I was recently honored when The House of Machines, through Kevin Dunworth, asked me to chair an elite group of judges for a winner-take-all custom bike show. Next I got a text with the list of judges including Miguel Galluzzi, Chip Foose and Mark Prosser. At that point I asked what the rules are, and the quick answer was, “You tell us.” but it had to be focused on the judges’ specialties, it had to be something new and the integrity had to be unquestionable. The $25,000 winner-take-all show was branded “The Golden Bolt.” My only previous familiarity with a golden bolt was the Elvis Presley golden (lightning) bolt with TCB (Taking Care of Business) across the top, which is pretty much what everyone did all weekend. I UBERed to the House of Machines on 7th in the LA Arts District and was blown away by how cool this bar/grill/coffee/motorcycle shop was set up.
The bikes started pulling in Thursday morning for the first part of the competition, a 24-mile cruise down Hollywood Boulevard to the Roosevelt Hotel. I am always preaching about the camaraderie among the builder community and this event was no exception. We started Thursday morning with a builder meeting to explain the rules and judging. I carefully explained who the judges were and how their bikes would be judged. Miguel Galluzzi, designer of the Ducati Monster, would focus on the design style. Chip Foose, customizer extraordinaire, would focus on the paint and overall finish and Mark Prosser, Lincoln Electric educator and writer, would focus on the welding and fabrication. All three judges would vote on each bike but only in their area of expertise. The judges and I would be sequestered with the 20 bikes for three hours. I would total the results and, because transparency was key to integrity, I informed everyone that if there was a question of scoring or placement they could visit with me for their personal results. There was one $25,000 prize to be given away that weekend to one overall winner. To qualify for the $25,000 you had to complete Thursday’s ride.
The ride was truly epic. Everyone gets their bikes fired up and blasts to the first gas station. Right off the bat one of the bikes has an issue so Chris Richardson, proprietor of the LA House of Machines, heads back to help. He finally gets back and we are ready to go. One thing I impressed upon the builders was that this was not a race and, because it was unfamiliar territory to many builders, it was more important to help a buddy out to make sure we all returned safely. Now you may say, “What do you mean return safely? It is only a 24-mile ride.” You must remember we were in California, home to lanesplitters everywhere, not just the highways. Twenty bikes headed out like a hive of bees dodging traffic left, right and down the middle. We would pull up to a light and people would start cheering, the light would change and the clutches would snap. We reached the Roosevelt only one bike down. We had some water, cooled off and headed back once everyone was accounted for. The ride back was a little crazier and a lot faster. I got to ride a BMW R9 courtesy of BMW. I had the privilege of riding Heidi, event photographer, on back. She was very cool but a couple times when I downshifted and leaned hard in a corner I had to grab her thigh to keep her aboard. Everyone made it back, some with a little help from their friends. When everyone checked in there was only two bikes that did not complete the ride, so even though they would still be judged they were out of the running for the $25,000.
The next day I met Miguel, Chip and Mark at The House of Machines for judging. We were locked in a room with the bikes from 10:30 a.m. till 1:30 p.m. During the judging process there were no shop or builder names attached to the bikes, only numbers. We let the builders in at 1:30 until 3:00 while we attached the names to each bike. They got to talk with the judges and each other before we let the public in at 3:00 p.m. The rest of Friday night was party time for everyone except Chris, Fiona and Kevin who were constantly taking care of everyone to make sure they had a good time. Saturday was open to the public all day with an awards ceremony scheduled for 8:00 that evening. Kevin started gathering everybody a little before the ceremony to acknowledge the sponsors. Lincoln Electric brought great gift bags; full welding apparel setups including a Chip Foose welding helmet for every builder and helped out in so many other ways. Bell Helmets brought helmets for each builder and if that wasn’t enough, they brought Skratch to pinstripe. BMW was thanked for their sponsorship and the loaner bikes they provided for the judges. Of course, The House of Machines was honored for hosting the event along with everybody that pitched in to make a great weekend. It was an extremely high level of bikes to judge but we got it done. There were only seven points out of 100 between first and second, one between second and third and two points between third and fourth. In the end Max Hazan won with a 1938 JAP single cylinder speedway engine in a handcrafted chassis with the coolest rubber band springer. You should have seen Max splitting lanes and yes, he completed the ride in style, with a pint of gas in one pocket and a pint of oil in the other.
Over the course of the event I received a new Golden Bolt pin and proudly displayed it all weekend. I was right on the money when I showed up wearing my Taking Care of Business lightning bolt. Elvis himself would have been proud to be part of the Golden Bolt but, more importantly. the way everyone took care of business. I would like to congratulate Drew and Brad for bringing The House of Machines to LA, Chris and Fiona as proprietors for opening their house with unbelievable hospitality, Kevin Dunworth for getting me involved and all the builders for the bikes they fabricate that inspire us all.