Tuesday, February 18, 2014



 The biker imagery that's been broadsliding around in my head for nearly sixty years. I could have snapped this photo at any point of my childhood. Those were dark days in Scottyville. (Photographer unknown)

A pretty fair approximation of our "family car" (details in sidebar at right)>. (Photographer unknown)

NOTE: As with hot rodding, my black and white psyche tends to see motorcycle culture in only two flavors: Those who live and breathe it, and Goldilocks pretenders trying on escape vehicles like trendy shoes. I was delighted to discover a credible gray area in the course of assembling the following feature - an eye opener akin to our post on yarn bombers last summer. Scotty

Everything comes back around, eventually. The above photographs take me back 57 years. My dad was a biker. He and his rowdy pals left me with a negative impression of biker culture vivid enough to last a lifetime. I made a conscious decision to focus solely on four wheeled hot rods and strapped on my motorcycle blinders for good, while still in diapers. That was a long time ago, but now I'm starting to come around, PTSD be damned. My fascination with these machines may be morbid, but remains a fascination nonetheless.

I know little of motorcycles, but I know when I'm being seduced. Certain bikes get an instant hold on me, while many more leave me cold. The grabbers tend to be from the ratty steampunk camp, as illustrated above. I've flirted with several and enjoyed the rush: While serving my country in Kansas (somebody has to guard all those tumbleweeds), I put plenty of miles on the back of my pal Spider Crider's Sportster chopper. And most of my cousins are bikers. One of them (Mike Gosson) is a veteran of the Nitro Harley drag wars. I found the Nitro Harleys particularly easy to fall in lust with. Still, I walked briskly away from each of these infatuations with newfound resolve to dig even deeper into the meat of hot rodding and soak up the juicy atmosphere like a dehydrated tick.

Today, thanks to the miracle of willingness, I'm seeing motorcycles in a new light. Despite my self induced ignorance, the bikes seem to be calling me out in a decidedly come-hither manner. And I'm responding. It's pretty late in the game to be changing my stripes, but I am enjoying the scenery.



Test fitting a mock-up. For me, this is one of the most exciting moments of any build - where the vehicle clearly tells you what it does and doesn't want. And you can connect the dots from here however you see fit.

SGE pals Lori Bentley Law and husband Brian are stalwart wrench heads with an admitted bias toward vintage motorcycles, most of them stamped "Made in USA". They recently pulled this '36 Harley Davidson from a multi-year hibernation, after their friend Neil's dad died and left it behind. While Neil's dad was a landspeed racer and all around bike guy, this particular Harley received some "unique" customization before being orphaned.

As found in a storage shed near Palm Springs, California. 

Brian ponders the origins of this previously unseen brand of styling.

The "interesting" seat was riveted on. Lori made short work of it, using the proper tools for the job.

Stripped to its core, the possibilities are revealed to be considered. 

Lori and Brian capped off the weekend by contributing the '36s rear fender to their pack mule... 

... then enjoyed a well deserved coffee break in front of their mirrored 66 Motor Palace in Winslow, Arizona. Follow the build up close and personal like at: http://bondorella.com/2014/02/03/1936-harley-davidson-vld-project-phase-one/ (Photos courtesy of Lori Bentley Law)


A few weeks back, we stopped in at Chris' Hot Rodz for a Motor Mouth Radio Hour interview. Proprietor Chris Darland mentioned that he barely has time to build cars anymore, what with all of the Japanese cafe racers he has lined up. As a lifelong proponent of low buck power-to-weight ratio prioritization, these svelte buzzbombs got my attention. The relatively tiny amount of workspace required for these builds was not lost on me, either. "I could do this!" was my typical red flag Scotty reaction.

What I saw in Darland's shop was nothing short of hot rodding pared down to it's essence: Remove weight while simplifying design, employing affordable wrecking yard components to increase performance. I wanted to know more. Darland didn't have time to tutor me, but I knew a guy who might. It turned out, I was right: From here on out, Motormouth Ray has agreed to be our tour guide through the world of current cafe racer trends.

Okay, I'm in. BMWs make for cool instant cafe racers. This sample from the Vibrazioni shop is a striking example. Fill a dumpster with plastic body cladding, rearrange a few frame tubes, hide some wiring and fluid lines and bingo: A purposeful looking flyweight with enough gow to keep you grinning all the way home. Motormouth Ray notes,"The K100/1100 series engines look like truck components when you remove all the plastic from in front of their faces. But just like with choppers, when you screw with the engineering too much, you create a totally different monster." (Photographer unknown)

Bill Costello is one of Motormouth Ray's hot rod pals. Here's Bill's parents, Richard and Trini, touring their 500cc '58 BMW R50 in 1961. They ultimately put 60,000 miles on the Beemer, all over the USA.

When Richard passed away, the '58 was left to Bill. It sat like this for a while while he used it as a template to sketch out a future version.

When inspiration struck, Bill executed a full restoration in his dad's memory...

... then built his own 1980 R100 BMW into a proper cafe racer. Result: Vintage Teutonic tin with a whole new attitude.

