South Florida's Vintage Scene | Mods vs. Rockers vs. the Sun

South Beach Burn-Up!

By Rafael Tassitano, Photography by Rafael Tassitano

On a late October morning, Mods and Rockers again gathered at a seaside resort town for an epic event. But this wasn’t Brighton Beach in the 1960s; it was Fort Lauderdale 50 years later. Mods and Rockers in South Florida? Why not—it’s the second-largest motorcycle market in the country after Southern California; it’s just known more for blinged-out choppers and sportbikes than cool café racers. The annual Mods vs. Rockers Rally has proven to be a fantastic gathering of motorcycles and scooters that highlights South Florida’s nascent vintage scene.

The rally is the brainchild of Louise and Chris Dutton, whose collection of roughly 20 vintage bikes ranges from a ’65 Honda CB450 nicknamed “Bart” to a ’75 Norton Commando. “We had read about these Mods vs. Rockers Rallies in Dallas and Chicago, and decided to have one here. It’s the perfect place for it,” explains Louise. Home to a growing group of collectors, riders and restorers, South Florida was eager to show off its well-loved replicas and restorations. Once the logistics of staging the rally were worked out, it was time for the Duttons to find sponsors, which they did in the form of the area’s premier specialty shops.

Wes Scott is a renowned restorer of British iron. He got his start in ’66 working at the local Triumph dealer while still a senior in high school, and now Wes Scott Cycles restores bikes for customers all over the country. Most of his business is from fellow Floridians, however, including AMA Daytona Official Roland LeCuyer, for whom he built a 1960 BSA C-15 that is now on display at the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum in Ohio.

“A lot of bikes in the closets are coming out, which is great and a lot of fun,” Scott says in reference to the emerging vintage scene. “However, a lot of these bikes are kind of skanky when they get here. They’ve been sitting in someone’s barn for 20 years.” This just means more work for Scott, who does ground-up builds including a professional clear-cadmium plating of the hardware to replicate the original finish. Of course, not all of his customers want brand-new, preferring a more "aged" appearance. “They call it patina,” explains Scott. “That’s a good word for nasty.”

While most of his clients are in the 40-60-year-old range, Scott is also seeing a few younger people getting into vintage bikes. But it’s not a universally easy sell: “Trying to get young people interested in vintage bikes is like trying to push a car up a hill with a rope.” To Scott, the appeal of these old motorcycles is obvious. “Classic bikes are like comfort food.” But in South Florida, the cool, compact classics have a tough time competing with fat tires and stretched swingarms.

By Rafael Tassitano
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