Here’s a novel idea. If you have more than, say, five or six motorcycles and you have the means to do so, give one away to a young person. For years, that’s what Bill Getty of JRC Engineering in Perris, California has been doing. Importantly, more than just giving away the machine, Bill also mentors the kid and figures he’s passed along close to 100 motorcycles – thus introducing dozens of youngsters to the thrills of riding. As aging enthusiasts bemoan the lack of enthusiasm for motorcycles among Teens and pre-Teens, isn’t this one solution?  The idea harkens back to Bill’s early days as a Boy Scout; he wasn’t given a machine, but Bill’s Scoutmaster brought a couple of 80cc Yamahas to a Scout weekend to watch the Big Bear Grand Prix races at Dead Man’s Point. “He let us go out and ride around on them,” Bill recalls. “I came home from that and I told my mother, ‘I’m going to get me a motorcycle’, and she said, ‘You’ll get a motorcycle over my dead body’. I told her I’d risk it.”

A young Bill Getty with a BSA ZB34 Gold Star special, with upgraded forks for off-road riding. In the background is the blue Johnson Motors pickup that JRC eventually took as its own. [Bill Getty]
So in 1966, 12-year old Bill saved every penny he earned mowing lawns – eventually enough to buy a used Honda 50. He never looked back. “I grew up in a tumultuous home, and by the time I was 12 I’d seen a lot of stuff that no one ever needs to see,” Bill allows. “When I got on the motorcycle, honestly, they couldn’t touch me. I could get on that thing and get away.” Bill lived in Duarte, just a 10 minute walk from where BSA/Triumph built their Western distribution headquarters in the late 1960s. He’d go over and “bug those guys. My brother and I rooted through their trash cans and we mocked up a motorcycle out of parts they threw away. It didn’t run, but in our garage, we had this motorcycle mocked up out of BSA and Triumph parts.”

Bill’s first British motorcycle supply: British Parts Old & New. “When the British thing fell apart in 1975, and I was riding the Norton, people were giving me stuff.”  [Bill Getty]
Another high point in Bill’s motorcycling career was turning 16 and getting a job at a Ford dealership. One of his co-workers was a Vietnam veteran who’d lost an eye, and with his settlement from the U.S. government he bought a brand new Norton Commando. “I really looked up to him,” Bill says. “One lunch time, the guy says, ‘Hey Getty, wanna go to lunch with us?’ So, I hopped on the back of his Norton. Out on Atlantic Blvd. we’re riding in jeans and t-shirts and tennis shoes. No helmets. We got in a drag race with another co-worker riding a Kawasaki Mach III, and I remember looking over his shoulder and seeing over 100mph on the Norton’s speedometer. I watched the Kawasaki disappear behind us and I knew I had to get a Norton.”

Snow in SoCal? It does happen…Bill ditched his helmet for the full experience. [Bill Getty]
That led to the purchase of a brand new 1970 Norton Commando 750. It was a lemon, and broke down on the way home from the dealership, and only managed 10 miles in two months. It never became a reliable runner, and a year later with just under 10,000 miles on it, Bill sold that and bought a BSA Rocket III. “That made the Norton look like a paragon of reliability, but I just really had a thing for the British motorcycles,” Bill says. He dropped out of college to work in a motorcycle shop. “I was there for about two months,” Bill says, “when the manager who was there lost his wife and was drinking on the job. The owner of the business came in, and he looked at me. He fired the guy and he says, ‘Can you be manager?’ I said I don’t know. ‘If you don’t, you’re fired.’” So, Bill managed that shop for four years and then got picked up by Hap Jones and Flanders to be a traveling sales rep. In the mid-1970s, he started his own sales company, taking on numerous different product lines, including California Sidecar Company. He hooked a California Sidecar to his Norton and rode around to dealers in San Diego, San Bernardino, Las Vegas, and all of the Los Angeles area. At trade shows, he says, John Flanders introduced him to everybody who was anybody in the motorcycle industry.

