The bucolic town of Taghkanic, NY is known mainly for its proximity to Hudson. But it’s also where entrepreneur, race car driver and sometime restaurateur Alan Wilzig has built a private pean to the world of motorsports in the form of Wilzig Racing Manor, the result of a hard-fought battle with the town and various opposition groups. What he calls the “only privately-owned personal-use professional-grade grand-prix style circuit in the world” cost some $8 million to build. On a recent visit to the 275-acre facility to test out the new Mini John Cooper Works Hardtop however it was Wilzig’s incredible motorcycle collection that caught our eye.
Evel Knievel slides & ﬁlm, 1972
Garrett Colton’s story begins like many others: a grandson travels home to visit his family and uncovers an heirloom. Only this story is a little bit different because Colton didn’t just discover a familial trinket, he unearthed a national treasure.
While Garrett only entered into this tale a couple years ago, the story really begins back in the early seventies when his grandfather Jack Cooper, an Oklahoma car dealer, met a salesman of a different nature. During a trip to Las Vegas, Cooper was introduced to Evel Knievel by a mutual friend, and the two men hit it off instantly. Knievel and Cooper were kindred spirits – middle American straight shooters with a taste for spectacle, and at the close of their meeting Knievel turned to his newfound friend and said, “I may just come to Oklahoma and jump your cars.” And just like that a few weeks later Knievel came rolling on into town.
This past weekend in Italy I was sort of surprised to see so many motorcyclists on the winding roads of Piemonte. Upon my return to the States I received an email from the guys in at Bike Exif (which is a pretty awesome site that should be on your daily reads list) with a link to an amazing photo series from a 1953 motorcycle tour of Europe. It all just seemed too perfect considering my recent adventures; though, truth be told my weekend was spent behind the wheel of a Fiat 500, sadly not an old Triumph.
Adam Cramer of Liberty Cycles is also someone who is concerned with the de-industrialization of America. A motorcycle mechanic in Philadelphia for the past 25 years, Cramer has what many would call an obsession with vintage motorcycles. Brooklyn-based craft-juggernaut Etsy recently produced a video about Liberty Cycles in which Cramer expresses concern that the younger generation of Americans will not be able to pick up the torch and continue America’s “can-do spirit.” A subject that was explored thoroughly here.
The people at Schott NYC have something nice and new coming for Spring ’11 — a little off-shoot collection of outerwear called Perfecto Brand by Schott NYC. The new goods were designed by none other than Mr. Greg Chapman, who seems to have given up Britain for the New World (at least for the time being). And not to worry Greg, if you keep designing clothes as nice as these we’ll let you stay. The initial line includes several shapes and materials, everything from the pictured Cone Mills selvedge pea coat and duffel, a rip-stop nylon parka and a small selection of leathers (a nod the the Perfecto heritage no doubt). Prices range from $400 to $1000 — everything made at the Schott NYC factory in Elizabeth, New Jersey. We’re getting an early look at this stuff, so you will have to wait until next January before you can add any of these to your closet.
If you haven’t been to the Barbour archives (don’t feel bad, I haven’t either) you might be unfamiliar with the Ursula Suit story. The Ursula suit is a coveted British WWII artifact made expressly for Lieutenant Commander George Phillips (pictured above c.1939) and the crew of the submarine HMS Ursula. Mr. Phillips was unhappy with water stopping ability of the issued Navy kit, so he took matters into his own hands and commissioned Barbour to make what would become the famous (and standard issue) Ursula Suit.
Not too far into the bio on the Schott website you will find this sentence: “We are a true-blue, real-deal, piece of Americana.” It really can’t be put any better, so that is all I really need to say. A few weeks back I took a little trip out to the Schott factory in New Jersey to see the nearly 100 year old company in action. After seeing the facilities and meeting the good people from Schott, I left with a renewed sense of appreciation for a company with devotion to not only quality, but to the people and place that made them what they are. It takes a lot of sticktoitiveness to resist the call of overseas labor and continue to manufacture domestically. I also left with the feeling that my life was not complete without a perfectly worn-in Perfecto leather motorcycle jacket. Schott Bros. Inc has been making quality outerwear for motorcyclists and military men in the New York City area since 1913 when Irving Schott founded the company on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Still to this day a family run business, Schott is doing what they do best, making a good product at a fair price. So do yourself and your fellow Americans a favor and buy a Perfecto.