As human beings, we have shared our tales of caution and of inspiring feats for millennia. Many stories are catalogued with the written word or, in this day-and-age, in the cloud. But, some of the best stories are the ones that have never graced the keys of a keyboard or the stroke of a pen. They are passed along by word of mouth in face to face conversation. There is history to be heard and some of it may never be heard again. So, the next time you have the opportunity to have a conversation with someone a few decades your senior, seize it. You might learn a thing or two. You could even learn a whole lot if you have a shared interest in a certain topic. A little perspective can go a long way. Maybe some of the viewpoints you’ll hear will be outdated or ideals won’t translate anymore, but we’re all only human, so get ahold of yourself and soak it up.
I first saw Bill Wagner’s pre-unit chopper at Classic Cycles a few years ago. With the 70’s style being so big right now, I didn’t realize it was actually a survivor from the 70’s until I took a closer look. With a 26” springer, a wild paint job, and some other cool chrome parts situated around the ’56 pre-unit Triumph power plant, the bike grabs your attention from a distance. The best part is, it hasn’t changed since its heyday in the 70’s.
The owner, Bill Wagner, is now in his 70’s and not in the best of health. So, getting the ol’ ChopCult Q&A form filled out via email wasn’t going to fly. I sat down with Bill and Gray Crouch at Classic Cycles in Orange, CA, where the bike is currently up for sale. I wanted to talk about his scoot, but more to hear some tales from his heyday; the kind of tales that only could have happened in a bygone era. The kind of tales that are too good to be twisted into writing.
Owner name, location: Bill Wagner, Anaheim, CA
Bike name: “The Limey”
Engine/tranny, year and make, model, modifications: ‘56 Triumph 650
Frame/Rake: Factory frame, w/ bolt on hard-tail
Front End: 26” Springer, bought from ‘House of Handlebars’ in Artesia, CA in 1975 with Isodine Lights
Tire/wheel size and style: 16” front, sprung drum 16” rear
Favorite thing about this bike: “Just… the whole scooter. I could write a book on the shit we used to do on them bikes. It’s a friend, it’s my Limey. In the days I used to putt, we used to go out and camp. Everybody would get up with their Harleys and start kicking, after they’d all kicked it about eight times, I’d roll up and kick it once and say ‘let’s rock!’”
Next modification will be: “New owner.”
Other mods, accessories, cool parts, etc.: “I’d be writing here for a long time. This bike is cool. I decided how it was going to look and I think it’s a cool scooter. The seat was built to carry ‘freight’, I thought about lowering the front of it, but never did because I was always riding around looking for ‘freight’. Paint by Kelly’s Painters in Bellflower (done in the early 70’s)”
Any building or riding story or info you'd like to include: “When I bought that scooter, I brought it home in two cardboard boxes. I kept the frame, had the rigid bolted on and had it painted. I threw away a lot of the original parts, nowadays it probably would be worth a few bucks, but I don’t lose any sleep over it. Then I just started piecing it together. I put the spring hub on the rear, at first I had a 12” over tubed front-end and then eventually had the springer.
Right after I got it finished in the early 70’s, there was this bike show up at the Pan-Pacific Auditorium. My friend Jim Lance said this bike might have a good chance of winning this competition. So, we rode this bike up to the Pan-Pacific and entered in the show. I’m thinking I’m gonna win hands down and then these two or three bikes show up without even any oil in ‘em. Well I get 2nd place, you know, political shit. So, they give the trophy to this guy, and you know, he’s a nice guy, but I’m thinking ‘how are you gonna give a trophy to a guy who’s bike has never even been ridden.’ The guy says ‘you know partner, that’s the way it is,’ so I hand him the 2nd place trophy and say ‘here’s your 2nd place trophy, I don’t accept 2nd place trophies, I’m outta here.’ So, I cranked my son of a bitch up, put the ol’ lady on the back and rode out of the Pan-Pacific as she was flipping everyone the bird. I felt like I won.”
Thanks to “Jim Lance and my other bros.”
Article and photos by Ryan Loughridge / Website / Facebook / Instagram
*Big thanks to Gray Crouch for helping us with this feature.