Do I start with “In the Beginning”, “Long, Long Ago”, or “Once Upon A Time”? However you look at it, there’s always going to be a back story, bits and pieces coming out over a Jack and Coke or a brew, at the shop, local pub or even the Warehouse in Port Costa. My guess is telling the story through the 5 W’s….Who, What, When, Where and Why and letting it roll on two wheels from there.
The “Who” in this story is, Algie Pirrello, Aficionado of the ol school way of motorcycle building. Using the materials and tools at hand, he is creative as hell when it comes to using bicycle, car parts. He even used an oxygen tank for the oil bag on the infamous “Duke”, his pride and joy 1945 Knucklehead. “ALL 60’s style is how we roll”, “We’re not Old School, we’re Pre Skool, when there were no RULES” is not just his favorite sayings, but a true code of honor and description of the lifestyle he picked up on the streets in Rockford IL, and continues to live today in the northwest.
Like many other builders, Algie started Killing Machine Choppers in a shed on the back of his property in Lake Elsinore, California at the foot of the beautiful Ortega Mountains in Riverside County, California. Not only was he revitalizing “The Duke”, he was spending quality time with his young son Breeze and the other boys that would gather around to help. Algie was giving back to these kids, the same way his mentors did when he was living on the streets of Rockford. Trying to keep them on the straight and narrow and interested in learning a trade and completing a project.
If you’re wondering where the name Killing Machine Choppers came from, it was Algie and Breeze kickin’ around the idea of a name and Breeze throwin’ out that their first build was a bad ass “Killing Machine”. Hence, the shop became “Killing Machine Choppers”. The “logo” of a blind folded skull and flames is a reflection of “Outta control is how we roll… and we didn’t see nothin’”.
Old shop logo
Eventually, Algie and Breeze’s projects outgrew the shed and the first “Killing Machine Choppers” was born, at the back of an industrial park with roll-up doors. Scrimping and saving, investing in shop tools and parts the shop began building its first “spec” bikes. He hired a talented Harley mechanic, and Paulie, a gifted metal artist. Along with the employees came disillusioned teenage boys, some of them from broken homes, homeless, or just out of Juvi. We fed and clothed them, gave them a safe place to sleep and some pocket money for their weekends. Algie used their energy to keep the shop clean, organized and teaching them respect for themselves and others and how to use the tools of the trade with the building of his creations. Actually one of these young men is now a “Club member”. Of course with a handful of teenage boys come young ladies, always willing to help out, washing bikes for the customers that rolled in, answering phones, and of course flirting.
Breeze learning part of the biz
I met Algie while telemarketing for a start up charitable organization called Motorcycle Charity Associates. Billy Gordon, lead singer, of the Blue Rockers (a well known motorcycle rally/event band), and myself had a vision of giving back to the families of “downed” riders, major non-profits, along with returning veterans organizations through events at Hugh Hefner’s “Playboy Mansion”.
While scrolling through the yellow pages, I saw the name “Killing Machine Choppers” and something told me to make that call. A young woman named Starr answered the phone and thinking on my feet, I asked for “Killer”. She hollered out “Algie”, but of course I couldn’t make out the name. Algie took my call, I gave him my 2 minute “schpeel” and he said he wasn’t feeling well, could I call back the following day.
Of course I called the next day and while we were chatting he tells me his ol lady hit him in the jaw and he had a headache, could I call again “the next day”. Not easily dissuaded, I made the call on the third day, his son Breeze answers the phone that day and asked me to hold on, his dad was lying down. Algie takes the call and says “Give me a minute, I need a Rolaids, I’m having heartburn”.
Seriously, the old EMT and fire days of Yosemite kicked in, I asked if his wife had really hit him the day before, and his answer was “NO”. I knew Algie was having symptoms of a heart attack or stroke.
Unbelievably, I’m 500 miles away, telemarketing and saving a man named Algie’s life while on the phone. Breeze was a 15-year-old hero that day taking everything I said seriously, and driving his dad to the hospital. Algie spent a week in the hospital and several weeks later I drove south to meet this man and his crew.
With barely two pennies to rub together, these guys were producing beautiful work. I listened to his story, and remembered something Maudess Killings had said to our class.