Bill Getty with a Rickman-esque Matchless G80 cafe racer. [Bill Getty]
“When the British thing fell apart in 1975, and I was riding the Norton, people were giving me stuff,” Bill says. “I filled my garage with motorcycle stuff; brand new Norton, Triumph and BSA parts. My neighbor sold me his chicken coop and we moved it into our backyard and we made it our parts department. I filled that up with British stuff and pretty soon I was making more money on weekends selling British motorcycle parts out of my garage than I was making as a sales rep working five days a week. My wife took over my sales route – she’s much nicer to look at than I am – and she did a lot better at it than I did. In December 1980 we opened British Parts Old & New in Whittier on Telegraph Road. That got me further connected in the industry, and I started trying to get young people involved even there.” Hoping to see people enjoy motorcycles the way he did, Bill says, “My mother saw them as death-in-waiting, and I saw them as total freedom.” To date, he can account for logging more than one million miles on a motorcycle, and more than half of those miles have been with his wife Marla as a passenger.

Marla and Bill Getty in Las Vegas for the big Mecum motorcycle auction in 2022. [Bill Getty]
“I have a policy,” Bill says of actively getting young people involved, “that when I hired somebody, I’d hire a young person. And I’d give them a motorcycle in pieces, and they had to put it together. They could take whatever parts they needed out of inventory and when they got done it was theirs. That way when a customer came in working through a problem with their bike, they would have experience and empathy, and they could say, ‘Yeah I just did that.’ I’ve done that through all of my businesses and everyone who works for me now, I’ve given every one of them a motorcycle and they’ve all built them up. A young man working for me now, I hired him when he was 16 and he’s 34; he’s built five motorcycles from parts. When he’s done with one, I say pick another and go for it.”

Bill Getty with his 1956 Triumph TR6 desert sled in the 2022 Barstow to Vegas race, which he’s run many times on Triumphs, often built from discarded pieces. [Bill Getty]
Bill never had any formal mechanical or business training. But he had mentors; one of them was Jack Simmons, flat track, scrambles and desert racer with the National No. 88 plate. They met as Jack had a machine shop in Fullerton and Bill brought him repair jobs. “Jack took me under his wing,” Bill says. “And he taught me how to off-road ride. I remember him screaming at me to put my feet on the pegs.” Another of Bill’s mentors was John R. Calicchio (JRC). John started JRC motorcycles in Costa Mesa with Spanish-built Bultaco machines, but soon began retailing British bikes. Bill met John while on his sales route, and the pair became friends. “John bought out Triumph Motorcycles America when they closed in 1983,” Bill explains. “He bought all the assets and got 27 new motorcycles and a million dollars in 1983 value of Triumph inventory and opened up a wholesale business. He soon got into computers, sold off the parts inventory to a guy in New Zealand and closed the business. I’d been buying from him and told him I wanted to buy the business. He said there is no business. And I said sure there was – the three letters, JRC. We worked out a deal and I got a letter of introduction from John to Les Harris in England, and David Holder, who owns Velocette and Vincent and had a parts business. They both said they needed a distributor on the West Coast and they fronted me a huge amount of inventory to pay for when I could. We built a 60-foot by 40-foot barn on our property, filled it with British parts, hung out the JRC banner and said we’re back in business.” It was 1987, and at that point, Bill sold British Parts Old & New and operated JRC Engineering as a wholesale parts business. His modus operandi was  to supply dealers with parts as though Triumph Meriden had never closed. It’s a business model that has treated Bill well, and as the JRC website states, it continues to operate as “an exclusive seller of over 12,000 parts, tools and over 350 private JRC parts,” for Triumph, BSA and Norton machines.

