David Mann ChopperFest

By Tom Christian

This year’s David Mann ChopperFest at the Ventura County Fairgrounds took place December 9th as scheduled; last year’s event was rescheduled due to the devastating fires and floods in the area. The recent fires in the area potentially foreshadowed a repeat re-scheduling, but thankfully that was not the case.

When arriving at the fairgrounds and doing a live video, I just enjoyed watching the bikes, and hearing all of them rolling in just made my day. Just thinking of what I might see, or meeting folks who are attending for the first time, my thoughts drifted back to the friends that I made from past years. As you check in at the front of the fair to get your tickets you see a group of riders and onlookers kicking back enjoying the view of rows of bikes, and people checking out the hard work everyone has put into their bikes. Once inside, it takes a while to walk around the sea of bikes with everyone wanting to talk about them; I love to hear their stories while I had a few of my own to tell.

While walking through the crowd one could hear the music in between the bands changing out on the stage. It was my mission to try to see as much as I could while covering ChopperFest. It was hard because there were so many very cool vendors with their displays of products or their own custom made items. One of the highlights of the show is the building dedicated to artists showing some of their hand painted items that were out of this world and had everyone’s attention.

Inside the building, Irene ‘Airbrush’ was the person who rocked everyone’s mind. She was right in front of a van that Quick Throttle Magazine featured on the November cover. She’s a quiet gal, but her work spoke out very loudly. She told me she painted the murals on the side of the van that just blew everyone away with her talent. Irene also had a few motorcycle gas tanks and other items she was working on that were crazy cool. The place was covered with lots of super cool handmade painted items for a man cave or mantle in the living room. Plenty of David Mann’s work was also on display to enjoy and maybe even an item or two to wrap up as a Christmas present.

Walking up and down the rows of vendors, there were boatloads of items from T-shirts, pro cleaning products and used motorcycle parts, to having your motor rebuilt with upgrades, with plenty of accessories for your ride. Dave Mackie Engineering, in Ventura, the home of the incredible Mega-Sphere, does professional head porting, cylinder boring and honing and carries a full line of performance parts for Harley-Davidson engines. Croftgate USA of Santa Barbara had some great cleaning products and a throw-away cover for your bike when in a pinch. They had buckets with their cleaning products in them that ranged from $19 and up depending on what was in the buckets. There were so many great vendors that it would take all day to visit all of them.

The time was getting close for announcing the winners over at center stage where the band was playing. While walking back to center stage there were so many folks checking out the vendors with their products it was hard to navigate through them all. You could hear the Midnight Rider Band playing as you walked toward the stage and sounding very good. I stopped and said Hi to the folks at Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys’ booth where stunt rider Randie Raige was helping sign people up for their ‘riders helping riders’ program, BAM. I thought there were a few thousand signed up, but it is actually over three million all across America.

The Midnight Rider Band was killing it on stage. People out dancing with their little ones showing how to bust a move made for a very entertaining time. The bands that played at ChopperFest were Bob Carrillo’s Awesome Blue Band, So Cal Metal Co. and the Midnight Rider Band. 3:00 pm was coming up fast as all the folks were heading toward the stage to watch the awards and trophies being handed out. I will tell everyone that I could not be a judge at any event because there are so many great bikes entered at all the shows I go to over my life time. Hats off to all the judges and people involved in this process.

As the awards were being handed out I was observing Mondo Porras of Denver’s Choppers handing the Mann-Kind award to Sugar Bear of Sugar Bear’s Choppers. Mondo received this award last year; with that he passed it on to Sugar Bear this year. Let’s see if this is going to be a David Mann ChopperFest tradition and the only way to find out is to be there next year.

This year’s winner of the David Mann Memorial Award was another bike building industry icon, Micah McCloskey. Presenting the award onstage was the co-star of the hit TV show “Ink Masters”, Texas master tattoo artist Oliver Peck.

With 26 different categories in the bike competition, it’s difficult to write about all of them in one story. Everyone worked hard on their bikes while taking the time to come out to this festival and set up, which made this a very rewarding event. The Best of Show has its own story with the history behind the bike engine.

Best of Show: The story and ‘reunion’ of the engine at the David Mann ChopperFest. Eric Bennett and his co-worker Gabe Vidrio took great pride in winning the Best of Show 2018 when they entered the custom built Harley-Davidson with a history that made my head spin trying to keep up with how and why it made it to this festival. Eric had entered this bike at the Long Beach IMS 2018 bike show and won first place with it. Prior to that it was at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch for an event called the Tennessee Motorcycles and Music Revival, a four day event that benefits the USO which serves United States service members; the entries just show up, to show their bikes, and there is no winner.

