by Molly Gilbert
The day began like any other–a call from Sr. Editor of MMM, Victor W. asking if I’d like to conduct a little interview with a local owner of a custom bike outfit. Sure! Sounds fun & interesting! Hell, maybe I’d even learn something. Oh, there’s just one small detail; he’s also president of the local chapter of Hells Angels. Give his assistant Ginny a call at this number–Bye! Uh–Victor…Hello?? What the hell is he getting me into here??
So then I run this by a few guy friends of mine who advise me in no uncertain terms to CANCEL THE INTERVIEW! DON’T GO! YOU MAY NOT COME OUT ALIVE! Yet no one really seems to know this guy “personally”, they’ve just heard from that friend of a friend who knows another friend who said… you know the game. So now, of course, my interest is piqued. I check out his shop’s website, which is actually very cool: www.mplscustomcycle.com. I learn some things about him and his work and the products his shop puts out. Then I link over to the Hells Angels Daly City site just for shits & giggles: www.hamcdc.com, where I first heard terms like “the Red & White” club & noticed they have some number they keep referring to. I don’t even wanna know. So anyway, I get as much info as I can, besides remembering reading Hunter S. Thompson & Sonny Barger’s books just for my own enjoyment during my undergrad, and go on over to check out MCC & see what Pat has to say about it.
I have to say, he was an absolute gentleman. He is personable, friendly & willing to answer any & all questions. I expected maybe 40 mins. with the guy, & he gave me 3 hours & even took me & his assistant / marketing director / buddy Ginny Ferguson to lunch afterwards. He is a straight shooter who seemed to prefer the same from me, so we got down to business. The first thing you see walking into the shop is a really cool assortment of MCC gear to wear. They have gal’s stuff, guy’s stuff, & contrary to what you might think, it’s not all about g-strings & see-through tops for the gals. I bought myself a bitchin’ red cap really nicely embroidered with MCC on the front & “the real deal” on the back. Pat has a guy in San Francisco who does the embroidering, and he hand-embroiders each jacket so each is unique in their own way. The quality work is really very impressive. I mean, I am not at all a ‘chopper’ type of gal, right? I mean, I’m past president of the BMW Motorcycle Club of MN, so we’re talking night & day here, OK? But I totally dug some of the stuff they have on the floor, from the mechanic’s jackets to the leather bomber jackets to t-shirts & belts, all only three months new! This is a brand new venture for MCC and a wise one at that. You could spend a fortune just outfitting yourself there.
Secondly, but most importantly, you are hit with MCC’s custom choppers. He manufactures a line of custom motorcycles to include: Wide Fat Tire Choppers, Streetmonsters, Thunderbolt Choppers, Freight Trains, Thunderbolts and Wide Fat Tire bikes. These bikes are all designed around the polished 113 cubic inch V-Twin motor assembled at Minneapolis Custom Cycle.
Basically, six different model types to offer the discerning customer, each with its own custom paint job and each (most importantly) assembled by Pat’s crew of mechanics, all who Pat believes to be the best he can get in the country. And yes, Ginny answered, there is a difference between the WFTC & the WFT; one is chopped and the other has the standard inverted front end. When the frame is built, it is actually assembled differently to handle the different rakes.
Same thing goes for the Thunderbolts and Thunderbolt Choppers. When I asked what the difference was between getting an MCC bike vs. just customizing one’s own Harley, Pat said the difference is in the person putting your bike together for you, and the long term effect that has on how much you enjoy your machine. He goes for the mechanics with the most talent, and has them put together your bike, piece by piece.
Starting at $26,500 for the Streetmonster and finishing at $31,900 for the WFT Chopper, MCC sells motorcycles not only at its shop in North Minneapolis (4330 Lyndale Avenue N.), but across the U.S. through a growing network of authorized dealers and their website. In order to become an authorized dealer, one must commit to selling a certain number of bikes within a certain timeframe. Pat is known for his customized wheels–and putting out his own parts from the motor to pipes to coil covers to the wheels. People flock here for Pat Matter parts and HORSEPOWER.
