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Sara Francello — To say she’s the TROG flag-girl is like saying Michael Jordan was a Chicago Bulls’ guard. I don’t know where the hell Sara gets the energy to jump and do what she does out there time and time again with such oomph and enthusiasm. When the racers line-up there’s no question who is in charge, and who has everyone’s attention. You may not remember all the hot rods and bikes at TROG– but you will remember Sara and how she gave it all out there on the sand for 2 days straight.  Photo © Sean Madden

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Man, The Race of Gentlemen 2015 already feels like a long time back. Damn the blasted holidays for drowning out the amazing memories on the beach and off-season streets of Wildwood, NJ! More good times, familiar faces, new friends, and great races than you could shake a stick at. Mel Stultz, Bobby Green, Sara Francello, Hollywood, and the entire TROG crew over-delivered on a great event, even in the face of a hurricane threat. In honor of them, and to relive the good times, here’s a great little TROG 2015 film shot by the crew at x–

“This is the closest thing to time travel we will probably experience in our lifetimes. The Race of Gentlemen challenges the owners of hot rods and motorcycles from the 1940’s and earlier to drag race as it used to be done– at the wave of the flag and on the beach. We ventured to Wildwood, NJ to watch the most unique racing we’ve ever seen.”

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It was such a pleasure finally meeting Buz Ras of Seattle Speedometer at The One Motorcycle Show in Portland, Oregon a couple weeks ago. Buz is the go-to guy when it comes to custom gauges, with many of the best builders out there tapping his shop, because the design, quality, and finish are top notch. For me, seeing the 12 custom speedos that he did for The One Show blew my mind. Lined up on his tidy table like little soldiers, each one was a beautiful work of art. I wanted to buy one on the spot, but they were all CB (Honda) speedos, great for display because of their big faces that really show-off his incredible work. After a couple drinks, a few hugs, and many laughs later we headed over to Sassy’s across from The One Show and kept the good times lubricated while we shot the shit about what he does.


TSY:  So Buz, I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer– but I couldn’t help noticing at The One Motorcycle Show that you are one tall drink of water, brother. I mean, how the fuck are you 6″10″ and allowed to profess that you hate sports? Ain’t nobody got time for that! Did they just tear your poor Dad up?

SS:  My dad was an amazing basketball player in school, won awards. I played basketball for one season in high school. Fouled out of every game, and got ejected from 8 games. After that I decided I was not a sports guy. I kinda regret not pursuing it more because I could have made a ton of money with very little effort, but there’s no going back now…

TSY:  (That’s what she said, Buz.) So have you always been a motorhead, Buz? Was this a natural career path for you, or did you just kinda fall into it?

SS:  I’ve always loved motorized things. Taking stuff apart, seeing how it worked. I was going to go to college to be an engineer but I quickly learned its 95% paperwork, 5% actual building. So, I ended up with a degree in anthropology.

TSY:  This is so interesting for me, because I’ve always been drawn to speedometers since I was a little kid. I remember walking up to cars and bikes and going straight to the speedo to get the critical 411. And I’d be so matter-of-fact in stating, “Yes, this Mercury Bobcat will do 150 mph. I know because it says so on the speedometer right there!” Funny, doesn’t quite work like that, but as a kid…. Anyway, how do you go from anthropology to speedometers?

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So there’s this little festival called Chopped put on each year in Country Victoria – Australia. The guys were kind enough to send TSY a note as they thought we would appreciate the madness that they create down under… Enjoy!

tsy-chopped-2013-crcooperphotography-0891 Drag racing where it started– in the dirt!

A throwback in time to a 1950s – ’60s Hop Up Carnival! Hundreds of cars and bikes rattled by the sounds of 25+ bands belting the roots of rock music to thousands of Rockers, Petrol Heads, Hipsters & Greasers! This is Chopped the only festival of its type it in the world!

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Throttle Merchants Magazine is the photobook project of Matt Porter & Aileen Aquino. Their passion is shooting SoCal’s amazingly rich Hot Rod culture, focusing primarily on pre-’40s Fords, and vintage motorcycles. Looking at the images of these incredibly crafted machines and their unique creators, one is impressed that this no hobby. This is what they live for. To that point, Matt and Aileen are big on keeping the pages of Throttle Merchants all about the stories being told through the photography, and have strayed away from ads & sponsor revenue. Check out their website here to see how you can help support their vision. The much anticipated Issue 4 will be available on 8/24, kicking-off that night with a release party at Old Crow Speed Shop in Burbank. Check it out.

