For Jacksonville native John Duss, the love of motorcycles began at 12 when he first got his hands on a Lambretta motor scooter. What started as an affordable way to get around quickly grew into a full-fledged leisurely pursuit that has led him down the path of vintage motorcycles.
By profession, Duss is a lawyer — but once a year, when he isn’t in court communing with judges, he can be seen at the Ponte Vedra Auto Show participating as one. He has been with the show since its inception, 13 years ago.
The auto show this September promises to break the mold with several new additions, one of them being a vintage motorcycle display that Duss has taken the responsibility of organizing. This will not be the first time Duss has orchestrated such an event. What he is probably most well known for around the Greater Jacksonville Area is starting the vintage motorcycle exhibit that can be seen every March during the annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.
“They [the other judges] asked me about having a motorcycle class and I said I would be glad to do it if I can be in charge of it and invite specific motorcycles to participate — and so that’s what we’ve done,” Duss said.
Drawing upon the list of friends and acquaintances he has met through different vintage motorcycle circles over the years, he has recruited about 12 – 15 different owners and their bikes to come participate in this year’s Ponte Vedra Auto Show. According to Duss, if everything goes as planned there will be an unrestored, fully operational 100-year-old Reading Standard on display.
“We’ll have a long view of technology, design, mechanics and purposes,” said Duss. “Some of them were purely for transportation, but motorcycling tends to have a more embedded sports aspect to it than automobiles do. Racing and performance has always been a significant aspect of motorcycle design and production.”
While a lot of motorcycle enthusiasts these days are into modifying bikes and turning them into choppers or café racers, the vintage motorcycle crowd, according to Duss, appreciates and prefers the fundamental aspects of an unrestored bike with original parts.
In regards to the 100-year-old Reading Standard, which Duss has seen displayed at the Amelia Island show in the past, everything down to the paint job is original. The bike, according to Duss, is not exactly a “museum piece,” and it has most likely had some work done on it over the years to keep it in running condition, but by no means has it deviated from its original factory design.
Duss has about a dozen bikes of his own, some restored and some factory original. His oldest and the one he plans on displaying at the Ponte Vedra Auto Show is a restored 1931 Indian Scout, which he has owned for five years.
While you might think that these vintage — and certainly valuable — motorcycles are probably best kept in a garage, out of harms way, according to Duss, some of these bikes get used quite a bit. And that’s a good thing.
“It’s kind of like exercise,” said Duss. “It’s good for you under the proper conditions to engage in physical activity because it keeps you in good shape. The same is true with machinery.”
Unlike the traditional Ponte Vedra Auto Show that will take place this year, the vintage motorcycle display is not a competition and will only serve as a tribute to the hobby and profession of preserving and restoring older bikes. There won’t be awards handed out for best in show or best in class, but according to head judge for the PV Auto Show, Larry Weisman, that is something that they will hopefully be able to incorporate in the years to come as the appeal of vintage motorcycles continues to grow.
“I think it’s fabulous,” said Weisman about the inclusion of vintage motorcycles to this year’s showcase. “I think it opens up our show to a whole other community, which is the two-wheel community vs the four-wheel community. A lot of people live in both worlds but some only in one and we are glad we can have a display this time.”