HOPETOWN REUNION 2012
By Matt Cuddy
We here at www.superhunky.com got invited to a special event in Simi Valley, CA, by the Zimmerman brothers, who run a hi-tech machine shop in a giant two story building. Inside the building, was a museum display of about 300 bikes all in pristine shape, everything from pre-1960 CZ twin-pipe motocross machines, to big Triumph desert sleds and flat track bikes. This museum isn’t open to the public, and it’s just for the love of the sport that the Zimmerman brothers put on the event.
1966 experts line up for the start. See if you can spot some famous MX types
Corriganville was owned by the famous stunt man from the early days of movies, Ray “Crash” Corrigan. A movie set western town was part of the track, along with an Indian village the riders got to race through. Many movies were made in Corriganville, some Star Trek episodes, Tom Mix westerns and the husband wife duo of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans made a few TV shows at Corriganville, and in the late sixties, Crash sold the whole shebang to Bob Hope, hence the name change to Hopetown.
Old Harley set up for Corriganville witn the "no fade" rear suspension
All the bikes on display outside showcased the famous Corriganville/Hopetown Grand Prix that ran from 1962 to 1975, that attracted top riders from all over the globe to participate in the event; it was that big. My own experience with the race was in 1966, when my Uncle Richard raced Corriganville on his 1962 BSA 650 Super Rocket desert sled. My Mom, Grandpa and I were there, camped by the mud hole section (because it had the most shade) and rooted my Uncle on for every lap he made past us. His big Beezer twin made short work of the mud hole, and off he went up through the rocks, after splattering everybody with adobe mud that baked on in seconds. It made us all look like mud sculptures from Easter Island or something.
Nice round barrel 441 Victor. It wasn't leaking oil so I'm sure there was none it it.
Even the mighty Europeans showed up in 1966-1967 to put the desert and TT riders in their place, Roger DeCoster, Ake Johnson, Joel Roberts and Dave bickers put their lightweight two strokes in the top six finishing slots. The Grand Prix was rapidly changing from a smooth TT type course that favored big twins, to a seven mile long MX track that was dominated by lightweight two strokes of the era. “Little” John Hately on his 500cc Triumph Twin would have nothing of this “Two Stroke” revolution, and won his class year after year. Ah, memories…
Ooooh, nice MF250 bolt together 1966 Husky. Unobtainium.
Over three thousand people showed up for the reunion, along with big names that raced it like; John DeSoto, Preston Petty, Gary Bailey, Doug Grant, Jim O’Neal, Tim Hart, Mike Chamberlain, Sue Fish, Keith Mashburn, CZ Joe, Jim Holley, Marty Tripes, Gary and DeWayne Jones, Dave Ekins, Skip Van Leeuwen, Eddie Mulder, C.H. Wheat, Brad Lackey, Mike Runyard, Bruce Brown, John Rice, Jim Wilson, John Hately, Keith Lynas, Mike Sixberry, Bryar Holcomb, etc. etc. Marty Tripes was there, cooking up some great grub that got wolfed down in seconds, after the appetite that got built up after viewing and talking with the owners of some great vintage machinery that graced the outside of the building.
Nice Triumph desert sleds.
I was ogling a pristine BSA Gold Star in one of the tent sections, and started up a conversation with someone else drooling over the Gold Star. We yakked for about half an hour on the merits of these fine old machines, until I spied the name tag on my new friend, DeWayne Jones! Man I can remember the Jones factory Yamaha motor home and machine shop showing up at the “Dunes” every Sunday, and chided DeWayne for roosting me and my AT1MX off the track, right after the first right hander on the “Fence” corner after the start. Then Gary Jones, showed up, and we started bench racing, Gary made my day by telling me he had me and my Honda powered wheel chair as a screen saver on his computer at home. Now that really means something to me, that one of my idols from the teenage years of four inch travel, has ME on his computer.
Super nice guy DeWayne Jones. DeWayne has over 12 CR500 Hondas at home.
It was constant; not a minute after I left the Jones boys, Clark Jones from Noleen Racing and his pretty wife (Gary and DeWayne’s sister) strolled by, and we had a nice gum beating session about the reunion. Clark has worked on the suspension on about every dirt bike I ever owned, and is a truly nice guy, and craftsman. Not too many people like Clark around anymore.
Clark Jones from Noleen Racing. Super nice guy and miracle worker with suspension
Then I wandered over to a very used and dirty open class AJS, with whom else but Doug Grant showing it off. Doug is another personable guy with no ego problems, and we talked for a few on the merits of the mighty AJS. He was impressed that I knew why the Ajays had a giant rear sprocket; it was because the primary ratio was high, and the resulting combo of a high primary ratio with a low final drive ratio saved the ancient AJS four speed gear box. Even though you could remove the transmission with the engine still in the frame (pre-unit technology). Dave was great to talk with, and still looks like he’s about 25 years old.
Cleanest Greeeves in existance. Nice dual exhaust port 380 QUB.
I finally found the Hunky who was yakking up a storm with John Desoto, who introduced me to the flyin’ Hawaiian. Desoto had a handshake like a vice, and proceeded to give me the “peace” sign when Rick took the pic of the both of us. Ha ha, Mr. Desoto.
Super foxy Sue Fish and Super Hunky bench racing. Get off that street bike damnit!
I decided to grab another Coors out of the van, and made my way to the 2nd floor of the Zimmerman Brothers building. Hot damn, shucks and gee whiz! Never have I seen so many pristine (and original) vintage dirt bikes in one place. Huskys, Maicos, Bultacos, Triumphs, CZ’s Jawa six day bikes, MZ’s….it was sensory overload, and I could have stayed there all afternoon. All they needed was a pot of burning bean oil to make the experience over the top. Thank you, Mark and Randy Zimmerman, you are the true Gods of restored dirt bikes. If only I had about fifty grand in cash I could have bought one of the last twin-port CZ’s in existence. Didn’t even look like it had been ridden, like the stone fox pit tootsie in the black leotard who was sauntering around the 2nd floor. I fumbled for my camera to get a shot, but by the time I was set up, she was gone. Isn’t that always the way it goes? Her image is still burnt into my retinas, so all I have to do is close my eyes….
Marty Tripes getting a break from the grill. Fine food there Mr. Tripes!
Outside again, and I putted over to the BBQ area with Marty sweating over a hot grill, making up some fine ribs and chicken. I inhaled my late lunch, just in time to talk with the Hunkster and super foxy Sue Fish from the good old days. I didn’t know Sue had been hit by a car, and almost paralyzed, her neck vertebrae fused. She came very close to being a quad. God bless you, Sue.
After Super Hunky got a medal of recognition for being one of the voices of the vintage dirt bike world, I rolled back into the test area for one last look at the neat vintage bikes (now being rolled into pick-up trucks and vans.) The event was winding down, and it was time to gather up Rick and my buddy Trace for the hour ride, back home to Burbank.
One thing always impresses me about a gathering of dirt riders is always how nice everybody is to each other, all like family. If you rode a dirt bike, you were admitted.
Works 1966 Suzuki twin-port, 1st MX bike Suzuki built after spying a few CZ's.
Thank you Mark and Randy, for the excellent show you put on. We can only hope for another Hopetown Classic reunion sometime in the near future. It was spectacular.