California Auto Museum | Moto History

1973 Norton Commando 750 Roadster

Born to Ride: Motorbikes

“Please… touch it.” Waldon Williams invites me to actually put my hands on his 1973 Norton Commando 750. If you love old motorcycles like I do, it doesn’t get any better. Standing proud amidst some of the most influential motorcycles ever built, Williams was the first to point out that his ride isn’t showroom perfect, but has earned its rightful place.

Sacramento’s California Auto Museum currently exhibits more than fifty classic motorbikes like his, many of them unforgettable milestones in motorcycling history.

Though the museum asks that you don’t touch, I strongly urge all riders and those who just love the beauty of pure motorcycles go see this exhibit. The motorcycles are arranged chronologically and represent most of the pioneering models. It’s fascinating to see a shaft-driven flat boxer Harley-Davidson, complete with gun rack, alongside a flashy BSA of the same period. Beefy Triumphs from the early 1960s are nearly racing alongside almost anemic Ducatis. Rare breeds like Thor, Crocker and Ariel make their appearance in the time stream and demonstrate the surges of ingenuity that kept hurtling riders towards the once mythical 100 mph.

A must see is Steve McQueen’s 1914 Indian Racer, a motorcycle just beginning to break away from a mere bicycle with an engine strapped on. Check out the 1953 Ariel Mark II, with its amazing “square four” engine. Edward Gough’s rare 1953 Vincent is worth a trip back in time, if only to edge a little closer to the echo of land speed records breaking.

The motorcycle exhibit continues until March 12th, 2010. Friendly and extremely knowledgeable staff will welcome you. Don’t miss out on this exhilarating ride into motorcycle history. You can check the California Auto Museum’s motorcycle exhibit website for more information.