The Vincent in the Barn & The Harley in the Barn Review

The Vincent in the Barn Review | Rider's LibraryBack in 2005, Tom Cotter rolled out his first book on motorhead archeology entitled The Cobra in the Barn. That received a warm enough welcome to encourage him to follow it up with a sequel called The Hemi in the Barn.

Cotter, who grew up around cars and motorcycles decided that barn-find rare motorcycles or bikes with great back stories are every bit as intriguing as cars and so, in 2009 came out with The Vincent in the Barn. With more stories to tell, Cotter practically had to follow that up with The Harley in the Barn in 2012.

Visit the Ultimate MotorCycling Rider’s Library

Each book brings you up close and personal not only with some exceptional bikes with fascinating histories, but with their owners, past and present, who frequently have interesting stories of their own.

For example, in The Vincent in the Barn, in 39 vignettes spread out over seven chapters, Cotter—and some other contributors—tell of everything from Dale Axelrod’s patient and expensive reconstruction of an ultra-rare 1907 Curtis V-twin motorcycle to the 1949 Harley-Davidson Hydraglide Al Kelly acquired in trade for a 1951 Chevy DeLuxe Coupe and $2,500 cash.

Cotter introduces us to Al and Ken Kelly; self-described “crapaholics” who make a number of appearances in the books, each time with fascinating finds.

Then there’s the incredible story of Chuck Goldsborough’s 1928 Triumph Model W, found by a friend in a small motorcycle shop in Launceston, Australia. The motorcycle was not only complete and original, it was essentially brand new.

It had been donated when new as a prize in a charity auction by the original Triumph dealer, John King and Son. The holder of the winning ticket never came forward to collect the bike and it sat in the dealership—for years and years. Goldsborough acquired the bike in 1998 for about $5,200 and had it shipped to the U.S.

There’s Dave Hansen of Ventura, Calif., whose passion for Indian Motorcycles and vintage motorcycles in general, overwhelmed his desire for a career in football. Cotter tells of how Hansen has amassed bikes and parts over the past 40 years, has followed up on hundreds of vintage bike leads buying, selling and owning bikes that are original, restored or just left as is.

The Harley in the Barn ReviewIn the books, you’ll meet well-knowns such as Dale Walksler, who as creator and curator of the Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley, NC, has what is arguably the most spectacular collection in the world as well as not-so-well-knowns such as Mike Stenhouse whose story about his once-in-a-lifetime find of a rare 1966 Triumph T120 TT Special appears in The Harley in the Barn.

There is even a fascinating look at the history and current circumstances of Burt Munro’s famous 1920 Indian Scout that Munro piloted to a world land speed record in 1967—which stands to this day. That Indian, Munro and the setting of the land speed record at Bonneville was the subject of the 2005 motion picture, The World’s Fastest Indian.

The Harley in the Barn includes 38 vignettes in its five chapters and between the two books there are a couple of hundred color and black & white images to help tell the stories.

You’ll notice that we have melded the review of the two books together somewhat, which makes sense because the two make a sumptuous whole for any motorcycle enthusiast who dreams of that great barn-find coming along some day. If one is good—both is even better.

Title: The Vincent in the Barn

  • Author: Tom Cotter
  • Published: 2009 hardcover, 256 pages, color and black & white images.
  • Publisher: Motorbooks, Quarto Publishing Group, 400 First Ave. North, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55401
  • ISBN: 978-0-7603-3535-2
  • MSRP: U.S. $26.00 U.K. £15.99 $32.50 CAN

Title: The Harley in the Barn

  • Author: Tom Cotter
  • Published: 2012 softcover, 256 pages, color and black & white images.
  • Publisher: Motorbooks, Quarto Publishing Group, 400 First Ave. North, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55401
  • ISBN: 978-0-7603-5165-9
  • MSRP: U.S. $19.99 U.K. £12.99 $25.99 CAN