Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Huge Vintage Motorcycle Auction in SW Iowa on Sep 6 2015

Vintage motorcycles are dusted off, polished up and ready for the sale of the half-century

It was the initial wave of shipments of the Japanese-made motorcycles that turned the rural Iowa community into a Honda hotbed for a generation. Frizell and his partners sold the little machines in the shadows of big farm machinery at a little implement dealership, until the motorcycles pushed aside tractors and grinder-mixers for bike buyers from Iowa, Nebraska and Missouri.

Greenfield Honda - unsold motorcycles

When the owners retired in 1992, they closed the doors of Greenfield Honda and walked away, creating a time capsule of about 100 motorcycles — most from the 1970s and ’80s — and countless parts and memorabilia. Now, nearly a quarter century later, the bikes have been washed, cleaned and inventoried for a liquidation sale that auctioneer Yvette VanDerBrink says will attract thousands of potential buyers and others to Greenfield in September.
“You don’t see many of these collections, especially motorcycles,” VanDerBrink said.
Although most of the motorcycles are trade-ins, the collection includes a few unsold bikes with the manufacturer’s statement of origin.
The auction will be similar to, but smaller than, the Chevrolet liquidation VanDerBrink handled in Pierce, Nebraska, two years ago. Like the Greenfield auction, the Nebraska sale was the case of a dealer who retired and left behind a large inventory of unsold cars. There were about 500 vintage vehicles in the Nebraska sale.
Randy Baxter, who owns Baxter Cycle in Marne, Iowa, and is helping to organize the motorcycle auction, said the Greenfield collection contains many special bikes, especially for Honda aficionados.

There’s a first-year Gold Wing from 1975, still equipped with the previous owner’s citizens band radio and bubble compass. An ’84 Gold Wing with low mileage. A 1962 Benly and CVX. A 1979 CBX with 43 miles. Three CT70 Mini Trails. A pair of now-banned three-wheel all-terrain vehicles. Plus a pair of British-made BSA bikes from the 1960s.
There are crates of new engines. Boxes of new fuel tanks. Stacks of clothing. Hundreds of feet of shelving packed with new and used parts. Specialized tools. Advertising signs and posters. An unused commemorative helmet designed for America’s bicentennial in 1976.
“Honda is pretty hot right now,’’ Baxter said. “It’s nostalgia. It’s demographics. People now in their 50s and 60s remember the fun they had in the day. Now they have disposable income and want the things they once had. Some of the vintage Honda stuff will bring pretty good money.’’
Greenfield’s reputation as a Honda hub started in 1965 when implement dealers Jim Lahey and brothers Clyde and Ivan Frizell diversified farming with fun. They picked Honda just as the company’s motorcycles were taking the world by storm. Ivan Frizell drove to Los Angeles to pick up their first bikes shipped to America from Japan.
“I don’t know if they were smart or lucky, but they picked the right brand and did well with it,” Baxter said. “Back in those days you could sell motorcycles out of a vending machine. The sheer numbers were staggering.’’
Baxter said Greenfield Honda sold about 400 bikes a year at one time — based in a community of about 2,200 at the time.
“People came through the door and paid retail for what they had on the floor,’’ he said.
Lahey and Ivan Frizell are deceased. Clyde Frizell and Ivan’s widow, Isolde Frizell, are liquidating the old dealership’s inventory.
Isolde said her husband and his partners developed a regional reputation for quality service after the sale at their shop about 85 miles east of Omaha. Customers noticed and word spread. Isolde Frizell was the dealership’s bookkeeper.
“We stayed open until 9 o’clock on Thursday and sometimes didn’t get out of there until 10 or later,’’ she said. “I don’t want to brag on my husband, but people knew if he worked on their motorcycle, they were happy. He just had a feel for it. He was very particular. A lot of times he could have sold them a new part, but he’d rather repair the old part. He liked to fix things. He liked that better than selling.’’
Motorcycle components could still be repaired on Ivan’s workbench. An industrial Wilton vice anchors one corner. Cans of Clean-R-Carb cleaner and Lith-Ease lubricant stand amid a clutter of tools and parts and pinup girl calendars hanging from pegboard hooks. An Eskimo fan hangs silent and still.
Isolde said business grew as their customers grew.
“It seemed like every boy in town had a motorcycle,’’ she said. “You just couldn’t consider yourself a boy unless had a motorcycle. They started with 75cc bikes, moved up to 125cc, then 250cc. Young people grew up with their motorcycles. They’d ride them around and around the courthouse square. It was innocent fun.’’
One day in 1969, actor Dick Van Dyke walked into the shop at just about closing time. He was in Greenfield filming “Cold Turkey,” a film about a town whose residents try to quit smoking. Van Dyke spent his evenings on borrowed motorcycles racing locals at the Adair County Fairgrounds track.
“He was just like an overgrown kid,” Frizell said. “He was just natural that way.”
Van Dyke paid cash for a medium-size motorcycle.
“That was a good deal,’’ Frizell said.
Although the Frizells’ adult lives revolved around motorcycles, they were an early fascination for Isolde. As a schoolgirl in the early 1950s, she recalls watching and cheering for Germans and U.S. soldiers racing and jumping motocross bikes in and out of craters created by Allied bombs during World War II near her native Stuttgart, Germany. The Frizells met about 1960 when Ivan was stationed in Germany at Ludendorff Kaserne as a bridge-building Army engineer during the Cold War.
When the Frizells’ infant daughter Petra was fussy and wouldn’t nap, they’d take her for a motorcycle ride around Greenfield, tightly tucked between dad in front and mom behind.
“Some people rock their babies, but we’d put her on a motorcycle and she’d fall asleep in a short time. Then we’d put her back into the crib, and she’d sleep happily,’’ Isolde said.
When Petra grew older, the Frizells added a sidecar to their motorcycle. The couple rode their Gold Wing to rallies in Ruidoso, New Mexico. Ivan rarely missed a rally in Sturgis, South Dakota. He also faithfully took a one-day ride with friends to somewhere out of Iowa each New Year’s Day, often wearing a suit wired with heating elements.
“I remember him going down the driveway dragging both feet on the ground in ice and snow to keep upright,’’ Isolde said. “He always left late in the morning and returned before dark. The next day he’d wash the salt and sand off the motorcycle.’’
Frizell said she’s not sad about selling the Honda collection.
“I’ve got a lot of good memories, I really do,’’ she said. “It was a fun time and it supported the family. It’s just time.’’
Contact the writer: 402-444-1127,
When: 9:30 a.m. Sept. 6, 409 NE Sixth St. (Iowa Highway 25), Greenfield, Iowa
What: About 100 Honda motorcycles, two BSA motorcycles, helmets, parts, vintage Sun Motor Tester, clothing, literature and memorabilia. Plus 1970 and 1965 Chevrolet Impala collector cars and Farmall collector tractors.
To bid: