WINTERPORT, Maine — Chuck Sim works on some of the most valuable and iconic vintage motorcycles you can imagine — BSAs, Nortons, BWMs, Ducatis, Moto Guzzis and others — and he owns more than a few himself, in various stages of repair and restoration.
In fact, you may have seen some of his beautiful old bikes recently, dressing up the storefront windows of the Antiques Marketplace in downtown Bangor. The big eyecatcher is a 1939 BSA “war model,” its gas tank painted an unlikely sky blue by a previous owner. There’s also a cute little 1956 Moto Guzzi Ladola — the name means ‘“lark” in Italian — in the window and, inside, an elegant 1968 BMW touring bike.
The Antiques Marketplace seems a surprising place to unload such classic beauties, but Sim says he’s just beginning to cull some of his personal machines and isn’t in a hurry to pass them on.
“I don’t really expect to sell them there,” he confessed during a recent tour of his Winterport workshop. “I just like seeing them in the window.”
A nice opportunity
Sim, his wife, Amy, and their two daughters came to the Bangor area from Massachusetts in 1999. That was the year he accepted an offer from area businessman Christopher Hutchins, whose antique cars Sim had been working on out of the prestigious Paul Russell and Company restoration workshop in in Essex, Massachusetts, for several years. Hutchins wooed him away from the Russell shop and set him up in a state-of-the-art workshop in Brewer, tending exclusively to his own considerable collection.
“It was a very nice opportunity for me,” Sim said. But Hutchins’ fortunes shifted and in 2007, Sim found himself transitioning into self-employment. By word of mouth, he was able to establish clients in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, and in 2008 he built a spacious new workshop and metal fabrication shop at his home in Winterport. Work since then has been steady and profitable. He’s selective about the projects he accepts, a luxury he admits he enjoys, especially as he gets older.
Most of his work these days is “bench work” — rebuilding old car engines, transmissions and other components that people bring or ship to him. But he also enjoys working on classic motorcycles, including a sleek, black Norton 850 he’s currently putting together for a client in Holden.
“He’s had it in his garage for a couple of years but wasn’t finding the time to work on it,” Sim said. “This was the sexiest bike on the market in the 1970s.”
Following his heart
Sim’s interest in bikes and motorcycles surfaced when he was just a kid, with a series of old bicycles he took apart and, sometimes, put back together in the family garage in Marblehead, Massachusetts.
“My oldest brother was very mechanical and he was my mentor,” Sim said. Weekends, they’d go to the town dump together to look for parts.
“All I had for tools was a screwdriver and an adjustable wrench,” he said, but that was…