Motorcycle Hall of Famer and Racer Don Emde to serve as Grand Marshal.
In 1971, a group of young American motorcycle racers who rode for the Birmingham Small Arms Co. (BSA) — marketers of the BSA and Triumph brands — flew to England to compete against some of the most talented motorcycle riders in the world at the inaugural running of the Trans-Atlantic Match Races.
Don Emde was one of those riders. Although the Americans didn’t win, Emde had a solid pro rookie year when he returned to the States. With third-place finishes at the Daytona 200, the Talladega 200 and at the Kent, Wash., Mile, Emde scored the third most road-racing points in the AMA Grand National Championship that season behind Dick Mann and Kel Carruthers.
That’s just one story that attendees can look forward to hearing from Emde, now an AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer and the Grand Marshal at 2009 AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days, set for July 24-26 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.
"I consider it a real honor to be asked to be the AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days Grand Marshal," Emde said. "There’s so much of motorcycling represented at AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days, from the road-race course to the swap meet to the motocross track to the half-mile at the fair grounds in Ashland. The range of interest is considerable. You say ‘vintage’ to one person, and it might mean a bike from the ’70s, and to someone else it might be an old Indian from the ’40s.
"Personally, I really like the vendor area," Emde said. "I collect a lot of literature, and I always find a lot of paper-related motorcycling stuff, and every year I find books and programs and whatever, and have this big pile that I have to figure out how to get home."
With BSA serving as Marque of the Year at 2009 AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days, Emde was a natural choice for the honor of Grand Marshal. The Southern Californian’s history with BSA runs deep. Emde grew up at his father’s BSA dealership in the San Diego area, and when Emde’s dirt-track status advanced in 1970 from novice to amateur, he graduated to a BSA A65.
"BSA helped a lot that year," Emde remembered. "I won a lot of main events at Ascot. I won the California State TT Championship. Then, in 1971, BSA put together its biggest race team ever, which contested the first year of the Trans-Atlantic Match Races."
Emde’s greatest competitive achievement came the following year at the 1972 Daytona 200, when he was competing for Team Motorcycle Weekly with backing from Yamaha. He raced a Mel Dinesen-tuned Yamaha 350cc two-stroke. Emde won, making it the first Daytona 200 victory for Yamaha and the first time a two-stroke won the race. Emde also was the first son of a Daytona 200 winner to repeat the feat, and he did it on the smallest displacement bike to ever win the event.
After his racing career ended, Emde continued to work in the motorcycle industry. He became publisher of Motorcycle Dealernews in the mid-1980s, and launched a magazine called Motorcycle Collector. That publication was short-lived, however, but the Parts Magazine title he started soon after continues today. An avid collector himself, Emde owns a large compilation of memorabilia and historic racing photographs. He also authored the definitive book on the history of the Daytona 200.
In the early 1990s, Emde joined the board of the American Motorcycle Heritage Foundation (AMHF), and became a leading voice in the preservation of motorcycling history, especially pertaining to racing. Emde served on the AMHF board for 12 years, much of that as chairman.
In honor of his accomplishments and influence on motorcycling, Emde was inducted into the AMA’s Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999.
AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days is the country’s largest celebration of motorcycling heritage, including highlights such as vintage racing and North America’s largest motorcycle swap meet. Also on tap are demo rides of current production bikes, motorcycling seminars, stunt shows, the new product Manufacturers’ Midway, club corrals featuring marque and regional clubs, and guided rides through the rolling Ohio countryside. The Classic Clubs this year will be the Sandcast Only Owner’s Club (SOOC), and the International CBX Owners Association.
This year will be particularly special because it commemorates the 85th anniversary of the AMA, and will feature a parade of classic motorcycles representing each year of the AMA’s 85 years. Museum staff has compiled a list of significant models produced since 1924 for the parade. Volunteers with bikes on that list are encouraged to contact the Museum for information about participating. Information is at www.motorcyclemuseum.org.