Who knew sitting in front of a computer screen pecking away at a keyboard could be so dangerous? No physical threat from my gig writing catalog descriptions for the upcoming Bonhams motorcycle auction in Las Vegas, but I am in deep danger of moto-lust about every third bike. A Munch Mammoth TTS, an Excelsior Big X board-tracker, a Brough Superior Black Alpine, a Suzuki RG500 Walter Wolf, a Condor Swiss Army bike… all tug at my heart. But none more so than this BSA Gold Star, a factory-prepped Daytona 200 special, the best Beezer at the beach each time it ran.
The first time was in 1957 when “Slidin’ Al Gunter,” a supremely talented, later suicidally troubled individual, put it on the pole with a 116-mph dash down the sand – not bad for a 45bhp 500cc Single shouldering into a prevailing headwind. The race itself was a ding-dong affair between Gunter and Joe Leonard, the national champ with his marquee good looks and (some might say, cheater) 750cc Harley KR flathead. The two went at it ’til the mid-race refueling stop when Gunter’s guys gave away 21 seconds to the tidy-as-clockwork H-D crew, and that was that. Still, both riders had lapped the field several times and even the third-place man was a lap and a half behind!
Next time we see the potent Goldie is Daytona ’58 being straddled by an 18-year-old rookie in the 100-mile Amateur finale. Bobby Sirkegian (top photo), maybe the best all-around American racer you never heard of, was a teenage phenom on nascent NHRA circuit, winning championships and setting records – against full-grown men – from California to Kansas. By 15 he had moved up to a nitro-burning Triumph 650 so fast and evil that Child Protective Services should have been called – had such a thing been invented back then. Now he was going AMA Grand National racing on a trio of top-notch Gold Stars, a miler, an Ascot Park half-miler and the ex-Gunter machine, used for TTs, roadracing and, of course, Daytona. Conveniently, Pa Sirkegian ran the Los Angeles BSA franchise and had some pull at the factory. His son Bobby was not going into battle on second-rate stuff.
Already the nation’s top-ranked Novice, Sirkegian ran a clean, no-flubs race to take fourth in the Amateur 100-miler at Daytona. Crisscrossing the country with his BSAs in tow, he finished the year seventh in points and qualified for his Expert card. Unfortunately, Bobby would only have two seasons on the circuit. When a heart attack dropped his father in 1960, Sirkegian was forced to hang up his steel shoe and take over day-to-day operations of the family motorcycle business.
What of the Daytona Gold Star? It’s been with Bobby all these years. Now 71 and still teaching part-time at a trade school, Sirkegian dug the old bike out of storage and treated it to a full mechanical and cosmetic restoration. An important racebike brought back to life by the very man who rode it a half-century ago? How often does that happen? Now it’s on the auction block.
Of course, I want it. Of course, it’s out of my price range. See? That hurts.
This BSA Gold Star will be auctioned by Bonhams in Las Vegas on January 6, 2011.