There was a time when Saturday nights were all about hopping in your ride with the blown 454, picking up your girl in her pink poodle skirt at her parent’s house with a honk of your horn, and heading down to Ernie’s on the main drag for a cheeseburger and a shake.
Sinners are guys who go to their day jobs with grease under their fingers and count the minutes until they get to congregate again at Rico’s garage.
Knobby-kneed car hops in red shorts and white stockings skated between parked hot rods, balancing tin trays heaped with grease-stained paper bags. Frankie Avalon crooned over the drive-in’s loudspeakers.
You dab a little grease on your black plastic comb and pass it through your slicked back ‘do a couple of times and give your girl that “look.” Life moved to a different beat. The Sinners of California pay homage to that beat in Scott Di Lalla and Zack Coffman’s moto-documentary “Choppertown The Sinners.”
Choppertown could be perceived as simply a movie about a bunch of buddies hangin’ out, drinkin’ beer, and wrenching on bikes. Which sounds like a good weekend to me. But there is a deeper quality to Rico Fodrey’s So Cal Sinners crew. Rico is an Everyman. He stays true to the essence of custom building and bears his passion for the art form openly, honoring its history by treasuring used parts like gold.
Much in the same manner as an Amish barn raising, a Sinner’s first build is a communal effort. All your closest brothers band together to lend a hand at some time. Finding the perfect piece of the puzzle is a quest. Parts come as revelations, and much of the artistry of a Sinner’s chopper comes from the way they turn junk parts into classic collectibles.
“All the parts have a little soul, some character to them,” said Rico.
I give them credit for recognizing the soul left in the Paughco frame Kutty hauled into Rico’s garage. The stock D&D Shovelhead looked to be on its last leg, but in the end it provided a perfect platform for Kutty’s bike, the Sinners Special. I still questioned whether it was the right choice up until I first saw it with the pipes on after it came back from Jimmy White’s. It was at that point that I started to believe. Seeing the shine of the oil bag they salvaged from the junkyard sealed the deal. It takes a skilled eye to restore beauty to parts slated to be reduced to sludge.
The editing of “Choppertown The Sinners” is a little rough around the edges, but is befitting for the documentary. We’re not dealing with a bunch of saints here. There’s plenty of beer swillin’, tire smokin’, bare-knuckle brawling fun, but there’s also an intense camaraderie and sense of place that defines being a Sinner. Sinners openly demonstrate their love for their bro’s. It is this vulnerability that helps viewers empathize with Rico and the curious cast who call his garage home.
Rico Fodrey’s garage is the setting for the majority of the movie. Here Kutty (left) and Rico (center) work on assembling a rolling chassis for the Sinners Special.
Highlights of the documentary’s soundtrack include rockabilly music by original Sinner James Intveld. For a group of guys that would be honorary guests at a greasers’ convention, rockabilly music tied perfectly into the 50s vibe of the flic. Intvelds’ mellow groove is countered by the primal aural attack of the Highway Murderers, Kutty’s band. The neo-punk tunes aren’t going to make us forget about the Dead Kennedys, but it serves to keep the movie on pace. Which is good, because at times the pace of the documentary moves a little slow. A couple of the scenes could have been trimmed down for flow. The only other detraction from the film was when the sound gets loud and distorted whenever they fire up a bike. Which is hard for me to say, seeing how I love the thrum of a fine-tuned V-Twin.
Choppertown The Sinners is a refreshing take on the custom building scene. While the mainstream public might think that everybody builds high profile theme bikes for six figures, this isn’t reality. Sinners are guys who go to their day jobs with grease under their fingers and count the minutes until they get to meet again at Rico’s garage. Sinners are guys that love their wife and kids, but also cherish christening a buddies bike on that all-important first ride with the bro’s. Choppertown is raw, gritty and real. It’s refreshing to see a bunch of blue collar builders out there building boss bikes for the love of it. Their calling strikes deeper. One-percent deep.
* Movie contains adult themes, strong language, mild violence, light gunplay.
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