MCC has a total of eight employees right now: to include three mechanics and one machinist. As you can see on their website, they are always looking for very talented mechanics, but if you just happen to like to wrench in your garage, don’t bother picking up the phone; Pat likes to hire the best he can find–and most generally come from out of state–from institutions, uh, I mean educational institutions–such as M.M.I. in Florida or Arizona.
Once you get past the showroom you enter into the assembly/mechanic’s area, which I wouldn’t suggest anyone just try to waltz into, as there is a sign as huge as your mother stating: STAY BACK / STAY ALIVE” on the outside, so I definitely asked permission to see it. Both Ginny and Pat gave me the tour, introducing me to his mechanics and race bike & motor building specialist, Greg Klopp. There are generally 5 to 9 bikes in a row being assembled at the same time. That’s one way they get 100 custom bikes out per year. Pre-assembly is key here, according to Pat; the forks and frames are powder-coated six weeks in advance of the actual assembly; the wheels are manufactured ahead of time and although S & S supplies the motor parts, they come non-assembled so that the motors can be assembled in-house as well as the building of their own wiring harnesses, etc. MCC putting it together makes all the difference here–and it comes down to craftsmanship. They have their own Sunnen head machine, flow bench–all the necessary equipment to hand build these custom bikes.
Now if Ginny could get Pat to stop racing his Top Fuel bike with the Nitro Brothers Race Team, they might get out even more, but Pat is passionate about his racing, and he gets a real kick out of setting new records on his “monster”–and no, that’s not a Ducati he’s referring to…
A great deal of excitement surrounds Pat’s Top Fuel racing bike. It had so many different ‘pet’ names attached to it I kept getting confused, but this is what I could make of it: It is a Top Fuel Harley Davidson–with a four cam PRP racing motor. In seven seconds it gulps down 3.5 to 4 gallons of fuel & hits 188 mph in just over 7 seconds. He estimates his highest time yet was 191 mph in 7.1 seconds a couple of weeks ago up at Brainerd International Raceway (B.I.R.), where he’s become somewhat of a weekend favorite. Pat began his racing career back in 1992, after spending 20 years transforming his passion to ride, race and build, to involve all facets of the motorcycle industry. He started acquiring up to five wins a year in racing; was awarded the fastest Pro-Stock Harley in ’97; held the National Points Champion for drag racing and proudly received the Bike Builder of the Year Award for his MCC bikes at Daytona Bike Week, 2002. This monster bike of his boasts 750 Horsepower, and runs on Nitromethane. Scary. There’s a picture in a recent media piece out with Pat holding his helmet up so that the jaw piece is covering his eyes. The force of the speed of the bike had Pat riding that way down the track at B.I.R. for a period of time. The force of the engine usually has him riding on the rear wheel only, but “Flyin’ down the track on one wheel is addicting” he says. “I live for it”.
So yeah, back to the shop. Once you get past the assembly area you get to the machine shop and Pat’s race bike which is constantly being fine-tuned & worked on by Greg. Indeed, there is an entire area of the shop just dedicated to this bike. Next to that is an actual in-house Dyno Jet Dyno. It tests the horsepower to the rear wheel of each bike, being sure it is as powerful as it is supposed to be before handing it over to the customer. I questioned whether the booth was soundproofed, it isn’t. Ginny says you can’t hear yourself think when it’s going. So what they are offering is a true, one of a kind experience to the seasoned chopper shopper.
Of course, there is a great deal of ‘hype’ surrounding these machines in the sense that they are marketed to a specific audience. Just note the language used on one of their publications: America’s Most Wanted: Who are among the “Most Wanted”? Reckless renegades defying rules and tradition. The slick, the fast, the fearless and the feared. The real deal. These are Minneapolis Custom Cycles. America’s Most Wanted … motorcycles.
