YOU MIGHT’VE already guessed these choppers don’t actually run. But if you’re like me, upon first glance at these pictures, you’ll have mistaken them for real bikes. That’s because Marcello builds them solidly out of steel with the same processes it takes to build a life-sized chop. He’s also got a keen eye for using the right chopper lines. Oh, and the paint is professionally applied by Marcello’s nephew: Santino Ruisi of Art Throb—Airbrush by Design.
Now Santino’s a mate of mine and he’s the reason this story originated. He called me out of the blue a month ago and asked for some pictures of my Ozbike Triumph chop project because he wanted to ‘surprise’ me. I assumed he was doing some sort of airbrush picture of the bike so it really did surprise me a few weeks later when he introduced me to his Uncle Marcello who gave me a scale model of my bike!
Marcello explains, “My younger nephew asked me if I could build him a toy hotrod. He asked me to make it out of timber. Rather than make it out of timber, I made it out of steel. From that I thought, ‘I could make a bike.’ I showed my other nephew, Santino, and he said it was great but that I should perfect it a bit more and make it better. So I took his advice and kept improving things.
“Santino said he’s got a friend who’s an Ozbike journo, and he’s got this mad bike—you should make him one. I said, ‘Yeah, why not?’ So he gave me a couple of photos and I knocked it up, and I think it’s not too bad.”
Sam’s a retired blacksmith who’s got the skills and some time on his hands to work on these cool little projects. “I just enjoy doing it. It’s a fiddly job. You’ve gotta make sure everything’s in proportion. It’s all hand-beaten steel. It’s not stuff you can just buy off the shelf and put together. The only thing I buy is the wheels.
“The bigger models are easier to build because you can give them more detail. But when you get little tiny motors like that, it’s hard to get them looking 100 percent.
“The fuel tanks are hand-crafted. They’re very hard to build. You’re working with a little piece of steel about 100 mm long by 40 mm high, and you’ve gotta hold it and grind it and sand it and linish it, everything you do with a normal one, but you hold everything with your fingers and not with your hands.
“To build Wasko’s bike took 35 hours, full on, without the painting. It’s been dismantled about 10 times and put back together to make sure everything’s fitting right.”
I know there are heaps of people out there saying Wasko’s a lucky bastard. Well, yeah, I am. It’s a very cool thing to have a solid steel replica of my own chopper sitting fair in the middle of my dining table. Marcello’s done a great job getting the lines of the bike right, and the thing is heavy and very strong; nothing like the crap you find at the markets. Attention to detail is near ridiculous, with details like the orange battery and oil filter very clear.
But it’s not just Ozbike journos who can have a replica of their bike. As Marcello explains, “If someone asks me to build a bike to replicate theirs, I can do it, but it just might take a long time. The forks might be a springer or it might have really long ape-hangers. You’ve gotta make it look like his. It’s all gotta be perfect.”
Prices for one of Marcello’s custom bikes start at $500. If a replica is what you’re after, then expect to pay between $800 and $1500, depending on the size and detail. Give Marcello a call on 0418-633-910.
Final words go to Marcello’s nephew, Santino, who’s looking for work as a stand-up comedian. When asked what he thinks about painting the bikes, Santino replied, “They’re the quickest choppers I’ve airbrushed in my life.” That man is a quote machine, I tell you!
words & pics by Wasko