Hap Jones was best known for founding a thriving motorcycle accessories distribution company, but he was also a top racer in the 1930s, winning the AMA National TT Championship for 80-cubic-inch motors in 1936. Jones was a successful motorcycle dealer and sponsored a number of top racers over the years as well as sponsoring of many regional and national races. Jones recognized the importance of the history of the sport and kept extensive files on motorcycling's past. Jones supplied several authors of enthusiast books with important research materials.
Loren A. Jones was born in 1905. He first became interested in motorcycles in 1923 when he purchased a 1919 Indian Scout from Ray Smith, the Indian dealer in Spokane, Washington. Jones’ purchase of his first bike was a leap of faith. He had put his life savings of $50 down to purchase the machine and had to figure out a way to make the weekly payments of $4. At the time he was only earning $8 per week, of which $7 of that was going towards room and board. He moved to San Francisco and took a job as a motorcycle deliveryman and worked part time as a mechanic for dealers Dud Perkins and Rich Budelier.
In 1933, Jones opened a bicycle rental business near Golden Gate Park. After moving the bicycle business to the site of a former motorcycle dealership, Jones decided to start selling used motorcycles. It was tough scraping out a living as a motorcycle dealer during the Depression. Jones recalled one day when a poor rider came in the shop with $1.50 needing a pair of forks worth $20.
"Spurred on by an empty stomach, I sold them for that amount," recalled Jones in a 1950 interview. "Then I closed up the shop, went out and blew the whole buck-fifty on a rib steak for my two helpers and I."
By 1937, Jones was awarded an Indian dealership. He sold Indians through 1946 when he began selling various British brands such as BSA, Sunbeam, AJS-Matchless and later Norton. Jones had a knack of hiring talented employees. Leonard Andres, Jack Cottrell, Ernie Holbrook and Phil Cancilla were but a few of those who at one time worked for Jones and later went on to open their own dealerships.
One of the most popular Bay Area events from the 1930s to the late 1950s was the Hap Jones birthday party. What started out as a "birthday party" for the Hap Jones Company attended by employees and friends, developed into an annual event eagerly anticipated by motorcyclists from all parts of California. The birthday party celebrations included a field meet with coveted trophies for the winners.
Within his dealership, Jones operated a regional wholesale accessories company. After World War II, he purchased huge stocks of government surplus Harley-Davidson and Indian parts and his wholesale business expanded to a national scale.
Jones got his start in competition in 1927. That year he won the novice class of popular San Francisco Motorcycle Club Enduro. Jones became one of the leading enduro and field meet riders on the West Coast. With the growing popularity of Class C (production bike) racing in the mid 1930s, Jones became known for his skills on the big street bikes, especially on TT courses where he was skilled at taking tight corners and jumps at high rates of speed.
After winning numerous regional TT events, Jones broke through to win the biggest race of his career in 1936. On June 7, on a little TT course near Waco, Texas, Jones beat a talented field of national riders to win the AMA National TT Championship for 80-cubic-inch motors. It would prove to be the biggest win of his racing career. Jones earned several more podium finishes at national TT races before retiring from racing in 1938 to concentrate on his growing businesses.
Jones’ love of racing continued long after he retired from competition. Hap Jones Distributing sponsored races and racers. Perhaps the most famous racer backed by Jones was the legendary Dick Mann. During the 1960s and ‘70s, Mann helped makes Jones’ company popular among racing fans across the nation. Mann’s racing leathers prominently featuring the logo of his longtime primary sponsor.
Jones sold his retail dealership by 1959 to concentrate on his distributing company, which became one of the largest in the country. His motorcycle Blue Book, which gave pricing guidelines for used motorcycles, was a staple in the industry. His company also published an annual calendar that featured historic racing photos from Jones’ collection. Jones was active in the San Francisco Motorcycle Club, serving as president on two different occasions.
Jones died in 1989.