13 Rebels MC member Ardin Van Syckle. We’re talkin’ standup guys, not hoodlums– former flyers and servicemen in WWII looking to keep the rush alive. They were solid citizens who loved the sport and brotherhood of riding– accomplished racers, builders and all-around honorable men.
1953’s iconic biker flick The Wild One starring Marlon Brando and Lee Marvin, was loosely based on two actual California motorcycle clubs of the day having a highly charged clash in the small town of Hollister, CA. Brando portrayed 13 Rebels leader Shell Thuet, while Lee Marvin’s character “Chino” was based on “Wino Willie” Forkner of The Boozefighters. Fact is– the gangs were not rivals (although “Wino Willie” was an ex-member of the 13 Rebels— asked to leave actually for rowdy behavior) and the Hollister incident never happened, at least not to the extent that LIFE magazine or The Wild One portrayed it. Yeah, some guys drank and drag raced a little– it happens. What else happened was a counterculture was born– rolled Levi 501 jeans, boots and leathers (Hello Schott Perfecto!) became the uniform that rebels and bikers lived in, and that polite society demonized.
LIFE magazine’s infamous 1947 staged photo that fueled the Hollister biker stories and legends.
The 13 Rebels Motorcycle Club (13 RMC) was started in 1937 by Ernest “Tex” Bryant. “Tex” and the other 12 top-seated motorcycle racers from Southern California made up the founding members of the club. The 13 Rebels MC was, and still is, an American Motorcycle Association (AMA) sanctioned club. While not the oldest MC in the U.S (that being the Yonkers MC of Yonkers, NY established in 1903), the 13 RMC has a rich racing tradition and colorful history that has shaped American motorcycle folklore.
Shell Thuet of 13 RMC working on a HD Knucklehead, 1946.
Some of the club’s legendary members include Shell Thuet, who raced and built many independent and factory-sponsored racing bikes throughout the years; John and Ernie Roccio, who raced in the U.S. as well as on the U.S. Motorcycle Racing Team throughout Europe during the 1950’s; William “Wino Willie” Forkner, who left the 13 Rebels MC in 1946 and started the Boozefighters MC and Elmo Looper who was better known for saving Crocker Motorcycles from extinction by buying what was left of Crocker Motorcycle parts from AL Crocker. Many of these parts have helped otherwise unrestorable motorcycles come back to life.
Elmo Looper of 13 Rebels MC aboard his custom Excelsior Super X racer with Crocker oil pumps for street use.
The 13 Rebels Motorcycle Club is still in existence today with chapters in various states. The Club is still sanctioned by the AMA. It has been awarded the organization’s “historical status”, meaning the club has been verified by the AMA as being over 50 years old. The 13 Rebels MC exists to carry on the spirit and tradition of the original motorcycle clubs. We are a family-oriented motorcycle club bound by brotherhood, camaraderie, and the love of the sport of motorcycling.
13 Rebels MC members
1939 Southern California Motorcycle Rally & Convention
Ardin Van Syckle with Hollister trophy, 1947
13 Rebels MC banner
13 Rebels’ member dues card
13 Rebels MC group shot at a restaurant
13 Rebels MC sweater (front) — awesome stitched-on felt applique
13 Rebels MC sweater (back)
Rebel Horn of 13 Rebels MC at the races
13 Rebels Motorcycle Club President Shell Thuet, 1953
Marlon Brando as Johnny in the iconic biker film The Wild One
Great site. Part of my daily reading. Love the photos and commentary. Keep up the great work.
Hey, thanks very much.
Great post JP.
Driving around on the weekend, I was passed on both sides simultaneously by two motorcycles, each rider wearing a Boozefighters jacket. First time I had ever seen one of those jackets.
If you look close at the Wild One’s attire you see the look that has stood the test of time. Notice the leather jackets, blue jeans, boots, and even one guy with a bandana on his head. This was a movie made in 1953 and now 56 years ago, and yet today almost every motorcycle rider tries to emulate that same look.
NO biker worth a shit is “trying to emulate” anything. Black leather is sturdy stuff that dont show dirt….Jeans work and bandanas keep the hair from turning into a tangled mess….dork.
What a terrific and fun read. Cool flavor to the pics and stories, and purely about the love of hardware and riding.
The shape of that 13 Rebels sweater is terrific.
Some wonderful designer should mimic and update it for today.
