What started out ten years ago as an intimate gathering to celebrate the life of motorcycle lifestyle artist David Mann at one of his old haunts has grown into an event people now mark on their calendars months in advance to attend. Thousands of macho mustachioed men in Pendleton shirts and faded denim vests turned out for the 10th annual David Mann ChopperFest
in Ventura, California on Dec. 8 to pay homage to a man who not only captured the biker mystique in the quills of his paintbrush but lived the life he portrayed. And that’s one of the many reasons Mann will forever be immortalized in biker lore. He wasn’t an outsider looking in. He was one of us, rode among us, built cool choppers, and brought the lifestyle to the masses via his centerfold spreads that decorated the pages of Easyriders
magazine for 20 years.
Holding the event in Ventura makes sense. Mild SoCal weather and the Pacific Ocean allow plenty of riders from around the L.A. Basin to make the trek up for the one-day event against the backdrop of beautiful sandy beaches. Mann spent a lot of time in Ventura County and even eternalized the Shores Bar in Oxnard in a self-portrait titled “Slip Slidin’ Away” that was published in the October 1989 issue of Easyriders.
In the painting, Mann is backing it in on a Springer chopper, countersteering the high-hanging Apes while dragging a foot flat track-style. He and wife Jacquie even got married at a motorcycle swap meet at Ventura Fairgrounds.
Seeing how the festival celebrates the life of an artist, it should be no surprise the work entered in the “If You Build It, They Will Come” all-brand motorcycle show was of such high caliber. The 120 motorcycles entered in this year’s event ran the gamut, from an immaculately restored 1926 Henderson to Evos and Pans to classic Triumph choppers. Coffin tanks,
Sonny Boy is a picture of concentration as he paints trophies for the David Mann bike show.
Jacquie Mann, David's wife, was the special guest at the 2013 David Mann ChopperFest.
Bobby Seeger of Indian Larry Motorcycles was happy to be out of chilly Brooklyn and in some SoCal sun at the 10th annual David Mann.
twisted downtubes, Springers and jockey shifters are the standard, period-correct retro chic is in, and many of the bikes look like they rode out of the pages of a 1970s Easyriders
. No overpriced theme bikes here as the artistry of hand-craftsmanship takes precedence and ingenuity is expressed in recycled, re-purposed swap meet parts and antique iron bits.
While numerous motorcycles were worthy of “Best of Show” laurels, judges Mike Davis and Grant Peterson singled out John “Kandy” Edwards’ Panhead at the 2013 show, earning Edwards the $2500 cash prize. In addition to the money, “Kandy Man” has been invited to be a special guest at Mike and Grant’s Born Free 6 show next summer.
“Black Rainbow,” a 1973 Triumph Bonneville built by Bones Legacy, was another big winner taking top honors in both the “Best British” and “Koolest Paint” categories. The raked-out, psychedelic chopper is powered by a 750cc Triumph engine with Kibblewhite Valves that’s been tuned by Franz and Grubb. The custom frame was designed by Bones Legacy and built by David Byrd Sheet Metal. A 14-inch-over Mono Springer stretches off the front while the bars, pipes, oil tank, velocity stacks, fender struts and more are all homemade. Seeing how Sonny Boy did the paint, it’s no wonder it took the award for “Koolest Paint” in the show.
Sonny Boy’s talents could be seen on the unique trophies for the show as well, hand-painted and pinstriped Biltwell Helmets. Sonny Boy has been responsible for creating the trophies for the past seven years and has never failed to create artistically crafted collectibles. This year’s event also featured a special “Oil and Water” art show featuring not only original work by Mann, but artwork by several local craftsmen as well. In one corner was the work of Skutz, bold colors and big action depicted in his flat track tribute titled “#9” while not far away Darren McKeag busily painted a skateboard deck in the “Backyard Exhibit.” Tom Fritz’s powerful works, imbued with a sense of realism, also graced the show. But it was at the entrance to the building that stood the biggest treat of them all, Jacquie Mann, wife of David. With bright blue eyes peeking out from beneath a black baseball cap, Jacquie greeted everybody with a happy smile, be they long-lost friends or first-time acquaintances. Gracious and grateful, her presence at the 10th anniversary show only made the occasion that much more special.
Another thing that makes David Mann special is the fact that you never know how many old friends you’re going to run into at ChopperFest. We were delighted to see our buddy Bobby Seeger from Indian Larry Motorcycles
there. Seeger traveled all the way from the East Coast along with his wife Elisa to take part in the Long Beach IMS, but Sunday Bobby jumped on a bike and blasted up to Ventura to take in ChopperFest while Elisa held down the fort in Long Beach. At the Indian Larry booth, the latest scoot the crew built for a guy out of Minnesota, with its thick twisted downtube, internal throttle, dished tank, rigid rear and pedal kick-starter, was attracting plenty of attention. Seeger said Indian Larry has some good stuff coming out this Spring, expanding on the line of dished tanks, points covers, twisted linkages and frames it already offers.
Next to Indian Larry, David Zemla with Burly Brand was busy talking shop about the scrambler in front of the Burly booth. Zemla built an 883 Sportster Café
too, which he entered in the show. While we were there, we checked out some of the slick products for project and custom bikes Burly has, from “Slammer” suspension kits to gnarly MX Style Pegs for street trackers.
The 2013 David Mann ChopperFest had one more surprise in store for us. We also met up with another old friend, former Army Ranger Chris Calaprice, a road warrior who has fought off pancreatic cancer not once, but twice. This guy is as tough as they come. I’ve known him to go through chemo, then be back in the saddle pounding miles again on his motorcycle a couple days later. He helped found the “Road 2 A Cure”
Foundation, and a few years back he set a goal of logging 42,000 miles on his bike because he wanted to ride one mile for each person who is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer every year, his mission to bring awareness to the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. We met Calaprice when he was on his nine-month-long tour of all 50 states, and had the pleasure of riding out to Sturgis together from Colorado. A vet, a biker, a man of iron will and conviction, Chris is someone we hold in high regards and to see him still going strong after enduring so much provides affirmation to existence.
While the bluesy Bob Carrillo Band filled the air with guitar riffs and harmonica runs, throngs wandered the isles of vendors and swap meet parts spread about Ventura County Fairgrounds. The sign at one packrat set up on the lawn expressed the attitude surrounding the swap meet best - “If you want service go to Harley-Davidson. If you want parts… start digging.” Show a little patience, and there were plenty of small treasures to be found. We scored a set of small, black mirrors for our Sportster project bike,
and came close to buying a vintage coffin tank. We almost dropped a few bills on a Mexican blanket that doubles as a roll-up tool kit and eyeballed the beer keg oil tanks from Chassis Design Co. pretty hard, but in the end we happy with the deal we got on the mirrors we found.
Before the day was done, around 4500 bikers and fans of Mann showed up for the 10th anniversary event to help keep his spirit alive. ChopperFest is a weekend get-together with thousands of friends, a place to see people you haven’t seen in a long time, an avenue to swap stories and swap parts. It is a place where patch-wearing members are able to set aside their differences for a day and intermingle amicably. It gives people in the SoCal scene a reason to ride, and any reason to ride is a good one. Much of the thanks for its success goes to ChopperFest event coordinator, Tory DuVarney, who said "It’s an honor and privilege for me to be the event organizer. It’s the artists and builders who make the show so great! If you build it they will come!"
And come they do, the scene straight out of a Mann painting. We think David would be proud.