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Mark your calendars! Coming up on June 24th.
Posted: May 16, 2012

  

 

 From a few years back: 

 

Record crowd attends Canadian Vintage Bicycle Show

by Heather Ibbotson, Brantford Expositor
Monday, June 28, 2010

 Antique and vintage bicycle fans from across Brant County and beyond were drawn to a farm on Tutela Heights Road on Sunday for the ninth annual Canadian Vintage Bicycle Show.

Bicycle buff, Ryan O'Brien of Toronto, was one of the early birds and he was impressed by what he saw.

"This is beautiful. I'm surprised at the selection," O'Brien said. "There are some unique pieces."

O'Brien, a member of a Toronto bicycle club called the Devil Strip Rollers, said he enjoys antique bikes and the ingenuity that went into their designs.

"Cycling is so driven by technology these days," he said.

Show organizer Jamie McGregor was confident of a great crowd at this year's event.

"We'll have a record turnout. No doubt," he said shortly after 9 a.m. on Sunday. "I've never seen so many (people) here this early."

More than 50 vendors and their wares dotted the large well-tended property of Jody and Bonnie Varey, who have welcomed the bicycle show to Heritage View Farm for the past five years.

Two-wheeled treasures ranged from those made in the late 1800s to about 1975. "We've got a good range of all eras," McGregor said.

Vendors on the site displayed a huge variety of bicycles, from the so-called "muscle bikes" of the late 1960s and 1970s with their high handlebars and banana seats to the towering Victorian high wheel (or Penny-farthing) with its massive front wheel and tiny rear wheel.

Spare parts were also available in abundance and buyers weren't shy about shelling out the cash. One woman bought a vintage bicycle seat with mammoth springs for $65; another bought a sprocket for $10.

Roger Tupper, of Hamilton, displayed treasures including a 54-inch high wheel made in 1887 by the U.S.-based Columbia bicycle company.

With a leather seat perched atop a huge solid rubber tire, and with only a hand brake to slow down, the high wheel does not look like an easy ride, even if the rider did overcome the hurdle of figuring out how to get on top of it in the first place.

Tupper said high wheel bicycles are not as intimidating to ride as they look. "I got the hang of it pretty quickly," he said.

Still. the contraption is finicky and even hitting a stone can completely send a rider head over heels, he said.

Costing a hefty $100 in their day, high wheels were expensive diversions for the well-heeled. These antique bicycles can now run from $4,500 up to$20,000, Tupper said.

Admittance to the show was a $5 donation to the Stedman Community Hospice. For the past three years, McGregor has used the event to do a bit of fundraising to thank the hospice for the care provided  to his father, John, who died there four years ago.

Reprinted with the kind permission of the Brantford Expositor.

 

 

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The Holy Grail
Posted: April 28, 2012

        Introduced in 1936 the CCM Flyte would  become the most sought after of CCM's numerous bicycle lines. Designed by company employee Harvey Peace it was the only bicycle design for which Canada Cycle & Motor Ltd. actually sought a patent.

The Patent Application

The principal objects of the invention are to provide a bicycle of an unusual novel and attractive appearance which will have a distinct appeal to the eye in conformance with the line adopted in the streamlining  of vechicles and further, to utilize the treamline effect of design to accomplish a very distinct improvement in the riding qualities of the bicycle to the effect the absorbing of road shocks and further, to provide a very desirable form of bicycle having a distinctly novel appeal. The principal features of the invention consist in the novel construction of the main frame whereby the upper bar is curved to meet the rear ends of the lower fork and to form a continuous part therewith and the front forks are curved downwardly with their lower ends bent rearwardly to form a resilient front support corresponding in part with the resilient rear fork.

