Serge Bueno made the trans-Atlantic move from France to California to open an upscale motorcycle restoration business that is making a big splash in the SoCal scene.
Bueno, 47, began his life’s work with motorcycles aboard a 50cc Yamaha TY at age 14, zipping through the historic boulevards of Paris, France. He raced motocross for 15 years, including the 2001 Rally of Tunisia – a 2,000-mile, 11-day desert run where he was one of the 60 who finished out of 300 who started. Serge tends not to quit anything he starts, especially when he comes down to the last correct nut and bolt to finish off one of his restorations.
By 1985 he had opened a motorcycle shop in Paris specializing in unique racing machines circa 1910-1950 and also operated a fully equipped workshop on the Normandy coast, an hour from Paris. His passion for motorcycles saw him scouring the planet for machines of interest, including the hunt for the many semi-unobtainable parts he needed to complete their restorations, now over 100 rare bikes meticulously resurrected.
His bike-building technical skills stemmed from his early training as an engineer working with a variety of metals … steel, aluminum, magnesium, etc., and he also mastered the old school painting methods, painting with rare pigments and finishing without applying the standard clear coat. Everything is instead polished by hand, thus creating correct original appearance, including striping and tank graphics. Serge keeps his work area in “NASA clean room” condition, even his carefully stored vintage tools appear as works of art.
Bueno’s dream of living his motorcycle life in Los Angeles stretches back some 25 years to when he first visited a friend in the city. His three-month visa was extended another three months because he found the SoCal weather kept old motorcycles and cars in such great condition, a veritable time capsule for rare iron. Says Serge, “Paris is a beautiful place, but Los Angeles is the place for my motorcycle work. So, I sold my company in Paris and brought my wife with our four children and 40 motorcycles, then began building my garage here on La Brea Avenue. We opened on December 24, just one day before Christmas 2014.” Word of mouth and social media immediately brought customers wanting either restorations or to purchase one of his bikes already restored. Within six months he had sold 14 rare beauties, the fifteenth on the day we visited the shop.
Latest news is that an additional ten historically important bikes are arriving shortly from Europe for their new home at Heroes Motorcycles. A Grand Opening for the new Los Angeles center for truly “heroic” bikes is in the works.
Serge, an accomplished artist, creates all his own signage and artwork for the shop.
Serge is obviously a big fan of the legendary Brough-Superior SS100, “The Rolls-Royce of Motorcycles.” He plans to have one of the British revivals of the bike on display at his shop, as he is looking forward to being the California distributor for the new Broughs.
This 1965 H-D KHR is an example of the custom vintage creations Serge produces in addition to 100% restorations. In this case he built the Harley bobber for his personal ride. He black-ceramiced the engine, for which he built the pistons, and bolted on a brand new Sportster front end.
Serge gave the 1971 250cc BSA Single his custom treatment, everything of his own design.
In 2007, when the French motorcycle museum closed its doors, Serge took home three bikes, one being this very rare 1914 Hendee-Indian. He’s seen here with the bike’s new owner, Bobby Haas from Dallas, who had just ridden to the shop on a Harley sidecar rig.
The bronze Harley is called “The Chicago Racer” and hails from 1923. Incredible detailing includes correct leather wrapping of cables.
Sourced from Germany, the 1923 1200cc Big Twin now virtually glows thanks to Serge’s special treatment.
Henderson inline-Four is an even rarer board-track racer model. Serge considers this bike the shop’s “masterpiece.” Found in tatty shape, it took years for Serge to wrangle the bike from its elderly owner in Germany, then the hunt was on for missing parts. He invested $2000 just in custom making the rubber footboards.
The Flying M. French film actor Olivier Martinez, riding a mint ’77 Harley XLCR, dropped in to try out the 1954 Matchless G45, engine number 138. Martinez also happens to be the husband of Halle Berry, the couple married in Paris in 2013 (and apparently this month are in the process of getting divorced). The Matchless was brought to Serge by its owner for restoration and is now for sale, and Martinez has been dropping by often.
The 1956 Matchless G45 500cc twin was literally a “barn find,” lying in disarray for 20 years before being revived under Serge’s care. It was originally raced by B.P. Castellani, the seven-time South African roadracing champion.
Serge made fiberglass molds of a Matchless and then sand-cast them to create the sculpture atop this doorway. Plans are afoot to make them available to whoever wants an easy-to-park G45.
One of only 11 such bikes, the 1932 “Moto Ball” 350cc single was produced by the French company Koehler Escoffier, founded in 1912 by Marcel Escoffier and Julius Koehler. K-E eventually built bikes of various displacements including the K35S 350cc, “Super Standard” powered by an OHV Chaise engine with overhead valves, circa 1929-1931. Winning many hillclimbs and rallies, the marque became famous in France, surviving until 1957.
This particular variant was called the Moto Ball because it was ridden in competition by the French motorcycle soccer team who, yes, played the game while roaring around on two wheels. The team was touted as the fastest in the sport, a uniquely French activity.
Interior window display features original gear and posters from French motorcycling events including the 1930 Motorcycle Soccer competitions.
Hanging art in the form of an original Harley KR racer. Rather than restore the rare, early example, Serge chose to retain its original patina.
Workshop is combination antique blacksmith and NASA lab neatness featuring classic French tools, everything kept gleaming and super organized.
1917 Big Twin Indian Board Track racer, found in the UK and rescued by Serge. It’s having new bearings installed in its pedal gear; the large hole in the lower frame accommodates the mechanism. Paint is original, correct color mix.
Joining Serge in the Heroes restoration shop is super wrench Guillaume also from Paris. Harley factory Café Racer belongs to Olivier Martinez.
Graphic artist Sonny works on 12k and 24K gold leafed signage, all hand painted. The Moto Ball soccer bike will be displayed in the window. Serge designed, and with help from one of his sons and Guillaume, built all the shop’s woodwork, display cases and flooring. Plan is to add a hangout lounge and bar for entertaining people stopping by.
1909 H-D Silent Gray Fellow just acquired by the shop is in line for full restoration.
A private collector brought Serge a truly historic 1905 Harley-Davidson, production #5 of five 3¼-hp Singles known to exist.
Serge both created the wall art and nickel-plated frame for a new 500cc single-cylinder BSA project.
The super clean photographs of motorcycles were shot and digitally enhanced by Serge, the bikes shot in his Paris living room, including head-ons of the 1917 Big Twin Hendee Indian and Norton 500 Racer. Both appear as prints on his shop’s walls and as postcards he hands out to visitors.
Past and present merge seamlessly at Heroes Motorcycles.
Yellow Harley 1000cc KHR is show and go, an original-paint bike.
Guillaume’s brand new 2015 Yamaha R6 contrasts nicely with casting of classic 1950s Norton 500 Manx.
Looking toward the future, Serge would like to see his garage gallery become a motorcycle focal point in L.A. enjoyed by visitors from around the globe.
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