An international array of motorcycles that showed Americans the joy of two-wheeled transportation will be featured during the Sept. 20-23 Food Lion AutoFair at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The fall Food Lion AutoFair features more than 50 car club displays and more than 7,000 vendor spaces that offer a plethora of automotive parts and memorabilia. More than 1,500 collectible vehicles of all makes and models will be available for sale in the car corral that rings the 1.5-mile superspeedway. In addition, up to 200 cars will be auctioned by Dealer Auctions Inc., and kids can enjoy face-painting, bounce houses and other games and entertainment in the huge POWERADE Play Zone.

During the AutoFair, a collection of 14 models that ushered in the new era of motorcycle enthusiasm will be displayed in the showcase pavilion. The bikes, which belong to classic Ford parts guru Dennis Carpenter, includes a 1961 BMW R60, 1962 Honda Benly, 1964 Honda S90, 1965 Ducati Monza 250 and 1967 Bridgestone.

There was a brief time in this country’s history when the public bought more motorcycles than automobiles. Early cars and bikes were so primitive – and roads so rough – that two wheels were as good as four for getting around what was a largely rural America. Three hundred motorcycle manufacturers such as Excelsior, Merkel, Thor, Pierce, Emblem, Marsh and Indian dwindled to just a handful, with Harley-Davidson eventually the lone major survivor. As cars became more civilized and cheaper to own through the 1920s, the upwardly mobile middle class considered motorcycles nothing more than rough transportation for delivery boys and traffic cops.

World War II exposed a lot of GIs to motorcycling for the first time because Harley-Davidson produced 90,000 of its olive drab or black WLA two-wheelers for the U.S. military and other Allied countries. The WLA’s reliability and utility made it as indispensable to the war effort as the jeep. They were often loaded to the hilt with weapons, ammunition boxes, radio equipment and sidecars. When the soldiers returned to civilian life, many of them found fun and camaraderie by forming motorcycle clubs and, unfortunately, the first biker gangs.

Enthusiasm for two-wheeling grew slowly in the early postwar years. In 1945, there were 198,000 registered motorcycles in the country; by 1962, the number had increased to 646,000 bikes, but motorcycling was not considered a mainstream pastime in America. Shops were often dirty and hangouts for rebellious sorts. Movies and newspapers depicted bikers as outlaws who stole and vandalized. It would take a Japanese manufacturer and a catchy ad campaign to sanitize the industry for public consumption.

In 1963, Grey Advertising created the slogan “You Meet the Nicest People on a Honda” and spent $300,000 of its client’s money on commercials during the 1964 Academy Awards television broadcast. Riders of Honda’s new 50 model were shown in the ads to be students, housewives, professionals and clean-cut dads. It was a huge gamble that paid huge dividends when 1965 motorcycle registrations more than doubled to 1.4 million. Five years later, the number of bike registrations doubled to 2.8 million, and in 1975 there were 5 million bikes on the road. Today, more than 8 million motorcycles are registered.

Hours for the Sept. 20-23 Food Lion AutoFair are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday. Ticket prices are $10 per day for adults or $25 for a four-day pass; children under 12 are admitted free when accompanied by an adult. Parking for the event is $5. For more information on the four-day event, contact the speedway events department at (704) 455-3205 or visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com.