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War Machine A Soldiers Tribute

A bike builder needs inspiration to start a new project.

Built by Richie Russolello, Story and Photos by Dangerous Dave – Earl's Garage

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Richie Russolello was working in Kansas and meet with some Veterans building a memorial with no support. As he talked to them, he made a promise to help them, and their mission to honor veterans and wounded warriors who came home and needed a helping hand.

When he was young, Richie wanted to join the service and fly F14 Tom Cats, but because of physical reasons he could not fly. However, he moved forward working on airplanes, trains, and all the associated support equipment. He worked for Continental, Colorado Railroad and now Signature Flight Support, and he is license to work on A&P aircraft and Qualified Maintenance Personnel (QMP) for trains.

He learned and perfected all of his fabrication skills, welding, metal fabrication and built motorcycles. He has shown many of his custom bikes, and like most builders he enjoys the design and build as much or more than riding. This year he was elevated to judge at the Mountain Regions largest motorcycle event, Colorado Motorcycle Expo going strong for 43 years.

“We want to get the people to talk,” Richie said, “To see if we get them to come on board with us, support and donate to the Wounded Warrior Project. You know, there's a lot of military charities out there, they're all good but the way I feel is that you gotta fix the soldier first. We could get them houses, we could get them jobs, we get them finances, but we gotta fix them. We got to fix him and his family and the only way we're gonna do that, is through the Wounded Warrior Project.”

“They handle all the medical. They handle the mental and physical rehabilitation. They even have programs to get them back into the workforce. 'Cuz these guys and girls are coming back seriously messed up. So, what do we do? We gotta get them back into life. That's why this whole program came about. We're doing it for them. We're doing it for the veterans. We wanted to say thank you to the veterans by building this bike, but we also wanted to use it for our project supporting Wounded Warriors.”

The Wounded Warrior is designed to provide tribute to all branches of the service, Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. Not to look like a show bike all bright and shiny, but the tools they used coming back from years of service fighting for what they stand for.

Richie started this bike by modifying an older chassis to for a Pro Street frame. He chopped it up and made it his own design. The backbone was lowered to bring in the shape of a fighter plane. With help from a friend, who owns a machine shop in Florida, he designed the custom swing arm. He fabricated it as two pieces and performed the finished welding. He installed an Avon 300 tire in the back and a 21-inch tire in the front.

From there he stripped all the chrome off components for a more of a military finish. The bike looks like it just came back from the battlefield. That's what he was looking for. Not looking for the pretty stuff. He finished the frame and did all the welding, trying to keep the welding as careful as he could. But he liked a little bit of the roughness in some welds. He duplicated the look of something you see from an airfield or a battlefield. If something breaks, they're gonna stick it back together and send it right back out. That is what this bike represents.

The tank was a prefab, but it didn't end up that way. He redesigned and finished it. It was just a tank with a ton of welds, so he had to cut the back off, shape it and then finish everything. It is the military shark that you see on all the fighter jets. It is equipped with a gas cap resembling a gun turret, He took a taxi light off an aircraft, the glass top and made it look like the gun turret from a B-17. It has two cannons and is glass top and there's a guy inside that they used a 3D printer to make. The gas cap closes perfectly with the guns facing forward. He said they had a blast with that.

The seat was all handmade. A friend, Aaron did the work on that. Richie designed it all and Aaron cut the leather and did all the custom tooling displaying the five military branches. You see all five branches of the military cut right into the leather. That came out cool.

The front fender was just a fenders, Richie cut it up to the design that he wanted. It has an eagle's head proudly on it. The is a lot of design to capture everything as real as he could. The rear fender is the tails from an F-14, Tom Cat with the engines as lights. They actually light up and flicker when it's starting, the taillights are bullets. He had to bring that Tom Cat to the bike.

The engine is a 96 inch. He wanted to keep it down. Anything over 96, you get to the 110's and better, it is gonna shake itself apart. This bike isn't built for that, its built to cruise and enjoy. So, he stayed with the 96, it's got a different piston, and it has a different cam so it's got a great sound and is running great. The carb is typical, just a stock carb, nothing racy about it.

The primary color he started with was a block of metal, black aluminum and then went with a true military green.

The air cleaner is a bomb. He wanted it to resemble the old fighter aircraft where they put the pin-up girl with her name on it. The pin-up is on the bomb and she's called Belladonna.

This is all hand fab; everything came from nothing. The chin spoiler is a f117 Nighthawk that was a nightmare, but we got it by hammering every day, and throwing it away. Like that bike is two years of accidents. He kept trying and trying and trying to get it right and made a big old sheet metal pile. And then looking through the pile he found the perfect one at the bottom.

