Riding on a motorcycle is not just about going from point A to point B. Unlike other types of transportation, a motorcycle truly connects with its rider, uniting them into one dynamic being. Together, vehicle and rider embrace the wind and roaring sounds around them as they soar into the horizon.
When not being ridden, such a beautiful motorcycle becomes a respectable sculpture that is stationary yet still sustains its adrenaline. The Haas Moto Museum in Dallas is a wonderful space for people to be exposed to not only the historic value of motorcycles but also serves as a genuine explanation of how and why we fall in love with motorcycles.
The Haas Moto Museum will greet you with the many Mona Lisa’s of the motorcycle world. So, enjoy the ride!
Bobby Haas (B): Our Museum is dedicated to telling a story that reveals the artistry of motorcycles and the moto culture in a way that is distinctive from any other moto museum in the country. To do so, we must tell that story in a highly aesthetic and customized way more akin to a niche art museum. Our mission is simple: we are striving to be a moto museum like no other, compelling in the quality and diversity of our Collection and unrivaled in the aesthetic display of our exhibits.
B: There are a number of respects in which the Museum is distinctive: (1) first of all, the sheer expanse and diversity of the Collection, with close to 200 cycles spanning 12 decades from over a dozen countries, many of which are among the last survivors of a particular marque; (2) we give each cycle plenty of “breathing space” (roughly 100 square feet per cycle), and we elevate the majority of our cycles on customized platforms which enable each cycle to be viewable from 360° and even from beneath, using mirrors along the length of our platforms; (3) we have the largest custom collection of any museum in North America; and (4) we have adopted a multimedia approach to exhibiting our Collection, with a wide array of custom artwork and sculptures that envelop the cycles in a unique venue.
B: The Museum is a 20,000 square foot structure with extremely high ceilings, soft white walls, and virtually no obstructions, arranged in a flowing sequence of four major chambers: (1) History Hall – The largest of the areas, with close to 70 cycles arranged in chronological order from the early 1900s when gas tanks were strapped onto bicycle frames, up to the throbbing power stations of modern road warriors; (2) The Race Track – Arranged in an oval representative of the early board tracks, The Race Track exudes raw speed with cycles that span over 100 years of racing prowess; (3) Sidecar Alcove – The segment of motorcycle culture where three-wheeled machines afforded a spacious compartment for both rider and companion; and (4) The Custom Shop – The “pièce de résistance” of the Museum, housing the largest permanent collection of custom cycles in North America.
B: I would be hard pressed to describe what we would change about our physical space for the simple reason that we were encouraged by the owner of the property to tear down everything except the support columns and roof, start fresh with the exceptional bones of this facility, and then build whatever we thought would accommodate our mission to create a moto museum unlike any other. Obviously, there are refinements that we undertake from time to time, but the physical structure has never proven to be a limitation on achieving our mission.
Is there any consistent message, regardless of different exhibitions, that you want to deliver to the visitors?
B: There is a consistent message that unites every one of the chambers and the exhibits of the Museum, and that message can be summed up in a single word – passion. Passion is the “mother thread” that weaves its way through the entire tapestry of the Haas Moto Museum – it is the energy behind the innovations in motorcycles over more than a century; it explains the racer’s willingness to engage in an ongoing duel with danger; it underwrites our love of freedom that the riding experience entails; and inside The Custom Shop, where you can view in a single glance the largest one-off collection of cycles anywhere in North America, you feel the raw passion that pushes our custom designers to the edge of their creative limits.
B: It is impossible to select a single acquisition that we are most focused on in the upcoming year, since we now have eight custom cycles in fabrication and a handful of other one-off projects on the drawing board. Every single custom project is an opportunity to fashion a motorcycle unlike any other ever created, so the level of wonder and enthusiasm that attaches to each one is hard to compare with any other.
B: Interestingly, the visitors to our Museum run the gamut from someone who has never been inside a museum of this type to moto aficionados from all over the world. And yet the reaction to the experience is equally enthusiastic. From the moto novice, we often hear, “This museum is more like an art museum and not at all the mechanical or technical experience I was expecting.” And from the many moto aficionados who have toured the Museum, we hear, “The Haas is unlike any other moto museum I’ve ever been in. The custom collection is unmatched, and there are so many rare brands of vintage cycles I’ve never seen before.” Regardless of the level of moto sophistication, we are attempting to surprise and inspire our guests.
