The Vintage Swap Meet in Tsawwassen

vintage motorcycle meet nothing rocks like a windjammer fairing

See You at Todd’s Show

The old and the favintage motorcycle meet old gold Hondasmiliar, the tried and the true, this is what riders on the west coast expect of the Classic and Vintage Swap Meet & Show ‘n’ Shine on the lower mainland – an event that also signalled the start of the riding season. While the event has since migrated to Abbotsford, we fondly remember a Tsawwassen edition.

Not that anyone will ever say so out loud (except for me, I guess) but the Classic and Vintage Swap Meet & Show ‘n’ Shine is the unofficial start of the riding season here on the west coast. From this point forward, the saddle time gets real. It’s always in late April, and always at the same venue—the highly functional but aging South Delta Community Centre located at the south end of Greater Vancouver, near the US border, which is convenient for the riders and vintage enthusiasts who make their traditional annual trek from Washington and Oregon specifically for the show: they’ve always come, they always will come. That’s the way it’s been now for the past 28 years. The one-day show has always been on Sunday. It always will be on Sunday. Some Sundays are sunnier than others.vintage motorcycle meet girl on a black bike vintage motorcycle meet captain America helmet

This year’s version was especially fine, and the turnout seemed like a record to me. The parking lot was jammed with motorcycles while cars and trucks lined 56th Street nearly all the way to busy Highway 17. On the lot were Vincents, Nortons, Triumphs, ‘70s Japanese sportbikes, Harleys, Indians, sidehacks, BSAs, BMWs, modern day cruisers and touring bikes, homemade restorations and full-on big pro customs. There were middle-age riders on current year models, older riders on lovingly tended late models, and younger ones on various whatevers … many younger ones in fact. The new-gen riders arrived together in shows of tribal force, outfitted in retro open-face Bells, plaid shirts and brightly

coloured high-top runners. Their rides of choice are budget café racers cobbled together from revitalized Yamaha and Honda middleweights. Before the day is done, they will leave the swap meet with armloads of stuff to see their bikes through the season—with luck. Some though, have invested heavily into their project bikes. There are Thruxtons treated with high-end aftermarket suspension bits, and tastefully altered Ducatis. The sheer number of café racers is startling and I deduce that 2013 is certainly the season of the café racer if this parking lot on this remarkably beautiful spring morning is any indicator. 


The mood is relaxed and comfortable in the crowded lot as still more bikes pour in. Riders seem more interested in simply milling about, talking, and observing one another’s machines than actually going inside the centre where the swap meet is well underway. “See anything you like?” says a voice behind me as I focus on shooting a group of done-up Nortons leaning in line at the shady end of the lot. It’s CB Vintage Motorcycles Editor Robert Smith. He always comes to this show, he always will. I mention I’m on the lookout for a project Norton for a friend in Calgary, but none of these meet my friend’s basketcase criterion. Not even close. “Hmm. No. I wouldn’t think so,” says Robert who is also a member of the British Motorcycle Owners Club. Without putting it into so many words, Robert is telling me that Norton is still an elite marque and “basketcases” aren’t readily found because they don’t exist. Restoration experts immediately snap up available Nortons. 

vintage motorcycle meet row of multi coloured triumphsRobert takes my mind off the non-availability of project Nortons by introducing me to George Dockray whose Moto Guzzi V700 appears this issue in ‘Robert Smith’s Vintage Hall.’ George has also noticed the large numbers of younger riders on their expressive café racers and their retro Bells. “Very ironic,” he says with a grin. I leave Robert and George to the more serious business of vintage bike appreciation and move into the centre.

“I hope you came out on other business beyond our little show,” event organizer Todd Copan says later, after he spots me filtering through the aisles of vintage bikes, classic parts, antique rolling chassis, battered fuel tanks, rusting exhaust components, drivetrains, valvetrains, gearboxes, faded jackets, ‘60s-era helmets, British pins, badges and untold memorabilia clustered on display tables where the same vendors have been selling the same things … and will always be selling the same things, year after year. “But this is a Classic & Vintage swap meet,” vendors are forewarned. “So leave your Twin Cam parts at home.”

vintage motorcycle meet old blue HarleyIt’s the predictability of the Sunday show that appeals at a core level. “That’s why I come,” says CB’s longtime friend Fred DeMarco who is always encamped near motorcycle lawyer Daryl Brown along the hockey arena’s south wall with a table full of Harley parts … and who always will have a table full of Harley parts to show and share with his many friends. It’s hard to get a moment in with Fred and his wife April because of their popularity. Folks are always stopping by to banter and renew acquaintances. This is what Fred means when he says this is why he comes. It’s the camaraderie of the event. “Aren’t those the same parts you had last year Fred?” I ask him. Fred just laughs his big, hearty laugh and brushes the comment aside. Sales here today are the least of his worries.

As an event name, the Tsawwassen Classic and Vintage Swap Meet & Show ‘n’ Shine is a mouthful to spit out. Local riders don’t even try, not when there are numerous other perfectly good and recognizable names: the Classic Bike Show, the Show in Tsawwassen, or even Todd’s show. As in, “Are you going to Todd’s show next week?” Everyone knows Todd, and Todd knows everyone. He stops to talk to any and all, though he has precious little time on his hands as the show heats up and he’s called upon to scramble from one end of the hockey arena floor (where the general swap meet area is positioned) to the vintage motorcycle meet z bar apescurling rink where there are still more swap meet tables,  as well as the show ’n’ shine section where there are entrants in 10 different classes. The curling arena floor also hosts the Feature Bike Display where the “theme” bikes are parked. The show always has a theme; it will always have a theme. This year the theme was servi-cars, but it might easily have been Indian, Triton or Vincent or any of the dozens of other marques from previous years. The diversity and the excellence of the ancient motorcycles brought here is always a thing of wonder. I’m pleased to see a 3.5-hp Humber with carbide lamp parked alongside a 1914 Harley Twin, also equipped with carbide lamp. I really like the carbide lamps. I’ve always liked carbide lamps. I will always like them.

by John Campbell Canadian Biker #293

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