HB: For those who may not know, can you speak a little about your father, Tony.
TJ: My dad was always into cars and motorcycles. Being from Detroit it was hard not to. He had built custom bikes and he and my mom started a custom motorcycle shops/parts business in Detroit back in 1969. Back then there weren't many custom parts for motorcycles. So he had a lot of big names coming through. He had a couple of really nice bikes that hit the covers of magazines. In 1979 they moved out to Southern California and started up Metalcrafters, (what's now become a renowned custom and prototype car manufacturer) and continued to build some famous bikes. In 1992 we came up with the Paint Saver, it was a real original part. It got product of the year. Since then we've brought products to the industry under the Carlini Designs name.
HB: Referring back to what you said before about your personal life, it sounds like without experiencing everything you were going through, this bike as we see it wouldn't be here now. It sounds like this project was really an emotional, from-the-heart bike.
TJ: This is like my first-born child. There's so much in that. There's a lot of influence there that's not even from the motorcycle industry. I got into mixed martial arts and it helped put me in touch with channeling the aggression I was feeling. That's actually where I met my fabricator for this project, Rod. Rod is one of the fabricators over at Illusion Motorsports and Rusty [Coones] owns and runs the shop. Rusty and I worked together on this project. I hung out at the shop a lot soaking up as much information as I could to help refine my design and styling skills. That's what I do. I'm a designer.
HB: So did you bring your designs to Rusty and say this is where I want to go?
TJ: Yeah. Like for example the gas tank, I know how to shape surfboards, so I shaped a tank out of surfboard foam and brought it over to Rod and he shaped and hammered it out. Illusion did most of the fabrication like the handlebars, pipes, and rear fender, They also did all the assembly. I can't tell you how much respect and appreciation I have for Rusty and the crew for all the work they put into this project. We really worked well as a team.
HB: Let's talk about some of the components on the bike like the handlebars. How do they mount?
TJ: The bars are actually geared into the top tree. There's a gear on the underside, so you can actually line the bars up how you want them. There's no hardware that's exposed, it's pretty clean.
HB: What about the sideplates at the swingarm? How did those come about?
TJ: The struts were something I handled on my own. They just bolt on and camouflage the part of the frame that really shows it was a stock bike. I wanted to show people that if you're creative enough you can turn your stock bike into something that looks like a custom. I really wanted to do something that would conceal the gap between the back of the seat and the rear fender. Like the Rocker, I don't like that look. There's no transition. I'm hoping somebody with a Rocker approaches me so I can see how they fit on a Rocker and maybe make a conversion kit for the Rocker. I've been getting a lot of comments and questions about them so I wouldn't be surprised if they make it into our product line.
HB: You designed the wheels, too, right? How were they cut?
TJ: Yeah. Those wheels (patent pending) were so hard to make. I think if I do a wheel for my parts line it will look similar, but not exactly that. It was so labor intensive the cost would be way too much. It was one big chunk of billet and then the four spokes were machined out. Then each of those grooves in the rim was independently machined out. And the spikes are separate pieces that are bolted in. I'd been working on those wheels for like a year. Actually the entire bike has been a very long process. I really had to find my style first.
HB: What about the fork legs, what did you originally start with?
TJ: The legs were from American Suspension. Then they were milled to give it the look they have. I really feel the lower legs help complement the struts. And the pipes are pretty cool, too, because they are actually open down at the bottom and you can slide baffles up into them to mellow the sound.
HB: What's next? Are you going to do more bike projects?
TJ: Yeah, just from the buzz off of this bike I've had quite a few people want me to do custom bikes for them based off the bone structure and lines that this bike has. And there are a couple people that want me to put my twist on their Harley.
HB: OK that should about cover it, anything else you want to say?
TJ: Style is everything in this game. Style runs the show. The face of custom motorcycles is changing. It's not just a bunch of old guys anymore. Young guys are helping push the trends in this industry, they're hungry and it shows.