Nestled in the hills of western North Carolina, in the old Southern town of Hendersonville, a vintage motorcycle event takes over the downtown area for a Saturday each year in late April, attracting owners and fans of pre-1980s old classics. The Meltdown Vintage Motorcycle Show, now in its 8th year, is presented by Ton Up Highlands, a North Carolina chapter of the Ton Up Club International. Hosted by Southern Appalachian Brewery, the show covers several city blocks and streets around the brewery, and features all kinds of local food fare, various moto-related artisans, local rockabilly bands onstage, and of course, an incredible array of motorcycle history, up and down the street.

According to Daniel Huggins, one of the members with Ton Up Highlands (and with the most killer sideburns), “This year we had over 300 vintage bikes registered for the show. We estimate over 3000 in attendance, but it’s hard to gauge exactly, as it’s a free show.” The event draws vintage owners and fans from across the central and eastern US of A, and the bike show itself displays motorcycles from every era, every genre, and about every make imaginable in the history of motorcycling. The event raises awareness and funding for local charities, this year being the Henderson County Boys & Girls Club.

I had the opportunity to attend this year, and I brought my father with me, who knew many of those old vintage bikes first-hand, having ridden a number of them as a young man in the late 50s to early 60s and beyond. I even grew up with several of his old Triumphs in the family garage, so I knew Pops would more than enjoy the show- he’d be transported back in time. Indeed, as he strolled the street, I could tell he was strolling Memory Lane, recalling unique facts and features about so many bikes we saw there.

And what amazing array of bikes! From a 1927 Triumph with a belt front brake, a rare 1952 red Vincent Rapide, to a like-new chrome Velocette and an Ariel Single, even a Rickman Metisse, among so many others. There were early racers, loud, smoking two-strokes, an impressive array of the legendary hybrid Tritons (part Norton, part Triumph), and pre-1950 restored Harleys and Indians. The most unexpected bike we witnessed was a 1949 Western Flyer bicycle, outfitted with a Briggs & Stratton pull-cord start motor, shoehorned into the frame. Was that really a thing? Very cool. We captured some video footage, of course.

My dad commented, “It was great to see so many ages and walks of life represented. Young and old, from every part of American society, all sharing one common thing- a love for old motorcycles. Nice to forget what divides us for a change, and enjoy what unites us.” I couldn’t agree more.

The Ton Up Highlands club has effectively raised over $30,000 for local charities over their years of putting on the Meltdown Show. They also race in the AHRMA Vintage Road Racing series, as well as some cross country dirt action, Ton Up’s Daniel informed me. These guys are the real deal.

A beautiful spring day in the mountains of western North Carolina, among some 300+ examples of motorcycle history, with a few thousand of our moto-riding friends. Who could ask for more?

Rob

11 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Really enjoyed the show this year more than ever before. Probably because I entered my little 250 Bennelli. I,m sure I will be back next year.

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      We saw your Benelli! Great little bike.

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    too bad you didn’t show more of the vintage Hondas there, you missed quite a few incredible builds while focusing on cafes and Euro bikes

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      I thought we gave a pretty balanced view of the brands and models represented at the show. It is put on by a Brit bike club, so most of the bikes there were obviously Euro.
      I would certainly agree, however, that there were some incredible builds and restorations of the classic UJMs in the show.

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    I have mostly Japanese surviver bikes but I have NO problem with the heavy concentration of Euro bikes in this show. A British oriented interest club started and organize this show. Their interest needs to be predominate because the work behind the scenes is considerable.

    I have made about one half of these shows from some 100 miles away and consider it a must attend on my calendar.

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      I made this highly-touted show from Florida and fully expected it to be more fair and balanced in their coverage, since it IS a vintage bike show. Don’t get me wrong, it was a blast and there was a lot of nice hardware there of all makes and styles – some awesome Guzzis, BSAs, Nortons and Triumphs along with many other margues represented, but the minuscule group of pictures from the large Japanese contingent of quality builds and survivors is disappointing after the fact.

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        I think Cliff here said it best. Refer to his comments for my sentiments. Our photos were in proportion to the demographic of the bikes and owners represented. I appreciate your reflections, however.

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    Thanks for your story and photos. I lived in Maggie Valley NC for many years. Hendersonville and all if Western North Carolina is a beautiful place. There are a variety of motorcycle rider’s in the area. I enjoy seeing all types of and meeting new people who share their love of two wheels. Thanks again for sharing with us. D. Bell

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      We appreciate your comments, Donald. We certainly enjoyed attending the show, and calling attention to it. You indeed lived in a breathtakingly beautiful region of the country. We are grateful for readers like you. Keep in touch,

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  5. Avatar

    I think your opening statement, Vintage motorcycle event takes over the downtown area is a little optimistic. It’s a side street blocks from downtown, 95% of people downtown don’t even know it’s happening.

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      I would argue your statement that 95% of people downtown don’t even know it’s happening is a bit pessimistic. That wasn’t my experience, as I briefly ventured beyond the event that day.

      Reply

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