Stony Brook exhibit showcases historic motorcycles

A 1969 replica of "Captain America," the bike

A 1969 replica of "Captain America," the bike Peter Fonda rode in the film "Easy Rider," is part of the new exhibition "America's Love Affair with the Motorcycle." It is on display at the Educational and Cultural Center of The Ward Melville Heritage Organization in Stony Brook July 12 through Sept. 1. (Credit: Daniel Brennan)

Summertime and motorcycles go hand in hand -- or should that be handlebar in hand? Well that handlebar is being set pretty high this summer with an exhibition covering a century-plus of two-wheeled transportation.

About two-dozen motorcycles, including historic and rare models and one iconic chopper, will be on display beginning tomorrow in Stony Brook. Arranged in chronological order from a 1902 Rambler to a 2005 Triumph Rocket, bikes are accompanied by placards explaining their origins and impact, says Tarah Sabbatino, director of the educational and cultural center. "For anyone who appreciates history, we have some pretty nice bikes" in the exhibit, Sabbatino says.

Gloria Rocchio, president of the Ward Melville Heritage Organization, says the motorcycle show is a follow-up to exhibits about automobiles and racing, created in response to community interest. "There's such an interest in motorcycles. It's so mainstream now," she says. The exhibition includes machines on loan from private collections, including the Nettesheim Museum in Huntington, the Motorcyclepedia Museum in upstate Newburgh and 20th Century Cycles in Oyster Bay.


Visitors can learn about the evolution of cycles through memorabilia, an audio history and paintings by automotive artist George Ellis. In the lobby, you can take photos sitting on a 1941 BMW military bike and in its side car. However, the rest of the exhibition is not interactive, and guests are asked not to touch other motorcycles, Sabbatino says.

A number of special events are geared toward motorcycle buffs. BMW expert Peter Nettesheim will discuss his rare 1928 BMW R63 and 1934 BMW R11 at 2 p.m. tomorrow. Both machines will be started outdoors at the conclusion of his presentation. On July 19 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., an outdoor showcase will feature the Harley Owners Group and American Bikers for Awareness Training and Education.


A number of local residents are lending their machines for exhibition. Joe Buzzetta of Stony Brook is loaning six motorcycles from his personal collection of more than 35 bikes. Included are Buzzetta's 1973 Moto Guzzi V7 sport, a type of motorcycle known as a cafe racer, or a "gentleman's sports bike," he explains. Also from his collection are a 1985 Kawasaki Ninja 900 -- the same model Tom Cruise zoomed around on in "Top Gun" -- and a hand-built limited-production 1990 Honda RC-30.

"These are pretty rare bikes," Buzzetta says.


Another rarity on exhibit: A replica of Captain America -- no, not the Marvel superhero -- but the U.S. flag-emblazoned Harley-Davidson Peter Fonda rode in the 1969 motorcycle road movie, "Easy Rider." It's number 6 out of 30 copies of the iconic chopper produced for the film's 30th anniversary in 1999 and might be "the most famous motorcycle in history," says owner Gerry Duff of Stony Brook. Duff has been a fan of the bike since he built his own replica of Captain America as a 17-year-old.

"I thought it was the coolest bike I ever saw," says Duff, who has ridden the replica all over America.

'America's Love Affair With the Motorcycle'

WHEN | WHERE Saturday through Sept. 1 at Ward Melville Heritage Organization Educational & Cultural Center, 97 Main St., Stony Brook

INFO 631-689-5888,

ADMISSION $4 ($2 younger than 12)

More famous bikes

WHEN | WHERE 10 a.m.-4 p.m. weekends and 6-8 p.m. Tuesdays (as part of Oyster Bay's seasonal cruise nights) at 20th Century Cycles, 101 Audrey Ave., Oyster Bay



Looking to see rare and exotic motorcycles? This gallery of gleaming machines owned and restored by Billy Joel houses classic motorcycles manufactured from the 1930s to 1960s, including Harley-Davidson, Ducati and Moto Guzzi bikes.

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