In the manufacture of bicycles, it has been the practice for many years to construct the frame in accordance with a "standard" pattern which in side elevation is substantially diamond-shape or of a rhomboid formation with the rear forks extending substantially horizonally from the crank bracket and mating the rear braces or upper forks at an acute angle where the axle of the wheel is mounbted in slotted brackets and the front forks of said "standard" type of bicycles slope straight down from the head or front end of the frame having a slight curve forward for the castor effect. In the "standard" type of bicycle, the frame and forks are perfectly rigid and the shocks and vibrations of road travel are carried directly through the frame and transmitted to the rider. It is the dual purpose of this invention to devise a bicycle that will be easier to ride, its construction being such as to eliminate most of the minor vibrations and many of the major ones, or at least to greatly soften the transmission of such to the rider and further, to provide a bicycle which will appeal to the eye as conforming to present day standards of streamlining effects. In carrying these ideas into practice, I have contsructed a bicycle as shown in the accompanying drawings.

Harvey W. Peace
Assignor to Canada Cycle and Motor Ltd.

  CCM Flyte patent drawing 1935 -- ccm flyte curved bike antique flyer forks vintage bicycle drawing patent

The patent filed on October 23, 1935 and designated Patent No. 358849 was granted on June 30, 1936 and outlined a bicycle CCM claimed was both novel in design and practical in its ability to absorb the shocks and vibrations of the road.  Said to feature the "New Design Shock Absorbing Frame and Fork," the Flyte, available with either a 22" or 20" frame, was introduced by CCM in 1936 and produced until 1940.   

 

       

Company claims to the contrary the CCM Flyte was neither a revolutionary nor an entirely new design. The Schwinn company, a company with which Canada Cycle & Motor enjoyed a close relationship, had introduced the "Streamline Aerocycle" in 1934 and as noted Flyte collector Ken Martin points out (www.ccmflyte.com) the curved seatstays on the Fyte were not the first of its type since the same design could be found on the 1934 Monarck "Silver King."

While CCM marketed the Flyte as being stylish as well as functional, the fact remained that the model never became a big seller. As Martin points out, the company's decision not to resume production after the war indicates that the Flyte was not in great demand, unlike the CCM Motorbike model which remained a part of the company's product line for fifty years.

Retailing at $45.00 (as opposed to the CCM Roadster at $28.95), some maintained the Flyte was simply too expensive for a country mired in the depths of a depression.  Longtime CCM dealer Tom Marshall disagrees. With the sale of motor cars slumping badly during the Depression, Marshall counters that the hard times were actually a boon to bicycle sales. The first year of the Flyte in 1936 saw bicycle production in Canada increase by 30% over the previous year and production continued to climb steadily during the next four years.

Furthermore, while it carried a considerable price tag,  at the time the Flyte was still less expensive than the CCM Flyer ($80.00) and its delivery model ($55.00), both of which continued to sell during the Depression.

"That leaves design, which was probably too radical for the marketplace," maintains Marshall. "Had they simply streamlined a Motorbike without incorporating the cushioned stays and forks, it likely would have sold well, despite the price increase. It did for Schwinn and other U.S. companies."

Whatever the reason, the limited production numbers for the CCM Flyte ensured its future rarity, thus turning it into the Holy Grail for CCM bicycle collectors. 

           

Harvey Peace, who had designed the Flyte, was also instrumental in the design of CCM's tube skate (1929) and the CCM Bike-Wagon (1932). 

 A forty year veteran of CCM, Peace lived to see only one year of his bicycle's production, passing away, as he did, on December 12, 1936 at the age of 56. A champion bicycle racer in his youth, Peace was a popular member of the Weston community and at the time his funeral was said to be among the largest the town had ever had.  

"Friends and acquaintances from all walks of life gathered to do him tribute and the beautiful and numerous floral tributes were centred with a beautiful wreath from the CCM. This unusual floral piece was in the form of the CCM trademark finished in rare flowers, including orchids. ("Many Pay Tribute to Harvey W. Peace," VIM, Vol.24, No. 1, 1937, p.19)

In the end the true legacy of Harvey W. Peace was to be found in a bicycle design that would become the ultimate desire of CCM collectors around the world.

