Virgil Elings and the beginnings of the Motorcycle Museum:

Virgil Elings, owner of the Motorcycle Museum, received his Ph.D. in Physics from M.I.T. He then came to Santa Barbara to teach Physics at UCSB, and subsequently developed the first Graduate Program in Scientific Instrumentation.

In 1987, while on sabbatical, Elings co-founded Digital Instruments (DI), which became the world’s leader in the design and manufacture of Scanning Probe Microscopes (SPMs), the first scientific instrument to actually ‘see’ individual atoms. The University requested he sever his ties to Digital Instruments, claiming a ‘conflict of interest’ (it’s apparently ok if you run an unsuccessful company while being a Professor, but if you are successful, UC claims a ‘conflict’). Virgil opted for success in business and quit his job teaching.

To learn more about Virgil’s company, go to the following web link: After 10 extremely successful years in business, in 1998 Elings merged his company with Veeco Instruments. Shortly thereafter, Elings retired. He bought a home in the Santa Ynez valley and this business property, called Solvang Village Square, in Solvang. He decided to open the motorcycle museum as an afterthought, when he realized it would be a great place to store some of his rare motorbike collection. Prior to this, Elings kept his bikes in his garages, living room, family room, bedrooms, offices, and wherever else he could find space. He opened the museum to the public in March 2000.

Elings’ interest in motorcycles began when he was in junior high school. He and his friends rode motorbikes well before they drove cars. In 1958, after graduating from high school, he drove his 'new' BSA from Iowa to California and back. That was just the start of things to come. Elings’ two sons, Mike (married to Michelle with three kids Wyatt and Sophie) and Jeff share in their father’s enthusiasm for riding and they have all taken many family motorcycle trips together over the years. Virgil and son Jeff have raced in the Vintage racing circuit of AHRMA for several years now. They are both very competitive and generally are in the winner's circle more often than not. Virgil is now unofficially 'retired' from vintage racing but Jeff continues to race.

Elings has donated his time, money and energy to many local worthwhile organizations. Of special note is his substantial contribution to Santa Barbara’s Las Positas Friendship Park, now renamed Elings Park in honor of his and his family’s donations. You can find out more about this and other activities at Elings park by visiting: and Another local organization to receive charitable funds from Elings, Transition House, is a very special "half-way" house which provides temporary housing to homeless individuals and families, giving them the ability to obtain gainful employment with the end result of eventually being able to afford their own housing costs. Transition House benefitted from a large donation from Elings which enabled them to purchase, renovate and move into a new facility, providing significantly more room for families and services for those in need. For more information on Transition House go to

Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum | 320 Alisal Road, Solvang, CA 93463 | | 805.686.9522 | site map
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