17th Annual CJMC Classic Japanese Motorcycle Show and Swap

Classic Bike Enthusiasts Invade the Golden Hills of California

PHOTOS: Kevin Hipp

For the last 17 years, the Classic Japanese Motorcycle Club (CJMC) has held an annual show and swap meet idolizing the two-wheeled machinery from the Far East. Originally fielded at the Squaw Valley ski resort in Lake Tahoe, since 2006 the event has been held at the parklike setting of the Gold Country Fairgrounds in the historic town of Auburn, California. People from all across the western United States made the journey to this quiet town for a weekend of buying, selling, displaying, chatting and telling stories on anything and everything about vintage Japanese motorcycles.

The dedicated swappers arrived Friday morning, giving them first crack at picking through each other’s stuff before the big crowd arrived on Saturday. For those who couldn’t make it on Friday, it wasn’t a bust; there were still plenty of deals to be had all weekend long. Estimates are there were around 60 swappers on Saturday selling everything from complete Kawasaki GPZs to rare Honda CB350 Powroll big bore kits.

[Parts and bikes for sale in the swap area.

At one point on Saturday afternoon, Zeki Abed from San Francisco made an announcement that anyone could come take his swap meet parts for free, as he didn’t want to transport the mass back home with him. We are not talking junk, but some good parts. For example, I was able to walk away with a nice polished set of Suzuki GT550 fork legs and a polished engine side cover. I later went up to him and gave him a little donation, which wasn’t much, but he was appreciative. I heard it was a very liberating experience for Zeki, so maybe we will see others do the same in the future.

Heidenau Tires had a tent displaying its vintage fitting tires along with an early Yamaha two-stroke roadracer. S-Cargo Straps had a display showcasing its innovative tie-down system and former Motorcyclist Editor-in-Chief, Mitch Boehm was there looking for new subscribers to his Moto Retro Illustrated. Mitch also hosted a Q&A session about his career in motorcycle journalism and some of the stories that he has covered in the issues of his magazine. Jack Wagner (owner of OldSchoolCarbs) followed after Mitch, giving some advice about restoring carburetors and also some tips on how to combat the problems we all face with the current gas formulations.

A new tradition was started this year when at 3:15 on Saturday afternoon, a competition called the “Sweet Sounds of Japanese Horsepower” took place. Competitors in five different categories (determined by number of cylinders) each got about 10 seconds to rev up their bikes. Awards were given out to the winners of each category based on the audience’s enthusiastic response. The winner in the popular twins class was a 1962 Honda CB92R owned by Chal DeCecco. At only 125cc, it goes to show that displacement is not a factor in this type of competition, beating out a CB450 “Black Bomber” and a modern Kawasaki W650 with the mufflers removed.

[Winding through the hills on a Honda CL70 during the sunset ride.

Every year there is always a sunset ride on Saturday. This year’s ride was a little over 20 miles long and ended at the historic Auburn courthouse. The loop started with some narrow back roads winding through the Sierra Nevada foothills. Picturesque landscapes of beautiful ranch homes, ponds and horses lined the course. At one point, we hopped on the old Lincoln highway, allowing me to wind out my borrowed Honda CL70 (thanks uncle Peter!) to its max…50 mph!

We all arrived at the courthouse for an awards ceremony for participants of the sunset ride. Medals were given out in categories such as the oldest bike, most artistic, most rare, and longest distance one traveled to get to the event. The latter I won, making the journey from Southern California. It was a great finish to a wonderful day.

The big event came on Sunday. The bike show saw 111 entrants plus approximately another 10 race bikes displayed in a separate area. Gift packs worth more than the cost to enter a bike in the show were given out to all participants. On display was the full spectrum of Japanese machinery, from restored mini-trails to a Suzuki RE5 rotary, plus rarities such as a Tohatsu Trailmaster and a 1953 Yamaguchi. There were 10 different categories for spectators to vote on, bringing in more than 1000 total votes. An award ceremony followed, with second and third place finishers in each category receiving medals. The winners in each category received a plaque along with some great prizes such as helmets, tires, gloves, and tie-down straps that were graciously donated by sponsors of the event.

[All of the bikes displayed in the show were able to squeeze under the giant tent.

The People’s Choice most popular award went to Bob Guynes and his beautiful 1966 Honda Benly 160 custom racer. Best of Show (judges’ choice) went to Allen Siekman and his 1952 Honda Cub-F motor mounted on a period-correct Chinese Pigeon bicycle. The Cub-F was Honda’s first commercial success and helped keep the company out of bankruptcy in the mid 50s, therefore it played a very important role in the history of motorcycling.

With the slightly warm but still beautiful weather, the 17th annual CJMC motorcycle show and swap became another great success. Be sure to check out next year’s event as they typically get bigger and better every year.

For more information about the CJMC and the events they hold, go to: www.cjmc.org