SAN JOSE -- Who knew there were die-hard British motorcycle enthusiasts out there? Heck, who knew the Brits even made bikes?

It's true -- and those lucky enough to own a rare British bike from the 1950s, '60s or '70s have some of the most sought-after rides in town.

On Saturday, the BSA Owners' Club of Northern California -- one of four U.S. clubs devoted to the motorcycle-maker that was once huge but went out of business four decades ago -- held its 27th annual Clubmans All-British Motorcycle Weekend. About 2,500 people from as far away as Montana and Utah showed up at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in central San Jose, feasting their eyes on motorcycles worth as much as $250,000.

"These are all obsolete bikes," said Don Danmeier, one of the club's organizers. "They're getting rarer and rarer all the time. They're vintage machines."

Danmeier said most of the club members and showgoers are old-timers who got into the bikes after World War II. Fans described the British motorcycles as having "personality" -- and often more fun to ride and fix up than Hondas or other bikes. A show this weekend at the other end of the fairgrounds featured more traditional motorcycles from Japan, Italy and other parts of Europe.

The 120 motorcycles on display inside the British hangar had names like Spitfire Scrambler, T2055 Tiger Cub and 850 Commando. There was a Black Shadow from 1921 and a '49 "Barn Job."

But the crown jewel, featured at the center of the 34,000-square-foot convention space, was a '64 Triumph Gyronaut X-1, owned by Steve and Sandra Tremulis, of Redwood City. It looks like a rocket on wheels. The motorcycle rider has to climb in, and pods cover the front and back wheels. The Tremulis family says it once hit 245 mph.

Just about all the bikes were in pristine condition, even though they date back to as late as 1915. Many are just for show and are shipped around the West Coast for competitions like Saturday's.

That doesn't mean you can't cruise down Highway 101 in one of these bad boys, though -- many have tens of thousands of miles on them, and the club on Sunday will stage a 90-mile jaunt from Los Gatos to Santa Cruz.

San Jose resident Diana Pettijohn, who has owned 131 motorcycles, rode her British bike a few miles to the show on Saturday. She was showcasing a motorcycle she bought at the San Jose Flea Market for $75 in 1979.

It looks like a steal now. Today, even the cheapest bikes at the show sell for $5,000.

"When I first showed up (riding the bike), people laughed," Pettijohn said. "Now you show up and it draws a crowd."

Contact Mike Rosenberg at 408-920-5705. Follow him at Twitter.com/rosenbergmerc.