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You could live in Southern California for a long time without ever going to San Pedro, which dangles off the mainland like an appendix between the Port of Los Angeles and the chi-chi Palos Verde peninsula. That geography is both good and bad: Bad for big business since it’s not such an easy place to get to quickly. Which makes it good for small business, and allows Century Motorcycles to bill itself as “the oldest motorcycle shop in America.” The claim is somewhat open for debate but seems reasonable if you include qualifiers like “independent” or “in same location.” Most of the real estate in L.A. gets more expensive the closer you get to the coast, but San Pedro almost feels like John Steinbecks’s Monterey mixed in with Marlon Brando circa On the Waterfront – a small town barely attached to a big one with a blue-collar feel where everybody knows everybody and their extended family. It feels like a chunk of east coast transplanted west.

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Tim Rutherford is the third-generation proprietor of Century Motorcycles. His mother, the illustrious Cindy Rutherford, ran the place right up until her death in 2012. Her dad, Wild Bill Cottom, founded the shop in 1953. It’s been hotbed and hub of British motorcycle activity ever since, though the shop sells all kinds of bikes now and its super-experienced mechanics out back will work on anything. Movie stars bring in their custom Nortons, rebellious youths get their scuffed GSX-R’s cords-showing front tires replaced while they wait (also the brake pads, which were down to about 0.001mm). If you’re a British bike nut, Father’s Day is the time to go to San Pedro, when the Norton, BSA and Vincent Owners Clubs all converge along Pacific Avenue, along with anybody else who likes motorcycles of any origin.

  • Starmag

    Nice color piece about a shop loaded with character and characters, I’m sure. The 11th great thing about this place is the sign on top of the building at night.
    https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7419/11259597345_18d380272d_b.jpg

  • Kenneth

    Suddenly, I’m reminded of the long-gone KPFK radio program, Center Stand, on Saturday mornings, often talking to Cindy Rutherford on the phone. ‘Used to love tuning in to that motorcycle-talk program when I lived in SoCal.

  • http://www.motou.info Gabe Ets-Hokin

    That was so cool! I want that Von Dutch pocket knife so bad, I’d stab JB for it.

  • http://www.motou.info Gabe Ets-Hokin

    I’d like to make a plug for a motorcycle shop that’s been owned and operated by the same family (though they’ve moved many times) for 103 years. Dudley Perkins is now in South San Francisco but was in San Francisco for 90 years. the new showroom is set up as a history museum and is less than a mile from SFO–worth a visit if you’re in town, even if it’s just a stop-over! dpchd.com

  • JMDonald

    I lived in SoCal for twenty eight years and never knew about this place. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about it.

  • ADB

    John Burns, you just made my day. Excellent.