I ran into Ross Suderno at the Grand National Roadster show a couple of years ago. His bike was a standout for several reasons. As it turns out, we share a lot of biker- linked history. He built a bike for a giant Los Angeles black weight-lifter in the early '70s and I featured two of Tree's wild choppers in Easyriders, back in the day, when we ducked publishing shots of black folks on the pages of our white bible. Tree was a helluva good guy, and I will never forget him. He still works in Los Angeles driving trucks and hangs with Ross from time to time.
The famous Tree is still around.
That's not all; Ross just retired from a California state job as a building trade Supervisor after 31 years. He joined the Navy a year after I did, hung out at the first shop I worked in, just after I was released from the service in 1971, U.S. Choppers in Lynwood, California. Those were wild times.
Ross opened his own shop in 1970, while I was cruising along the coast of Vietnam. His dad owned a bakery in downtown LA, on the corner of Telegraph and Dunkin, across the street from the 5 Freeway. "The joint was fulla freeway dust constantly," Ross said. "My shop was fulla Mexicans, Japs, blacks and Armenians. Either you're a jerk or not, doesn't matter what color you are."
Tree's bike back in the early days.
His shop, RJ's Welding and Custom Motorcycles, opened in the heart of East LA, next to his dad's bakery. You'll get a kick out of how he became a welder. He attended LA Trade Tech for the baking trade, but couldn't stand it. He approached his ol' man about his feelings.
"We're working people," his dad said. "You've got to find something you enjoy, 'cause you gotta get up every morning and go to work."
Ross approached his counselor with the same quandary and she thought he was nuts to switch to welding.
"They're both hot," Ross said and switched to welding classes. His first cutting torch gig involved a jalopy shop down the street. "I cut a '31 Vicky." His first bike-welding project involved chopping an Indian Chief frame and grafting the plunger rear end onto a Knucklehead frame.
He opened his shop in 1970 and smoked and drank all his profits until '77. Again, he spoke to his dad about his future.
"You might make a lot of money or die," his dad said of the bike business. "If you get a state job, at least you'll know the checks will keep coming."
As it turned out, the benefits were significant and he went to work in a Los Alamitos state welding and fab shop. He continued to run his shop until 1990, when he was transferred to a supervisory position in Port Hueneme, California, on the beach in Ventura County.
Ross faced a number of life-changing turning points about that time. He came face-to-face with addiction and alcoholism. He moved away from his family business. The whole damn family lived and worked on that flat little corner of Los Angeles. His folks lived behind the bakery. He cousin lived in the apartment above it, and he lived in his corrugated 40-by-60 tin and stucco shop next door.
"It was cold as hell in the winter," said Ross, "and hot as hell in the summer."
He uprooted his ass, took a new job in a much cooler climate north of Los Angeles. The only thing he didn't change was his love of hot rods and bikes. Actually, hot rods became the vital key to his education. Like to so many of us, school was a drag, but at seven years of age, a friend of his dad's witnessed how he responded to LA hot rods and gave him a stack or hot rod mags. Suddenly he was driven to learn all he could about math, so he could understand what the mags reported. His mother's first cousin was the famous J.C. Agajanian. He had mechanical metal in his blood.
I've wandered into Ross's history, so let's shift to this classic chopper's history:
I call this bike the THREE TIMER because I've owned it three times! I bought it from a good friend Arsen Norsian who was the second owner. I tore it down and chopped it and stretched it into a "long-bike." I rode it a few years and sold it to a guy in Camarillo. I always tell the buyer to give me first dibs if he ever was to sell it.
A few years later, he called and said he was selling the bike. I jumped on it and bought it back. I re-plated a few things, re-painted the tanks and fender, and rode it for a few years. The guy I bought it back from had the engine re-built and stroked it to 84 inches.
At this time, I was building a Model A Ford hot rod, so I decided to sell the bike again. This time it ended up going to a friend of a friend in Montebello. Again, I told the new owner to give me first crack at buying it, if he ever wanted to sell. Seven years later, I got the call with an offer I couldn't refuse. By the time I bought it back the third time it had 12-inch-over wide glide installed, fat bob tanks and swing arm frame with 4 inches in the downtubes.
I tore it down to the bare frame, took it to Ed Walker in Harbor City, and had him weld on a 1-inch lowered hardtail and bring the downtube stretch down to 2 inches. This is the original 1972 FX frame with VIN numbers still intact.
I had a good friend, Gordon Chapel, go through the trans and add Andrews close-ratio gears. The last owner only put a couple of thousand miles on the bike, so the engine was still fresh. I added a Rivera SU carb, built a sissy bar, brake pedal, master cylinder mounts, etc.
