Lyon Air Museum’s annual Bikes and Bombers Show was held on Saturday, August 26th. And what a show it was! Over hundreds of bikers participated in the event held against the backdrop of the museum’s famous warbirds, including our mighty B-17 Flying Fortress.
First Place: Don Nichols' 1911 Racycle (left photo)
It started as another typically cool and quiet morning. The prior night’s drizzly fog had not yet burned off as the team of Lyon Air Museum docents and bike show vendors finished preparing the parking lot stage for the arrival of over a hundred bikers. Around the far rim of the lot, final touches were being made to the pop-up tents and displays for Triumph Classic Motorcycles, Ducati/ Triumph of Newport Beach, Irv Seaver’s BMW, Injured Warrior Run, and several other participants. Meanwhile, inside the museum, weapon and equipment displays were being arranged and vintage uniformed re-enactment soldiers were preparing for their roles in creating an authentic World War II military environment for the entertainment of our guests.
Nearing the start time of 9:00 am, a faint rumble was heard in the distance. The sound was vaguely reminiscent of a flight of A-26 Invaders warming up at England’s RAF Station Harrington, or of a squadron of the massive B-17s preparing to launch from RAF High Wycomb for a mission over Germany. But no, this was not the sound of warbirds from the past; these were modern day road warriors arriving to proudly display their prized machines. It was their turn to take center stage: custom bikes, the latest production bikes, choppers, vintage bikes, even German bikes from World War II joined the mix, as if the Wehrmacht didn’t want to be left out of the fun.
Within a minute or two, the low grumble grew to an exhilarating roar as the line of bikers turned the corner and entered Lyon Air Museum’s parking lot, the grandstand for today’s display and our “Peoples Choice Bike Show Contest.” An emerging sun finally began to warm the display grounds as docents guided the bikers to their designated parking rows. A welcoming of coffee and donuts was provided by Ducati/Triumph and the venue quickly became a spectator’s paradise. What biker could resist strolling along the rows, stopping to chat and swap knowledge or just to inspect an interesting machine; and there were many of those. Triumph Classic Motorcycles had several restored vintage Triumphs under their tent and more on display inside the museum. The latest Ducati “Scrambler” and Triumph “Bobber” were showcased out front along with a Harley-Davidson Shovelhead, an Ariel Foursquare, a 1970s Triumph Bonneville, and dozens of other classic, modern, rare, and vintage bikes, proudly on display.
The amazing electric bikes from Energica, of Modena, Italy, also drew a steady crowd of interested viewers. Our museum’s President, Mark Foster, a highly experienced pilot and no stranger to speed, had test driven the company’s Ego model prior to the event, wisely keeping it under its advertised 150 mph top speed. He proved that Ego’s racing claim could easily be exceeded when he later flew the museum’s AT-6 Texan trainer to the delight of the crowd of observers.
Participation in the event was free and most of the attendees also choose to visit Lyon Air Museum’s aircraft, vehicle and memorabilia displays at the reduced entrance fee of only $8 per person. Inside, the arrays of military weapons and equipments, and the men and women dressed in authentic World War II uniforms demonstrating use of the gear, offered a special treat for the attendees. Another unique feature was the surprise appearance of Lt. Col. Robert J. Friend, a former “Red Tail” pilot and one of the few remaining Tuskegee airmen. Lt. Col. Friend flew the P-51 Mustang and P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft in WW-II, including D-Day strafing missions on the beaches of Normandy and long range bomber escort missions deep into Germany. At 97, the still spry and gracious Lt. Col. Friend chatted about his experiences and signed autographs for admiring visitors.
Lt. Col. Bob Friend chats with Gregory Alaimo
Let the Competition Begin. Voting on the bike competition began just before 11:00 a.m. By 11:30 the judges were counting their votes. With so many outstanding bikes entered, and in so many categories, the job of the judges wasn’t easy. As the entrants gathered near and awaited the decisions, Mark Foster began presenting Bikes and Bombers commemorative Tee shirts to several competitors of distinction, including the one who came the farthest to participate (from Lompoc), the oldest attendee, and several others. Then came the third place award of a Tee shirt donated by Orange County Harley-Davidson to Bill Perrone in recognition for his outstanding 1959 Moto Guzzi Falcone.
Third Place: Bill Perrone's 1959 Moto Guzzi Falcone
Second Place: Mike Dunn's 1943 Zundapp KS750
Next, Mike Dunn was awarded second prize, a Harley-Davidson Tee shirt and a $50 Gift Card for his 1943 Zundapp KS750 entrant.
Contestants with the latest and greatest models of cycling’s finest may have been disappointed at the judges’ choice for first prize, but age does have its admirers, even among bikers. First prize went to a 1911 Rapide Racycle, a beautiful vintage bike from the earliest days of motorcycling, artfully preserved by Don Nichols. This first and grandest prize set Don’s heart pounding when he was invited to climb aboard Lyon Air Museum’s Navy version of the AT-6 Texan trainer for an aerial tour above Orange Country with Mark Foster at the controls. Bikers, other visitors, and museum docents lined up at the hangar windows to cheer the victor and enjoy a front row view of the airborne excursion.
As the crowd dispersed and readied themselves to head home on their respective rides, it was apparent that many would be returning next year for another pleasurable rendezvous and in hopes of a hop in one of America’s proudest vintage aircraft.
Written By Dave Wensley