                       

    

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CCM Tacks - Part 3 of 3
Posted: April 09, 2012

 

Readers told me: thanks for the memories 

 

Last Saturday, in my weekly Gazette column, I wrote about a sports milestone from my youth: my first pair of Tacks.

I was surprised by the number of emails I received from Gazette readers with their own Tacks memories. Here are some of their stories:

Mike Prociuk, Kamloops, B.C.: Thank you for putting into words my feelings on the CCM Tacks skates. My 25-year-old pair finally wore out this year and are not repairable. No one I talk to relates to how I feel about them. On a brighter note, I managed to find a brand-new pair of 25-yearold Super Tacks on eBay and bought them.

Robbie Key, LaSalle: There were five boys in my family, and new skates were out of the question. I'm sure the used pair of Tacks I received were from a lucky boy who upgraded to Super Tacks. New or used, though, I was in my glory! Unfortunately I was never lucky enough to own a pair with the Tuuk blades. That was reserved for my brand-spanking-new pair of Micron "boot" skates that I found under the Christmas tree one year. They didn't make my game any better, but they helped me stay off my ankles, something those hard plastic inserts I used in my Tacks couldn't do. I wish I had saved my Tacks, too, even though they might not have fetched $10 today. I'm virtually wearing them right now, reminiscing about all the goals I scored as Guy Lafleur way back when.

Jamie Chouinard, Georgetown, Ont.: I am 52 and grew up in Beaconsfield. I can still remember my first pair of Tacks. I was playing peewee hockey for the rep team in Beaconsfield and my old skates (hand-medowns from my brother) were worn out with the blade sharpened to the base. My dad finally gave in and bought me Tacks. I can still remember putting them on for the first time. They fit like a glove, so comfortable that I wore them barefoot. What a feeling! I skated faster and better than any time before. I wore them at the Quebec Peewee Tournament in 1973.

Glen McCrum, Toronto: My Tacks experience started when I was about 8 in the late 1960s out in the Townships. My father had bought my first pair of "regular" skates when our local arena was built in 1967 to first see if I would stick with organized hockey. I was fortunate enough to have a generous father who valued good equipment, and the next year, when it looked like this was going to be a regular activity for me, he sprang for a pair of Tacks. When the next season rolled round, I can still remember my father looking at the Tacks and comparing them to the Super Tacks. He noticed the front metal plate that attached the blade to the boot was bigger, extending to the edges of the boot on the Super Tacks - and he declared that was an important point for support, so from then on it was Super Tacks. My father liked hockey, having played a lot himself; his claim to fame was being a practice goalie for the Canadiens during the war years when teams regularly only carried one goaltender. I traded in my skates every year at our local dealer (which was a hardware store) and if I remember correctly a new pair cost him $20 or $25 each year. One thing that always started an argument was my father's desire to put a coating of clear shellac on the boots to protect the leather as I was on the ice so much. Watching my new skates get the treatment was always so disappointing. I still have the last pair he bought me in 1976, my last year of high school and intercity hockey before going off to CEGEP. I still play hockey in an adult league wearing CCM skates, the modern version minus the Tackaberry name - and no shellac.

Christian de Saint-Rome, Baie d'Urfé: Your column on Tacks skates was a very nice stroll down memory lane for me as well. My brother and I, who were outdoor rink rats, also had Bauer Black Panthers before I got Tacks at McNiece's sports store and he went for the Langes.

Rick Morgan, Kanata, Ont.: When I was at Macdonald College in Ste. Anne de Bellevue in 1966, at the first hockey practice of the year, coach/athletic director Bob Pugh talked about the three things you don't ever lend to anyone, ever: your wife, your money or your Tacks! Macdonald College, through McGill, used to pay for half the cost of your Tacks back then.