Minneapolis Custom Cycles is an extremely large precision manufacturing shop equipped with state-of-the-art computerized machine tools and expert technicians to run them. Each bike is individually built, with one craftsman fine tuning from start to finish. Rubber mount engines and Matter’s ‘big four’–horsepower, torque, longevity and superiority are shop signatures.
Size matters. At MCC they build ’em big, really big. Motors come at a minimum of 113″ and Pat doesn’t look back. They’re built with stamina to perform and staying power. MCC bikes aren’t just big on horsepower they’re FAT. Fat in the rear that is. The WFT spreads an awesome 250 rear end. Size varies on other models, but rest assured, they’re the biggest, bad boys in town.
Whether you’re Wanted, or Wanting, MINNEAPOLIS CUSTOM CYCLES goes to extreme measures to assure your bike is as individual as the crimes you commit. Like DNA, no two are alike.
Alrighty, Class; and who do you think this is aimed towards? Hmmm? Definitely not MY personal style, yet neither were the topless babes posters littering the shop. All just part of the ‘mystique’, I guess. Didn’t do much for me, but hey; I’m not the ‘type’ they are aiming at, now am I?
One of the more impressive components of my time spent at MCC was the fact that Pat utilizes Ginny as his #2 person in most of the issues I saw him dealing with. Now, this was unexpected! I expected a completely male dominated environment (I mean we are talking motorcycles here, up to this point in time, a predominantly male-run field) yet Ginny was my 1st contact and she played a role in every part of my interview with Pat. Although they’ve known each other for 20+ years, Ginny is a relative newcomer to Pat’s organization, being with him for only three months thus far. And the changes she has instigated for Pat are fabulous additions. As Marketing Director, she has helped usher in a new website which was officially launched June 2002. The site features the complete 2002 line of custom cycles, all specs, and all available parts. Another significant addition she encouraged is the complete line of Dangerous Threads motorcycle apparel for men & women. All of the above is listed on the website, and there is even more merchandise found at the store. The website allows customers to peruse the wares & eventually purchase the bike they want online. It’s a great service to offer their customers & both Pat & Ginny are proud of the work they’ve put into developing it, and they should be. In its first two weeks the website, developed by 1st Scribe in Mpls. in conjunction with MCC, had over 1000 hits per day.
I was curious as to how in the heck Ginny dealt with the constant “T & A” environment common to this element of riders, and her response was that hey, this industry was built on this. “Why do you think they all want to be “bad” on the weekends? And this is the stuff that makes men tick in the marketing realm. It’s all about the sale, baby–so why fight it?
OK. So Ginny & I differ a bit on the personal politics, but I have to respect where she’s at. It’s just a different world from mine. Someone has to serve this element, just as mine, so why not have it be a woman? Ginny was Creative Director of a biking publication aimed at the female rider–Bikes & Spikes, and also worked at Easyriders of Minneapolis as General Manager–so she has some very real cycling marketing experience behind her, and though she admits she’s had her ups & downs within the industry, she has stuck it out, and good for her. Pat clearly relies upon her expertise and trusts her judgment, and that is a refreshing sight to see. She knows her stuff–the new publications for dealerships are really exciting and professionally done, and he is wise to listen to what she has to say in this realm. The partnership appears to be on very equal ground, and that should make any woman wanting to shop at MCC feel very confidant. I suspect due to the price tags alone, combined with the facts on men’s vs. women’s salaries nationally, that the majority of buyers are males, but Pat would warmly welcome a woman wanting to purchase her own bike at MCC. In fact, Pat clearly stated to me that he’d rather ride with a woman at his side than a woman on the back of his bike, so ladies; come on down and pull out those checkbooks!
