Moto Talbott Collection: Cycles of Art

  • story by David M. Brown
  • posted on 08/2017
  • posted in: Great Garages

For Robb Talbott, vintage motorcycles are always in the running as art.

When he was a young man, the Carmel Valley resident read The Art of the Motorcycle published by the Guggenheim Museum. Set against the great Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building in Manhattan were great cycles, exemplary for their beauty, mechanical excellence and performance. “For the first time, I realized that motorcycles could qualify as art,” says Talbott, founder of the Moto Museum in Carmel Valley.

“I started getting really excited about that idea. When you see the cooling fins on an MV Agusta or the sculpting of a Rickman hub, you realize they’re art,” says Talbott, who attended Colorado College for Fine Art and Design and is the former owner of Talbott Vineyards in Carmel Valley.

His 170 cycles are from Belgium, Germany, China, Italy, the Czech Republic, Japan, France, Spain and other countries. Last August, one of Talbott’s bikes, a rare 1925 BMW R37, won Best of Class at the Pebble Beach Concours, the culmination of Monterey Car Week in August.

“The collection is an eclectic mix of bikes from 16 countries, including mini bikes, race bikes, dirt bikes, choppers, bobbers, MV Agustas and flat track, speedway and board trackers from the early 1900s versions,” says Bobby Weindorf, curator and restorer.

In addition, the museum has antique transportation toys, a B-17 aircraft motor, vintage trucks and more. “We have a vast selection of bikes from the ’50s, in particular, 175cc, pre-1957 bikes that were used in the Moto Giro d’ Italia,” Weindorf adds, referring to the great two-wheel races in Italy.

“We have bikes that were raced all over the world, from Isle of Man to the dirt tracks of America. It’s a gathering of things that are classic, unique and capture the imagination, and all have some tie-in to Robb’s life,” he adds.

Talbott brought Weindorf to the museum from Santa Barbara where he was doing restorations and running his dealership. He’s been riding since 12 and has worked as technician for American Honda’s Supercross/Motocross as well as the Fast by Ferraci, Rumi Honda in Italy and Erion Racing teams.

Although Talbott did not start collecting until 2001, the two-wheeler passion began early, as he lived near Laguna Seca Raceway, now Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, which schedules a number of events each year for Monterey Car Week. He raced locally thorough his college years in the mid ’60s.

He started with a Honda 50 step-through, then rode Suzukis and dirt bikes, including a BSA 441, Jawa, Bridgestone, Kawasaki and a Sachs and then a two-stroke Yamaha DT-1 250, racing motocross and winter hill climbs.

He purchased a Triumph Bonneville, then bought others, restoring some, leaving a few just as they were to age magnificently. In 2015, he sold Talbott Vineyards to dedicate his time to the collection, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit devoted to motorcycle preservation, restoration and education.

Come on over and join the ride, while you’re in town for Monterey Car Week or any time:

•1953 Capriolo Corsa –– This 75-cc bike was a winner of its class in the famous Moto Giro D’ Italia races in the ’50s; this model is one of the closed-course versions, Weindorf explains.

The Moto Giro races began in 1914 as the “Giro Motociclistico d’Italia” and lasted nine days over hundreds of kilometers, requiring extraordinary endurance. Stopping in the mid 1950s, the races began again in 2001, led by Dream Engine, a Bolognese event company, with Ducati as the main sponsor. They continue today in a modified version as a timed rally, not a race, Weindorf explains.

•1955 Benelli Corsa –– This track-only bike has a very unique cam-drive system consisting of six-gear running from the crank to the overhead cam. “A gem; it’s beautiful and fast,” he says.

Established in Pesaro, Italy, in 1911, Benelli at first repaired bicycles and motorcycles, and in 1919 the company released its first motorcycle. The following year, a single-cylinder two-stroke 75-cc engine was produced in-house.

•1956 Moto Devil –– This 175cc was built to compete in the Moto Giro races but never did. “It is a one-off prototype with sandcast cases,” Weindorf explains.

•1965 BMW R69S –– Talbott calls this his collection’s “buried Beemer”: “It was caught in a fire in Big Sur, so the owner took a backhoe and buried it,” Weindorf says. “They uncovered it months later, and we got it. We got it running and have never cleaned it since, although it’s still ridden regularly.” A few years ago, it won the “Spirit of the Quail” award at the annual Quail, A Motorsports Gathering during Monterey Car Week.

•1972 MV Agusta 750S –– Talbott took six years searching for one of these last of the MV four-cylinders. He found it in original condition in Switzerland, where it had sat indoors for 20-plus years. “It’s now running great,” Weindorf says.

The Moto Talbott Collection, 4 East Carmel Valley Road in Carmel Valley Village, is open Thursdays through Sundays daily, 11 a.m.−5 p.m. Adults are $12, seniors and military, $10 and children, $7. For additional information, see mototalbott.com and call 831.659.5410.

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