Paul LeBlanc, Beaconsfield: I acquired a pair of Tacks from the boyfriend of one of my older sisters; he died at a young age in 1955. I was the envy of my high-school bantam teammates for several years. On entering college, I bought myself a new pair of Tacks in 1962 from the memorable McNiece's, which was then on McGill College. I still have the McNiece's skates in the basement; I guess that's why we often have basements stocked with this stuff. They're still in great shape, that trademark kangaroo leather still pliable, the pre-Tuuk blades still rocketed sharp by ''Dusty'' (how appropriate a name!) at the old Wilson's Sports Store on Somerled/Cavendish. Thanks for helping me relive the memories.

The above is reprinted with the kind permission of Stu Cowan and the Montreal Gazette. 

 

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CCM Tacks - Part 2 of 3
Posted: April 01, 2012

My first pair of Tacks: Skates worthy of composition
  

MONTREAL - We published a six-part feature series in The Gazette last week on milestones under the headline: "Remember your first...?"

There were stories about "my first apartment", "my first car", "my first kiss", and "my first cat" among others.

The series reminded me of a sports milestone of my youth: my first pair of Tacks.

If you’re around my age (48) and played hockey as a kid, you probably had a pair of CCM Tacks skates on your Christmas wish list. If you were really good, you might have even wished for a pair of Super Tacks.

If you were really lucky, you got a pair.

CCM Hockey started out as Canada Cycle and Motor Company Limited in 1899 out of Weston, Ont., but it wasn’t until 1905 when the bicycle market started to crash that the company began making hockey equipment. The Tacks began as a boot designed by shoemaker George Tackaberry in 1905 after Hall of Famer Joe Hall felt the boot of his skate wasn’t good enough and went to Tackaberry to design a better one. CCM got the Tackaberry name when the shoemaker died in 1937 and started putting out the Tacks line of skates.

I finally got my first pair of Tacks when I was 13, and was so excited that I wrote a composition about it for my English class. My mother actually found the paper recently while clearing out some boxes at her house (she also found a box full of my old hockey and baseball cards a few years ago. Thanks, Mom!).

My Tacks weren’t under the Christmas tree. As a growing boy, new skates were an annual thing and Tacks weren’t cheap. Like many Canadian kids, I had a couple of pairs of Bauer Black Panthers, including a pair purchased at Howie Meeker Hockey School. They were good skates, but they weren’t Tacks. At the time, most of the players in the NHL were wearing Tacks or Super Tacks.

But before the start of my 1976-77 hockey season, my parents gave me the okay to get a pair of Tacks. After shopping around, I found them on sale in the sports department at the old downtown Eaton’s store.

“There they were,” I wrote in the composition. “The skates I dreamed of. Tacks with the new Tuuk blades. I tried them on and they fit perfectly. I couldn’t believe it ... I finally had the skates I had always wanted. I can’t wait to try them out in a game.”

I remember bringing the skates home and putting them beside my bed when I went to sleep that night so I could look at them again when I woke up.

Jean Béliveau was one of the many Canadiens players I remember wearing Tacks and I called him at home this week to see if he remembered when he got his first pair.

“Probably when I played junior for the Quebec Citadelles,” he said. “When I first started (playing hockey) in my hometown of Victoriaville, I don’t think I had that good of a skate.

“My first pair of skates were a Christmas gift from my parents when I was 3 or 4,” Béliveau recalled, “but don’t ask me what kind they were.”

Béliveau remembers wearing Daoust skates at one point in his Hall of Fame career, saying he did some advertising for the company “and I wouldn’t advertise a product if I didn’t use it myself.”

But Béliveau wore Tacks for most of his career with the Canadiens and was wearing them when he scored his 500th career goal in 1971 and when he won his 10th and final Stanley Cup later that year. Béliveau saved those skates and put them up for auction a few years ago.

