Pack Rats…you gotta love ’em
Boxes and boxes of motorcycle parts stacked floor to ceiling, some have labels, most don’t. Frames and wheels hanging from the rafters, gas tanks here and there, a bunch of mufflers piled up in a corner along with a stack of tires that you would never ride on. There are motorcycle parts that haven’t seen the light of day since the Nixon administration. You’ve got a few ‘project’ bikes scattered around that haven’t seen any ‘project’ since he brought them home and there may be a bike or two that actually run…well, if he had a battery for it. And then there is that one motorcycle that actually does run, has decent tires and he rides regularly. We all know someone like that.
“Well, this here’s a story about a man named Mel, a poor pack rat whose garage looked like hell”… , you gotta go with the Beverly Hillbillies theme here…Mel is the consummate pack rat, as a matter of fact I think he could get his own TV show on HGTV, ‘How to be a professional pack rat’.
Mel is my son’s Father in Law, a really great guy and I’m lucky to have him as a family member. We didn’t meet until the kids had decided to get married. “Uh Oh…guess we better meet the other side of the family”, over to the house for dinner we go. In typical guy fashion, we head out to the garage. Mel opens the door and I can’t see a thing. Not because the lights aren’t on, no…it’s because there is stuff floor to ceiling and wall to wall. From antique radios to junk picked up at yard sales and thrift shops, work benches covered with boxes of who knows what (even he doesn’t know!!) and some really cool motorcycles and motorcycle stuff.
Mel told me about some of his motorcycling history and, as it turns out,we have a few mutual friends. We had a lot of fun talking about this bike and that bike. He points out the ’73 Ducati 750GT hanging from the rafters, but where’s the motor I ask? “um, it’s somewhere over there?” pointing in the direction of a stack of old marine radios. OK. The conversation switches to radios for a while but I’m still looking for motorcycles. I know there are some buried treasures somewhere in there.
Last Wednesday I stopped by Mel’s to give him a manual for a Zenith Trans Oceanic radio that a friend had given me. I knew that Mel had a least a couple of these radios and would like the book. When I pulled up to his house my eyes bulged out and my jaw dropped. It looked like a quarter of his garage was in the driveway and in amongst the boxes and radios was… and you need to be sitting for this.. a Vincent Black Shadow, getting ready to be loaded into someone else’s truck, a Norton International also on it’s way to a new home and a beautiful Harley Davidson ‘K’ model just sitting there. These were the treasures I knew were buried deep in that garage.
A little more digging turned up a ‘1976 BMW R90S that has been sitting for fifteen years, a Harley XR750 Flat Tracker in a few pieces (with hand cut Goodyear tires and all), a 1939 HRD Comet that needed some TLC and a hand built Schwinn Paramount racing bicycle. Hanging in the rafters are gas tanks off Velocettes, Ducatis, a BSA and a brand new handbuilt aluminum tank for the XR750. Wheels with vintage exotic brakes, bits and pieces of exhaust systems and a fender or two for good measure.
As Mel was searching for more parts for the Harley that was going to new home, he would come across something else special and every one of these parts came with a story. “This one was handmade for me by a guy in England, it’s the only one of it’s kind…” or, “ my friend met a guy at the Playboy Club in London and they rode out toCoventry to get this part and…”. The stories went on and I realized that though the parts had stories, the real story was Mel himself.