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)
13 Rebels Motorcycle Club President Shell Thuet, 1953
Marlon Brando as Johnny in the iconic biker film The Wild One