“The grace and speed ‘Le Gros Bill’ displayed skating up and down NHL ice surfaces was always done while wearing CCM Tackaberry skates and these can be considered the most significant pair of blades ever offered from the legend’s magnificent career,” is how Classic Auctions described them.

The skates sold for $10,000 as one of 195 items Béliveau put up for auction, bringing in almost $1 million. Béliveau, now 80, chose to sell much of his memorabilia to offer a financial cushion for himself and his wife, Elise, along with their daughter, Hélène, and granddaughters Mylène and Magalie.

Marc Juteau, the president of Classic Auctions, told me his company also sold a pair of Super Tacks that Bobby Orr wore during the 1974-75 season with the Boston Bruins for $10,000. That was the season the Hall of Fame defenceman won his second Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s leading scorer with 46 goals and 89 assists for 135 points.

CCM Hockey no longer makes the Tacks line and today’s kids are probably dreaming of a pair of U+ Crazy Light CCM skates like the ones Alex Ovechkin wears. Or maybe they want a pair of Reebok 11K Pump skates like Sidney Crosby wears, or a pair of Bauer Vapor skates like the ones Steven Stamkos wears.

But there was a time when most Canadian boys wanted a pair of Tacks.

I wish I had saved mine. They wouldn’t be worth a dime at auction, but the memory is priceless.

Reprinted with the kind permission of Stu Cowan and the Montreal Gazette.

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CCM Tacks - Part 1 of 3
Posted: March 21, 2012

 

Having introduced its Automobile Skate (so-named because it was made with the same steel as its Russell motor car) in 1905, CCM dominated the Canadian skate market unti 1927 when the Western Shoe Co. of Kitchener, Ontario, owned by the Bauer family, began to produce skates using their own boots and blades from the Starr Manufacturing Co. Introduced as the first skate in Canada to leave the factory with the blade already attached to the boot, the Bauer Supreme had become the country’s fastest selling skate.

 

It was a challenge to which CCM wasted little time in responding. Looking for a boot to match the Bauer Supreme, CCM turned to the shop of Manitoba shoe-maker George E. Tackaberry (1874 – 1937).

 

 

 

Born in Dresden, Ontario, Tackaberry had apprenticed as a shoemaker in Ontario before heading to <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 />Brandon, Manitoba, where he specialized in the construction of orthopedic shoes for the handicapped. In 1905 Tackaberry had been approached by his next door neighbour, Joe Hall (1882 – 1919), a rough and tumble NHL defenseman whose mad dashes down the ice often resulted in him having to come to a sudden halt. As hard on his skates as he was on his opponents, Hall complained to Tackaberry that he couldn’t find a boot that would last him an entire season. Being a good neighbour, Tackaberry decided to help Hall out.

 

Joe Hall

 

After carefully measuring Hall’s feet, Tackaberry used a combination of innovative design and meticulous craftsmanship to come up with an answer to the player's problem. Using moisture-resistant kangaroo hide that wouldn’t stretch, Tackaberry lowered the top of the boot nearly two inches and added a snugly-fitting reinforced heel and toe as well as an improved arch support and thicker tongue.

 

Said to “fit like a glove,” word of the boot quickly spread among the players in Tackaberry’s hometown including up-and-comers Lester Patrick and Art Ross. Patrick, a gangling youth from Westmount, Quebec had come to Brandon in 1904 after starring for McGill University and became Tackaberry's second customer. Meanwhile Art Ross, who joined the Brandon Elks in 1905, quickly followed suit. Before long word of the high quality skate was the talk of dressing rooms across Canada.

 

In 1927 CCM took over the entire boot output of Tackaberry's Manitoba shop and began to produce their own brand of skate with a factory-connected blade. Known as a "Matched Set," a giant replica of the skate, measuring 14'6" in length and weighing over 300 lbs., was exhibited at the 1932 CNE.  

 

The mate for the Tackaberry boot arrived in 1934 when CCM general manager J.W. Gibson announced the company was producing a new “heat-treated” blade made of Sheffield steel.

