Ever wanna fire up the way-back machine and return to a simpler time? Back when you would lie on the grass and look up at the clouds, trying to make out objects from the formations? Back when you would sit around and think “What should I do today”? Sadly, time and technology march on, and most of us don’t get to enjoy that freedom much anymore.
But, once a year, the stars (and a bunch of volunteers) align, and some of us get to relive our misspent youth while enjoying one of the most amazing motorcycle shows imaginable: the annual So-Cal 2-Strokers’ Two-Stroke Extravaganza.
To appreciate the show as it exists today, some acknowledgment of the past is in order. Fifteen years ago, Doug Johnson, proprietor of two-stroke specialist company MotoCarrera, decided to a have a small gathering to celebrate all things two-stroke. Four people showed up. Undeterred, Johnson continued to promote the vintage-two-stroke life, and saw each year’s show grow incrementally. But six years ago, Johnson’s already fragile health (he was a quadriplegic) took a sudden turn for the worse due to a freak accident and resulting head injury that left him in a coma for 38 days. With Johnson out and little more than a month until the next show, the awesome power and generosity of the So-Cal 2-Stroke community galvanized. A core group that shared the event founder’s enthusiasm was not about to let the annual two-stroke party die. Instead, the group worked together, and after climbing an incredibly steep learning curve, pulled off the gathering in honor of its founder.
Six years later, Johnson’s annual dream of an annual two-stroke party is still alive and well. He’s also recovered from his accident enough to continue the MotoCarrera business.
This year, the event was moved from Cook’s Corner in Trabuco Canyon, California, to the grounds surrounding Roger Arreola’s Wicked Motorsports in Garden Grove. Any concerns that the location change would hurt attendance were erased as the day got under way and all the great bikes began arriving.
Gleaming (and not so gleaming) two-strokes of every era were set up in organized rows that would leave the most parched smoker enthusiasts drooling. And just when you thought you’d seen it all, a bike that was even more amazing would roll in. It was audio/visual overload.
But it wasn’t nearly as stimulating as the traditional high-noon “smoke-out” that saw more than 200 two-strokes start up simultaneously. The amazing sound and fury of all these angry bees also signifies the beginning of the awards ceremony.
Every year, attendees flock to the machines entered in the Best Custom class. The trend over the last few shows has been for builders to get more and more creative and less inhibited in their pursuit of “custom.” Taking first-in-class this time was an incredible Yamaha that started life as a garden variety 1978 RD400. Owner Michael Martinez built the bike as a nod to the Seventies TZs that won at Daytona. As such, it was painted in the famous factory colors of red and white and had every period-correct modification possible. While the build itself took over a year, Martinez remained mum on just how long the parts-gathering took. He would admit, however, to making a trip to Argentina just to pick up the super-rare RD400 wire-spoke-wheel rear hub. And with a hub that is basically made of unobtainium in the U.S., it was NOT going in the plane’s cargo hold. Oh, no, it was brought back as carry-on baggage and put under the seat in front of him!
With a small but enthusiastic group of Suzuki fans on hand, tension was high as the Best Suzuki award was announced. The age-old debate between stock vs. resto-mod was brought to light once again, but, when the dust cleared, stock took top honors. Ron Baggaley’s beautiful 1975 T500 Suzuki had just 23,000 miles on the clock and was unnaturally clean for its age. We’ve all seen bikes that look over-restored to the point of being better than when they rolled off the showroom floor. Baggaley’s T500, however, just looked right, as if he’d ridden it home from Southland Cycle Center in 1975, parked it, and then brought it out the show nearly three decades later. And the resto-mod runner-up? A very well-sorted 1976 GT500 café racer built by Kevin Tomlinson was a worthy competitor.
Due to the sheer volume and quality of entries, everyone stepped a little closer and lots of fingers got crossed when the Best Yamaha award was announced. The finest example on this day was Nick Gargano’s amazing custom Yamaha RZ350. The Simi Valley resident started with a rough 1985 model and after a year of non-stop, late-night thrashing, his rolling World War II-themed masterpiece was complete. Gargano melded together a Yamaha YZF-R6 front end, the RZ chassis and a single-sided swingarm from a Honda NSR250, and then topped it off with an amazing set of custom Lomas chambers.
It was a great day of firing up the way-back machine and staring at the clouds of blue smoke.
Best Yamaha: Nick Gargano, 1985 Yamaha RZ350
Best Suzuki: Ron Baggaley, 1975 Suzuki T500 Titan
Best Kawasaki: Mark D’Ambrosio, 1976 Kawasaki KH100
Best Honda: Steve Cocking, 1988 Honda NSR 250
Best Restoration: Victor Rothgard, 1967 Kawasaki C2TR 120
Best Custom: Mike Martinez, 1978 Yamaha RD400E
Best Off Road/Enduro: Pete Phillips, 1968 Bultaco Sherpa T 250
Best Scooter/Moped: Kendall Crabtree, 1996 Honda Nova Dash 125
Best Rat Bike: Farel and Trevor Byrd, 1976 Yamaha RD400C
Best Triple: Kris Lagaris, 1973 Kawasaki H1-500
Best Daily Rider: Leonard Smith, 1985 Yamaha RZ350
Best Exotic: Teodoro Gallelli, 1959 Cecatto Turismo
Oldest Bike: Rich Stratjour, 1939 Scott Clubman Special
Peoples Choice: Lloyd Butfoy, 1963 Fuji Rabbit