Filed under: Editorial
In today’s world of one hit wonders and overnight biker TV sensations, not to mention guys who get a lot of credit for doing nothing except assembling a few parts, it is nice to know that there are some guys still around who have “been there and done that.” I am lucky to have gotten to know a certain Mike Parti over the last few years. They call him the Penguin, they call him Parti the Animal. I think he is a legend.
Mike started riding motorcycles when he was fifteen years old, right after World War II. He rode with the guys who were coming back from the War pissed off and stressed out. They went to bars, got drunk, chased women and rode and wrenched on their bikes. Mike worked at a slaughterhouse, rode an Indian during this time and belonged to the Gallopin’ Gooses. He rode with these guys when it was all about riding, drinking and fighting. Their colors were on old timey sweaters, not on leather jackets, and they did not have bottom rockers or territories. Mostly they bar-hopped and collected traffic tickets for speeding and wreckless riding.
This is the Indian he rode as a kid. It was not this nice in the 1950s though.
Speeding led Mike to racing and during the 1950s he raced an Indian in dirt trackes and in races called “hare and hound.” One really good rider took off across the desert and the lesser guys gave chase. There were also a fair amount of TT Courses, open desert scrambles and drag racing in the mix. He raced for Casey’s Cycle Shop in Pacoima, CA and for Lamoreaux-Milne, a small distributor of aftermarket parts. He also became a member of the Four Aces Motorcycle Club. Mike still has some of that memorobilia.
In the late 1950’s and early 60’s Mike got into Triumphs and started to race side cars. He also got bit by a bug that still has its fangs in him today. Mike got into Vincent motorcycles. Mike spent the 1960s practicing and perfecting his machinist trade while learning all about Vincents. Mike started going to Bonneville in thelate 1960s and met and raced with the likes of Rollie Free and Marty Dickerson. He met Bert Monroe. Mike became good friends with the now famous Rollie Free and they raced and wrenched together. Mike worked with Clem Johnson, the Vincent drag master who built the famous “Barn Job.” You can check out Clem at http://www.hotrodsbikeworks.com/features/0608_hrbp_custom_vincent_motorcycle/index.html
This motor is out of one inarnation of the Barn Job. 1700ccs and meant to be run on alcohol. Notice the name on the trunk.
Mike spent the 1970s going to Bonneville and racing Vincents. He learned every trick of the trade. He became a master of the Vincent. He got a couple records too.
Mike started restoring bikes in the 1980s and “retired” from working or anyone else. Mike tells me “you’ll never make any money with another man’s hand in your wallet.” He began to specialize in teens motorcycles: Ivern Johnsons, Flying Merkels, Harley Davidsons, Indians. He collected literature and reproduced parts for these old bikes. Mike calls them “Dead Men’s Motorcycles” because no-one who is still alive rode them or really knows what they looked like.
So what is Parti the Animal doing thirty years later? He still builds Vincent Motors but does not really restore whole Vinneys any more. If you have a teens or 20s bike you want restored, Mike can do it. It won’t be cheap though. Mike has a pretty big list of heavy hitter clients that includes Jay Leno.
Lets say you have a Matchless Silver Hawk. The Hawk is a pre-Ariel Square Four, four cylinder motorcycle. There are only 6 known to exist. Mike is building one now. Has he ever built one of the other five? No, but that does not stop a guy like Mike. He knows motors, he makes parts for them by figuring out what they do, not by knowing what they look like.
At 70 some-odd years old, Mike is still going strong. Take a look at some of the tools of his trade and enjoy. Some of these machines are older than he is.
Here are a couple of “the Museum.” Mike has stuff from a lifetime of being the real thing.