Bill's performance BMW seems to like its new cafe racer persona. It has rewarded Bill with thrifty reliability and enough adrenaline to keep him awake on nearly as many adventures as Richard and Trini enjoyed. Motormouth Ray recalls, "Mine made over 100 horsepower and a ton of torque." Yes, our in-house Harley Guy enjoyed a not-so-secret BMW romance of his own.

We perceive this more as a new beginning than just a happy ending, but either scenario makes Bill smile. Bonus: Two formerly neglected bikes get brand new lives. (Photos courtesy of Bill Costello)

Besides the Bavarian boulevard blasters, I've recently come across cafe racers built from nearly every brand of motorcycle. They all take the treatment rather well. Some examples we found online...





Lest we forget where it all began, with pioneers like...
Royal Enfield

Vincent Black Shadow

Vincent Black Lightning

In recent years, Buell introduced the mainstream to their commercial cafe racer concept using Harley components (our own Dr. Lockjaw used a Buell as a daily driver for quite a while)...

... and today, even a hog can pull up to a cafe without fear of being dissed.
Harley Davidson.

Repurposing these smog era snoozers and geriatric coughers into attitudinal road rockets just seems the right thing to do. It's the hot rod way. So I'm labeling the cafe racers as bona fide hot rods. Once a fervent global subniche, we're glad to see the cafe racer renaissance is in full swing. Are cafe racers hot rods? Yay or nay? Feel free to leave your two cents in the comments box below.



Last week, I made mention of this '56 Chevy that had been teasing and haunting me. I've glimpsed the ghostly sedan zipping through intersections, blasting down backroads and posting respectable times on the Champion Raceway scoreboards, yet - for reasons known only to fate - have been unable to connect with the mysterious driver. SGE pal Ronnie Mankins saw last week's post and called me with the news that this cleaner-than-most street/stripper belongs to his neighbors, Bob and Joanne Scott. I have yet to meet the Scotts, but I now know the '56 was built by Bob to be Joanne's daily driver, employing a Camaro front clip holding a "mild" 350. Bob is now building a Gasser-style early 40's Chevy coupe, and a "hotter" '56 for himself. I suspect you'll be seeing more here soon from the Scotts... (Scotty shot)


Projects must often take two steps back to make one step forward. Such was recently the case with my Model A Sport Touring framework. The straight horizontal bars that tie the verticals together were deemed lacking in "follow through", so last week we deleted them...

... and made these replacements with bends mimicking the bends in the frame rails (triangulated reinforcement will be added later). Much better. We whipped up a lower rear crossmember while we were at it. Now we have a foundation to attach chassis components to ("we" being myself and Custom Metal proprietor Doctor Lockjaw). NOTE: The quickchange rear belongs to Doc and is only being used for mock-up purposes. The working man (me) can't afford a quickchange, so I'll be running a plain Jane banjo rear. (Scotty shots)


Drag racer, drifter, karter, photojournalist and SGE pal Maria Panova is keeping pretty busy in New Zealand. Maria and friend Rebel Paul are getting a handle on their 440 Cuda drag racer, but there's only a couple of months left of the 2014 season. When that wraps up, Maria will return to her native Russia for another season with her eight second Toyota and her championship contending drift car. Meanwhile, Maria is photographing the Kiwi drag scene as only she can do...

Oh yeah: Happy Birthday, Maria! She's mum on the number of candles, but not shy about savoring the icing on this baked version of her driftmobile. (Photos courtesy of Maria Panova)


Sales of the new Gosson Bros. Racing Library release Racing to America are holding nice and steady at 3/4 throttle. Besides the obvious Lance Sorchik cover art and Cole Coonce foreword, it's also jampacked with densely illustrated stories of racers from around the world who aspire to strut their stuff on American asphalt, salt, and dirt. These individuals range from quirky characters to total whack jobs, making for dynamic and amusing reading. They each contributed to the celebratory spirit that made this the most fun book project I've ever worked on, which is saying something... Order yours today from https://www.createspace.com/4338903 Buy as many as you want - they'll make more.


They went. They conquered. They returned. The SGE Squirrels are finally back from their triumphant halftime appearance at the Super Bowl with Bruno Mars (momentarily scaring Mars' brass section completely off the stage). The ensuing talk show tour and long drive home in Butch Szollosy's "Squirrel Town Screamer" '57 Chevy were exhausting, but worthwhile by all accounts. At press time, they've made no official comment regarding the collapse of negotiations for their possible guest spots on TDC's Street Outlaws TV series. Full SGE disclosure: The experience has admittedly changed them somewhat, broadening their perspective and perhaps hardening them a bit in the process. But they're still the same lovable nut jobs they were before they blew town.

The squirrels assembled this photo montage of their NYC adventure during Super Bowl week. Look for their brief appearance in Bruno Mars' imminent Super Bowl video (and a fleeting cameo in the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "unplugged" video from the same show).

For the moment, the squirrels are recuperating at this undisclosed spa, but are expected to be back to their old mischievous selves by next week. Stay tuned. (Photos courtesy of SGE Squirrels)

Bobby Green makes an open and shut case for the little rolling Blackhawk toolbox used to service his Old Crow bellytank at landspeed meets. We've recently restocked our toolbox files, so prepare for a deluge of jawdroppers like this example. (Photos courtesy of Bobby Green)



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