EAST HAMPTON, CT – After a one-year absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Brit Jam returned to the Haddam Neck Fairgrounds today, packing the show ground with hundreds of vintage models and drawing a large crowd of enthusiastic motorcycle owners and riders.
“It feels normal out here,” said Tom Reitsma, president of the British Iron Association of Connecticut, as he scanned the layout at midday. His club has staged the event for more than 30 years and, “once again” Brit Jam took place on a sun-drenched day.
“We give good karma, we get good karma,” replied Reitsma when asked how the show and swap meet always manages to have perfect weather.
While Brit Jam spotlights British-made bikes, from rare Vincent and O.E.C. models to Ariel, BSA, Matchless, Norton, Triumph and Velocette entries, the show welcomes all brands and models from around the globe. The atmosphere is welcoming to everyone who rides no matter a person’s choice of manufacturer.
“We’ve got four hours to go and people are still coming in the gate,” Reitsma marveled. He added that show entries were “exceeding all expectations,” perhaps because the owners “had a year to work on their bikes.” Brit Jam’s hours were 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.
For some undetermined reason, it seemed like there were more BSAs than usual. “Maybe it’s a resurgence,” Reitsma suggested.
What caught my attention were two identical blue 1970 BSA Lightning 650 models parked side by side.
Micheal Nadeau of Cromwell, CT bought his (shown above on the left) two years ago. “I don’t ride it very far,” he said, reporting that a 30-minute bimble is to his liking. He also brought a single-cylinder 1970 BSA “Victor.” He spent 15 years as a motorcycle mechanic and enjoys restoring the old models more than actually riding them. “I buy these garage finds, restore them and ride them a little bit,” he said.
The other 1970 Lightning (above at right) belonged to Tom Raimondo of Bolton, CT and was quite a bit more pristine. He’s the original owner and has only put 4,242 miles on the odometer in a half-century. “It was in storage most of its life,” he said.
Also having a background handling spanners was Vern Brady of Middletown, NJ, who showed his 500cc 1967 Matchless G8CS. He acquired it in 1971. “The mechanic in the next bay was selling it for $150,” he recalled. “He had been racing it; had wiped out the front end. He hit a tree. Of course, in those days, the parts were on the shelf.”
Two years after getting it, Brady disassembled it with the idea of rebuilding the engine. He then got distracted by a growing affection for boats, so the Matchless sat for decades. It wasn’t until 2014 that he put it back together.
The model was designed as a scrambler. “It’s geared for riding dirt. It’s supposed to be a street scrambler,” he said.
As always, in addition to the bikes on the show ground, Brit Jam also featured perhaps an equal number of interesting motorcycles in the parking lot. There were also dozens of vendors selling parts, accessories and much more. In a shift from years past, food trucks provided a variety of eating options.
Here are more pics from Brit Jam:
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