Saturday, August 01, 2009

Italian Iron Heaven is here in Denver

Attention Ducatistis, Guzzitistis, MV Augusta and all riders of Italian Iron!

Jim Dillard's VintageMotos museum located in downtown Denver is, in my opinion, Heaven on earth for fans and cognoscenti alike of Italian motorcycles, scooters and vintage mopeds. Oh sure, he's got British motorcycles such as BSAs, AJS and a truly beautiful Velocette Valiant but it's Italian curves and rolling art that mostly grace his museum. Jim's motorcycles range from 1933-1990, from 68 marques and 13 countries, but Italian iron is definitely his main passion.

Alas, no Beemers for yours truly to drool over, but trust me in that the motorcycles on display at VintageMotos will make any diehard Beemer rider consider "straying" from the path of Teutonic motorcycling!

Unlike some of the other area museums, this one has more than a couple hundred motorcycles, scooters and mopeds on display. When I left, I was in a daze of information overload. Jim Dillard, personally guided me through his treasure trove and the wealth of information he directed at me was impressive.

The building housing the museum is unremarkable, the signage advertising the place is minimalist at best. However, step through the unassuming entrance and down the steps and this sight greets you:

750 Ducati, bellissima!

You step onto the floor of the building's basement and the sheer number of motorcycles and mopeds on display hits you like a buzzing swarm of moped riders in Florence's traffic.

I had met Jim Dillard back during Bob Ohman's Old Bike Ride #7: LINK when he showed up in a beautifully restored Laverda motorcycle. I found out then he had a museum and today I finally had time to ride and see it.

For instance, here's a row of MV Augusta motorcycles, I love the fairings on these motorcycles!

Lovely fairings on these MV Augustas

Jim's oldest motorcycle, a 1933 Puch
Wikipedia link to Puch Motorcycle History

Velocette's 200cc Valiant
Wikipedia list of Velocette Motorcycles

Italian DEMM 48cc Moped for Kids

Not all of Jim's collection of motorcycles have their information plaques yet but here's one, a German IMME motorcycle, that did:

1950 IMME R100, you could buy an option spare tire carrier

Two beautiful Laverdas and a Cagiva

A large portion of Jim Dillard's collection is small motorcycles/mopeds. I'd never given it much thought but as he explained, post-WWII, people in Europe needed transportation and small mopeds and motorcycles filled that need. For instance, take this adaptation of a 1933 38cc Mosquito engine by Garelli on a regular bicycle:

Check out the monocoque body construction on this German moped:

A bit more info on this moped here

The French built eight million of these Velo Solex 38cc mopeds which produced 200 mpg and a max speed of 20 mph.

I really liked the flowing lines on this 1956 Moto Rumi Formichino:

Then there was a motorcycle with a Boxer-like engine much like my beloved Beemers. Turns out to have been made by IFA in East Germany before the Iron Curtain came down:

An East German Boxer Engine....who knew?

There is a plethora of other marques in the collection, some names I'd seen such as BSA, Bianchi, Benelli, Triumph, Moto Guzzi, Jawa, Moto Morini. However, some of the now defunct marques were an education for me: Capriolo (a kind of Deer), NSU, Ganna, Moto Gitan, Fuchs, Puch, Monet Goyon, F.B. Mondial, Moto Parilla, Guazzoni, Moto Comet, Berneg, ISO, Franchi and many, many others.

Some were surprises: Ferrari and Maserati? The best one though was:

Aermacchi Harley Davidson?!
Some information from wikipedia: LINK

I plan several more trips to Jim Dillard's Vintage Motos Museum. If you ride Italian Iron or just need to go to see this magnificent collection of motorcycles. Do it soon, you'll be hooked.

Jim Dillard, left, the happy owner of Vintage Motos and Jack Frost, the lucky guy who gets to help work on the motorcycles!

The entry fee is a paltry $7 and kids get in free. The museum's hours and location are at their website:

My GPS took me down a rather convoluted way. Here's what I recommend. Take I-25 to the 20th Street exit and head east into Denver. After Blake Street which runs one way south, turn north on Walnut Street and take it to 28th Street. The museum is on the corner of 28th and Walnut.

I did mention the museum's signage is a bit minimalist?

As I finish writing this, the newfound lust for Italian Iron that was generated by the sights at this museum is finally subsiding. For you Italian motorcycle riders out there, you're missing out if you don't go to this museum and see the motorcycles that came before yours!

Information links on the many marques at this museum, and much more: LINK

I'll see you there. Ciao!


bobskoot said...


Looks like a lovely place to spend a few hours drooling at the old stuff. I don't think we have anything like it up here. I was out of town when they had Italian days show & shine type of event. Motorcycles, Ferarris, Lambos . . . anything Italian. It would be neat to have one of those cafe style racer Ducatis. Oh well, we can dream

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

Electra Glide In Blue said...

Dear Charlie6,
I need to get down there and check out Dillard's collection, great post and BTW you have to be one of the most active motorcyclist on the road and in cyberspace, I am having a hard time keeping up with you, then again I ride a Harley.

Charlie6 said...

Bobskoot and Electra Glide,

thanks for reading my meanderings, this museum really is pretty awesome.....

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Dom):

What a great experience for you! I love old bikes and I am always thrilled to know that someone is doing them justice, and keeping them running. I am always amazed at the artistic use of metal on old machines, and the dramatic lines that are captured in more than a few.

A close friend of mine, Gerry C., was over here last night. He has a Vincent Black Shadow in his garage.A guy I met last year, rode up from Philly on a Vellocette, and another member of the Mac-Pac, a doctor from Philly, has a brand new MV Augusta. Personally, I think $66,000 is a lot to pay for a new bike, even if it is hand-made.

Quite frankly, I'm delighted to be on a first name basis with some of the bikes you've named or logos you've captured.

Fondest regards,
Jack "reep" Toad
Twisted Roads