At 6 feet 6 inches and about 275 pounds, Chuck is a little bit bigger than your "average" custom bike builder, but he still fits comfortably on the stripped down bikes he builds.
Here's one of Chuck's sand cast air cleaners on Rey Mysterio's lowrider-style bike.
After building War Machine, Chuck rode it cross-country to be raffled off for a veteran's charity.
Some of engraver Heather New's handy work.
Many times when we meet custom bike builders we often find that they came from the automotive or even aircraft industry. The transition from cars and trucks or planes and helicopters to motorcycles makes complete sense, it's all a matter of having the passion to utilize steel, aluminum, nuts, and bolts to harness horsepower into fixed wing, four wheel or two wheel modes of transportation.
Now what we've rarely, if ever, come across is a bike builder whose background includes flying off the top rope of a 20x20-foot ring and driving an elbow into the chest of a downed opponent in front of tens of thousands of cheering fans. But after digging deeper into the background of what shaped wrestling superstar Chuck Palumbo into a skilled craftsman and dedicated custom motorcycle builder we quickly learned it all made sense.
Like most of us, Chuck's love with motorcycles started small-his first motorcycle was a 3 1/2 horsepower Sears and Roebuck mini bike which he got at the age of 4. Once he outgrew the mini bike, chuck got into BMX bikes which he constantly tore apart and rebuilt. At 15 Chuck's interest in mechanics and fabrication turned more serious as he worked after an school and summer job at an auto body shop where learned how to paint, weld, and perform plastic work.
After high school, Chuck tried a little stint in college but quickly felt it wasn't for him and followed his brother's path into the Navy eventually working as an aviation mechanic on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson in the Persian Gulf. Stationed out of San Diego, Chuck immediately acclimated to the sunny SoCal beach lifestyle. After the Navy, Chuck decided to give it the old college try again and while attending junior college he earned a full ride basketball scholarship to Central Missouri State University. About this time he also became the father of a baby girl named Charli.
During college Chuck got into watching pro wrestling and fell in love with the high-paced action. He immediately sold all his possessions and moved to Atlanta with his daughter and girlfriend Shannon to attend wrestling school. For two years Chuck and Shannon worked themselves to the bone, with him participating in rigorous training for no pay, and her watching their daughter during the day while working as a waitress seven nights a week to support the family. In 1999 the long hours and hard work paid off as he scored his first TV pro wrestling contract with the WCW. Chuck's passion and dedication led him to become a stand out wrester allowing him to work for organizations all over the world most notably the WWE where he was a two-time tag team world champion.
When he wasn't in the ring or on the road, Chuck could be found back at home in San Diego spending time with his family and his other passion, motorcycles. After several years of tearing down and rebuilding his personal bikes, Chuck began to take the bike building thing more seriously as he began purchasing more and more tools and machinery to allow him to really customize bikes through cutting, welding, and making his own parts.
"With the wrestling business you never know how long you are going to last, I began looking for ways to expand so I would have something going when I was done wrestling. I had a good relationship with Vince McMahon and I showed him some of the bikes I had done and I asked if I could work that into my wrestling persona. He dug the idea so I incorporated the bikes into my entrance into the ring. Eventually I started pushing the envelope to see what I could get away with and I started wearing my shop T-shirts, CP Kustoms into the ring."
Like any talented builder, Chuck's friends (most of which were also big name wrestlers) began to take notice of the bikes he was creating and they would ask him to work on their bikes as well. "They'd ask me to stretch their tanks or make them fenders or do some paint work on their bikes," Chuck said. From there things began to progress as a couple of his wrestling buddies wanted ground up customs and Chuck was more than happy to build the bikes. He's built bikes for Dave Bautista and Rey Mysterio. "When I was building Rey's bike, I was thinking of his heritage. Kind of like a lowrider bicycle with a twisted 24 karat gold frontend. I used a Denver's Choppers twisted leg springer, then made the rear fender and twisted some square stock for the fender support to match. It's not really something I would be into, but its something right up his alley," Chuck said. The blue and black bike was built for Chavo Guerrero. "I pulled the drivetrain out of another bike Chavo had and put it into a West Coast frame. Then I flat bottomed a Sporty tank, made the bars, rear fender, pipes and added Ride Wright Wheels, Joker Machine controls and Chopper Shox for the seat. Actually I use parts from all those companies in my builds, they make good stuff."
One of his latest builds however was a charity bike that had nothing to do with his wrestling connections but tied in with his and his brother's service to our country. That particular bike was a red and black Shovel with jockey shift and a kicker, and was dubbed War Machine. Once the bike was complete, Chuck rode it from San Diego to Rockingham, North Carolina, where the bike was raffled off with proceeds going to Fueled for the Fallen, an organization that helps wounded veterans.
After looking at some of the bikes he's built it's easy to see, Chuck's philosophy is more along the lines of the less is more approach, as most of his builds are short and tight hardtails with minimal sheetmetal. It's also evident that Chuck has a great appreciation for the older styles of choppers/bobbers, but also likes to incorporate modern components and his BMX racing background into his builds. Many of his bikes feature Frisco mounted Sporty-style tanks, Ape or Baby Ape bars, and sprung seats. "I love BMX, so I try to incorporate some of those style components into my builds," Chuck said. "I used an old Bear claw-style pedal and made an adapter to fit the pedal to a kicker.
I also made some risers to look like old BMX style Crow Necks/Tough Necks. I used stainless shafts and I can make them for Springer of regular triple-tree style frontends." Some other components Chuck has been working on are cast air cleaners and more one off pieces like neck gussets, axle covers, and gas caps. "The sand cast air cleaners kind of resemble the hood scoops you'd see on an old dual-quad setup from the late '60s, basically it's just turned sideways. With the covers and stuff I just take material like thin aluminum or brass and I cut and shape it then I send it to, this amazing engraver, Heather New, and she engraves the artwork for me," Chuck said.
While he's still wrestling here and there, Chuck is putting more time and effort into CP Kustoms than ever before. Like any business in this down economy, the custom bike scene is feeling the pinch. But Chuck's head is in the right place and he is definitely enjoying this new chapter in his life as he left us with this comment, "The custom bike business is tough, you really got to love what you do, there's not a lot of money in it. Business might not be booming right now, but whether it's for me or for a customer, I always seem to have at least one bike on the rack, and I am always working on my parts line to keep me busy and help fund the business."