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Bobby Green — Photography by Matt Porter and Aileen Aquino © Throttle Merchants Magazine

“A friend of ours recently called Throttle Merchants Magazine a “passion project”—and with that we would totally agree. We started photographing the hot rod culture back in 2008 and have self-published four magazines since then as a side-project. The term magazine can be somewhat confusing to people— none of our work contains articles, advertisements, or editorials. There are no staff writers, nor do we have a creative director. We simply take collections of our own images and let them tell a story. All photographs in each magazine are shot by us (Matt Porter and Aileen Aquino), and are then laid out by us before being sent to press. We’ve been nursing our latest work for a couple of years until now. To finally have the finished project—a tangible compilation to share with everyone—has set our minds at ease. Volume 4 includes Lucky Burton, Bobby Green, Billy Branch, Robert Lomas, Chris Casny, Jack Carroll, Jose Gonzalez, and more.”  –Aileen Aquino

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Billy Branch  —  Photography by Matt Porter and Aileen Aquino © Throttle Merchants Magazine

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“Can’t Stay” Jose  —  Photography by Matt Porter and Aileen Aquino © Throttle Merchants Magazine

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You can never have enough Norm Grabowski! From the grainy pages of Modern Cycle magazine, ca. 1965 (a follow-up piece  published after covering Norm’s epic Corvair-powered “Six Pack” motorcycle), by way of Nostalgia on Wheels. Below is Norm on the Harley before the sidecar, and following along after you’ll see it fitted with the Steib sidecar as it appeared in Modern Cycle.

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Norm Grabowski on his custom ’54 Panhead Harley with special high-torque cams on a ’38 H-D rigid frame. This was later equipped with a Steib sidecar frame adapted by Mike Parti. –pic via Irish Rich

“Norm on his red metalflaked Pan chopper with the jugs and heads painted white, at the drags. Check out the sissy bar – it’s a combination beer can holder / “church key” beer can opener….too fucking much!” 

–Irish Rich  

norm grabowski harley sidecar

Norm Grabowski is the kind of guy who goes nuts over things mechanical. If you read the Modern Cycle issue of May 1965, you’ll remember the story we did on his Six Pack, the ultra-smooth power monster consisting mainly of an Indian motorcycle frame housing a Chevrolet Corvair engine. Norm’s latest creation is certainly as far out as the last one, but at least this time he stuck mostly to motorcycle parts in creating it. Completed last Fall, the three wheeler was seen several times on television on the short lived series, My Mother The Car, in which the actor was a regular. Grabowski drove the melodramatic villain, Captain Mancini, around in the strange looking chair.  –Modern Cycle magazine, ca. 1965    

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norm grabowski

“Norm Grabowski”s monster– the Corvair-powered “Six Pack”. Neil East (another rodding icon), owned AutoBooks in Burbank, CA, and Colorado Carbooks here in Denver told me that Norm used to come to L.A. Roadster club meetings on the Six Pack, and he said Norm had no problem kick starting this bike, when it was time to leave. It had no electric starter!” –Irish Rich 

norm grabowski corvair motorcycle

Norm Grabowski’s epic “Six Pack” — an air-cooled, flat-six Corvair engine mounted on the frame of a ’41 Indian shaft drive with no transmission, just a clutch. Another future Kustom Kulture legend pin-striped the bike– Dean Jeffries. Irish Rich (whose website is the authority on old school builders, and is due a ton of respect for his own incredible work) saw this impressive bike himself back in ’65, and has chronicled it well. Norm actually built 2 Corvair-powered “SIx Packs” — the other mated with H-D tranny called “PP ‘n’ Vinegar.”

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yosemite sam radoff

‘Yosemite’ Sam Radoff started customizing cars at the tender age of 12 yrs old– way before he was even old enough to drive! That was back in the mid ’50s, and he went by handle ‘Little Sam’ then. Some 45 years later Radoff is one of the most respected flamers (I love his ol’ crab claw flame jobs), pinstripers, and metal sculptors the kustom kulture scene has ever known. Dr. ‘Yosemite’ Sam, PhD (Phlame Doctor) has also produced custom motorcycle and pinstriping shows across the country.

