About this time of the year in 2007 (winter), I had the brilliant idea for the Amateur Chop off at The Horse Smoke Out. Ten years ago the television chop off programs were still going pitting builders against each other and being voted on by the public as to the winner.
All well and good, the chop off programs on various channels were good for the chopper business at the time. The first Biker Build Off culminated at The Horse Smoke Out in 2002 with Billy Lane going against Roger Bourget. Since it was The Horse Smoke Out and not the Overpriced Tricked Out FXR gathering, Billy won easily, not even close to the ‘narrowest of margins” that Hugh “The Chopper” King liked to say.
The thing was, The Horse has always been about the backyard builder, the guys working away in the leaky shed, the freezing garage, the sweaty shack etc.
I thought it would be cool to let JoeAverage have a crack at it. The rules wouldbe simple:
- Must not work at a bike shop (including your own).
- Must send in regular updates to be featured in the magazine.
- Must be roadworthy enough to complete an official ride with the rest of the entrants and get to The Horse Smoke Out under your own power.
I reasoned that the 30-day builds on TV could be replicated by the common man in six months. Little did I know just what a task it would be.
You see it’s one thing to build your own bike. Sometimes the build can drag on fora year or two, sometimes they go fast but it’s a completely different deal working to a deadline. It can be summed up in two words:“Shit happens”.
People get sick, their kids get sick, the wife gets sick, someone gets laid off a job,someone gets a new job that requires more time. Natural disasters happen depending on where you live. The ‘rebuilt’ engine you bought turns out to have been rebuilt by a 5year old with ADHD. So literally anything and everything that CAN delay you, WILL.
Over the years we have had an averageof a 40% drop out rate. I remember onlyone year where everyone showed up, eventhough a couple either weren’t complete orhad puked the day before.
Some home builders threw caution to the wind and rode their entries to The HorseSmoke Out from several states away. This didn’t always go well. Some entries barely made it to the event after being trailered to the start point.
One year, I built along with the entrants.The 750 Hondamatic Chopper that I did for Nancy, I worked on under the same guidelines as the rest of the ACO guys. For the sake on honesty here, I didn’t make it. I got it running and on the road but the battery wasn’t charging, I didn’t trust it enough to take to The Horse Smoke Out.
In my view, the Amateur Chop Off is what the heart and soul of this magazine is about. Yeah it’s nice to see what the pros are doing and we’ll always feature that stuff to inspire others to get off their ass and build something. There’s really nothing like the feeling of ripping down the road on something you put together. Of course it’s usually accompanied by the thoughts of “Did I put Loctite on that front axle nut?”
I’d like to recognize the role played by our departed brother Richie Pan here. He was very enthusiastic and supportive when Iran the idea past him. He entered and won the first ACO (he also coined the “ACO”moniker) with his green “Fifth Knuckle”,a bike he intended to build anyway and thought the deadlines would help accomplish that. Well, that they did, but it was far from easy for him. He must have had fun, as he jumped into the second ACO with his DavidMann Shovel that ended up on the cover of issue #94.
Damn, I still miss him.
It looks like 2018 will be the first year to skip the ACO in quite a while, however there are plans to bring it roaring back next year with a vengeance. Start picking out those frames and engines and looking around for that perfect springer, the ACO will be back at The Horse Smoke Out before you are even ready!
I can’t wait!
Editor of The Horse BackStreet Choppers Magazine