Financier Bobby Haas to open motorcycle museum in Dallas

The 1932 Brough Superior BS4 is one of only a handful still in existence. H&H Motor Auction image

Visitors to the new museum in Dallas will see rare motorcycles made by Brough. This 1932 Brough Superior BS4 (not part of the museum’s collection) is one of only a handful still in existence and was sold by H&H Motor Auction. Image courtesy of H&H Motor Auction

DALLAS (AP) – Dallas financier Bobby Haas has a leather jacket that features a snarling wild animal with the words “Lone Wolf” written above it — biker lingo for a rider who isn’t affiliated with a gang or club.

The image fits Haas’ persona, reports The Dallas Morning News.

“I’ve been a lone wolf my entire life,” he says.

Haas was the stealth partner of Hicks & Haas, the 1980s leveraged-buyout firm led by him and Tom Hicks that made them both incredibly rich 40-somethings.

After his amicable split with Hicks, Haas launched a side hustle, becoming a renowned aerial photographer, dangling precariously from helicopters to capture the world and its wildlife for five best-selling National Geographic books.

Never mind that Haas was acrophobic and didn’t own a decent camera when he started.

So it’s no surprise to those who really know Haas — and not all that many do — that a guy who was too afraid to get on a motorcycle not that long ago became so addicted to speed, adventure and free-wheeling that he quickly amassed 143 rare cycles — a collection that rivals those of celebrities like Billy Joel and Jay Leno.

Haas bought nearly half of his collection in the past year.

Now he wants to share his biker bounty with a museum unlike anything else in the country.

On April 11, he’ll open The Haas Moto Museum & Sculpture Gallery, a k a “The Haas,” at the northwest corner of Oak Lawn Avenue and Market Center Boulevard in the Dallas Design District. The 20,000-square-foot exhibit hall will allow the public to see 109 world-class vintage, classic and one-of-a-kind custom motorcycles.

“We want to be the Tiffany of moto museums,” Haas says. “It’s not about quantity. It’s about quality.”

Few people outside of his biker world are aware of what Haas has been up to. Those in that circle — even those who helped him build the collection — haven’t gotten a sneak peek at his labor of love.

Haas recently gave The Dallas Morning News the big reveal.

He was like Willy Wonka showing off his chocolate factory.

“There’s a certain part of my brain that doesn’t subscribe to sanity,” says Haas, who looks 20 years younger than his age of 70. “Hanging out of helicopters and working with National Geographic for 10 years was my previous trip to Insanity Land. This is my current trip.”

The Haas is also an art gallery, featuring metal sculptures available for purchase, including an extraordinary series of three 7- by 7-foot panels with bad-boy bikes blowing through concrete, wallboard and glass walls.

Unlike garage-style collections geared to gearheads, The Haas is a tribute to design as well as function.

Think of it as The Nasher of Moto. In this museum, the beauty is the beast.

Instead of being squeezed in like metal sardines, each cycle has its own breathing space and an explanation of its significance and is mounted on a mirrored platform that shows the underbelly.

The museum tells the story of the motorcycle, beginning with History Hall, which displays the earliest cycles as well as modern engineering feats. Other spaces include The Race Track, which documents the speed-demon culture; Sidecar Alcove, which gives a nod to three-wheeling; and finally The Custom Shop, which features one-of-a kind bikes created by noted moto designers.

Haas, senior adviser of the investment firm New MainStream Capital, has footed the entire bill. But he won’t say what that tab is.

“The total cost of the collection changes every time I fall in love with another cycle,” says Haas, who finds a new heartthrob nearly every week.

“If your goal is to build the finest moto museum per square foot anywhere in the U.S., then you better be prepared to come to the party with considerable resources: tenacity, creativity, a top-flight network of colleagues, and yes, last but certainly not least, a few shekels.”

As his longtime buddy Andy Stern, a PR executive, puts it: “You know Bobby — in for a penny, in for a pound. It’s hard to predict what Bobby’s next passion will be — investing, photography, writing, and now a world-class motorcycle collection — but whatever it is, Bobby’s going to do it at the highest level.”

Haas, always known as Bobby, grew up in a prominent neighborhood of Cleveland but left a hostile home environment when he was a junior in high school. He moved into an $11-a-week rooming house.

That rough start gave him the fortitude to confront fears and excel at whatever he tackled.

Haas graduated with honors with a degree in psychology from Yale University in 1969 and from Harvard Law School in 1972.


Example of a Russian-made Ural 650cc sidecar two-wheel-drive motorcycle. Public domain photo by Junji Matsumoto (Colonel ‘J’), Japan

Terrified but fascinated by motorcycles, a 64-year-old Haas bought a Russian Ural Retro with a sidecar, figuring that the sidecar would be sorta like training wheels, not realizing that three-wheelers are actually trickier to maneuver.

Haas got an instruction book, bought a set of traffic cones and taught himself to ride, white-knuckled, after work in the parking lot of Congregation Shearith Israel. He barely passed his license test.

Today he’s a master of the road who goes almost everywhere aboard one of four big-throated Harleys with sidecars.

“I’ve logged about 70,000 miles on my cycles since 2012, almost far enough to have circled the Earth three times at the equator,” he says.

