A Brief History of Irv Seaver Motorcycles
Although it has worn several names and moved about a bit, the store known as Irv Seaver Motorcycles has been in continuous operation since 1911.
Founded by Judd Carriker, the original store was located in the downtown traffic circle in the city of Orange, still a great excuse for a bike ride. As there was an Indian store existing in the circle, Judd focused on the premium brands of Excelsior and Pope when he added bikes to his sporting goods store in 1912. Judd was reportedly very active with OCMC (Orange County Motorcycle Club, founded 1905 and still existing) and other competition and enthusiast clubs (AMA, Trailblazers) from his earliest years through his retirement. In the mid teens the Indian franchise was added after the other shop had a fatal fire; always be sure to blow out your acetylene light before topping off your gas. Judd became not only a dealer, but the west coast competition manager for Indian Motorcycles. Joe Petrali, later an AMA champion racer and land speed record holder, was awarded his first factory ride through Carriker. Eventually the shop needed a larger location, moving to Main St. and Palmyra, as they took up distributorship of American Bantam automobiles and Crocker Motorcycles. In the mid 1930's, Joe Koons joined Judd, forming Carriker and Koons. The partnership flourished until 1949 when Joe established Koons Indian (later BMW) in Long Beach. Once again a sole proprietor, Judd moved up Main St. to the corner of Town & Country. This is the shop Evan Bell, the current owner, first remembers visiting with his brother Frank in the late 1940's.
Seaver takes over
In 1950, Irv Seaver, who was an Indian enthusiast, sold the family farm in Worcester, Massachusetts, and moved to the year-round motorcycle paradise of Orange County, California. In November 1953, Seaver bought out Carriker. Unfortunately, by December of '53, Indian Motorcycle Co. was in the process of ending production. Fortunately, the new sportier English bikes fit the shop's younger, sportier owner and race oriented crew, some dating back to Carriker's competition days. For example, Trailblazer Hall of Fame member Dewey Bonkrud worked for this shop from the late '20s to the early '70s, and was very active and successful in many forms of the sport, from drag racing to desert.
Putting his crew in uniforms and sourcing financing for his customers, very progressive for the '50's, smoothed the transition and gave Irv the confidence to build a showcase dealership in 1957, when the old Town & Country/Main location was taken (eminent domain) to build a shopping center.
Property was chosen at the soon to be intersection of Main and the 5 freeway and construction started on the building that became the Southland’s most modern motorcycle store in 1957. Lots of neon, including a 40' tall, rotating sign. Over the years many brands were represented as "The Finest in Motorcycling", American (Cushman, Yankee), English (Royal Enfield, BSA, Triumph), German (BMW), Italian (Laverda, Vespa), Spanish (OSSA) and Japanese (Yamaha, Tohatsu and, from '63 to '92, Suzuki). The first BMW did pre-date Irv, according to Bill Singer whose son now has the R67 his dad bought from Carrikers in 1951.
In the summer of '59, local farm boy and hot-rodder Evan Bell was hired as a line mechanic. Evan's summer job stretched on (he was named General Manager in '69), providing great dinner conversation for his family.
Steve McQueen and Bud Ekins, often with Von Dutch along for the ride in McQueen's' '46 Ford truck, came in most Fridays for years, buying up Irv's vintage collection. The shop sponsored a crazy kid from Santa Ana, David Aldana, who was one of 4 racers vying for the Grand National Championship, as documented in another customer's film, On Any Sunday (Bruce Brown).
Bell Buys the Business
Upon Irv Seaver's retirement, on January 1st, 1979, Evan Bell purchased the dealership and his wife Lois, daughter Elaine, and son Brian went from hearing about the shop to living it. We are often asked why we didn't change the name when Irv retired. Remember that 40' neon rotating sign? Decades of good will, limited budget for "ego" and the city of Santa Ana thinking it was a little out of fashion and making it clear the only change they would approve would be removal, rendering the shop nearly invisible to tens of thousands of interstate 5 drivers, made the decision easy. It has also made it easy to scrape off cold sales calls. Rick Seaver, Irv's son, stayed, becoming our parts manager, even as Irv retired to Washington State. Rick raced 450 box stock class with many of our customers and employees, including master tech Tom Tohal. Tom is still here, over 30 years now, and is now our vintage service specialist. Rick graduated onto a GSXR750 race bike when they came out in 1986, and was grateful for the tuning advice of Teruto Watanabe, master tech here since 1981 (also still here). "Terry" raced his own Yamaha TD1 while working for Suzuki on their factory GP bikes in Japan, before moving to California in 1976. Speaking of racing stories, many priceless experiences and great memories came from supporting BMW's Baja efforts of the mid '80s. Ultimately finishing 2nd over all, much to the Germans' dismay.
On Christmas Eve, 1992, the shop was once again served eminent domain papers, this time for the widening of the 5 freeway. After 20 years of being told we would have at least three years notice, we were given ninety days to move from our home of 37 years; we were grateful for two 30 day extensions. The look on the appraiser's face when we told him this was an ancient "Indian" burial ground was priceless. With the move back to the city of Orange, the shop became exclusively BMW. We even flirted with changing the name to SoCal BMW, now we had to buy a new sign anyway. Our friend and European touring partner, Kari Prager of California BMW thought it was cool, BMW N.A. did not, thinking it sounded too much like a distributor. Even with four to seven dealers within an hour of us (currently five!), we had been a consistent top ten dealer for BMW since the 70s, but within two years we doubled our gross sales and within four we had quadrupled them. David Diaz, our parts manager at the time, was the Hein Gericke distributor's favorite person when he was quoted in Motorcycle Dealer News Magazine, saying that apparel sales had replaced the sales of our top 10% Suzuki franchise, bikes, parts, and service! Arai, Schuberth, Held, Olympia and, yes, BMW; we are very proud to carry and service everything to make your ride that much better. Going on 20 years back in Orange, with eight of the fourteen employees that made that move still here among our crew, we are building again, breaking ground last October on an expansion that aims to make us even more efficient. This time we are staying put, just giving our crew the space to do what they do best, provide "The Finest in Motorcycling."