Bill Getty working in his shop British Parts Old & New in 1983. [Bill Getty]
Back to mentors, and how Bill started mentoring youngsters by giving away machines. Bill’s greatest influence was the Scoutmaster who taught him to ride the Yamaha 80. His name was Clark Shara and he had a backyard workshop equipped with a lathe, mill and welder. Clark taught Bill how to operate all of the equipment and gave him a key to the shop; he was allowed to use it whenever he wanted. “He was the man who showed me what a man was,” Bill explains. “I had a period of homelessness when I was a teenager, and when I came out of it, I thought it would be a good idea to get involved in some kind of ministry, and our church had a Boy Scout troop and they were going to disband it because they couldn’t find a leader.” Bill stepped in, thinking he’d fill the role until a permanent leader could be found. “That was 38 years ago, and I’m still the Scoutmaster of Troop 127.” It was, in fact, the example and encouragement set by Clark that Bill carries forward today with his motorcycle mentorship. How does Bill connect with these kids? While he doesn’t actively promote motorcycling within his Scout troop, “they all know what I do, it’s fairly obvious,” and he continues, “The Lord leads them to me. Any kid who shows interest, I tell them I won’t sell you a motorcycle or give you a motorcycle – but I’ll give one to your mother. And as long as your mother says okay, then let’s go, come on let’s have some fun. There are plenty of mothers out there who view motorcycles the way my mother did.”

Big Blue, the former Johnson Motors shop truck, now in JRC Engineering’s care. [Bill Getty]
If a parent says OK, Bill invites the family to his property for a look around. He doesn’t just hand over a motorcycle, however; it must be clear they’re prepared to put in the effort. And Bill always has a parent involved, encouraging them to work alongside their son or daughter. And just where do these machines – which are not all British – come from? “When people find out what I’m doing,” he says, “they just give me bikes. For example, a friend of mine from an Orange County salvage yard knew what I was doing and gave me a bunch of motorcycles. The kids and I fix the bikes and they ride them around the five acres we have here.” As they grow up, Bill says, many of them do carry on with the motorcycle enthusiasm, “but none of them as a profession.” Bill would like to see others scale up a program such as his, and says he frequently talks about what he’s doing. “Many say oh that’s a great idea, but when it comes time to separate from a motorcycle, they just can’t do it,” he says, and continues, “You talk about it, but then when somebody shows up it’s hard to say here, take this, no strings attached.”

Daniel Calvopina learning the ropes on a local dirt course. [Daniel Calvopina]
Once, Bill took under his wing a group of immigrant youngsters from a local church. They couldn’t speak English, and Bill couldn’t speak Spanish. “But we both spoke motorcycle,” Bill says. “One of those young men was 11 years old and came here from Ecuador. The common language was motorcycles, and Daniel and I were working on a Kawasaki F7, a 2-stroke rotary valve single cylinder bike. We got it running but it had a massive air leak and the engine just took off. We were trying to shut it off and pulled the spark plug lead but it wouldn’t quit. So, we both just stepped back and watched it until it blew up. We were laughing like maniacs.” It was a bond that stuck, and Bill eventually hired Daniel Calvopina to work at JRC Engineering, where he stayed for four years. He then went to work in sales and finance at Douglas Motorcycles Triumph, MV Agusta and Zero in San Bernardino.

Daniel Calvopina with a bit more skill, and more recently. [Daniel Calvopina]
Now in his mid-30s, Daniel is working as a financial analyst for the City of Murrieta. He picks up the story, “I came around often enough that one day Mr. Bill offered me a job at JRC Engineering. Initially, he taught me all about parts for Triumph, BSA, Norton and other obscure brands that I’d never heard of. As he would help customers troubleshoot issues and find parts, he would share how he acquired that knowledge. I really enjoyed this part of the job because there were a lot of great stories that came from learning how to troubleshoot these issues. A couple of days during the week, I would stick around after work to work on motorcycles that he let me borrow or that he was just working on that I liked. Eventually, I got to own two motorcycles, a Honda XR250L and later a ’77 Triumph T140 that Mr. Bill helped me get running. He did mentor me on how to repair motorcycles all the time and a few crucial things did stick, like you need air, gas, and spark to get a motorcycle running.”

Daniel Calvopina today. [Daniel Calvopina]
Bill’s mentorship was invaluable, Daniel continues, “Mr. Bill definitely had a huge impact on my life. He gave me a solid foundation to build on and I will always be grateful for this. Without his mentorship from a young age, the challenges of coming to a new country, new culture, and no relatives would have been a lot harder.” Bill’s motorcycle mentorship has meant Daniel is, to this day, a powered two-wheel enthusiast. “I still tinker with and ride motorcycles,” he says. “I have my own little fleet, but nothing as cool as Mr. Bill’s collection yet [he owns an Aprilia Tuono Factory, Ducati Multistrada, MV Agusta Dragster RR and Honda CRF250L]. I did ask him to save me an older Triumph that I could keep in the living room of my house as he does. Nowadays, I mainly ride canyons or the local go-kart track.” Bill did mentor Daniel on how to ride in the dirt, but Daniel adds, “My off-roading skills were never great and are now even worse, so I didn’t continue to pursue that path of motorcycle riding.”

