Vintage Motorcycle Exhibition Puts Emphasis on Rarity

WARREN, Ohio – The National Packard Museum’s annual vintage motorcycle exhibition will spotlight the BMW brand, which marked its 100th anniversary this year.

The show, which opens Saturday, Jan. 7, and runs through May 20, will feature eight historically significant BMW motorcycles.

But the real theme of the show is “rarity.” The BMWs will be displayed alongside 27 other bikes of which few survive.

They include:

  • An English-built 1912 New Era 2-speed, one of only three in existence.
  • A German-built 1955 Victoria Bergmeister that Mecum Auction describes as “one of the rarest motorcycles in the world today with only a few known survivors.”
  • Royal Enfield’s limited production 120th Anniversary Edition, built in India in 2022, of which only 60 were sold in the United States.

BMW History

This 1967 BMW R-60 with sidecar is part of the National Packard Museum’s annual vintage motorcycle exhibition.

BMW traces its origins to 1913 when its precursor, the Rapp-Motornweke GmbH, began production of aircraft engines, which were used by the German military during World War I.

After the war ended, the Treaty of Versailles forbade German manufacturers from producing aircraft engines, so the company designed and manufactured small, opposed twin engines for generator and industrial pump use.

Early German motorcycle manufacturers Victoria, Helois and Mars all chose this 500cc motor to propel their machines with the motors situated in a fore and aft position, which caused the rear cylinder to run hot.

In 1923, when BMW began to manufacture its own motorcycles, company engineers tinkered with this design and decided to turn the motor sideways, which put both cylinders in the cooling airstream. They also set the crankshaft linear to the frame, installed an automotive-type dry clutch and chose a shaft drive to propel the machine. This basic BMW design is still in use today.

The Exhibition’s Goal

The National Packard Museum’s annual motorcycle exhibit, now in its 23rd year, has received awards and recognition over the past two decades. Among these are the Antique Motorcycle Foundation’s highest honor, the “Award for Excellence,” as well as three consecutive first-place awards in the interpretive exhibits category from the National Association of Automobile Museums.

The exhibit regularly attracts visitors from around the world, according to Mary Ann Porinchak, executive director of the museum. Past exhibits have welcomed guests from more than 30 states and nine foreign countries.

The goal every year is to educate audiences about motorcycle history and promote the preservation, restoration and collection of antique motorcycles, Porinchak said.

The exhibit also provides a fresh way to lure new faces to the museum.

“We hope that motorcycle enthusiasts who might not otherwise visit our museum leave with a greater appreciation of the Packard family’s rich legacy and their many contributions to transportation and industrial history,” she said.

Putting it Together

While the museum’s year-round focus is on the Warren-built Packard automobile, it gives a nod to classic two-wheelers at the start of every year. To create the vintage motorcycle exhibition, Porinchak relies on the area’s many experts.

“We have a committee of motorcycle enthusiasts, and they bounce around ideas and themes,” she said. “It’s amazing how it works. I sit there and take notes, and they feed off each other’s enthusiasm.”

The committee members come up with a list of bikes it wants to exhibit and is almost always able to find them. After so many years, the museum has developed a list of rare motorcycles, and owners want to show them at exhibit.

“We have a following,” Porinchak said. “The phone starts ringing in September from people who want to know about the coming exhibition. We have a running list of people who want to put their bike in it.”

The wow factor is her driving force in the selection process.

“I always ask which bike would make people come here and say, ‘I’ve never seen one of those.’ And then they will dig around and find one,” Porinchak said.

She stressed that the show has something for every aficionado.

“It’s not all BMWs,” she said. “Some are off-road, touring bikes, minibikes, and then there are bikes that look pretty but you don’t want to take a long ride on.”

Special Events

This year, the museum will host two special evening events in conjunction with the exhibit. Admission to each event is $10 and includes access to the museum’s permanent and special exhibits in both galleries.

On Feb. 7, from 6 to 9 p.m., the museum will present movie night. Three short films will be screened at the event, which is being presented by the Pirate Motorcycle Club. They are:

  • “The Thrill is On,” featuring former professional motorcycle racer Dave Aldana.
  • “Taking Care of Business,” a documentary on professional motorcycle racer Dick Mann.
  • “5 Years of Racing a Sportster on Dirt,” a slide show on Lee Musquire.

On March 22, at 7 p.m., the museum will present “An Evening with Guy Shively.” The renowned automotive artist will demonstrate his work and tell stories of his long, distinguished career.

The National Packard Museum, 1899 Mahoning Ave. NW, is open Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m.

Admission is $10 ($8 for seniors; $5 for children ages 7 to 12). Cameras and flash photography are welcome. For group rates or information, call 330 394 1899 or go to

Pictured at top: A 1955 Victoria Bergmeister, one of the rarest motorcycles in the world today. It’s part of the museum’s exhibition.

Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.