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The Rare and Famous Motorcycles of the San Diego Automotive Museum

Happy Days Triumph display at the San Diego, California Automotive Museum

Fonzie may not be real, but his Triumph and leather jacket certainly are in the Happy Days display

Balboa Park in San Diego, California, is a magical place. It is home to the Shakespearean Old Globe Theater complex as well as concert venues, miles of fantastic trails, and fine dining. However, our focus here is one of the park’s great museums.

As its name would indicate, the San Diego Automotive Museum houses some amazing cars and trucks. However, motorcycle enthusiasts will be glad to hear that there is an equally fascinating motorcycle section in the facility.

The museum serves as a home for dozens of vintage and historically significant motorcycles, and it displays the moto-gems in a creative and visitor-friendly way. Simply put, the museum’s curators have a great eye for the aesthetic.

The Thematic Displays

Steve McQueen display at the San Diego, California Automotive Museum

A Steve McQueen Honda Elsinore and Husqvarna 400 are creatively displayed

One of the first thematic displays that one passes in the motorcycle segment of the museum is the staged Triumph from the iconic TV show Happy Days. The star of the display is the 1949 Triumph Trophy TR5 Scrambler. It is one of three of the British classics used in the filming of the show. Fonzie himself is in the display – albeit in cardboard form, as is the character’s signature black leather jacket.

Steve McQueen was known as the ‘King of Cool’ in large part because of the actor’s love of racing and speed. He was a star of the quintessential motorcycle movie 'On Any Sunday' which is played on a video loop in the display dedicated to his motorcycles.

McQueen’s motorcycle collection was legendary and two fantastic examples are on display in the museum. A vintage McQueen-owned Honda Elsinore motocross bike is shown in all of its industry-changing glory. Even more amazing is the 1970 Husqvarna 400 that was owned by McQueen. There is even evidence that the bike is the one the actor is seen riding in a racing clip in the 1971 film.

The Evel Knievel Stratocycle display at the San Diego, California Automotive Museum

The Evel Knievel Stratocycle and all if its strangeness are on display in San Diego

No motorcycle exhibit would be complete without some mention of Evel Knievel. The San Diego museum gives the legendary stunt jumper much more than just a mention. The 1976 Harley-Davidson XLCH Sportster that was custom built into the Stratocycle, an over-the-top bike used in the 1977 movie ‘Viva Knievel,’ is featured prominently in the museum.

The Classic Motorcycles

The backbone of the San Diego Automotive Museum’s motorcycle collection rests in the dozens of rare, vintage motorcycles that grace its floor. Some of the examples wear the patina of time, while others are meticulously restored.

Marquees from America, Europe, and Asia grace the historically-significant display. While photos do not do the scintillating bikes justice, scroll down to peruse a small sampling of what you can see at the museum.

Of course, anywhere great motorcycles are found, K&N is likely there as well, so look for the vintage racer that breathes through K&N filters.

1971 BSA A70 750cc flat track race bike at the San Diego, California Automotive Museum

This 1971 BSA A70 750cc flat track race bike wears K&N pod filters

1950 Vincent Series C Rapide at the San Diego, California Automotive Museum

The 1950 Vincent Series C Rapide is part of the iconic British line of speedsters

British 1958 Ariel at the San Diego, California Automotive Museum

This British 1958 Ariel has the beautiful 'square four' engine configuration

1947 Indian Chief at the San Diego, California Automotive Museum

The mellow yellow 1947 Indian Chief puts those famous fenders on full display

1928 Moto Guzzi Falcon at the San Diego, California Automotive Museum

Classic Italian style is embodied in this 1928 Moto Guzzi Falcon

1938 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead at the San Diego, California Automotive Museum

The 1938 Harley-Davidson has the legendary Knucklehead V-twin

Rare motorcycles at the San Diego, California Automotive Museum

The museum holds rare moto-treasures in every corner

The motorcycle display at the San Diego, California Automotive Museum

Fantastic bikes in creative displays are to be found in the SD Automotive Museum


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