Marc Froesch with a pile of bits that will soon become a motorcycle. [Dom Froesch Sr]
Another young man Bill has mentored, and given motorcycles to, is 16-year old Marc Froesch. Bill has been involved in Marc’s life since he was a youngster, but he wasn’t the first to give him a motorcycle. That fell to Marc’s dad Dom Sr., who gave him a 1996 Yamaha RT100 when he was 10. “Marc’s always been (into bikes), being that myself and his brothers were interested in motorcycles and own a few,” Dom Sr. explains. “He also always loved going to Bill’s place and seeing his collection. What clinched his interest in really getting into motorcycles was Bill’s offer to come up on his Wednesday Night “Bike Night” and build a bike from scratch. Most would have just seen a pile of rusted out old parts and junk, but to Marc it was a bike waiting to be ridden.” That bike was a 1966 Triumph T100, and with Dom Sr.’s help and Bill’s mentorship, Marc put it together when he was just 13. “They built a desert sled, and Marc has raced this one several times in the Old School Scrambles held at Glen Helen Raceway.” This spring, Marc completed a mongrel Triumph desert sled using a 1970 Bonneville frame, 1968 Bonneville 650 engine and 1970s Honda XL350 fork. He plans to race this one, too. Dom Sr. credits Bill for being “extremely gracious with his time, his shop, and his willingness to give the boys the opportunity to learn that with hard work and determination they’ll be able to build something out of a pile of nothing. Bill walked Marc through the process of preparing the frame, the painfully time-consuming task of cleaning parts and finally, assembling and tuning the bike. Based on the number of bikes Marc owns and his joy for racing and riding out in the desert, I think he is hooked.”

Progress! There’s nothing quite as satisfying as building a motorcycle from boxes, and riding it. [Dom Froesch Sr]
Bill says, “If I could emphasize anything to our generation, it’s that we have failed to impart the joys of motorcycling. We’ve made it ours but we haven’t shared it. Go to any club meeting and it’s usually all gray beards. We’re gonna take these things with us to the grave and there’s no point in it. We could share this and be a part of young people’s lives. Give away a motorcycle and see what happens. It opens up doors you can’t even imagine.”

Author’s Note – Greg Williams:

Bill Getty is on to something by passing along motorcycles and providing mentorship to young people. In my case, I’ve known Griffin Smith, now 27, his entire life.  When he was a youngster, I’d give him tin motorcycle wind-up toys. When he was 7, he and his dad came over to help unload a 1939 Triumph Speed Twin project without the forks. In his early teens we mechanically rebuilt an early D1 BSA Bantam, then, with his dad, a 1969 BMW R69S. He took a motorcycle training course, and then took his test aboard my 1972 Honda CB350. After completing a 1952 Triumph T100 bob job, I had Griffin put some miles on the bike. I was impressed with how he handled the machine, and thinking I’d leave the Triumph to him in my will, I quickly realized I’d rather see him riding the bike while I was still around to witness it.

Griffin and Jeff Smith helping deliver a forkless 1939 Triumph Speed Twin to Greg Williams’ garage. [Greg Williams]
In the spring of 2016, we transferred the registration, and he’s ridden the T100 every season since – daily for a few summers to work, on short trips and around town. There are now more than 3,000 miles on the Smiths chronometric speedometer. Since then, he’s helped rebuild the ’39 Speed Twin and been involved in a number of other Triumph projects around here. He’s found his own place to call home and work on bikes. He’s got a good bike lift and Whitworth tools, and is accumulating parts to add to a pile of Triumph TRW components he bought last summer — the hobby is in good hands.

Griffin Smith with the same ’39 Speed Twin today. [Greg Williams]


Greg Williams is Profiles Editor for The Vintagent. He’s 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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