 

“We’ve been working on this new skate for the past three years,” explained Gibson, “and we are sure that CCM is making a real contribution to the hockey world with the ‘Prolite.’ As a result of the extensive tests we have made we know that the new ‘Prolite’ is the strongest tube skate CCM has ever produced.” 

 

To unveil its new Prolite blade, CCM enlisted the help of NHL star Charlie Conacher.

 

 

“Being leading scorer is partly luck, I guess, but skates have a lot to do with it. Split seconds count, so you must have skates that are light and lively enabling you to skate fast, shift quickly or stop instantly. CCM’s Prolite helps to make these things possible,” declared Conacher.

 

With its combination of Prolite blade and Tackaberry boot CCM had found its answer to the Bauer Supreme and before long its CCM Tacks returned the company to the forefront of skate manufacturing in North America.


 

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2012 Canadian Vintage Bicycle Show
Posted: March 08, 2012

 

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Upcoming presentations on Canada Cycle & Motor Co. Ltd.
Posted: February 24, 2012



Swansea Historical Society

Swansea Town Hall

95 Lavinia Ave.

Toronto, ON

Wednesday, March 7

7:30 p.m.

North York Historical Society

North York Central Library

5120 Yonge St.

Toronto, ON

Wednesday, March 21

7:30 p.m.

Riverdale Historical Society

Royal Canadian Curling Club

131 Broadview Ave.

Toronto, ON

Tuesday, March 27

7:30 p.m.

Weston Historical Society

Westminster United Church Hall

69 William St.

Weston, ON

Wednesday, April 4

7:30 p.m.

West Toronto Junction Historical Society

Annette Library

145 Annette St.

Toronto, ON

Thursday, April 5

7:30 p.m.

New Toronto Historical Society

LAMP Community Centre

185 Fifth St.

Etobicoke, ON

Tuesday, April 10

7:00 p.m.

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An un-badged model from the 1916 catalogue
Posted: February 20, 2012

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Do you have a '37 CCM bicycle you want to sell or rent?
Posted: February 07, 2012

Below is a request from a production company in Montreal called Cinelande. It is legitimate. They are currently doing a documentary and are in need of 1937 CCM. Although I have bikes from the 30s, I do not have one that meets their criteria. So we are putting it out to the CCM community to see if anyone is interested in helping out by either renting or selling them the required bike. If so, please get a hold of Eric using the contact info below.

Wanted: Blue 1937 CCM juvenile bike to rent or buy for a documentary

We are looking for a CCM juvenile bike to rent or buy as a prop for an upcoming documentary shot in Montreal.
We are also open to buy the bike parts separately in order to reassemble the bike. 

We are flexible with the details (other dates and colors are possible) but ideally the full bike should be:
·         1937 juvenile bike for a 10 year old
·         Blue with a gold trim
·         Have a leather toolbox that fits to the saddle
·         Have a rear rack
·         Needs to be in working condition 

The pricing and terms of the rental or purchase can be discussed to best suit the owner.  In general the rental is 30% of the price.

The production company will be responsible for the transportation and will buy a special case to protect it.  We will be extremely careful with the bike, however it will be fully insured.  It should be noted that there will be no stunts with the bike; it is needed for ordinary riding down the street.

We will need the bike by February 20th 2012. 

Please contact Eric Barbeau at 514-971-1570  or by email ericbarbeaulala@hotmail.com

 

 

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CCM Motor Cycles 1910 - 1911
Posted: February 01, 2012

  

There are, as far as I know, four known examples of the CCM motor cycle. The one belonging to Ron Miller in Nova Scotia, the one in the museum in St. Marys (see below), one in a museum in Burnaby, B.C. and the one restored by Dave Brown (see the article below).

