Seeing Red : World Champ Four-Wheeler Gets Bobberized
Baseball players have their stats based on their batting average and runs, while basketball players have their average points per game. But when it comes to Formula One race car drivers, it seems to be simpler: a matter of wins.
Taking a look at Michael Schumacher's tally tells all. Wins: 91. World Championships: 7. When winning means consistently driving at speeds in excess of 200 mph in a vehicle that tips the scales at around 1200 lbs., it helps to have razor-sharp reflexes and enough testosterone to float an aircraft carrier.
Formula One, a.k.a. F1, while eclipsed by NASCAR, IRL and Champ cars in the United States, is still larger than all three put together, whether talking about the huge money spent on the exotic race cars or the massive worldwide TV audience. For example, Ferrari's racing budget is estimated to be about $300 million! Estimates of global TV audiences are 300 million per race. In other words, F1 is big-time sports. And Michael Schumacher was at the very top of that food chain.
It was this past October that the sport's all-time, most highly decorated veteran hung up his leathers, so to speak, at the ripe age of 37. The place: Monza, Italy. The event: the Corsa Clienti Finalli Mondialli, a.k.a. the World Final. At this event, owners of Ferraris get to launch their ex-factory race cars around the famous race track in the company of the pros, with Schumacher in the spotlight. And joining in the celebration were some 50,000 fans -- all wearing red of course -- packing the stands to show their appreciation and to say good-bye to their hero. Thirty years after his go-kart debut at age 7, Schumacher is quite literally a living legend. He had been there, done that -- seven times in fact. Nothing much surprised him anymore, or so you'd think.
"Hey, why not build him a one-off, very cool, custom bobber?"
However, Schumacher was in for a surprise, and it wasn't on the race track. Several of his friends had conspired to present him with a going-away gift that didn't require a ribbon. Knowing that Schumacher was also a big bike fan, having several in his garage back home in Switzerland, they came up with a plan thanks to a Ferrari owner in the Los Angeles area who suggested, "Hey, why not build him a one-off, very cool, custom bobber?" And, of course, paint it Ferrari red. He knew just the place: the Garage Company, home of vintage and classic bikes as well as the shop's unique line of retro-bobbers.
Based on a 1981 80-inch Shovelhead, the hot-rodded engine features S&S rods, KB pistons, Rowe valves, a Sifton cam and Crane Lifters, all fed from a classic "peanut" gas tank via an S&S E carb and treated to what the Garage Co. calls a "natural finish." Details include a vintage H-D six-inch air cleaner for easy breathing. The Shovel shifts gears through a matching 1981 H-D four-speed gearbox benefiting from a Primo clutch/primary drive combo while the whole drivetrain is embedded in a 1981 H-D hardtail frame with a 33-degree rake.
Matching engine, tranny and frame keeps the nostalgia factor at full throttle, as does the Springer front-end teamed with a set of vintage triple trees.
It's a Bobber, so 16-inch doughnuts are a must front and rear, and classic Firestones at that. Drum brakes are there if you feel like slowing down.
In the fit-and-finish department, the bike wasn't just painted Ferrari red in commemoration of Schumacher's 10 years with the manufacturer, but specifically 2006 factory Ferrari F1 red. Jim's Cycle Painting sprayed it on with special graphics created by Bob Iverson. While the Bobber is a non-chromer, it does sport some nickel-plated goodies courtesy of Supreme Plating.
They say greatness is in the details, and the MS Bobber has a list of them including: oil tank and hand controls from Tedd Cycle; Autometer gauge; CCI headlight; solo seat by Back Drop USA; and the Garage Company's own take on handlebars, license mount and LED taillight.
The MS Bobber was unveiled to a totally surprised Schumacher at dinner celebrations at the Monza track. According to Yoshi who had flown over to Italy with the bike, when Schumacher first caught sight of the bike, his face's expression just said, "Wow!"
He also immediately wanted to ride his new bike, but it was Yoshi who offered his much experienced kicking leg to fire up the beefed-up Shovelhead. With it burbling happily, Schumacher jumped onto the saddle and proceeded to blast down the pit lane. "When he came back on the bike," says Yoshi, "he had this big, big grin."
The grin was even bigger when Schumacher's many close friends, Yoshi and Ferrari big wigs gathered around him and his new Speed Boy Bobber for that Kodak moment. It was a fond farewell indeed.
The Garage Company
The story began long, long ago and far, far away. As in the early 1970s and in Japan where a young dental appliance engineer, Yoshinobu "Yoshi" Kosaka, was starting to surround himself with all kinds of motorcycles. He didn't just collect them, he raced them as well. Then about 20 years ago he migrated to one of motorcycling's most fertile grounds, Southern California. While he took a major cut in pay as result, he still trolled for vintage bikes at swap meets, junkyards, and the classifieds. It was a time when the oil and gasoline crisis conspired to lower prices on old bikes, and so Yoshi took what money he could save and invested in metal.
It would prove to be money well spent.
By 1986 he was racing in ARHMA events (earning a national title in 1993 in Formula 250), and a year later married Kyoko, his high school sweetheart. When she noticed his bikes were spilling out into their front yard, she came home with a key to small building where he could enjoy his hobby. At this point Yoshi's "hobby" had gone a little bonkers; to the tune of about 150 bikes. His weekends were spent wrenching and organizing his growing parts collection. People started dropping in, bikes started to get swapped. Since he didn't really want to sell his stuff, Yoshi and Kyoko instead printed up some Garage Company t-shirts for the visitors. They sold out. It was the handwriting on the wall, so to speak, and a business was born, including an eventual move to a new 5,400 sq.-ft. shop.
While originally a source for vintage British, European, American and Japanese vintage, classic and collectible motorcycles and parts, the Garage Company also focuses on old-school customs, and in particular a look they call Retro-Bobber. Yoshi and the Garage Company crew began building custom bikes about five years ago and now have more than 30, each one distinctly different, spread across the country, and now even in Italy. In addition to the high-end customs as seen here with the Schumacher special, the Garage Co. offers basic classic bobbers for around the $10-12,000 mark. That's a complete bike with a whole lot of personality and rideability.
Every year, usually in April, The Garage Company puts on an enthusiast-oriented event called the Corsa MotoClassica that takes place at the famous Willow Springs Racetrack in the high desert north of Los Angeles. Racers on all models and sizes of bikes show up for the racing, swap meet and classic bike show.
The shop itself looks more like a museum with all kinds of very cool, old bikes on the showroom floor. Not to mention what seems like several tons of vintage apparel, parts, accessories, clothing, books, decals, etc. You name it, it's your one-stop shopping for vintage cool.
The Garage Company is located at 13211 Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA. For more info call 800/393-3766 or check out the website: http://www.garagecompany.com/.