I just can’t get enough of TSY!
excellent post, I am inspired
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Whenever Hollywood gets ahold of a story, it is expected that they will ratchet up the events. Especially the studios of that era.
It’s great that you’ve shown us this glimpse into a MC that has shown itself to be able to stand strong through the years.
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Lol love the photos…curious about some of them I will email youwhen I get time…perfectos though…Brando is probably wearing a Durable…plus all thejackets are different brands. The best part about the movie was that it was directed by a German immigrant…Fritz Langs camera man from Metropolis. The American mythological experiment creates its own history, and then generates a spinoff reality!
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Nice story. I know Shell’s name from tuning legendary dirt track bikes, not this. Amazing. G
Do you know Shell or only knew him through the stories? He is still alive and living in Southern California. He is nearly 97 now.
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Fascinating story old boy , but do you know that – when they threw that wrench it actually hit Evel Knievel ?
Keep up the good stuff .
Wow-my great Uncle is Shell Thuet. My late grandfather Ray Thuet was Shell’s younger brother and rode with him in the 13 Rebels. Shell is living in Northern Cali with his daughter now. This was an interesting read. I just asked my dad about the connection to the Wild One movie and he knew nothing about it. Where did you get your info? It was a pleasant surprise to see my grandpa in the photo above, you made my day!
It’s awesome to hear from you, glad you liked the story. The bit about Shell being an inspiration behind the film is widely talked about major movie legend lore… Thanks for dropping a line.
What a great story , I still have my dads 13 rebel shirt. I used to go Uncle Shells shop in Lynwood and hang out after school when my dad Ray Thuet was working for Shell. I traveled with Shell in 1976 going to different races with him, Eddie Lawson ( 18 years old ) and Wayne Rainy ( 17 years old ) . Shell had allot of very good riders on his motorcycles though the years. And won the National Champion in 1972 with Kenny Roberts riding his 750cc Yamaha. In those days you had to ride in the dirt and on the road race tracks to become a National champ. Verl Thuet
Wow man, that’s great stuff. It’s really cool to hear the legacy stories.
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rad, thanks for the info! man, how awesome would it be to come across one of those old biker sweaters at a thriftstore.. a girl can dream right? I did learn one lesson tho-NEVER take a pic of a Hells Angels Jacket, esp w/o asking-duh.. I almost got myself in trouble.
I discovered not too long ago that actor Robert Patrick of Terminator fame (T-1000) is a member of the Boozefighters MC San Diego chapter. I thought that was pretty interesting. He always plays a bad ass in his movies, so I guess his MC association helps in his roles.
I found that out in an episode of The Unit- he rolls up on what looks like a H-D Street Glide and takes his helmet off and there on the back is the Green Bottle & a Boozefighters M/C decal. The camera actually pulls focus on them for a second- I guess they were showing a little M/C love on the show.
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Looking for a group in Southern Calif. in the late 30’s (1939) My father born 1921 was in service and told me about riding there. He had a black cat tatoo with the cat sitting on the number 13. If you know of another like this or remember one on your dad please e-me…Just curious- Miss him respects for George Edward Raynor, Jr.
This was the 13 Rebels MC, they were founded in SoCal back in 1937. They have a website-
I knew Shell well , I was in the 13 rebels when he restarted the club behind his shop in Lynwood . I have lost track of him now , I would like to hear any news of him, please e-mail me . one note said he lived with his dauther in no. cal if so let me know , I to live in No cal. I was in the Rebels a good many years then moved to Orange co and was a BSA-Honda dealer for 20 years, Shell would remember my name if he’s still going. please let me hear email@example.com thanks Norm
Hi, My Uncle Ardin Van Syckle is on the motorcycle in front of the American flag. And my Grandfather Ardin M. Van Syckle is holding the tropy and that is his Motorcycle Club card. I just wanted to get the spelling of their names right. My Uncle was also called by his nickname Van, in another one of your pictures. I enjoyed your website. Are you JP a member of the 13 Rebels ?
MS. RAYNOR MIGHT BE REFERRING TO THE FLYERS/STUNTMEN KNOWN AS ‘THE 13 BLACK CATS’ OF THE LATE ’20S AND ’30S. PRINCIPALS INCLUDED ‘BON’ MACDOUGALL AND ‘SPIDER’ MATLOCK. A FEW REFERENCES TO THEM ARE TO BE FOUND ON THE ‘NET’~
GREAT CONTENT HERE.
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