B: Even though we will provide a docent to answer questions about any exhibit, we generally allow our guests to set their own pace and their own agenda, so that the experience of touring the Museum is tailored to what each one wishes to take away from the visit. We have attempted to replicate in the Museum the experience of riding itself – a relaxing, low tech experience (in the Museum, we avoid all the bells-and-whistles of earphones and video monitors). What we often hear from our guests at the end of a visit is a comment along the lines of, “This was such a relaxing, Zen-like experience… I spent more time here than I ever thought I would, and yet I plan to come back again soon.”
B: Obviously, we listen to the subjective comments of our guests during and after their visits; however, I feel the most objective measure of evaluating the experience is the sheer amount of time devoted to individual exhibits and the entire visit – since there is no time limit or rush to move through the Museum, when our guests are moving at a very leisurely pace and spending several hours in the Museum, this is a sign that we are hitting the mark.
B: I didn’t acquire my first motorcycle until the age of 64, just seven years ago. In terms of collecting, that phase of my life began precisely four years ago, in December 2014. What I have found is that collecting and exhibiting motorcycles is an incurable passion that has no known antidote – in the past four years, I have acquired or commissioned almost 200 cycles and sold none. I suspect that this arc of my professional life has no end in sight.
B: The first cycle I ever acquired for personal riding was an all-black 2011 Ural Retro, a Russian cycle with an attached sidecar. The third wheel on the ground provided an increased level of stability, and the Retro model appealed to my sense of nostalgia for the bygone days of Art Deco styling. The first cycle I acquired as a piece for my Collection was a 1952 Matchless, a British cycle that I purchased in an eBay auction… that Matchless is a stunning piece of rolling art, and it still stands proudly in the Museum.
B: There is one cycle that “tugs at my heart” in a very special way, and that is the 1929 Majestic, an exceedingly rare piece that many experts consider to be among the most stunning cycles ever created. Over a year ago, the owner Serge Bueno, a magnificent sculptor and collector himself, approached me and explained that this cycle, which was in need of a “ground up” restoration, was his father’s, that father and son had decided to restore the cycle together, that his father had dropped dead before restoration could ever begin, and that Serge stored the rusted parts in boxes for more than a decade, unable to touch the cycle after his father’s death. Serge told me that he would personally restore the cycle to mint condition himself if we would add it to the Collection as a tribute to his father’s memory. I could hardly say no to such a request.
B: At first, selecting cycles for the Collection was relatively straightforward – I would gravitate toward ones that were particularly appealing from an aesthetic point of view or were of historical significance. But now it’s different. With such a broad and diverse Collection, a cycle must be as close to unique as possible in order to fill a perceived gap in the Collection. Somewhat tongue-in-check, my Director Stacey Mayfield and I use the “eyebrows on fire” test to decide – is the cycle so compelling that it singes our eyebrows? Another way of describing the “eyebrows” test is whether I go to bed at night fixated on the acquisition of that cycle; if so, then it’s headed for the Collection.
B: By far, the most difficult motorcycle to acquire (and keep inside the Museum) was the 1998 MV Agusta Serie Oro. This cycle is #8 in a series of only 300 produced and is the first one ever sold to an outsider (the first seven were given to royal families or owned by senior executives of MV Agusta). The cycle is still in its original crate, with absolutely no mileage on it. Despite promises on our part that its tires would never touch pavement, we engaged in a year-long wrestling match with EPA/DOT authorities before we were eventually permitted to import the cycle on the promise that it would only be exhibited for six months before being exported and then re-imported months later. Go figure! The cycle is slated to be returned to the Museum, still in its original crate, in early 2019 and will remain a permanent resident of The Haas, after its incredible two-year odyssey.
B: Working with our brilliant and dedicated custom builders has been the most thrilling aspect of founding and curating the Museum. I occasionally act as a co-designer or originator of the concept for a custom project, and I always act as the enabler, enabling the builders to translate a vision into reality through my financial sponsorship. Those builders are invariably appreciative and passionate, appreciative of our support and of the fact that we bring a non-financial motivation to the project and passionate about their work and the fact that the finished product will reside in The Haas among such a distinguished assemblage of custom cycles.
- Photos courtesy of The Haas Moto Museum