Despite his vast exposure, he is not widely a household name like Ed ‘Big Daddy’ Roth, Kenny Howard AKA Von Dutch, Dean Jeffries, George Barris, Arlen Ness— but those in the know recognize and respect Sam Radoff as being just as important. His legendary work and countless awards over the years speak for themselves.

yosemite sam radoff paint

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I was chatting with my friend Don about epic car films, and Two-Lane Blacktop quickly came up. He’s a major car and quickly segued to American Graffiti– correctly stating that it was the same ’55 Chevy (built by Richard Ruth of Competition Engineering of Sunland, CA) for Blacktop that Falfa drove in George Lucas’ classic American Graffiti. Well there were actually two ’55 Chevy hot rods from Two-Lane Blacktop (1971) that were used in American Graffiti (1973). Both were built using Richard Ruth’s own ’55 Chevy as the blueprint. Producer Gary Kurtz (Two-Lane Blacktop & American Graffiti) had visited Ruth who took him for a pulse-quickening ride in his big-block hot rod. That same evening Kurtz promptly ordered three cars from Richard Ruth– two exactly like Ruth’s, and one stunt car.

Two original cars would survive to live another day in George Lucas’ American Graffiti: 

Main Car 1– Equipped with a 427 crate motor, M-22 Muncie, 4.88 Olds rear, fiberglass front end, doors, and trunk lid, straight axle front suspension when built and later modified and used in American Graffiti.

Stunt Car– All steel-bodied car equipped with a 454 crate motor, TH 400 automatic, Olds rear of unknown gearing, modified for American Graffiti. It was used for interior shots as it was equipped with an auto tranny and drove smoother than a stick.

Shot of Mel’s drive-in from the 1973 classic, “American Graffiti” — Image by © Sunset Boulevard/Corbis Mel’s drive-in was actually out of business, and was reopened just for the filming of American Graffiti– then promptly demolished after filming was finished. American Graffiti was George Lucas’ semi-autobiographical teenage tale (Lucas grew up in Modesto, CA during the heyday of cruising and hot rods) that starred a treasure trove of young talent– Harrison Ford, Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Cindy Williams, Mackenzie Phillips, and the list goes on. It also created a huge resurgence in American 1950’s & 1960’s culture–  inspiring a long string of films and TV shows, most notably “Happy Days.” Hot Rod magazine even listed the ’55 Chevy and ’32 Ford deuce coupe (the true stars of the film) at the top of their list of most influential hot rods of all time.        

Paul Le Mat in the George Lucas’ 1973 classic car film, “American Graffiti.” George Lucas had  the license plate on the ’32 Ford hot rod read: THX-138. This was a reference to THX-1138, his 1971 sc-fi flick. Later in his Star Wars saga, the yellow airspeeder Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan use to chase bounty hunter Zam Wesell is said to be a tribute to John Milner’s iconic coupe in American Graffiti.

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“Ghost Rider” by Shawn Dickinson

A product of SoCal, Shawn Dickinson grew up inspired by the surrounding counterculture of custom Hot Rods, Surfers, and the iconic art that was produced by the legends before him– you see the classic Rat Fink and Tiki influences that, in his hands, are at once timeless and fresh.  He got his chops as a cartoonist for the underground Untamed Highway, which was chock full of 1950’s Kustom Kulture. Dickinson went on to illustrate posters for Rockabilly and garage bands, not to mention numerous comic projects and commissioned works. 

I’m a big fan of the guy’s work.  As he describes it, Dickinson’s creations and medium are a throwback fusion of, “Imagery stylistically inspired by 1930’s cartoons (what I feel was the craziest era for cartoons), mixed with iconic imagery inspired by 1950’s & 1960’s rock n’ roll, cars, bikes, etc. (what I feel was the craziest era for all those things). And I still paint with watercolor and India ink.”  Love it.

Shawn Dickinson featured in Car Kulture DeLuxe Magazine

“Smooth” by Shawn Dickinson

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