The regal Queen Mary looks on as Garage Company’s Panhead bobber basks in the limelight at the LA Calendar Bike Show.
Billed as the largest streetbike show in America, you could expect to find many colors of the motorcycle rainbow at the Los Angeles Calendar Motorcycle show, but you might be disappointed. Instead, you’d find choppers as far as the eye could see.
It’s not promoter/photographer Jim Gianatsis’ fault. He really tried to make this event as all-inclusive as possible, but the massive TV exposure of the chopper craze has a way of twisting things. Sure there were some sportbikes, and some metric cruisers, but in this sea of custom iron, it was hard to even find an actual Harley-Davidson anywhere outside of the parking lot.
In its former incarnation as the Mikuni Calendar Show, this show has a long history of being one of the premiere events on the West Coast. From its former location at the Santa Monica Airport to its current digs in the shadow of the Queen Mary in Long Beach, it has attracted a rich mix of performance and custom enthusiasts over a decade.
The big prize in years past was a shot at earning a place in Gianatsis’ popular Iron and Lace pinup calendar, which – by no coincidence – sees its premiere at the show every year. In addition to a shot at calendar stardom, nowadays the big prize is… a big prize. A whopping $70,000 purse ensures that some of the brightest stars of bike building will attend. This year’s winner was Dreamcraft Studios, who turned in an entry with a frame machined from a single hunk of aluminum, which they valued at $250,000.
While straight-up choppers were in the majority, bobbers (traditional and otherwise) were obviously big on the cool scale. Like Ska is to Reggae, bobbers are the lineal predecessor to the chopper, stripped down and mean-looking, far from the flamboyant styling of chopperdom. But, naturally there are revisionist combinations in the midst, with plain-Jane stripped choppers and over-the-top bobbers, and everything in-between.
Dreamcraft Studios’ “Rapture” won a $5000 Best in Show prize to help pay its reported $250,000 price tag. The unique bike features a machined aluminum frame, exhaust through the swingarm, and quad fork tubes.
Notable trend-buckers were a Ducati chopper and Moto Guzzi-based custom. On the sportbike side of the aisle, dubbed Metric Alley (which was also peppered with American choppers), the Italian brands held dominion, from limited edition and custom Ducatis to smaller marques like Benelli and Mondial.
Another popular attraction on the performance side was the Jardine Performance Horsepower Shootout, which seemed to be where all the Japanese bikes were. 2004 champ James Noonan, who set a world record last year with an incredible 535 horsepower (a built small-block Chevy owner is usually happy with a number like that) run from a modified Hayabusa, won again with a paltry 339-hp run from his turbo and nitrous-equipped Hayabusa. Top American bike honors went to East Side Performance with a 107-inch turbo nitrous mill that cranked out 284 hp.
Aside from the eye candy everywhere, there was a nonstop parade of entertainment at the show. Blues, classic rock, and burlesque filled the main stage docket. Aspiring bike builders could sit in on lectures from some of the industry’s best, like TV builders Jesse Rooke, Russell Mitchell, and (former AMA 250GP champion) Roland Sands. There was also a Calendar Girl Pageant to find the stars of next year’s Calendar.
The $20 price of entry really is a bargain, especially if you’re into metal artistry. Not only do you get hundreds of fabulous custom bikes, but also a free ticket on to the legendary Queen Mary, which is normally $22.50 all by itself.