“When you save someone’s life, you’re responsible for their life.”
How profound, the most important woman in my life was named “Killings”. Call it what you will, but I knew that investing in this shop was going to be beneficial to all of us, and lifelong friendships were forged.
Shop in Lake Elsinore, California
Bikes in shop
Rumble Doll working
In less than a year, we moved from the back of the industrial park, to the street side of “curb appeal”. As some of the young kids around the shop moved on, so did the young ladies who worked up front. We hired three college students to work the front desk; Tuesday through Saturday. They coordinated their schedules to see that the hours were covered. We had $400 a week for them to share, they figured it out. They became our “Rumble Dolls”, just as pretty as the first group of young woman. They modeled for a local biker rally apparel company, washed bikes and doing everything else that needed to get done.
A finished bike
During that first year, we began getting orders and calls from people in Australia. Algie and I thought “What the Hell give it a shot.” I loaded up about 1,000 lbs. of parts, rally apparel, and leather, hopping a flight with my 11-year-old son and heading “down unda”. First stop, Sydney, where Customs Agents conveniently escorted my son and me off the flight. Of course I’m thinking to myself, it’s the damned booze. I had rolled several bottles of Fina Estampa tequila in towels and hid them in two sets of rims. NOPE, that wasn’t it. Next thought that crossed my mind was the HA and Killing Machine Apparel. Nope, intrigued and asking for one of each and a dew-rag, which of course I gave to the agents. What GOT them were the 36 sets of chromed spokes. They had unrolled two of the sets and wanted to know what they were. I’m sure they looked like some type of weapon. I graciously asked them not to pull them from the packages, because if any of them got bent or damaged, the set would be worthless. I learned an invaluable lesson that day. It pays to carry unusual merchandise; we were first off the plane, first through customs and didn’t have to wait for our turn in a long line for a cabby.
Another finished bike
Traveling up the entire eastern coast of Australia, taking orders, selling rally apparel and giving away Killing Machine Chopper shirts, tanks and dew-rags everywhere I went. I spent a couple of days in the business licensing offices and Immigration of Queensland and securing a business license with an American friend Willsy Goodwin and his wife Maggie. We set up business with our good friends Craig Morgan and Perry Mallet. Craig secured me a bodyguard for my calls on the clubs, and shops in Sunshine Coast. His name, Hex Hextall, lots of fun, interesting sales and shop stories were made with Ranga, the “Loser Yank”. “Ranga” is a nickname for a redhead, and “Loser Yank” well that’s a story all in of itself, involving the infamous Fina Estampa Tequila hidden in the rims. Makin’ memories is what it’s all about.
Eventually, with the many complications of international laws and ownership, Algie and I decided to cut our losses and ship directly out of Lake Elsinore.
Port Costa, The Warehouse
Hex has become one of the best friends I’ve ever had in my life and a good friend to Killing Machine Choppers. I was honored to officiate at his and his lovely wife Sue’s marriage in Port Costa last summer. I know, I know, you’re all wondering, “Where the Hell is Port Costa”? Get out your google maps and find us. We’re a beautiful little hamlet on the Carquinez Straits, in California with less than 200 residents and a biker’s haven at The Warehouse on the weekends. There are many stories to share here, including Algie’s first encounter with ghosts (the real deal), parties, fishing and riding.
While all of this was going on Algie meets the “hardtail harlot” of the northwest, “Hun”. Since the shop was heading to the Redwood Run, I decided to buy an extra ticket and fly Hun down to surprise Algie for his birthday weekend at the Redwoods. (Future stories will unfold about this wild weekend!) Algie and Hun’s breakdown adventure on “The Nazi, 1955 Pan/Shov conversion”. Their grand entrance after midnight led to BLINDERS, Algie needed BLINDERS all weekend (another story). And of course, my first experience seeing someone walkin’ their topless women, that’s right, not a typo, WOMEN as in plural on dog leashes.
Were there parties? HELL YES! DRAMA’S of course. Some of them funny as shit, while others involved the cops. A few I’d love to share, but would need Algie’s permission, not sure how much he wants to relive through print. It’s what the Killing Machine Choppers world is all about.
Watch for further installments – more to come.
Sharki…. Aka “Ranga, the Loser Yank”