Pete Gagan joined the Antique Motorcycle Club of America in 1959 and held the distinction of being the 7th president elected to the club, a position he held for 5 1/2 years, and a board member for 12 years. He was also the president of the AMCA Foundation, and founder of the CVMG, the Canadian equivalent.
Currently, at 70 years of age, Pete continues to compete in both domestic as well as foreign rallies and will be rider number 70 in the Motorcycle Cannonball. Riding a 1914 Zenith Gradua, Pete will be traveling with his wife, Mary Jane, from their home in White Rock, BC, Canada for this transcontinental ride and will celebrate their 46th year of marriage during the rally.
Read Pete's story in his own words...
I have been fooling with old motorcycles since I was 15, about 55 years ago. My first bike was a very rusty 1912 Indian with a 1917 license plate that I bought for $15 in 1955. The 1914 Zenith that I will be riding for the Cannonball is one of the great pre-16 bikes and has known history since it was new. It originally belonged to Kay Don, one of the Bentley boys who rode it at *Brooklands.
It has been used in many London-Brighton Pioneer Runs in the UK, and was loaned out by Don to various riders of note, so has had a lot of famous behinds on its saddle. There are a lot of Harleys entered, but the Zenith runs well and is different. Hopefully, it will carry this old guy across the US in 2010 for the Motorcycle Cannonball. At 96 years of age, the machine is in much better shape than its 70-year-old rider who will be challenged by trying to keep his arthritic body in the saddle for over 3,000 miles.
I have a friend in the UK who loans me bikes while I am there. He has the largest collection of Zeniths in existence, and I have ridden them in various events, including the Grand Tour of Scotland in 2000, a distance of 1000 miles in 10 days. This seems a bit low key compared to the Cannonball, but it was 80% on single tracked roads, and it rained every day except one. It snowed that day.
My friend Mike Sherwin never parts with anything. I said to him one time that I would like a Zenith Gradua. He said, "I thought you might. I was thinking of selling the veteran big twin" which was the pick of the litter of his collection. He ruffled through some papers and came up with an old bill of sale. "That's what I paid the bloke," said Mike. The price was what he had paid before he rebuilt it. "All I ask is that you show those Yanks what a real motorcycle can do." Hopefully, I can, (again).
It left Max Bubeck's coast-to-coast 1914 Indian in the dust on a pre-16 run a few year's back. It drove Max nuts. The Zenith is currently on display at the Deeley Museum in Vancouver where British bikes are featured. It will return her at the end of March.
Currently I have 15 motorcycles. I've traded off a couple for two old cars: a 1910 Stanley White steamer and a 1950 XK-120 Jaguar. My bikes date back to 1884, which is a steam powered high-wheel bicycle. Included here is a photo of that machine. The inset is a period shot of Lucius Copeland, the builder who I am obviously trying to emulate.
I have been in this hobby since 1955 and have owned over 150 different collectable motorcycles over the years, restoring most myself. I joined the AMCA in 1959. (I've owned about 50 antique cars also, but that's another story.) Bikes have been the main focus.
*Brooklands- Built near Weybridge in Surry, England, the 2.75-mile motor racing circuit and aerodrome opened in 1907. As the world’s first purpose-built motor sport venue, it was also one of Britain’s first airfields. Brooklands hosted its last race in 1939.
Today the circuit is home of the Brooklands Museum, a major motoring and aviation museum, as well as a venue for vintage motorcycle, car, and other transport related events.