Another thing, he’s proud of the exhaust system. He hand fabricated the each element. Starting with a wide pipe, he cut it and made his own single tube and then made a machine gun. It's called a GAU-17, which is the same as an M-134D. It's a military Gatling gun, still in service today. They shoot 3,000 rounds a minute, 50 rounds a second. It's got the Gatling tubes. There are six of them, 50 millimeter in size. There's even the toggle switch that you throw, when you start firing.

The chopper sports the actual Marine logo. He also mounted the K-bar, which is the weapon that the Marines get, when their training hand-to-hand combat. It's the most important weapon a Marine has. He was asked by a friend, a Marine, to include it.

Everything accessory was Military related, artillery, ordinance, you name it, it came from the military.

Another biggie is the headlight. He struggled with the Coast Guard. He didn't know what might represent them. He decided to make a rescue spotlight. The only thing he found was a housing and then he machined the rest of it. It's a search and rescue spotlight now. “It came out so good,” Richie said. “I'm not bragging at all, just – when something turns out sharp, it's wow, look at that.” It’s equipped with Morse Code fins. It also has working night vision.

The final piece on it is a true GPS speedometer, built inside a housing complimenting the front forks. The speedometer is inside. A pure GPS, so there are no wires, just an antenna.

Isaac “Izzy” Reyes is phenomenal with an airbrush. “I didn't want a green bike with a white star on it, “Richie said, “I need it to look real.” Izzy turned all the sheet metal into riveted sheet metal, with an airbrush.

“When I showed the fender to my wife Donna, “Richie said, “she touched it, she wanted to feel the rivets. There ain't no rivets there.”

Izzy completed the shark artwork and also put a Red Cross on the top of the tank. Looking like it came straight from M*A*S*H. Then he applied age into it. That's what topped it all off. He mastered wear and age on every part of the bike, even the red star, the Red Cross. It looks like it's been on the battlefield 20 years. He pulled the whole bike together.

For those who were prisoners, Richie added a POW license plate. He weathered it to show the pain for those who endured that fate.

“My two sons and daughter, Michael, Ricky, Jessica, did all the 3-D printing for me,” Richie said. “A big guy I must thank is the owner of Metal Supply and Machine, Del Rey Beach, Florida. He's a buddy of mine from when I used to live in New York. He opened up a machine shop, and when he found out what I was doing, his whole family military family stepped up.”

He said, “Rich, you need something done, you tell me, and I'll get it done.”

“I owe this guy everything,” Richie said. “All my thoughts and all my pictures, he turned into reality.”

“So, it all came together, a bunch of good people that helped me put it together and especially my wife. She supported me, even though she thought I was crazy. She was okay with doing the whole Wounded Warrior thing.”

This whole project is for those who served, to thank them for what they did. Richie has permission to use the Wounded Warrior organizations name and logos and the funds raised will go to them.

If you would like to help Richie and the team support Wounded Warriors, visit them at Facebook

War Machine 2021 Prostreet Mutant Sled Specs

Prostreet Frame with shortened down tube and lowered backbone with 48-degree rake
S&S 96-inch Engine
Ultima 6-spd transmission
BDL open primary
Avon 21 front and 300 rear tires
Custom built handle bars
Prostreet tank finished and lowered
DNA 66mm inverted front end
Harley controls
One off B-17 Gun turret Gas cap
Custom seat by Kruger Customs
One off F117 Nighthawk Chin spoiler
Custom Primary cover machined to M-4 Army Tank
War Medal “All Gave Some, Some Gave All” in 24 Karat gold plating
One off shift rod “Freedom isn't free” in 24 Karat gold plating
Custom designed Coast Guard Search and Rescue Headlight
Custom Military service pistol foot pegs
One off custom exhaust as a M134D/Gua-17 Mini Gun

Custom designed front and rear fenders with F-14 Tails and Nacelles
Custom bullet style taillights and turn signals
PM brakes front and rear
Custom Bomb Air cleaner assembly
One off custom blend Black Olive Matte paint
Custom Marine Kabar with sheath
Airbrushing by Issaic “IZZY” Reyes

Thanks to Marc from Metal Supply and Machining Inc. and his team. Matt Dominguez as the events coordinator and transporter. To Richie’s children Jessica, Ricky, and Mike for help and support with paint, leather work, and 3D printing. A special thanks to his wife, Donna for letting him complete his vision and putting up with a crazy bike builder with a dream.

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