They say Time Waits for No Man, but in the case of “Sliden’ Sonny” Nutter, it’s a case of stopping Time dead in its tracks and then kickin’ dirt in its face. Now 72 years young and a veteran of five decades of four and two-wheel racing, from Midget and Sprint cars to ½ mile flat track to steel-footed Speedway, Sonny’s bringing back history in a go-fast way, by building a series of one-off ‘60s era Triumph powered road racers, street stalkers and hotrods each bearing his unique signature, basically ‘Get the Hell outa my way!’
Decibels levels are such that Sonny never hears any noise complaints about his open piped bikes.
We recently caught up with Sonny at his Hangar 16 workshop hunkered down within the L.A. adjacent Santa Monica Airport, also home to Harrison Ford’s crashable plane and Jerry Seinfeld’s collection of vintage Porsches. As armadas of private aircraft and flocks of helicopters seem to run strafing runs over our heads we talked shop and kicked some very pretty tires, in particular, a bike Sonny humbly touts as the Ultimate Triumph ‘60s Retro Roadracer. We were afforded a first, and last, look at the bike as it was about to leave Sonny’s shop back to its owner in Seattle.
As Sonny says, “It’s a ’65 Bonneville, but it’s not anymore.” While that basically sums it up, but a few more details will fill out the picture.
“This all started about four years ago when I was building stuff at Yoshi’s Garage Company. The owner brought in the motor and frame, forks and the front wheel and wanted me to make up a bike for him. Initially, that beautiful all mechanical front-wheel dictated what the bike should have been. It was a repop of a Yamaha 4-leading shoe roadracer, the top of the food chain before disc brakes took over. So I was working on the motor about as fast as the owner was sending money to get it going, so the motor took about a year. The motor was all rebuilt with fresh parts, kept stock displacement and still fed by dual Amal carbs. Then one day a guy showed up with this beautiful big alloy tank, and I looked at that big front wheel, and decided then and there, okay, we’re not just going to build some run of the mill putt-putt, but a real ‘60s roadracer. But I want to stay in the day, so didn’t go too modern.”
Click here to read Paul Garson’s new piece on Sonny Nutter.