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Bob’s Vintage Collection

What is a guy in Saskatchewan doing with a garage full of classic and vintage collection of bikes?
Loving them, of course!

Triumph, BSA, New Hudson, Bultaco, Sprite, and Yamaha … Wait! How did a Japanese-made bike get thrown into this eclectic European mix? Visiting Bob’s private vintage collection, one quickly learns each motorcycle comes with a story—typically a great one. Though British marques take the main stage, a 1978 Yamaha SR500 (which was heavily influenced by BSA’s Gold Star) and other intriguing non-Euro models share space in this garage-slash-bike museum. What they have in common is that all feature only kick-starters; Bob doesn’t own a single electric start bike.

Along with selections such as a 1968 BSA 441 or 1956 Ariel Square Four that once belonged to Bernie Nicholson of Saskatoon’s famed Nicholson Bros. Motorcycles, the garage is inhabited by restored motorcycles, parts bikes, motocrossers, and parts of every kind, as well as motors that are in the process of being overhauled. 

There are also the bikes Bob regularly rides such as the ‘78 Yamaha and a 1972 Triumph Trident 750 along with his favourite, a 1966 BSA Spitfire 650 Twin. Oh, and a pretty cool Dora the Explorer pedal bike that belongs to his granddaughter!

Within moments of meeting the man and his vintage it becomes evident he’s a British bike enthusiast to the core, though he maintains a humble estimation on his knack for rebuilding vintage motorcycles. Over the years he has become known in vintage bike circles as the go-to guy which means Bob can be as busy as he makes his mind up to be. 

Though he has no formal training as a mechanic his natural talent was cultivated in the garage of his father, Robert Sr., where young Bob would watch while Dad worked on vehicles. He says his father was originally a teacher but with a family to support Robert Sr. decided to become a mechanic for the better pay. Both of Bob’s brothers entered the trade while Bob drove truck until his retirement (we will use that term loosely) in 1995. Bob says working full-time as a mechanic did not appeal to him, and that he was more interested in keeping it as a hobby, one that has now spanned several decades and seen to the restoration of too many bikes to count. He takes his time working on a motorcycle, ensuring the effort is made to keep it stock, which is of utmost importance to him and most likely the key reason he is entrusted with the restoration of vintage bikes for others. 

Born in the village of Ceylon in south-central Saskatchewan, and growing up in the 1950s, British brands seemed the most readily available to him, which perhaps explains why in later years Bob was drawn back to the bikes from his youth. A 1950 New Hudson single speed with a clutch and pedal assist was the first bike Bob ever purchased. (New Hudson Motorcycles founded in 1903 was a British motorcycle manufacturer that became part of BSA after the Second World War.) 

In 1958, at the age of 12, Bob bought the New Hudson for $20 from a second hand store on River Street in Moose Jaw, using hard earned cash from his paper route. 

But it would seem Bob’s affinity for bikes was solidified in 1967 when a farm accident threatened to change his life but also illustrated that a passion for something can make it possible to endure the impossible. 

“During the summer of 1966, I was working on my uncle’s farm at Truax, just south of Avonlea [Saskatchewan],” he says. “I was 19 and riding the Harley. One morning I got into a disagreement with a tractor, the tractor won. I spent the next month in the hospital with a broken back; I was paralyzed from the waist down. 

“The doctors said I would not walk again. I kept thinking of my Harley parked down at the farm. The next spring I went down and rode it home. I was determined.”  

The Harley-Davidson Bob referred to was a 1949 Panhead he purchased in 1960 for $150, paying an extra $20 for the saddlebags. It was a bike he would ride throughout his high school years. And while not a British bike it was a vintage model nonetheless and one of the reasons this self-taught motorcycle mechanic brings classic bikes back to life to this day.

Although he has never been able to track down his first bike—the 1950 New Hudson—Bob was able to buy back his “flamboyant red and ivory” 1966 BSA Spitfire 650, one of three bikes he sold in the early 1970s in order to raise the money for a down payment on his family home. 

Several years after the home purchase he sought out the Spitfire to add to the vintage collection, which had been sitting in a backyard under a leaky eavestrough subjected to the elements. But with some TLC Bob brought his favourite bike back to form. 

Now it sits next to his Regal Purple Triumph Trident—another of his favourites, which Bob picked up for $800 and restored to perfection. The Triumph Trident was first introduced in 1968 along with the BSA Rocket 3, controversial bikes in those days because of the construction of the three-cylinder engine and square tank styling. But the push was on to compete against Japanese brands that were beginning to dominate the North American market. 

Bob does admit the Triumph is top heavy while his Yamaha is a light bike, easy to ride. Still he enjoys riding them both and the tinkering it takes to keep them running and roadworthy. 

On deck right now in his garage is a 1971 Sprite 405, a British two-stroke off-road motorcycle that entered the British, US, Belgian, and Australian markets with the slogan “Built by riders for riders.” 

The restoration of the tank has been time consuming but Bob says he has been able to source a tank decal, which are comparatively easy to find for vintage bikes. Over the years Bob has made enough contacts that he doesn’t encounter much trouble when searching for parts. In fact he is often given bikes or parts as trade for the work he does for other vintage bike owners. 

One such item taken in trade is his 1970 Bultaco 250cc motocross bike. The Barcelona-based Bultaco built two-stroke motorcycles from 1958-1983, when the Spanish firm closed its doors. Bultaco returned to the market in 2014 with a pair of electric street bikes, the Rapitan and Rapitan Sport. It isn’t likely either will make their way into Bob’s garage any time soon, but the history of the Bultaco and all the other vintage bikes in his vintage collection are what make Bob’s story so interesting.  

by Marissa Landry Canadian Biker Issue #321


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