Written by Jill Nossa Friday, 07 June 2013 00:00
Oyster Bay’s own Billy Joel — and his bike shop — were featured on the History Channel’s “American Restoration” on May 28. In the episode, the crew is tasked with restoring a rare 1967 BSA 850 motorcycle, a bike that has sentimental value to the pop superstar.
Show host Rick Dale drove up to Joel’s garage on Audrey Avenue, noting the down-home charm of the town and the décor of the bike shop, 20th Century Cycles. His first impression of the shop, located in a former Ford Dealership, was that it is the exact type of shop he would have. He thought, “This guy is just like me.”
A longtime fan of Billy Joel’s music, Dale soon gained additional respect for the Piano Man’s knowledge of motorcycles; the shop has about 100. Not only was Dale impressed by the shop’s “cool motif,” he was surprised at how down-to-earth the pop star is.
“He was just a regular guy, the most normal celebrity I’ve ever met,” said Dale. “I really took to him.”
When Joel brought the bike to Dale at his garage in Las Vegas, the chrome was ruined, the motor was cracked, the wiring was inadequate and just about every part of it was damaged. Dale says one of the biggest challenges was matching the paint; it had to be bought from England.
Also, Dale worried a little when Joel said he had not been happy with a previous restoration, by someone else, but Dale needn’t have worried that he might not meet the singer’s expectations.
“I’ve seen Rick’s work and he does a great job,” Joel said when he dropped off his bike. “He does it the old fashioned way, he does it by hand…[and] with care.” Dale says in the end he says he was very happy with the restoration and the outcome was “a beautiful product.” Joel agreed.
“I didn’t really know what to expect,” said Joel on the show. “In my own head I’m still picturing the old bike, it was all beat up and dingy, and needed a lot of work. I was shocked. It actually looks better than the new bike!”
“That was huge for me,” says Dale. “It was a sheer honor and really meant a lot.” If this restoration had been inadequate, “it would’ve been a total failure.”
Dale spent two days in Oyster Bay and after driving across the country, says he found the town to be charming and loved all of its heritage and history, and the welcoming nature of the people to be refreshing.
“Oyster Bay is a hidden secret to the rest of the country,” he says.