Overall Coordinator/Project Manager
The look of DETERMINATION!
There are some events, good or bad, which will stand out
forever in our memories. These are as personal as the first time you met your
future wife or as nationally tragic as President Kennedy’s Assignation or 9/11.
For a lifelong motorcyclist such as me, these memories include Saturdays at Big
D Cycle with my best friend Keith Martin (Big D Mechanic) and personal hero Jack
Wilson (Big D Owner), my first Triumph (1973 Bonneville), and my first Daytona
race (blowing the engine of my vintage racer on the Big Bank and locking up the
Now unfortunately, there was going to be another memory added to this list. It
was going to be just another day at work when I came in to the office at 7am on
September 17, 2003. I grabbed a cup of coffee and sat down to read my many
e-mails as usual. One message caught my eye from a contractor that lives in the
UK. He knew of my passion for motorcycling and vintage British bikes in
particular. As I opened his message and began to read, the world suddenly became
a little emptier, a little crueler. On September 16, 2003 there was a fire at
the National Motorcycle Museum in Birmingham, England. Three of the five display
halls had burned.
This museum was Mecca for British bike enthusiasts. It has always been there (30
years) and I had planned to go there one day to see in person the bikes I had
only read about. There was no rush. It was one of those trips you knew would
happen someday, like seeing the Grand Canyon, or visiting Washington DC. I had
just been to London in February on business. I was going to stay over the
weekend and travel to the museum, but there was a transportation strike that
week and all the trains were shut down. No big deal, I told myself, there will
be another chance to see the museum. Little did I know that this would be one of
my worst personal disappointments, as this would be my last chance to see the
museum and bikes in all their original glory.
This tragedy also took on a personal note for me. The 1956 Triumph Streamliner
that set the world motorcycle speed record at 214 mph had been on display in the
Competition Hall. The team of Jack Wilson (tuner), Johnny Allen (rider), and
Stormy Mangham (builder) set the motorcycling world on its collective ear by
beating the Bonneville speed record set by the factory NSU team. This bike was
sold to the museum by Jack Wilson in 1983. Jack felt this would be a more proper
venue for display of this historic machine instead of hanging from the rafters
in the very back of Big D Cycle in Oak Cliff, Texas. None of the original team
is alive today.
This sad event has led to the formation of a core group of volunteers and
restoration experts to save the Wilson-Allen-Mangham Triumph Streamliner. The
story of our group will be told in following articles. In the meantime, review
the history of the museum and just some of the historically significant bikes in
the collection. You can’t know where you are if you don’t know where you’ve been
or how you got here.