street-chopper

6

Although I think the bike looks average, I dig the history and I wonder what this boy will be in the future… Great to realize your passion so soon!.

From the Fall 2010 issue of Street Chopper Magazine

“Harleys have been a part of my family for generations-three to be exact. My dad built his first bike (a Shovelhead) at age 15 with one of the best in the business, my grandfather, Joe Mingirulli, or Papa Joe as we called him. Papa Joe had been building bikes ever since he was a boy as well, so of course it was only natural for me to follow suit. I was practically born with grease under my fingernails.

When I was just under a year old my dad would bungee cord me to him while he rode on his Shovelhead. He could see in my face that I loved every second of that ride, so he began taking me for a ride almost every weekend. I was about 6 or 7 years old and digging around my dad’s garage when I found a 1955 straight bar rigid Panhead frame and told my dad I really want to build a chopper. He told me if I was able to save all of my birthday and Christmas money for a couple years that I could have that frame and other parts that came with the literal basket job. After three years of saving I had enough to buy the top end for the matching ‘65 cases that came with the bike.

Because I didn’t have much money the Pan was going to be a rat bike. After a whole summer of sanding and grinding the frame I hung it from the roof of our house and spray painted it flat black. Next, my dad gave me a service manual and stood over my shoulder for three days while I pulled the transmission apart learning how all of the gears worked. He argued with me that I was taking too long and that it took my sister half the time to put her Knucklehead’s transmission together.

Next was the engine, a 1965 Panhead FLH outside oiler. Since I didn’t have the machinery capable of installing the flywheels and other machine work for the bottom end I got the best engine builder I could find-Smokey down in Long Beach. When I got the lower end back home I installed the jugs and heads just like he told me to.

Once the engine, transmission, oil tank, and springer frontend were on the frame and after Pete Wright taught me to build my wheels, it was finally a roller. I spent many hours standing back and staring at it, and began to realize there are few things that needed to get rechromed because the motor and trans looked so nice. I then repainted my frame and tank gloss black to match my English ribbed fender. As a surprise my dad took my frame to one of his friends, Gerry Enders, who did an outstanding job rubbing out the gloss black. Next, my old man decided to take the tank and fender to another friend of his named Harpoon without me knowing. One Sunday night at about 9 o'clock my dad told me he was going to do a little Christmas shopping. He gave me some money and a case of beer and said to give it to someone who was stopping by. I agreed to not ask any questions and at about 10:30 the doorbell rang and it was Harpoon. I had met him only a couple times at that point and handed him the cash and the beer. He then asked me if I knew what this money was for, I told him I had no idea. Right then another guy came around the corner holding a silver-flaked tank and fender with no design or anything on it. It took me a while to realize those were my tins. We then started going over designs and colors that I wanted. A few months later he came back to the house with the finished results. It was a lot better than I even imagined! That night I was so excited I couldn’t wait; I had to put them on the almost finished bike. I took a step back and said to myself, "Wow, this is a real show bike.”

A couple months later the bike that took me eight years to build was finally finished.

I decided to enter it into the Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona, California, one of the biggest indoor hot-rod shows, although I didn’t have enough money to pay for the entry fee. That’s when a good friend of mine and my dad’s, White Paul, offered to pay the entry and make my display board. When we got there and looked at all of the other bikes in my class I knew they were going to be hard to beat, then my dad looked at me and told me, “You won.” At that moment my gut dropped and it was true, they called me up for first place. It was so hard to believe that me, a 16-year-old who only put eight grand into a bike, just won one of the biggest shows ever. I especially want to my thank Papa Joe, even though he wasn’t alive to see me complete my bike. It was his inspiration that guided me in the right direction.“