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by Genghis


UNFORGETTABLE: We remember the vehicles.


"I've been working with a guy for about 10 months now who I never recognised. In talking we came to find out that we both hung out at the same pizza joint/street rod haven in high school back in the early 80's. Different schools, but the same names of shared friends kept coming up. We brought in photos from those days of ourselves but there was no recognition. However, as soon as I showed him a pic of my '67 Chevelle and he showed me his '70 Torino we instantly knew the cars. No memory of each other, but the cars were familiar nearly 3 decades later. That SAE 30 (or 20W50 depending on your preference) still flows in the veins. Ya know, I'm glad to be rid of the ex wife, but it scares me to think just what I might do to own another 67 Chevelle."


"Unforgettable, that's what you are
Unforgettable, through near or far
Like a song of love that clings to me
How that thought of you does things to me..."

It's the wheels, man. They're the ones that are unforgettable, just like Nat King Cole sang. Can't you hear his lyrics in your head now? I can relate to what Hangman's rappin' about. I also have an uncanny recollection with respect to cars and bikes I've come into contact with in the past, and I think that all bikers and car lovers share this recollective gift. It's the bikes and the cars from decades ago that I remember better than faces from the past, and could instantly recognize if they suddenly materialized as if transported by a time machine. What about the owners of these machines from the past? I could view them from behind a two-way mirror as the usual suspects in a lineup the way they looked decades ago, and I might not be able to successfully remember and indentify even half of 'em.

Forget it if I ran into these people after four decades of not seeing them. Hell, if the bikers I knew 40 years ago, the ones that are still alive that is, came up to me on the street, I probably wouldn't recognize 'em because of forty years of age-related somatic decay. But the bikes, and the cars, they never change if the owners keep 'em up and are determined to preserve their appearance, as is---or was. That's the beauty of a car like my Vette "Mary." The way she looks now, is the way she looked when she came off the Chevrolet assembly line (except that she's different color) 39 years ago, because she's been cared for so well. There are motorcycles I remember better than their owners, from my past.

An example was the Sportster owned by a New York Hells Angel from the 60s named Mario. I can conjure up in my keen mind's eye for example, what Mario's bike looked like, before the Puerto Ricans in the neighborhood burned it down to the ground in 1970. The Hispanics viewed the Lower East Side as "their" entrenched territory for many years before the Hells Angels moved in, and they had frequent turf battles with the bikers. In fact, the burning of Mario's bike was retribution for a beat-down the Angels gave a Puerto Rican a few days before.

Here's the way I recall the way that Mario's Harley looked before the conflagration: She was a 1965 kick only XLCH, with a weld-on hardtail. Sporty tank Frisco-mounted. No front fender. Small sissy bar, supporting a ribbed, Brit-style fender. Narrow glide fork with a drum brake. The frame, tank and fender were painted wrinkle black---that was her most distinguishing feature. Buckhorn handlebars with short glide risers. Solo seat and pillion pad. Sixteen inch wheel in back. Nineteen inch wheel up front. Drag pipes, chromed. The carburetor was an S.U., unchromed.

The picture of Mario in my mind is far murkier. Mario wore a coonskin cap like a modern day Davy Crockett and had a goatee, but that's about all I remember about him. Oh yeah, he also had two eyes and a nose. The memory of his facial details swim around in my head like an amorphous dolphin in turbid water, but his bike! Man, I can remember details about his bike like you wouldn't believe. I can recall small details of his motor's primary cover (cast aluminum as opposed to stamped tin, with the rib running horizontally, unchromed), as an example of the minutiae I can pull up from my memory banks, about this motorcycle.


Mitch "Hippie" Diamond 1968.

One biker whose face I won't forget, was Mitch "Hippie" Diamond. That's because he was my best bud back in the day---it also helps that I took his picture and kept it. Mitch was the one who conferred the nickname of "Genghis" on my person, and its stuck ever since. Mitch is not with us anymore. He was stabbed to death in a beef with an NYC patchholder. Unfortunately for the patchholder, Mitch was tight with the NYC HAMC, so Mitch's killer had to go on the run after the Angels went looking for him. This guy gave new meaning to the saying, "Get outta town!" If there had been a witness protection program for fugitive bikers, then this guy would've been indoctrinated into the system.

I have a vivid and detailed memory of Mitch's bike. She was a panhead rigid with a wishbone OEM frame. Wide glide fork with unshaved and unchromed legs, rubber boots, and a stock drum brake. The fork was an unextended FL length (what passes for four inches under stock these days). Sixteen inch tires fore and aft on chromed spoked wheels, both with Avon tires. She had z-bars with chromed five inch glide risers. No front fender. She was painted a striking metalflake gold. Unribbed rear fender held by a chromed six foot high sissy bar. Bates solo seat and p-pad.

She had a mousetrap. When I rode this bike, I found the effort to pull the clutch in, to be considerably higher than on my old Sportster or my Harley 74 without a mousetrap. Didn't they have the technology to eliminate mousetraps in the '50s? Mousetrap eliminator kits were sold in the '60s but Mitch wasn't interested. He dug his mousetrap for its Rube Goldbergish quality. Did you know that Rube Goldberg's real name was Reuben Lucius Goldberg? Mitch's pan had upswept exhaust pipes with fishtails. A bicycle-styled kick pedal. Curved clutch and brake levers, unchromed. S & S Super B carb. Diamond primary cover, chromed. An unchromed cam cover with ribs.

My ability to clearly recall vehicles in rich detail, may just be a personality quirk that I share with Hangman. However, I believe that there is far more to this extraordinary recall of the mechanical, than meets the eye. Is there something unique to people who like motorcycles and cars, that sets them apart from non-motoring minions? Are our brains wired differently? Are bikers and car lovers from Mars, and the non-motorvatin' public from Venus? Who knows? What am I, a planetary scientist? But, maybe there's something to this theory. Check out this excerpt from an article written by the Science Editor of The Telegraph, Roger Highfield:

"It is a finding that will come as little surprise to their spouses, but motoring enthusiasts identify cars quicker than they recognise people, according to research published today. Scientists made the discovery after studying the brain activity of car lovers. What they found was that motor fans used the same part of the brain to recognise human faces and cars. When asked to identify both simultaneously, their skill at recognising cars hampered their ability to distinguish faces. The findings, reported in Nature Neuroscience, challenge the widely-held view that a small, specialised area in the brain deals solely with face recognition."

Now, I ask you: What's the higher priority, the way that the cooling fins of a Harley's cylinders look (my friend Arthur "Steppenwolf" Sellers' rigid panhead, had a chip in a cooling fin of its front cylinder about two inches below the chromed rocker covers), or the way that the giant wart on the nose of the bag boy of the grocery store, makes him look like the Wicked Warlock of the East? Of course, we know the answer. It should be obvious. The machines win, man.

So it seems that there is scientific evidence for why we bikers and car lovers are the way we are. We are on an elevated strata of the homo sapiens experience, far superior in brain wave function than non-motoravtin' morons out there! Yeah man, what are we stugotses? Nope. We breathe more rarefied air than that. It really is true that God rides a Harley and drives a Vette! Later!