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Well known auto dealer Bob Lanphere Sr. dies

Lanphere began business empire selling Honda motorcycles in Beaverton

PHOTO CREDIT: TRIBUNE PHOTO BY JAIME VALDEZ  - Bob Lanphere Sr. and Bob Lanphere Jr. with some of the motorcycles and cars stores at company's original Honda dealership in Beaverton.Bob Lanphere Sr., founder of one of the region's largest family-owned automotive dealerships, passed away Friday. He was 81.

According to the Lanphere family, he died while vacationing with his wife, Theresa. A public celebration of his life will be held at 3 p.m. Oct. 23 at the upstairs Oregon Ballroom in the Oregon Convention Center, 777 N.E. MLK Jr. Blvd.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to his favorite charities: MS Society – Oregon Chapter, 5331 S.W. Macadam, Room #290, Portland, OR 97239; Boys and Girls Club of Portland, 8203 S.E. 7th Ave., Portland, OR 97202; and the Oregon Humane Society, 1067 N.E. Columbia Blvd., Portland, OR 97211.

Lanphere's first dealership, a motorcycle store that started by selling Hondas, celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. Today, Lanphere Enterprises is a 600-employee company with car and motorcycle dealerships in Beaverton, Tigard, Newberg, Wilsonville and Renton, Wash. His son, Bob Lanphere Jr., is president. His daughter, Sharon Lenz, is secretary. Their children and other relatives also work there.

“If you can do what you love and do it with your family, then you are very lucky,” Bob Lanphere Sr. told the Portland Tribune in a profile last August.

An avid motorcycle racer when he was young, Bob Lanphere Sr. grew up near 82nd Avenue. He opened his Honda motorcycle shop at Southwest Broadway Street and Hall Boulevard in Beaverton in 1964. Because he was already selling Honda motorcycles, Lanphere was in a position to acquire a franchise to sell Honda cars when the Japanese company began making them.

Although the first model, the diminutive Honda 600, did not sell well, its successor, the groundbreaking Honda Civic, arrived a few years before the 1973 gas crisis. When it hit, many American motorists suddenly embraced fuel-efficient cars and traded their gas guzzlers for Civics, and then on Honda’s next big hits, the larger Accord and the sporty Prelude.

The growing sales allowed Bob Lanphere Sr. to acquire other franchises and open new dealerships in the coming years. Remarkably, Lanphere Enterprises still owns the building that housed the original Honda motorcycle dealership. It is just south of the company's Kia dealership at 12520 S.W. Canyon Road and it is still full of motorcycles — although they are now being refurbished and stored as part of Bob Lanphere Sr.’s collection of around 400 bikes.

Many other motorcycles are also on display at the current location of the motorcycle store, Beaverton Motorcycles, 10380 S.W. Cascade Ave in Tigard. The walls are adorned with pictures of Bob Lanphere Sr. during his early days in motorcycle racing — well before he even thought of starting the dealership that eventually made him such a well known name.