Vintage collectors have a true passion for their niche and a love for sharing their interests with fellow enthusiasts, friends, and sometimes complete strangers. Baseball cards, train sets, classic records. These are just a few collectable items that can get the blood pumping for hobbyists who will stop at nothing, searching high and low for the rarest of rare items.
Now, consider vintage motorcycles. They’re certainly not small or simple, and restoration can take years. Finding parts can be like searching for needles in haystacks, and the ultimate price tag can be a big factor. This, however, is Michael Carpenter’s passion.
He and his family moved to Arkansas from Nashville four years ago, opening Mugs Café in North Little Rock and Speakeasy Coffee Bar in Bryant. While he possesses a true entrepreneur’s spirit, he also loves his vintage bikes. The theme of Carpenter’s Saline County establishment and the Speakeasy web site are a testament to his passion.
“The way we have Speakeasy decorated – because a speakeasy was a 1920s bar – is with a lot of vintage older motorcycle models and posters on the wall,” Carpenter said. “They’re even motorcycle parts hanging around the shop.”
Carpenter also admits the larger challenge can sometimes be getting fellow collectors to come together in one location. “I own a few including a 1974 BMW,” he added. “I’m a member of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America. There’s chapter in Hot Springs and Little Rock. Some of those bikes are way beyond anything I’ve redone – original restorations. There are a lot of guys around the state who are into old vintage motorcycles, but there’s no real place for them to come together.”
Next month, Carpenter and fellow collectors will come together for a vintage bike show and “meet and greet” at Speakeasy, located at 3411 Main Street in Bryant. He says it will give riders, families and friends a chance to be in one location to swap ideas and share stories.
“This will be our first event trying to bring the community together,” he said. “Harley [Davidson] guys are typically a big scene here, but there are other guys out there who like different types of vintage motorcycles; bikes that include European models and Japanese models.”
Carpenter credits much of his interest in classic motorcycles to the European café racer craze of decades past. “Riders in London would turn their bikes into street racing bikes during the 50s, 60s and 70s, then race between the cafés. That’s how the name café racer started.”
According to racer folklore, café racers would choose a record from one café’s jukebox, then race one another to a predetermined location and return before the record finished. Part of that legend suggests racers’ bikes could reach 100 mph through UK city streets. If a rider at the time was able to prove his bike could reach such a speed, he was said to be a member of the prestigious “Ton Up Club.”
The idea of a café racer circuit appealed to Carpenter, but it turned out to be something he didn’t want to challenge with law enforcement.
“The whole idea of the café racer culture is neat because I happened own two cafés (Mugs Café and Speakeasy Coffee Bar), he said. “I had an idea of something we could do, but obviously it’s illegal. I wanted to possibly stage a café race between our two locations. It’s a fun idea, but probably not a very good one.”
Instead, Carpenter and his fellow business owners opted for a more conventional event, a gathering of like-minded motorcycle collectors in Bryant, scheduled for the afternoon of June 5. It’s an idea he says has already gained the support of City leaders.
“The Mayor of Bryant calls Speakeasy her ‘north office,’” he said. “The other shop owners in the strip mall were on board with the idea of a vintage bike show, so when I approached her about it, [Mayor Jill Dabbs] said, ‘We don’t see any problem with that.’”
The bike show is still developing, with new events still in the works. For more information and registration go to kick-go.eventbrite.com.