Contrary to a potential outsider’s belief, this is a completely legitimate shop–back in the old days, when Pat first started out assembling custom bikes, he ran into all sorts of issues with having to have frame serial numbers, & justify & document where every single part came from. And you can imagine, with his club affiliation, that the folks in positions of authority on the subject would likely have been all over him on this. Its seems he felt slightly, should we say “confined” by all that mess, so made a smart move by purchasing various pieces of the bike from certain suppliers: S&S supplies the engine, another dealer supplies the custom wheels, another the seats, another the powder coated frame from the factory–but again, the true jewel is in the assembly.
When I asked Pat who his targeted customer is, he responded that it is most often the type of rider who has already tried customizing her/his own bike and is now looking for something with a little (lot) more power and a very high quality–something with a warranty and a name to stand behind it. Unfortunately, once you start to customize your own bike, no dealer will stand behind it–whether it’s a Guzzi or a Harley. That’s just the way it goes. Pat says his bikes come with a six month warranty and a three year aftermarket warranty can be purchased. Interestingly enough, the majority of his customers come from out of state–mostly from the Southwest. Florida, Vegas, and Phoenix–the southern markets like his stuff. He thinks it’s mostly from word of mouth in the areas where people can ride year round. He mentioned Eddie Trotta, the owner of a company called Thunder Cycles in Fort Lauderdale who is a dealer for Pat & he’s done quite a bit of business with. He also sees the stock Harley rider as his future customer. If someone wants to customize their Harley to have the kind of power an MCC bike has, the frame will not accommodate it. He is proud of the safe way in which he builds his bikes within a six to eight week turnaround, and EZ Rider just voted him one of the Top Ten Bikes of the Year. In fact, he was featured in the August issue of this year, 2002.
His success rate seems to be pretty good–he has some very proud and happy customers. He also seems to really care about every bike that goes out. He has worked hard to get where he is, and wants to be able to stand behind his entire product, and he does. One of the more exciting developments is that Pat is collaborating with famous names in the industry such as Ron Simms, Arlen Ness & Roger Bourget–they’ll be meeting in Sturgis this year to go over some exciting ventures that was still in the developing stages as I was conducting the interview. It seems that this would be a great honor for Pat & although there is nothing they could give me as far as a press release is concerned, it is clear he has worked hard to get to such a point in his business today. He is proud to say they will be expanding soon–moving to a much larger space right next door to their current location.
Remarkably enough, for a girl who can just now begin to identify the different types of Beemers when I pass them (heh, heh) on the road–boxers/ R-bikes, singles/ thumpers, K- bikes, etc.–I became very excited when just this past Sat. night I was out & saw an MCC motorcycle–no, TWO! In fact, I saw the MCC T-shirt on the guy first then the bike–then the second one pulled up. They are very distinctive bikes, identifiable in a N.Y. second. Of course they were headed off to Whiskey Junction or The Joint or some such–that general area where bikes like this hang out.
So what are some of the other differences between getting a Harley & doing some of this stuff yourself, and buying one of Pat’s bikes? To start with, it will cost you twice as much money on a Harley. With Pat’s bikes they build them pretty to begin with (customized paint jobs, polished chrome to blind you); you can ride them right away (no late night garage wrenching/mosquito swatting, cussing central); and
the horsepower cannot be beat. You will receive a total package of something you won’t have to touch. No more endless wrenching in your garage–this thing comes signed, sealed & delivered.
One of the funniest bits of the interview was when I asked Pat what the strangest request was that he’s ever had for a custom machine. He giggled & literally turned red. I don’t know what it was that he didn’t want to tell me, but he left me with a “let me think more about that one” until after lunch. I called to follow up on that answer, but never did get one. Man, it musta been an odd request, that’s all I can say…
Another moment was when I told him my club affiliation. He said something to the effect of “Where you guys BEEN?! I been LOOKIN’ for you people!” in a fake menacing tone. Yeah–like we got shit to settle or sumtin’.
In all it was a great experience–there are some serious bikes for some serious bike enthusiasts there, and some very cool threads. This is the place to go if you want some very dangerous, customized American iron.