The Haas is the big bro to the Haas Motorcycle Gallery two blocks away on Dragon Street. Haas opened the 4,700-square-foot exhibition space in 2016 after his collection outgrew his penthouse “garage” — a converted lobby and conference room — in his office suite atop The Crescent. It houses 34 more bikes and will be open by appointment only.

At the entry of The Haas sits a 1901 L’Universel. To the uninitiated, it looks like little more than a modified bicycle, but its place is unmatched in history as one of the very first motorized bicycles.

As far as Haas can tell, it’s the last of this rare French breed.

“It’s a little rusty, but we didn’t touch it,” Haas says. “We felt the grand dame deserved to be left alone with no cosmetic changes.”


The original (restored) Brough Superior of T. E. Lawrence / Imperial War Museum / London. Photo by Joe MiGo, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license

There’s a “Rolls-Royce of cycles” in the museum — a 1938 Brough Superior De Luxe — like the one T.E. Lawrence (“Lawrence of Arabia”) was riding in the crash that led to his death.


T.E. Lawrence (a k a Lawrence of Arabia) on his Brough Superior in 1925 or 1926. Lawrence owned eight Broughs. Public domain image

Panzer Motorcycle Works USA made 50 reproductions of Captain America, the chopper ridden by Peter Fonda in “Easy Rider.”

“We have No. 27,” Haas says.

Asked to choose his favorite, Haas moves to an immaculately restored French 1929 Majestic _ one of only 100 ever made by the famous motorcycle designer George Roy.

It’s paired with another Roy creation, a New Motorcycle. “We may be the only museum in the world with one of each, because there’s only about 10 of each left,” Haas says.

Haas is resolute about not revealing how much he paid for any of his bikes or what he’s sunk into the museum, fearing it would be misinterpreted as braggadocio.

“That’s just not my style,” he says.

But he acknowledges that the Brough Superior, the Majestic and a few custom cycles by renowned artists broke the rarefied six-figure threshold.

A number of Brough Superiors circa 1927 to 1929 sold at auction in the past decade for $200,000 to $430,000, according to the tech website New Atlas.

Shogun, by Bryan Fuller, is a Honda CB550 café racer. Its chrome has been “tattooed” with Japanese and samurai engravings. The process required an eight-year relay of three artists to complete. Last year, Haas bought Shogun, which one reviewer called the “most badass bike on Earth,” for $100K-plus.

But the bulk of his collection consists of rarities that cost a lot less.

Haas recently placed the winning bid for a 1999 Harley-Davidson MT500. It’s one of fewer than 500 built for Operation Desert Storm and of a handful that survived — probably because it has only 123 miles on it.

“It went for a very, very reasonable price. I think it’s an exceptionally cool motorcycle,” he says, pointing to the rifle case and spare fuel tank.

Bonhams Auction House lists the selling price at $17,250.

Most bike aficionados don’t give custom bikes the time of day.

Nearly a quarter of The Haas is devoted to them, including five creations by the internationally acclaimed designer Max Hazan.

“Bobby’s a totally different collector,” says the 36-year-old owner of Hazan Motorworks in Los Angeles. “He didn’t say, ‘We need to have a period-correct 1925 Brough Superior,’ because he knows the average person is going to stare at it and say, ‘It’s a motorcycle.’

“He wants everybody to be able to come in and enjoy the stories behind them.”

General admission will be $10, with senior and student discounts and free admission for military and first responders and children under 12.

But Haas knows the venture is a guaranteed money-loser.

His foray into aerial photography was a personal money pit since he footed the expenses and donated royalties, proceeds and appearance fees to charity.

“Same is true here,” he says. “We’re not going to make any money with the gallery and the museum. But I’m having the time of my life.”

Haas is all into simplicity these days.

He’s downsized his living arrangements to Museum Tower, which is about as far as you can get from his previous home, a French Renaissance-style mansion on its own private lake in Preston Hollow. He and his former wife, Candice, have the estate on the market for $24.5 million.

Haas never walked into Goldman Sachs wearing six rings or a biker jacket. Now he feels under-dressed without them.

He can’t remember the last time he wore a suit.

And as for going to black-tie galas, he’d rather eat grass.

So Haas won’t be hosting Dallas’ elite at his grand opening next month. He’s planning a low-key welcome for those who helped bring the museum to fruition — designers, architects, builders, artists and friends. “It’s a way for me to say thank you,” he says.

Rick Fairless plans to be there in his best biker regalia. The owner of Strokers Dallas has collaborated with Haas on three motorcycles now displayed at the museum, including Predator, a chopper that’s been painstakingly airbrushed to replicate Haas’ photographs of the four major African cats of prey.

“Bobby is one of those rare individuals who has a vision,” says Fairless, who hasn’t seen the museum yet. “He knows what he wants and how to achieve what he wants. He has the tenacity to not accept anything less than what he wants.

“When Bobby’s in, he’s all in. And he’s all in on this museum. He’s the real deal.”

So is Haas really a lone wolf?

Yes and no, says bike designer Hazan, who considers Haas a father figure. “When it comes to his business ventures, Bobby’s definitely a lone wolf. I’ve never seen anyone more driven. But when it comes to being around family, friends and his dogs, he’s kind of a teddy bear.”


Information from: The Dallas Morning News,

By CHERYL HALL, The Dallas Morning News

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