How it all began

Publish Date: 
Jun 17, 2014
By Don J. Brown

Of course, the environment for Triumph sales in the United States would soon improve dramatically, in large part due to the trade-up fever being caught by young owners of Honda 50cc runabouts who would cure themselves by buying large motorcycles from the likes of Triumph and Harley-Davidson.

Johnson died the same year as that meeting. He didn’t have a chance to witness the expansion that was beginning.

One evening in 1965, Larry Hester and I decided to go to the consumer motorcycle show at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, next to the Coliseum. There was a welcome party before the show hosted by Joe Parkhurst, founder (in 1962) of Cycle World. Hester and I attended not because just about everyone in the industry was there, but rather because Larry had a bee in his bonnet about the sudden steady increases in motorcycle sales, and because the consumer show was the first of its kind since Honda had entered the U.S. market. Bill Bagnall back then was editor of Chuck Baskerville’s Motorcyclist magazine.

Hester ran into Bagnall in the men’s room and asked, “Are you guys going to start a trade magazine? If you don’t, I will.” That friendly declaration was the start of what soon would become a profitable partnership, and soon after that fateful meeting, Bagnall and Hester drafted an informal agreement to launch Motorcycle Dealer News.

In the beginning, Hester kept his name off MDN’s masthead listing because he was still under contract to sell ads for a model car magazine and he needed the $1,000 due to him from the sales of advertising. (Some believe that Bagnall founded the magazine alone and Hester later acquired his interest with the $1,000 he received from his draw with the other magazine. Great story, but not true.)

Bagnall and Hester did what was necessary to sell advertising and put the magazine together at the printer. Bagnall had experience in both typesetting and offset printing, and he knew how to work with a printer to get a magazine ready. Hester knew how to sell ads  even so, when he could, he pitched in with Bagnall to complete the process at the printer.

The new partners in publishing received a lot of help in the beginning. Hap Jones, the well-known tire distributor out of San Francisco, Calif., lent the two his national mailing list in order to generate subscriptions. They received similar assistance from Tom Heininger of Webco, a renowned aftermarket distributor in Venice, Calif.

Heininger later attended a trade show featuring specialty aftermarket auto products and told Bagnall and Hester that it was time to produce a similar show for the motorcycle industry. Not long after their conversation with Heininger, the partners launched the first Motorcycle Dealer News-sponsored market trade show at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, Calif. That show, and its sister shows across the country, evolved into the granddaddy of powersports aftermarket trade shows, the Dealer Expo.