Your Favorite Five #007


Justin Kell was born in 1970 in Harrisburg, PA. In 1997 he relocated to Los Angeles from Baltimore Maryland. Upon arriving in Los Angeles he turned his love of vintage motorcycles and American antiques into his life’s work.
In 1999 GLORY Sales & Service was opened with his wife Kristina Kell.
We met Justin a couple of years ago in his store, this guy is rad and cool and his store is a "Must see" in L.A.

Naming my five favorite motorcycles sounded easy at first. Making a living working with bikes, I have an odd “love/hate” relationship with motorcycles. Vintage motorcycles are never “finished”. Like the painting of the Golden Gate Bridge, they are in a constant state of repair. This being said, it’s the reason that we love and hate these relics. As I fished through he dark recesses of my brain, I realized that the machines that kept popping into my mind were the machines that made me smile. They are bikes that I have an emotional attachment to. I buy and sell a lot of vintage machines, and I still after quite a few years find myself wanting to keep every bike that I touch. The choices here may seem odd, but like women, these machines have a certain look, smell and taste that won’t let me forget them.

In no particular order….

1. 1953 Vincent Comet

I love the Vincent singles for many reasons. In my opinion, this is one of the most ride able machines that ever came out of the Stevenage factory. The Comets were really a single cylinder touring bike. They have a reputation for being a “vibration less” single and I have to agree. The simplicity and pure function of a 500cc single is unbeatable. Being built over the same bottom end set up as a twin, they are very close to bullet proof. These machines can be easily tuned to run a solid 90mph on a modern freeway while still being light and nimble enough to shoot through LA traffic. My only complaint is the lazy Burman gearbox, but this can easily be fixed by the fitting of a Dominator box from our good friends at Norton. Old guys with beards like to call them “1/2 a Vincent”. Old guys with beards park $100K Shadows in their living rooms. I’ll take a well-sorted Vincent single over a twin any day.

2. 1965 BSA A-65

That’s right, an A65. These machines have taken a beating over the years. With tall tales of exploding bottom ends and non oiling, they became known as Triumph’s half with cousin. I love the old “Power Egg”. I’ve had quite a few of these machines over the years, and I always enjoy them. It is true that the parts availability in the US isn’t as easy as the Triumphs, but a well-built A65 is a great machine for Los Angeles. Thunderbolt is actually my A65 of choice. The single carb 650 is simple and delivers about the same punch as the twin carb lightning’s but with one carb to deal with instead of two. Add a Boyer, a Pod-Tronic and a 34mm Mikuni, and you’re in fine shape. The gearing, like most 60’s British twins, is in need of a bit more, but these machines were not conceived for 80 mph on a freeway. The application should fit the design. Visually, I love the tank badges of the 65’s and the paint on chrome fuel tanks. These bikes have always looked like the quintessential British bikes to me. I’ve built them into café racers, CA street trackers and kept them stock. A great machine, still affordable, and an absolute a joy to ride. Long Live Birmingham!

3. 1962 Norton Atlas

1962 was the first production year of the 750cc Atlas.I love this year because They still retained UK styling over the attempt to “Americanize” the design to appeal to us Yanks. The classic silver paint, the speedometer in the headlamp bucket, all classic lines that make this machine feel like the hopped up Dominator that it was. Enough cannot be said bout the superior handling of the Featherbed frame. I personally prefer the slim line frames over the wide lines. The Altlas has a well deserved reputation for being a bit on the vibraty side, but I’ve ridden some that feel like jack hammers, and some that are a smooth as silk. Balancing the crank and sorting out the rods does wonders for the vibration. The handling of these bikes is as good as it gets. The single leading brakes can be set up to do the job, but an easy conversion to a Commando brake is a smart move. The obvious “Manx” conversion is time tested and always a winner, but there’s something to be said about an early Atlas in original condition. I’ve put about 60 K miles on my latest Atlas (a ’65) and it just keeps going. The Norton gearboxes are strong, the Road Holders are always a treat and the simple conversion of a single Mikuni gives you a good smooth power delivery. The later models had a distributor, but the early ones sported a mag. You can’t beat a magneto. My current set up is a Lucas Rita mag replacement that was on the bike when I got it, and it’s been providing flawless ignition for 5 years. No need to toss a Triumph motor in this bike. The Atlas motor is stronger and much more reliable. A Featherbed frame and a 750 Norton lump. What could possibly go wrong?

4. 1969 Moto Guzzi V7

When I was about 19 years old, I bought a ’69 V7 for $500. What a bike. I was not terribly interested in Italian bikes, but I kept seeing this bike in my neighborhood and developed a fixation with it. The bike belonged to a friend of mine who had two expensive habit, vintage guitars and heroin. I constantly harassed him to sell me the Guzzi. One day when habit number two was in need of some servicing, he sold me the bike. Unfortunately, habit number two killed him a few weeks later. I still remember riding that thing through my crappy Baltimore neighborhood. I wasn’t wearing a helmet, and I felt like the coolest guy in the world. That is the power of a crappy old bike that still keeps me going 20 years later. The machine itself toed that thin line between ugly and beautiful. Kind of like French women. Like the French women, a marginally attractive machine can become the sexiest thing you’ve ever seen because of timing and circumstance. It was red with chrome panels on the fuel tank. It was quite heavy, but smooth. Man I loved that bike. The great thing about these bikes is the smoothness and reliability. Guzzi’s are strange machines I’ve always considered them German versions of Italian machines. Pure function over form, but in the right light, really quite exciting. I still miss this bike and know that one day I will find it and buy it back.
5. 1937 Indian Sport Scout

If you’ve never ridden a pre-war Indian, you’re really missing something spectacular. These are the best representation of classic American motorcycles out there. I’ve spent quite a bit of time aboard a ’38 Chief, but the ’37 Sport Scout wins my heart. These bikes are much quicker than you expect them to be. Sure, the Chief is the most known and carries the American bigger is better credibility, but the Sport Scout’s are quick and a real joy to ride. The first time that I ever rode a Sport Scout was through LA traffic. It was terrifying and thrilling and nerve racking and fun. The beauty of the heel toe clutch and the left-hand throttle make much more sense than you would think. I won’t lie, it does take a bit to get used to, but it really makes you feel like you’re operating the machine. This isn’t a press a button and rides smoothly kind of bike. This is all appendages doing different things. This is hot and oily and not quite exact science. This is a really fast tractor with the threat of suspension. The Sport Scouts were the choice machines for racing and hot rodding here in Southern California. When I see a Sport Scout, it is exactly what comes into my mind when I think of a Classic American motorcycle. Indians have a great mystic and appeal. A chief with the skirted fenders surely is a beauty, but the Sport Scouts were the café racers, the Sport Scouts were the hot rods. These were the bases for the first bobbers, and still dictate the lines of backyard customs built today. These truly are my favorite American Machines, and really do mean Southern California to me. God Bless America!

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