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Haas: Leaving Tracks

I feel a bit ignorant having seen this trailer and not really knowing much about either the museum or the man behind it, Bobby Haas. Now I've looked into him he's described as a financier, who made a fortune out of soft drinks in the 1980s. This trailer is of a feature length documentary, funded, it appears, by Haas himself, or the museum, if there's a delineation between the two. Once Haas made his money, the story explains, he didn't chase more dough, but concentrated on becoming a National Geographic nature photographer. Much more recently he got into bikes, collecting rare historical machines and some significant racing machines, as well as commissioning customs, from the likes of Shinya Kimura and Maxwell Hazen. He stores most of his collection in a museum opened in 2018, in Dallas, Texas.

He was quoted in an interview with D Magazine saying, 'I now have about four or five dealers in Europe who are aware of my collection and contact me with very rare motorcycles. Often they give me a chance to privately negotiate with them before they auction it or put it on their website. They know my taste. I want, by and large, cycles that are surprises. What appeals to me is either rarity or design style. I was a photographer. I design sculptures. So things that are beautiful appeal to me.'

Haas's tastes of custom bikes are hand-beaten and highly-polished, modern interpretations of early 20th century futurism; ultra-expensive, supercharged, steam punk, speedsters. He has become something of a benefactor to the 21st century custom world. The documentary trailer shows he appreciates the love some of the formerly struggling bike builders feel for their new sponsor. The cynic in me had to suppress an eye-roll at that point. Of course, the guys who are selling these bikes are fond of the unquestioning purchaser. Or am I missing something? I'm not knocking the man, I would much rather him spend money this way, than on a super yacht or a private jet (perhaps he has those too).

Also from the Dallas-focussed, D Magazine interview, Haas is quoted saying, 'What I love about the motorcycle industry is nobody is in it for the money. With the investment business, you’re pursuing money in a way that is beneficial only to yourself. If you make a lot of money and you give it away, well, that’s different. Then you’re being charitable. But inherently, there’s nothing except selfish motives behind it. Here, whether you’re talking about the designers, the mechanics, the guys who have shops—these guys don’t make a lot of money. But if you ask them whether they’re happy, they all say yes. The motives are basically to share what you create.' GI


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