Vintage Popular Mechanics magazines offer up a treasure trove of ideas and inspiration. In the 1950s and 60s, Popular Mechanics carried fanciful cover images and intriguing stories predicting The Future, especially the evolution of transportation – flying cars and personal jetpacks were perennial favorites. When a young Patricio Castelli of Argentina discovered a dusty collection of old Popular Mechanics, they expanded his horizons.  As a child, Patricio (now 45)  fantasized about The Future, drawing airplanes, cars and motorcycles. Basically, he says, anything that triggered his imagination, including space and time travel.

Patricio Castelli’s remarkable custom, built with aeronautic techniques from retro-future inspirations. [Juan Paviolo]
Growing up in Buenos Aires, Patricio was forever taking apart and putting back together his toys, and later his bicycles. The gift of a disassembled Lambretta scooter spurred his mechanical enthusiasm even further.  “With my cousin we began motorizing some bicycles, using industrial engines,” he says. They had limited parts and materials, though: “Everything had to be manufactured, including the tools. It is difficult to think about from a distance, but our means were scarce. We only had a drill and little else.”  The discovery of the Popular Mechanics collection provided tremendous inspiration, including how to make his own tools. “It must be one of the magazines that influenced me the most,” he laughs.

Juan Paviolo photographed Abandon All Hope as a future/alien craft: fantastic. [Juan Paviolo]
Patricio’s uncle taught him how to work a forge, hammer and anvil, and he got a job at a blacksmith shop once he finished high school. He says, “I always had the idea of dedicating myself to the design of cars and motorcycles, and after the blacksmith shop, I was able to work as an apprentice in an aeronautical sheetmetal workshop.” There, he discovered the intricacies of working with aluminum and the techniques unique to constructing airships. “That was like opening a door towards the possibility of contributing the aircraft technique in other vehicles, it is what I find interesting because of the logic of weight reduction and resource management, similar to the racing world, those guidelines are what inspire my bikes. There is a beauty in airplanes, a beauty that is different from cars or motorcycles and that has to do with the logic of aerodynamics and the fluidity of shapes. That inspires me, and it is difficult to see an airplane and not get excited.”

The machine is remarkably slim and light, and it works! [Juan Paviolo]
Now, Patricio works in a small home-based workshop, where he takes on projects like restoring motorcycle fuel tanks, as well as commissions for customers requiring one-off aluminum parts for classic or competition cars. He enjoys working with hand tools when forming sheet metal, but if a large project requires laser cutting or CNC work, he’s up to the task. “In general, I try to combine artisanal methods with some CAD design. Now, my idea is to expand the business and offer design, construction, and development services for prototypes or special projects.” He hopes to open the doors to this venture, called Futura Macchina, sometime this year.

The aero details are fascinating and unlike any custom yet seen, with a remarkable consistency of vision. [Juan Paviolo]
As an example of what Futura Macchina can accomplish, Patricio worked with his friend Matias Ichuribehere to create a bike called ‘lasciate ognie speranza’. That’s a line from Dante’s epic poem, Divine Comedy, and loosely translated, means ‘Abandon All Hope’ [from a sign over the gates of Hell, reading in full, “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate” – Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” – ed.] Patricio says, “It seemed to me that it is like a point of no return, not only in terms of design, but also for me this means no more half measures, it leaves no room for doubt. At that time I wanted to apply everything I have learned over these years, and the idea was to combine the motorcycle with the aeronautical or aerospace and some of the imaginary from science fiction.”

The turned-aluminum bodywork was arrived at after Patricio Castelli’s years of experience working on actual aircraft. [Juan Paviolo]
Based on a Zanella 125cc engine (Honda Cub clone), Patricio worked for a year on the project. He started by drawing out his ideas and drafted the engineering details on a computer to determine how all of the mechanical components would work together. This included how the engine would mount and how the single front swingarm would be suspended, and quite critically, also steer. Under the aluminum bodywork, there’s a steel subframe that holds the swingarm, and that entire arm is what turns, instead of the hub of the wheel as is usually found in a hub-centered steering system. It’s a mechanical marvel, and while not road legal, Abandon All Hope is a functioning machine. There’s a drum brake hidden out back, and a thumb control throttle lever is hidden under the right side of the intricately shaped handlebar. There’s a scoop under the front nose cone to direct air to the engine and an uber-cool series of exhaust ports on the right side of the rear fuselage. Everything, apart from the engine, was custom built, foot controls and 19-inch wheel discs included.

The single-sided steering arm on Abandon All Hope is not a hub-center steered design – the wheel moves with the entire front fork. [Juan Paviolo]
“Obviously,” Patricio says, “it is not road legal although it works well. It is more about an exercise in how to translate a design concept into a motorcycle. Beyond the motorcycle itself, my intention is to cross art, custom culture and industrial design. I think the best thing is to think outside the box, interesting things happen there. I think that the ‘custom’ world usually repeats shapes and patterns, and I would like to be more free to design and manufacture and not be aware of the fashion style. But that does not mean that I do not like the classics. I love the English or American motorcycles of the 1920s or 30s, but also the first choppers of the 1960s. Having said that, I try to make my work all-original.”

Unique angles, original shapes. A masterpiece in a rarified genre. [Juan Paviolo]
Inspired by images seen in old Popular Mechanics, Abandon All Hope is certainly original, and takes ‘custom’ to a technically refined level. One could easily imagine his motorcycle featured on the cover!

Follow Patricio Castelli’s exploits on Instagram here.

The aero influence is clearest on the combined seating/steering upper frame member. [Juan Paviolo]
The workmanship is clearly exposed: this is a hand-built machine. [Juan Paviolo]
The remarkable Abandon All Hope: built with aeronautic techniques, inspired by old visions of The Future. [Juan Paviolo]


Greg Williams is a motorcycle writer and publisher based in Calgary who contributes the Pulp Non-Fiction column to The Antique Motorcycle and regular feature stories to Motorcycle Classics. He is proud to reprint the Second and Seventh Editions of J.B. Nicholson’s Modern Motorcycle Mechanics series. Follow him on IG: @modernmotorcyclemechanics
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