If you love motorcycles, or vehicles of any kind, you are going to LOVE this story. David Cuff, who manages the website Classic Cycles, came across this motorcycle graveyard years ago on the internet. There were pictures of a forgotten collection of old motorcycles that had been abandoned in a warehouse. After some researching, Mr. Cuff managed to find out where this warehouse was located and decided to seek it out. He was hoping it was still there, and luckily for him it was! He found out that the warehouse was in Lockport, New York, just nine hours north of where he was located. Sounds like the perfect excuse for a road trip.
When Mr. Cuff first arrived at the warehouse, he described it as, “The building with the alleged motorcycles is within eye sight of the canal lock. We hung out by the lock for a while watching boats being raised and lowered. I was getting a feel for the area and casing the building like a bank robber.”
“The buildings were trashed, stuff everywhere. There were small hints that there were motorcycles in there with a gas tank here, a beat up motorcycle frame over there. The door to the building that contained the motorcycles was open a few inches and I could see a motorcycle leaning against the wall.”
“The basement was full of old rusty bikes that nearly rusted away from the moisture in the air. There was a set of stairs that looked like they were just days from crumbling. I lightly walked upstairs and opened the door and that’s where my jaw dropped.”
“The room was full of motorcycles. There were holes on the main floor with motorcycles falling into the basement and there were motorcycles on the third floor falling onto the main floor. Half of the main floor was concrete and very stable so we wandered around and tried to process what we were seeing while trying to be quiet and be aware what was around us.”
After Mr. Cuff and his friend wandered around a bit, seeing all that was stored in this dilapidated warehouse, they went home. Mr. Cuff really wanted to know more about these bikes and how they came to be. So when he got home he started making some phone calls. After calling a friend of a friend, he found someone who worked in the commercial and industrial real estate business.
From there he was able to get the name of the person who owned the building. Come to find out, the building was owned by a gentleman named Frank but he wasn’t allowed to enter the building. This was because the building was labeled condemned and it was now owned by the City of Lockport because there were unpaid property taxes that were due.
Mr. Cuff wasn’t satisfied and he wanted to get more information about this building. They decided that they would need to start the process of getting accident insurance for Frank. From there Mr. Cuff called Frank regularly to help build trust between them, so that way he could help save some of those priceless motorcycles.
“The process was slow and I would call Frank every three to four days and inquire about the status of entry. I probably got on Frank’s nerves but I knew it would be worth it in the end. Frank was very patient with me and always gave me an update when I called. While trying to win Frank’s trust I asked about the history. The motorcycles were collected by a guy named Kohl. He owned several different motorcycle shops over 50 years and was by all accounts a motorcycle enthusiast. Kohl would take trade-ins of motorcycles and would also buy inventory of defunct dealerships.”
“It was easy back then to start a dealer compared to today. In 1997, I believe Kohl sold the building and motorcycles to Frank. Frank operated the business as Kohl’s Cycle Salvage which sold parts off of the hundreds of motorcycles he had. Back taxes were owed on the building and Frank began paying them. In 2002, Kohl died at 80 years of age. The building began to fall apart and crumble around itself. At one time, Frank got an estimate to have the roof replaced. The estimate was $300,000, far more than Frank could justify. As the building continued to fall apart and the city condemning the building, Frank didn’ see a reason to continue to pay the back taxes.”
After going back and forth with the city, they finally gave Frank a deadline and told him that he could get whatever he wanted out by mid November 2010. Once they got this news, Mr. Cuff started making plans for his 2nd trip to this warehouse. But this time, he came prepared with a bike trailer in tow.
Mr. Cuff said, “We spent the next 6 hours in the building exploring every square inch of the four levels. We claimed bikes and parts and gathered them up and talked to Frank about prices. The prices were very good which made us happy and allowed us to get more stuff. I got three motorcycles. Well one complete bike which is a Honda CB350, a rolling Jawa frame from right around 1950, and a ‘what’s it’. I don’t know what the last bike is. I bought it because it looked different. The only writing I can find on the bike is ‘Made In Germany’. It’s missing the whole front end. I’m not sure what my plan is for it. I can’t try to find parts if I don’t know what it is.”
Just four days after his second trip, Mr. Cuff decided to go back up to the warehouse one more time because rumor had it that Frank was going to start scrapping the leftover bikes. “We drove all night and got to Lockport at 7:15am the next morning. We got to the building a few minutes before Frank did and we were surprised to see two large roll of dumpsters full of motorcycles.” That would be an awful site to see if you are a motorcycle enthusiast!
“We were able to save some bikes and parts. It was also nice to see the memories come back to Frank. He has a great memory and told us details from back when the business was booming including such as that time he scrapped 600 or so motorcycles years ago. I shed a tear hearing that. These weren’t ugly late 1970s or 1980s bikes. These were 1960s and early 1970s bikes.”
Unfortunately on July 30th, 2013, the building burned down in a fire and any motorcycles left in this graveyard were lost as well. Mr. Cuff recalls the motorcycle graveyard, “I’m afraid there will never be another scrap like this one. These days it’s much different. Motorcycles are much more expensive and not just tossed aside. With things like Ebay and Craigslist, there are just too many avenues to sell bikes and parts. These finds are what we dream of as kids. We all hear the rumors but assume they don’t exist or don’t make the effort to explore the possibility or to track down the facts. This is one time where the outcome made it all worth it.”
I can’t even imagine coming across a find like this. I hope they were able to salvage all that they could from the fire and were able to create new memories with the old bikes they saved. This is a priceless find that Mr. Cuff came across, especially with him being such a motorcycle enthusiast.
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