50 years of Malcolm Smith Motorsports

By Liz Keener

Photo by Liz Keener/Powersports Business

Dealership celebrates anniversary with party, museum opening

“Fifty years is a very long time,” Alexander Smith exclaimed at the 50th anniversary party for Malcolm Smith Motorsports. 

But for his father, the founder of the dealership, the time moved at a more rapid pace. “Fifty years has gone way too fast. Alexander said 50 years takes a long time. It really doesn’t; it goes real quick,” Malcolm Smith countered. 

The Smith family welcomed a couple hundred friends, employees, former employees and business partners to the Malcolm Smith Motorsports 50 Legendary Years anniversary gala on Aug. 18, as they celebrated and unveiled the new Malcolm Smith Museum. Powersports Business gladly accepted its invitation.

“When we talked about having a 50-year celebration, I wanted to invite 100 good friends and people who helped me along the way in life. There seems to be a lot more than 100 here tonight. Some of the people I haven’t seen in a long time; some of the people I do business with; and some of the people worked for me for a long time and don’t anymore, retired. I’m glad to know all of you, and it’s really, actually humbling to be here,” Malcolm Smith said in an address to those in attendance. 

Building the dealership

Malcolm Smith Motorsports started from humble beginnings. Smith, who owned his first scooter at the age of 13 and his first motorcycle at 15, became an enthusiast at a young age. He entered his first hare scramble shortly after buying that first motorcycle, a 1949 500cc Matchless. 

In 1961, Smith met Kenny Johnson and Norm McDonald, owners of K&N Motorcycles in Riverside, California, and the duo asked Smith to become the service manager at their shop. 

“When I went to college, I quit to go to work in a motorcycle store. My parents said I’d starve to death. Anyway, it hasn’t happened yet,” Smith joked. 

After five years with K&N Motorcycles, Smith purchased the service department from Johnson and McDonald. Then, in 1967, he met with Edison Dye and agreed to sell Husqvarna motorcycles. That led to Smith acquiring the entire dealership from Johnson and McDonald. 

“Over the next 50 years and with many hours of hard work from Malcolm and (his wife) Joyce, a little shop flourished and grew into what you see today,” said Alexander Smith, Malcolm Smith’s son and now general manager of the dealership. 

Photo courtesy of Malcolm Smith Motorsports

In 2006, after three years of construction, Malcolm Smith Motorsports opened in its current facility, a vision that Smith attributed to Joyce, his wife of 34 years. Malcolm Smith Motorsports now carries on- and off-road motorcycles, side-by-sides, ATVs, scooters, PWC and outdoor power equipment from Aprilia, Can-Am, Honda, Husqvarna, Kawasaki, KTM, KYMCO, Piaggio, Polaris, Sea-Doo, Slingshot, Suzuki, Vespa and Yamaha.

Malcolm and Joyce Smith retired in 2014, leaving the day-to-day operations to their children Alexander Smith and Ashley Smith, the powersports apparel manager. 

Updated museum

Of course, over those 50 years that Malcolm Smith built his dealership, he also continued racing — and winning. 

Between 1967 and 1976, Smith won eight International Six Days Trials gold medals. He’s also won Baja 500, Baja 1000, Roof of Africa and Rallye D’Atlas races. Smith became famous off the racetrack in 1971, when he was featured in the popular motorcycle racing documentary “On Any Sunday.”

Smith recalled, “My schoolteacher mother never went to a race or told anyone that I rode motorcycles, and then Bruce Brown’s ‘On Any Sunday’ came out, and it was ‘My son, the motorcycle racer.’”

Smith was inducted into the American Motorcyclist Association Hall of Fame in 1998. 

After decades upon decades of racing, Smith has gathered an array of racing memorabilia, some of which is now on display at the updated Malcolm Smith Museum on the mezzanine level of the dealership. 

“My family always tells me what a hoarder I am. I have barns and garages and containers full of stuff. They always say, ‘Why don’t you throw that stuff away,’ until they need a bracket and need to build something, then it’s OK,” Smith said. “If I hadn’t hoarded all that stuff, guys, we wouldn’t have much of a display over there, would we?”

Front and center in the museum is a 1953 Lambretta 125 scooter, the same model Smith first rode in 1954. Alexander found the museum’s model on the internet, bought it and worked with his father to get it running. 

Throughout the museum, guests can also see more than a dozen of Malcolm’s race bikes, trophies, racing gear and other memorabilia. 

One of a kind

Before taking the ribbon off the entrance to the museum, Malcolm Smith was honored with speeches from Alexander Smith, Kenny Jones and Tom White. 

Jones talked about how he first met Malcolm Smith after stealing some bikes from the dealership with a group of his friends, when he was a rebellious kid. Later, after Jones had straightened up his life, he bought his own Husqvarna and became a loyal customer of Malcolm Smith Motorsports. In fact, Smith offered him a job in the service department. Jones is now a well-known photographer in the industry. 

“It’s not a story about me, more how things turned around, and I met this man that has so much forgiveness, I can’t believe it,” Jones said. 

Tom White, founder of The Early Years of Motocross Museum, recalled a time when he was tasked with curating a Malcolm Smith exhibit at a different museum and was able to go through Malcolm Smith’s memorabilia with Smith himself.  

“Through the whole process, I got to know what a humble man he is, what a passionate, caring guy he is, and I got to hear some great stories,” White said.  

As Alexander Smith said to the crowd gathered for the gala, “His love for motorcycles charted the course for many of us in our careers later in life. Many of us can safely say that we wouldn’t be here tonight, if it wasn’t for Malcolm, none more so than myself.”

He pointed out a recent study that showed fewer than 15 percent of businesses survive more than 30 years, but Malcolm Smith Motorsports has thrived well beyond that mark. 

“Needless to say, we have defied the odds here,” Alexander Smith said. “The success is in no small part to Malcolm’s attitude, values and the people that he surrounded himself with.” 

 

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