14 December 2006

Old Friends

That photo was sent from Steve, on the left, to Larry, on the right, who forwarded it to me. I'll probably hear from both of them about the "old" in the title. Heh. Sue me.

Those guys are the best of friends, and they're both friends of mine for about 35 years. The photo warmed my heart so much I wanted to share. I asked their permission to post this, and since neither of 'em looks like their wanted posters any more, they OKed it.

The common denominator that brought us all together lo those many years ago is, you guessed it, motorcycles. Specifically, English racing motorcycles of the Flattrack and TT Scrambles persuasion, back when Motocross hadn't quite screwed everything up yet. Smooth tracks and high speed weren't good enough, I guess. Go figure.

I cannot begin to describe how much fun it is when a buncha young guys with a buncha fast bikes get together to go handlebar to handlebar on Saturday night or Sunday morning on a racetrack, of which there were plenty in Southern California in those days. Thrills, maybe a few spills, braggin' rights and maybe a beer or two. Good times.

Larry had quit racing when I met these guys, but Steve and I were in the same motorcycle club and raced with each other quite a bit. He could always beat me on the half-mile, and I could occasionally beat him on the TT.

Larry first threw a leg over a 500 Matchless single in 1950, when he was ten years old. That's a big bike for a 10-year-old, but when you tell a kid "if you can start it, you can ride it", the kid'll figure it out! He raced for several years, and went on to become a race mechanic, building and tuning Triumphs for professional racers Lloyd Houchins and "Little John" Hateley. At some point, I think when he started raising a family, sanity overtook him and he pursued other interests, but he has always been, and still is, involved in the motorcycle industry.

He and I talk on the phone quite a bit, but I think we put the government eavesdroppers to sleep. Just the other day we had an exciting chat about late-model Triumph timing gears and various ways of timing cams such as 'splitting the overlap' or the '10 to 2 method'.

There's two things we agree on: One is that each of us has forgotten half of everything we ever knew about motorcycles, but as long as we don't forget the same half, we're in business. The other is that retirement is designed so you can start lots more projects in the hope of completing a couple.

I didn't use Larry's last name because he's a regular citizen and I don't need to out his identity here any further than I already have.

Steve Storz, on the other hand, is already out, an internationally known figure in the motorcycle industry.

He started out welding chopper frames and went on to being a professional tuner for John Hateley at Triumph, and then to the Harley-Davidson factory race team, tuning for 'Rocket' Rex Staten, Ted Boody, Corky Keener and Steve Morehead.

He has a real technical frame of mind. He built a flow bench in his apartment at one time. It went where the washer and dryer would normally go. He was a bachelor motorcycle racer and mechanic. What the Hell did he need clean skivvies for anyway? More power!

In the late '70s, Steve returned to California to start a business. He actually flew me back to Milwaukee to help him move back out here. We towed all his extensive shit machine shop gear behind a van. The van and trailer weighed 13,500 pounds, and I'm not all the way over the experience yet. PTSD, I think. That's a whole 'nother story, but they have real good German food in Milwaukee. And, oh yeah, you can blow all the tires you want to without harm if the rig is heavy enough...

Steve's business is Storz Performance. He manufactures and sells quality parts, primarily for Sportsters and Big Twins. He also manufactures Ceriani forks and has connections in Italy and Sicily. Don't fuck with him. Heh. Click on the link to see some first-class parts and accessories, as opposed to the run-of-the-mill bolt-on Chinese chrome crap you can see on H-Ds outside any tavern in the land.

The motorcycle in the photo is a 1970 Triumph TR6C that I sold to Steve about sixteen years ago. The best you could say about it then was that it was rough but ridable. I think you'll agree that he did a fine job restoring it and converting it to TR6R specs. He did the project pretty quick, as he had his first son on the way, and knew if he didn't do it quick it'd never get done! Said almost-grown-now son, Neil, is 3 times National Youth Motorcycle Trials Champion. Different kinda 'trials' than I'm used to...

Steve sold stuff that would fit Triumphs, so he used the completed bike in his catalog so he could deduct the expense. Cagey devil!

Between Steve and Larry and me, we know everything there is to know about motorcycles. Larry knows half, Steve knows half, and I know the rest. Compared to those guys, I'm chopped liver, but they let me hang out with 'em anyway.

The photo was taken last month at the British Bike Rally at Hansen Dam in the San Fernando Valley, sponsored by the Norton Owners Club. Go see some cool old Limey Iron, along with some German, Italian, and Japanese bikes.

As you scroll down, look for Pat Owens' 'gazillion mile Triumph'. Pat is also a friend, and was my instructor at the L.A. Trade-Tech College of Motersickle Knowledge. He's pretty well known in the bike industry, and as Service Manager for Johnson Motors, the early Triumph distributor for the Western U.S., built quite a few winning race bikes.

Check out the bike. It has a blue gas tank with the names of all the places he and his bride, Donna, have been. The old sled has about half a million miles on it. I think they've been from Circle, Alaska, to Tierra del Fuego on the damn thing, and everywhere in between. He'da rode it to China if he coulda got it to float! Every time he managed to coax 99,999.9 miles onto a succession of Smiths speedos (no mean feat in itself, but they can be rebuilt with any mileage showing that you want), he'd mount it on a bracket.

Pat's a practical mechanic. He had an oil leak once that he couldn't fix without a teardown, so he ducted it to lube his chain. He taught me all I know.

I hope you enjoyed my ramble back through time, folks. There's so much more. I just can't remember it all right now....

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