Eric owns his own shop, Bennett’s Performance. He has customers all over the world; he has even sold a bike to actor Brad Pitt. In June of 2018 he came across an engine that was in a Streamliner in 1978 where it was in the the top three fastest bikes at the Bonneville Salt Flats at 276.37 mph. Over fourteen years it set four world records. When Eric saw this engine he wanted to bring this piece of history back to life after purchasing it from a guy named Johnny Surprise.

Eric bought a 1977 Super Glide frame, that the engine would have been in from the dealership, and needed to be modified to fit all the upgrades they made to race at the Salt Flats. Mainly the radiator with the hose connections were needed to keep the motor cool while running at those speeds. While waiting for the announcements of the winners a guy came over to Eric to get information about his bike that had both of them surprised but happy to see that engine again.

Keith Ruxton was part of the decommissioning of this Streamliner motorcycle and he was the last person to put a wrench on it when he rebuilt the engine in 1991. The only thing Eric did to this engine was retime the ignition. After 102 days of work with almost $20,000 the bike was completed with this iconic engine brought back to life so we all can enjoy the history of it. Eric was very surprised to win this award; with so many great bikes entered it made him very proud to be a part of David Mann ChopperFest.

2018 David Mann Chopperfest

“If You Build It They Will Come”

Bike Show results

(presented by Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys and Harley-Davidson)

Chopper (Old Skool Skooter)

1st Place Dalton Walker 1950 Panhead

2nd Place Travis Stuckey 1952 Panhead

3rd Place Gerald Casey 1955 Panhead


1st Place Tim Graber 1946 Knucklehead

2nd Place Brett Hall 1957 Panhead

3rd Place Al Hall 1955 Panhead


1st Place Jay Maltzman 1965 Triumph Bonneville

2nd Place Josh Young 1965 FLH

3rd place John Jessup 1980 FXRT

Daily Rider

1st Place Jeff Montgomery 1946 Knucklehead

2nd Place Buck Chavaria 2014 Evo Rigid

3rd Place Jeff Bradley 1982 FXR

Modern Chopper

1st Place Eric Baez 1980 H-D Evo

2nd Place Sobe 1999 H-D Softail

3rd Place Paul Lindliff 2018 Pro 1 Chop

Radical Design

1st Place Johnny Branch 1980 Shovelhead

2nd Place The Holmes Family 1936 H-D Servicar

3rd Place Bill Forbes 2010 VW Trike


1st Place Johnathan Schroder 2007 Suzuki GS250

2nd Place Marco Ibara 1980 Honda CB650

3rd Place Duane Ballard 1975 Honda CB750

Koolest paint

1st place Jesse Velasquez 1994 H-D Softail

2nd Place Eli 2018 KD Customs Chopper

3rd Place Jeff Montgomery 1946 Knucklehead


1st Place Jim Tietz 2019 H-D FLTRSE

2nd Place Matt Schuler 2015 H-D FLTR

3rd Place Mick Schuler 2015 H-D FLHX


1st Place Mondo 2015 Sportster

2nd Place Marco De Cuesta 1969 XLCH

3rd Place Rick Young 1973 Sportster


1st Place Anthony Robinson 1966 T100

2nd Place MacSpeed 1956 Triumph

3rd Place Jay Maltzman 1965 Triumph Bonneville


1st Place Dan & Phil 1936 VLD

2nd place Kristine Peach 1939 Indian Survivor

3rd Place Wes White 1948 Triumph T120

Special Construction

1st Place Donna Frank 2018 S/C Shovelhead

2nd Place Stefani Cota 2005 H-D Spec. Const.

3rd place Paul Lattia 2007 H-D Spec Const.

FXR (presented by KD Customs)

1st Place Taylor Goodwin 2018 Ducati/FXR

2nd Place Haustale 1994 FXR

3rd Place Tom Edison 1992 FXR


1st Place Shane Tully 2011 Dyna

2nd Place Andrew Koo 2016 Dyna

3rd Place Zacharey Bradley 2011 Dyna

Ladies (presented by Real Deal)

1st Place Lisa 1992 FXRS-SP

2nd Place Allison 1984 Susuki GS-1100

3rd Place Kristine Peach 1939 Indian

Rat Bike

1st Place Sean Kearney 1947 Knucklehead

2nd Place Marco Djorc 2007 Triumph T100

3rd Place Marco Ibarra 1980 Honda CB650

Best Knucklehead

Ron Weber 1947 Knucklehead Chopper

Best Panhead

Stacy McCleary 2018 Special Construction,

replica panhead

Best Shovelhead

Donna Trank 2018 Special

Construction Shovelhead

Best Of Show

Eric Bennett 1969 Shovelhead

David Mann Memorial Award

Micah McCloskey 1965 H-D Chopper

Ross “Kiwi” Tomas Award

Roger Herbison 1936 Indian Chief Bobber

Mann Kind Award Sugar Bear

KD Customs Award

Stefan Amann 2018 H-D Low Rider

KD Customs Builders Choice Award

Todd Daniel 2015 H-D Street Glide