Sunday, December 9, 2012

Friday, December 7, 2012

About a year and half ago i get a call from a friend who tells me he found a 1964 Triumph Chopper in Ventura CA. He was searching Craigslist and came across the listing. The pic was in black and white and kinda blurry, But you can tell the bike was different. He left LA and got to the guys house in record time, Beating out about 100 different potential buyers. When i got to his house i could tell right away this bike was special and had some history behind it. I notice AEE parts and a paint job possibly done by Molly. I posted the pic on a MC forum and immediatley got responses regarding the bike. I was told the bike was named "Black Magic" and it was built and painted by Jeff McCann. So i did some research and located Jeff. I sent him an email and pics of the bike. He replied back within minutes.......

"It was my last personal Triumph. I'd had and been riding it in 1969 when Chris and I saw the movie "Easy Rider" and decided to open a chopper shop. I did all the molding and paint in my garage at home in 1971 and we assembled the bike in early 1972. Our store was very busy at the time and we were building Harleys like mad and frankly my Triumph was a low priority. I don't remember if we sold it out of the Modesto store during the grand opening in April 1972 or brought it back to Stockton. Chris probably made the sale as I was on the road a lot at that time and I don't remember Ramon Hernandez at all. I do know that we had always planned to use the square AEE forks on that bike as well as the pipes, seat and sissybar because they were all purchased on our first trip to LA in December 1969. The paint is Cal Custom nitrocellulose lacquer, you couldn't buy 1/8th inch tape back then so I had a flat piece of glass from a Mack truck that I laid 1/4 inch on and cut in half with a straight edge razor blade. The money from the sale of the bike just went in the business account as we were still growing rapidly and needed capitol. I continued to paint shop bikes during my time at home, often staying up all night".

In the fall of 1969 my friend Chris and I decided to open a retail store selling "Chopper parts". We had built and sold 4 custom bikes that year and all our friends were asking how to buy the parts mail order. Ed Roth published "Choppers" magazine which contained ads including one for AEE Choppers of southern California. We had purchased parts from them for my first panhead chopper that same year. Deciding on the name " CJ custom cycle parts" we made a business plan and went to the bank for a start up loan. To say the bankers laughed at us would be exaggeration but they declined our request. I complained of their shortsightedness to my co-workers at the newspaper and Fran Walling, a fellow artist in the display advertising department, offered to loan me the money from part of her husbands life insurance settlement. We agreed to pay her 1% more than bank rate on a two year repayment plan. And so with $5,000 in the bank we rented a small store front and made plans for a January 1970 opening.
The plan was for Chris to man the retail store on the weekdays while I worked full time at the newspaper, then on Saturdays I would be behind the counter. We really had no clue how the profit margin of a retail parts business should have worked, both of us had only high school educations and in 1969 I was 23, married with an infant daughter and Chris was 19 and two years out of school. To say we were more lucky than smart is an understatement. Further complicating our business plan was the fact that AEE Choppers was both underfunded and had no desire or incentive to sell on the traditional manufacturer/distributor/retailer automotive model. Read the true and remarkable story of Tom and Rose McMullen's business here: Nevertheless, we travelled to socal in a borrowed truck and purchased parts from AEE and several other manufacturers who had placed ads in Ed Roth's magazine. Keep in mind there were no other magazines publishing in 1969, Street Chopper appeared in March 1970 and Easyriders first issue came out in 1971. We opened our chopper shop for business January 10,1970. Harley-Davidson dealers were not interested in modifying motorcycles or the people who were, if you couldn't make your own parts you rode a stock bike.
Chris had learned to lace and true wheels as part of his training at the HD dealership in his two years working there after graduating high school. He was the first in our area to make spokes to adapt a 16 inch HD rim to a Triumph rear hub and had a small business in his garage building wheels for our mutual friends. I had started painting bikes in my garage in 1968. Combining our two skill sets we expected to gain the benefit of making a profit on the parts our fellow riders and friends needed to customize their motorcycles. We soon learned there was not enough profit selling AEE parts so we searched for other sources. Fortunately for us there were plenty of people eager to accommodate us and in the end AEE went out of business in 1975.
This photograph of Julie, our theme girl, wearing our logo t-shirt was taken on January 10,1974 by John Reddick. Exactly four years to the day after we had opened our first store and at the height of our business success".


Chris Ranuid sitting on "Black Magic"

here's a crappy cell phone pic from the day my buddy brought it home.....


Jeff was amazed on how well the paint looked. I kept in touch with Jeff afterwards and we stayed in contact through emails. He gave me some great painting tips too. Jeff was a great guy with great story's. Unfortunately he passed away June 8, 2012. He was 66. RIP Jeff!