For three years running, the Congregation Show has been bringing together some of the best motorcycles in the country for a one day invitational bike show down in Charlotte, NC. Presented by Prism Supply and Dice Magazine, this year’s show hosted 140 motorcycles, ranging from custom choppers dripping with chrome to barn fresh vintage machines dripping with oil. Housed in a massive turn of the century factory, there was plenty of room for the more than 5,000 spectators to check out the bikes as well as the 30 hot rods which were interspersed throughout the venue. Live music, a tattoo parlor and 45 vendors kept everyone entertained, fed and watered for a gasoline fueled celebration of everything motorcycle.
One of the highlights of this event is the location itself. Unlike most shows, the bikes aren’t just staged in a parking lot or a local shopping mall, but instead they are spread across floors which once reverberated with the sounds of Ford Model A’s being assembled. The venue, now known as Camp North End, is part of the old factory district in Charlotte just a stone’s throw from the modern skyscrapers of downtown. At its heart is a building whose size approaches that of a city block with a wide open floor plan that has been used to construct everything from cars in the 1920’s to missiles during the Cold War. Plate glass windows run floor to ceiling down the sides of the building, flooding the interior with natural light and illuminating a wooden floor which was installed to reduce the chance of sparks that could set off munitions.
In order to pull off such a large event smoothly, all the invited builders were encouraged to bring their motorcycles out the day before the show. This turned out to be a fortuitous decision as the weekend was plagued with scattered thunderstorms. Whether the motorcycles arrived on their own two wheels or on a trailer, they all arrived soaking wet. Once the bikes were safely inside and the sheet metal toweled off, the rain was soon forgotten as everyone’s focus switched to thoughts of the pre-party at the Tipsy Burro. So with the bikes left in the capable hands of the staff to sort out and position around the venue, everyone else headed out for a night in downtown Charlotte.
The storms finally started to move out on Saturday morning and the show began with a 90 minute media shoot before the public was allowed in at 1:00. Although the same venue has been used all three years, this was the first year that the center portion of the building has been available. In previous years, the motorcycles and vendors were spread out in an “L shape” along two walls of the building with the center section fenced off. Now with the center of the building open, the vendors lined the exterior walls of the building, surrounding a sea of motorcycles and hot rods.
Although you could generally describe the motorcycles in the show as being vintage, the diversity of machines was really quite staggering. Flatheads, Knuckleheads, Panheads, Shovelheads and Sportsters were all well represented along with a handful of European and Japanese machines. Style wise, choppers were the main theme, but there were also race bikes, stock OEM machines and wild customs that defied normal categories.
Surely it was no mistake that one of the first motorcycles seen by spectators as they funneled through the front door was a badass chopper built by Rob Hultz. This machine epitomizes what a chopper should be, from it’s skinny front tire rolling in a chrome VL springer front end to its pearl white body work and orange flames. Powered by a knucklehead motor with upswept exhaust pipes and jockey shifted transmission, this bike looked like the culmination of the 60’s chopper craze but built as a real rider and not just some extreme trailer queen. Check out how clean the bars are without a single cable or lever and the fabrication skills on the double sissy bar are top notch.
Both Prism Supply and Dice Magazine are known for building and featuring custom motorcycles, but it was good to see that they also have a deep respect for stock vintage motorcycles as well. Some of the best looking machines to ever roll out of Milwaukee were the 1936 – 47 knuckleheads and Jef Pearce’s blue 1947 EL is no exception. Carefully restored to stock specifications, with an original buddy seat and leather bags, it seems to pull you back in time with just a glance.
On the race end of the spectrum there was everything from full out dragsters to dirt track bikes, but this TROG winner from Dan Desoucey was a real crowd favorite. In as raced condition with sand from the inaugural Bradford Beach Brawl still on the tires and a banner which proved its recent victory, this machine was the real deal. Competing in the 45ci class, #69 sported a paint job that is reminiscent of the one year only 1932 HD factory paint scheme along with custom touches like mermaid kicker pedal for extra personality and I-beam front end for additional strength. There is no doubt that this machine is all business when it hits the beach.
Also this year, Harley-Davidson stepped up and provided a new Sportster for Prism Supply to customize and give away. The completed bike was then shipped to Milwaukee and ridden back to North Carolina in time to be displayed at the show. The guys at Prism did a great job at transforming a stock Sportster into a motorcycle that looked like it just rolled out of the 1970’s. Complete with a Sportster chain conversion kit, Crazy Frank style rear fender and a miniature version of a late 70’s Shovelhead air cleaner. I hope that Harley-Davidson’s engineers take note and considers making a real retro bike in the near future!
For the third year in a row the folks at Prism Supply and Dice Magazine have come together to put on a show that is already one of the largest motorcycle events on the East Coast. Every motorcycle was carefully selected to insure that only machines that fit their vision and high standards were on display. This meant that even with 140 machines spread around the venue, every one was an awesome motorcycle in its own right and worth taking the time to check out. It’s also to important to note that many of these motorcycles were garage built and not the product of some shop with its own reality show. The passion behind each build was evident as you walked around the building, trying to take in all the fine details of every machine. Even if you spent the entire day roaming the show, it was still possible to miss a trick or two with some many great motorcycles on display.
Words & Photos by Panhead Jim