Motor cycles were made by Canada Cycle & Motor during 1910 and 1911. They were not forerunners of motorcycles, but rather a hygrid that combined features of both a bicycle and a motorcycle. Listed as a "Lightwieght Motorcycle" or a "Motor Bicycle," they weighed less than 90 lbs. and had a 2 hp. motor that could reach a speed of approx. 30 mph. The one cylinder engine was made in Switzerland; the seat was made in England and everything else was made in Canada, including the wooden rims. They sold for about $200.00, a substantial price at the time. 

 

 For the thrill of the ride

May 1, 2009 by Joni Miltenburg
(reprinted by kind permission of the Observer Xtra in Elmira, ON)

David Brown has spent thousands of hours and dollars restoring a motorbike he’ll never ride, and probably never even start. The bike in question is a CCM motor bicycle, built around 1909, and one of just four still in existence.

Brown has been collecting and restoring antique bicycles and motorcycles for years; he has a small fleet of bicycles that date from the turn of the 20th century, including a high-wheeled penny-farthing. The collection of bicycles in his garage and basement are only a few of the many cycles he’s restored and sold over the years. After years of hunting down or painstakingly recreating missing pieces, Brown’s CCM motor bicycle is 95 per cent complete.

Brown got a lead on the CCM bike five years ago, when a friend walked into Elmira’s W.C. Brown & Sons menswear store and told him about a pair of bicycles listed for sale in Toronto. Brown called the seller and enquired about the bicycles. One was a Massey-Harris bicycle, the man said, but he didn’t even know what the other one was. He described it, and Brown was intrigued; it sounded like a CCM motorcycle, which he’d spent years searching for.

"I said I’d be down in a week or so to look at it. And geez, that night I couldn’t sleep,” Brown chuckled. “I phoned him up the next day and said ‘I’ll be down tonight.’”

CCM only made motor bicycles for three or four years, and they’re accordingly rare. The other three remaining bikes are all in museums: the science museum in Ottawa, a motorcycle museum in Vancouver and a little museum in St. Mary’s, Ontario. When Brown saw the bike, he realized it was exactly what he had been looking for and bought it on the spot, not bothering to haggle over the price. What there was of it was in decent shape, but it was missing a number of parts, including a motor. It took Brown a year to lay his hands on an engine for the bike; the man who sold it to him finally decided he had too many projects on the go to have time for this one.

The motor is called a moto sacoche, or “motor in a bag,” and sits in a subframe that can be removed as one piece. Brown has a friend in Denmark – another motorcycle enthusiast – who built the subframe for him. The control levers were made in the Czech Republic by a man who does custom millwork, and Brown himself spent one winter making the oil pumps on an antique metal lathe. The part that was hardest to come by was the magneto, an ignition system that uses magnets to power the spark plugs. Brown bought several of them, from Holland and from Germany, but neither was the right fit. He made it a habit to check eBay for magnetos, and eventually he stumbled across one that looked right. Bidding was sitting at $25; Brown thought that was absurdly low, so he bid $215 and waited on pins and needles to see how high the bidding would go.

“About two minutes before it was over, I put it up to $500, hoping I wouldn’t have to pay that,” Brown said. “And I didn’t; I only paid $42 for it. Nobody bid on it.”

Brown said he got lucky because the listing didn’t specify what it was for; if people had realized what it was, the part could easily have gone for more than $500. After five years, the motorbike is 95 per cent complete. The only parts still missing are the scooped metal covers for the motor, which Brown made a stab at replicating, but found too intricate. A friend of his found a pair in Switzerland, so he’s keeping his eyes open. The bike is probably capable of running, but Brown has never tried to start it, saying the engine should be taken apart and completely rebuilt first.

“I would hate to fire it up and blow a rod and have a big pile of scrap,” he said. 

If he can get the bike fully restored, Brown might see if a museum is interested in acquiring it. For him, the fun is in the restoration, not the finished piece. In that, he said, he’s like any antique collector: 

“It’s the hunt. Once you’ve got it, what are you going to do with it?”

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