I turned a dresser fender backwards, an old trick from the '60s and '70s, modified a Sportster tank, modified a wraparound oil bag, fabricated stainless steel oil lines and it was almost ready to ride. I built the bike in '70s style except for the rear Flyrite disc brake/rotor combo. I always liked the rear wheel with one side open like with a stock H-D mechanical or juice drum. It might not be period- perfect, but it looks cool, stops good, and besides, it's my scoot, and my build!
The front brake started with a 1973/74 wide glide disc brake lowers but I changed out the banana for a cleaner GMA and could never handle the ugly handlebar-mounted master cylinders and a hose running down the front end. I first tried this trick on a bike I built back in 1974. I built a bracket, mounted to the old fender mount holes on the lower leg, and mounted a go-kart master cylinder with a cable. It works good, looks clean. I built this bike (all three times) in my two-car garage in my condo. It's tight with a hot rod sharing the space but we pulled it off.
I was assisted by my good friend Howard "Tree" Slayton, and my cousin "Fearless" Fred Johnson. Howard and I started building choppers together in the early '70s. I consider Shovelheads "late model" and this is my first electric-start bike. I'm getting the urge for a Pan or Knuckle but at 62, the electric-start is cool.
That's the Three-Timer Story. Anyone want to make it the Four Timer? This classic is for sale.
Correction from Ross: I re-read the story again. One little mistake, I started with the state in 1977 and moved to Ventura County in 1990 as written, but I committed my life to Christ in July of 1984, July 5th to be exact. I'm very proud of being Drug & Alcohol free for over twenty-five years. My first six years of clean living were right there in East LA, what a TRIP that was. The Lord put on my heart to share what happened to all my old biker buds. I thought, sure, share my testimony with patch holders and other assorted hoods. I could see an ass-kicking coming, BUT to my suprise I got almost no negative feedback but much encouragement from many. My skills in bike and rod building got better too. There are now a handfull of us from the shop now following Christ, and still building cars and bikes.
Bikernet.com Extreme Tech Chart
Owner:Ross J Suderno
Bike Name: Three Timer
City/State: Port Hueneme, CA (Formerly East Los)
City/state: Port Hueneme, CA
Displacement: 84 cu in
Builder or Rebuilder: Mark’s Cycle
Case finish: Blasted
Barrel finish: Black
Lower end: S&S
Head finish: Blasted
Valves and springs: Stock
Air cleaner: Velocity Stack
Mufflers: Cocktail Shakers
Gear configuration: 4-speed
Final drive: chain
Kicker: and electric
Style or Model: FX Superglide
Stretch: 2 inches in downtubes
Rake: just a scoche
Modifications: Hollow neck, Hardtail by Ed Walker, Frame smoothed with brass (oxy-acet) by owner then Powder Coated
Length: 3” over
Mods: GMA Caliper with go-kart master cylinder cable operated to eliminate stupid ugly handelbar master cylinder
Tanks: Sportster Frisco Style
Fenders: Dresser front fender on rear
Oil tank: Wrap-around narrowed 1 3/4-inch
Sheet metal: Poppy Red base coat/clearcoat
Molding: James Bondo
Graphics: Turned Goldleaf
Frame: Black Powder Coat by Action Finishes
Graphics or art: Goldleaf and striping by “Finelines by Mo”
Special effects: Shiny
Brake calipers: GMA
Brake rotor(s): HD
Size: 16X4 ½”
Brake calipers: Flyrite
Brake rotor: Flyrite
Tire: Avon Mk II
Foot controls: HD & Handbuilt
Master cylinder: GMA
Brake lines: S/S Braided
Handlebar controls: Go, Stop, Clutch
Clutch Cable: Black
Brake Lines S/S
Kickstand: Aftermarket, mid-frame
Ignition switch: Toggle
Wiring: Little as possible
Headlight: From the parts pile
Battery: Big Boar
Seat: Leather tuck & roll seat & pad by JB Custom in Camarillo
Mirror(s): One little one
Gas caps: One
Handlebars: Drag (subject to change regularly)
Oil filter: Spin on
Oil cooler: Live at Beach
Oil lines: S/S Hardlines by Ross
Fuel filter: Old time glass from Pep Brothers
Fuel Lines: Black
Throttle cables: Black
Fasteners: Lots of Allen, buttonhead and regular
Specialty items: Frony Brake set-up
Comments: Just a clean little chop, simple, fun, loud & fast. I used to build “Bar Hoppers” this one’s a “Church Hopper.”
Credits: My Lord Jesus Christ for keeping me alive all these years, and my Brother Bandit for doing this lay-out for me.