Ricky Bongos took his Wild Vegas Party to Daytona… and Jose Vasquez’s Ironhead Sportster took the win
Words by Joy Burgess
Photos by Joel Sim and Ricky Bongos
On Thursday evening at Daytona Bike Week 2020 – right before Covid-19 closed everything down by pulling vendor permits early Friday morning – the sun was sinking on Main Street. And as dusk fell on the coastal city, bikes started rolling into the Steven’s Tire parking lot where Ricky Bongos – owner of Ricky Bongos USA parts company and founder of USA Parts Co – kicked off his traveling Wild Vegas Party for Bike Week.
Of course, it’s more party than show. “The whole idea of Wild Vegas Party,” Bongos told us, “and not calling it a show, really, is to take it back to the way events were back in the day when you’d show up, there was a crazy party, everyone had fun, and people made friends for life.” The event takes place at night, features custom Sportsters, and it’s always a party.
“Free beer was flowing,” Bongos said, “and punk rock was playing. We had a cool setup in the shop with all the sponsors – USA Parts Co being the primary one – promoting U.S. manufacturing. The parking lot was filling up, and at about 8:30 a huge line of Sportsters showed up all at once, and that’s when the party really started kicking. Everyone was having fun, chugging beers, and checking out each other’s bikes. A lot of friends were made that night, and at the end we announced the winner.”
That’d be Jose Vasquez and his ’78 Ironhead Sportster – Atoms of Peace. “His bike was totally unique,” Bongos mentioned, “and you could just tell he totally poured his heart into that bike. He built it to rip and it was nice and tight. Form and function. And it was a garage build – that’s what I love – and that’s where I came from myself. That’s your everyday garage hero right there.”
According to Vasquez, that bike was the first bike he bought after graduating from MMI, and he did the entire build with just hand tools and a $300 welder. “It took me a whole year to do it,” Vasquez told Thunder Press, “working, coming home late at night, and spending hours in my one-car garage putting it together. All I have is hand tools, so it took a lot of imagination.”
“I’m a history buff,” he continued, “and I wanted to build a bike that meant something instead of just being a bike. I used a lot of Japanese parts on it, and I named it Atoms of Peace, thinking back on what happened at Hiroshima. My goal was to make a bike that even if a grandmother sits on it, she feels cool!”
Winning at Wild Vegas Party was a huge deal to Vasquez, too. “I’m still grinning from ear to ear,” he said, “and it’s a dream come true. I’ve been building bikes since 1997 and built little bikes here and there. I’ve been hoping and praying that someday someone would notice what I’m doing. I do it for love!”
“What’s great about Sportsters,” Bongos told us, “was that you can buy one for under a grand, and even with hand tools you can make something pretty cool. That’s what I love about these events – seeing guys working in their garages with little money. And the party, it’s all about getting American-manufactured parts out there and on these guys’ bikes.”
While the Covid-19 pandemic canceled many of Bongos’ Wild Vegas Party events, he’s ready to get back at it. “Hope to see everyone in Sturgis,” he said. And Thunder Press will be there, too!