One year ago last Labor Day, Father-and-son Triumph fiends and O.G. ChopCult lurkers Tony and Andy Dunn moved their venerated Classic Cycles enterprise into bigger digs near its original Orange, Calfornia, home. For the uninitiated, Classic Cycles has risen to the pinnacle among SoCal-based British bike builders, resellers and hop-up experts in less than a decade. McGoo visited Tony on an average weekday to watch the elder Dunn and his clever crew work on a cavacade of choppers, bobbers, beaters and bona fide show bikes.
McGoo: What year was Classic Cycles officially opened?
Tony Dunn: Andy and I worked out of our garages prior to leasing our little shop on Batavia Ave. and incorporating in 2007. In the fall of 2011 we moved into our current location.
Who works at Classic Cycles today?
I’m the general manager and electrical specialist. Bob does engines and occasional tune and service. Fuji is our all-around wrench. Amanda is our office manager, and Sheri takes care of the phone and all bookkeeping. My son and business partner Andy builds motors and is the general manager.
What is the business mix, money-wise?
Today we are 80% tune and service, 10% bike sales and 10% walk-in parts and accessories, but those numbers are shifting rapidly, as we’re selling more and more complete bikes every month. Walk-in P&A business is also growing. We've got Triumph-specific parts and accessories from Lowbrow, Biltwell and many other niche manufacturers. If you're in SoCal, please visit our shop!
Under those circumstances, how do you manage growth, and what do you attribute to the surge in popularity of British bikes?
We are indeed growing every month, but I can’t put my finger on exactly why the Brit bikes are becoming so popular. I can tell you this, however: every time a Brit bike shows up in a TV show or a movie, we get flooded with work.
What’s your personal background and attachment to British machines?
I've been building bikes since 1968 and I started exclusively working on British bikes 20+ years ago after growing tired of the whole V-twin scene. Years ago I had an editor friend at Hot Bike magazine ask me what I planned to work on after finishing my latest Harley build. When I told him I wanted to build a ’69 Bonneville, he said he had one in his garage that he’d give to me if I promised to build it right. Some guy from a museum bought the bike years ago, but it sat around in my garage long enough for Andy to get bit by the British bug, too.
What are three things you wish customer would NEVER do?
#1: NEVER dismantle your engine because you think doing so will save you money or us headaches. We generally figure out everything that’s wrong with a motor during the disassembly before a rebuild. If you bring your motor to us in boxes, it’s tough to figure out what went wrong.
#2: Please don’t expect us to fix things we’re not getting paid to fix. There’s only so many hours in a day, and time is money.
#3: NEVER tell me to take my time… it’ll never get done!
OK, tell us three things you wish customers would ALWAYS do.
#1: Please fill up your gas tank before you bring your bike in for a tune and service. We ride test all bikes thoroughly before delivering them back to their owners, so we go through a lot of gas around here.
#2: Please try to realize that motorcycles vibrate and 40-year-old hardware is far from reliable. Consequently, some of the nuts and bolts we touch during a service may come loose after riding or break-in. Loc-Tite is a multi-million-dollar company for a reason—check the fasteners on your motorcycle often.
#3: If you fucked something up, just say so. Stretching or hiding the truth doesn’t solve anything, because we charge by the hour. We’re eventually going to figure out what you did—may as well own up to it and save everyone some time and money.
Any plans to do Harley or Japanese stuff, or are you happy in the British niche?
Oh God no! If I ever said that we would work on Jap bikes it would look like Pearl Harbor around here. And I'm sorry, but I'm over the whole V-twin scene.
Anyone you’d like to thank?
First, I want to thank the late Mr. Keith Moore. He was a great friend and mentor to me for many years, and was a large part of our success. Next, my wife and family for putting up with my dirty-ass hobby after all these years. Now that it’s paying the bills it doesn’t seem so bad! And finally, my son Andy. Everyone thinks the shop revolves around me, but without him there would be no Classic Cycles, Inc. Thanks son.
To learn more, visit Classic Cycles website or lurk around the ChopCult British Bike forum—Tony is in there all the time.