their usefulness runs out. In the '70s and '80s there weren't as many collectors or museums, for one, and even if there had been at the time in many cases they STILL may have ended up in the crushers since the higher-ups didn't want the technology to get into the wrong hands. And that is also known to still happen today, for that matter.

Fortunately today there are some private collectors as well as museums around the world that will get ahold of these past racing steeds and put them on display, either for themselves or for the public to drool over. Two examples of this today are one from each type of collector.

Brian O'Shea is a gentleman whose collection has been featured in Motorcyclist Magazine. O'Shea owns a 'replica' of the '84 Honda Interceptor ridden to the AMA Superbike Championship by Fred Merkel as shown above. And then there is George Barber, who built a little road racing track outside of Birmingham, AL. and put in a little museum while he was at it. Some of the bikes in the Barber Vintage Museum include one of Dale Singleton's late '70s Daytona 200-winning Yamaha TZ-750 as well as one of Freddie Spencer's Two Brothers Racing Honda RC30s, and a Mike Hailwood Isle of Man-winning late '70s Ducati.

You can read a little of both below and check out some of the history of AMA Superbike Racing among other series from the past and see if you recognize any machines that you have drooled over in the past-or still do, for that matter!

Here is Dean's article about a lot of race bikes and their history with the crusher or the shredder and a few cases of whose hands some of the others may have ended up in:

Motorcyclist Magazine did a fine write up on Brian O'Shea's private collection:

And here is Brian's site with some pictures of Merkel's '84 AMA Superbike Championship winner among others:

And here is the official link to the Barber Vintage Museum in Leeds, AL. HIGHLY recommended to go see this place whenever or as SOON as you can. The place is majestic, so leave at least a day to check it out. You won't be disappointed:

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