The story of Johnson Motors starts in 1936 when Bill Johnson and Wilbur Cedar buy the „British and American Motors“ in Passadena, Cal. In 1937 and 1938 they start to import the British motorbike brands Ariel and Triumph and soon they made their reputation over to Europe. Already 4 years later Johnson Motors imports advanced to Los Angeles number 1 for bikes from Triumph, Norton, Ariel and Indian Motorcycles.
The successful story of Johnson Motors comes to an end with the upcoming success of eastern motorcycles in 1968. Till then Johnson Motors made deep impact in the american and british race scene.
For sure it was the US state of California and the Ekins brothers Bud and Dave to be the perfect fertile soil for Johnson Motors. A maximum of sun and individualism are hotbeds for a scene of motorbike enthusiasts.
Through the early years, Johnson Motors Inc. started to support California Motorcycle Racing. Sponsoring own riders like Ed Katz and Jimmy Phillips racing under the Johnson Motors banner, with a race department responsible for developments that pushed the UK based Triumph factory to release US market only models designed specifically for racing.
Another milestone in the history of Johnson Motors Inc. is the first American Team competing in 1964s Sixdays Trial in the former DDR. Innitial part of the team building was the Hollywood blockbuster „The Great Escape“, starring Steve McQueen.
McQueens double for a chase is Bud Ekins, a friend and mentor of McQueen. To recommend himself for the 4 man Sixdays Trial Team, the world-famous actor starts to race in numerous of the popular dessert races in California. Being able to convince Ehins the way is free for McQueens famous trip, later called „Hollywood behind the iron curtain“.
The 1964 team members were Bud and Dave Ekins, Cliff Coleman and Steve McQueen.
Years later in an article of the Los Angeles Times, dated 21st of june 2006, the launched by Sean Kelly Johnson Motors shop in Passadena Cal. is honored to be the best biker meeting place of the city.
No wonder as the store opened its doors in stone throw distance of former Johnson Motors Inc. headquarter. The shop invites with a spiritful atmosphere of Bud Ekins and his legendary friendship with Steve McQueen, showing originals and memorabilia from glory days.
Sean Kelly is a decisive part of todays Johnson Motors fame and its his designs that make T-Shirts worldwide searched and authentic collectors items.