“I built the bike originally as kind of a street tracker because I’m a huge fan of dirt track mile racing and I miss the mile racing, it’s almost extinct now,” Joe said. “I thought I’d build a fun little street tracker so it would remind me of all the fun dirt track races.”
Using the same Casino Lighting & Sign CAD system employed to make such works of art as the motorcycle sign hanging from the Harley-Davidson Café on the Las Vegas Strip, Joe didn’t have to worry about the geometry of the bike; he’d learned a lot during his first build in 2005. “We looked at a lot of bikes at the bike shows and bike meets and in the magazines, and then we laid out the geometry at the sign shop. We have a really talented guy named Henry Melara in our art department and he laid it out in CAD.”
For the engine they chose a 103” late model S&S Shovelhead, which just happened to be Joe’s favorite part of the build. “It really has gobs of torque off the bottom end,” he said. “We wanted something that was a little bit more flat track period, not an Evolution motor. We wanted something with a big carburetor and a magneto on it. The Panhead seemed a little early and any Evolution-style motors seemed like a little much, so we thought the Shovelhead was appropriate. And we wanted a long-rod stroker motor because it’s a dirt tracker. It just worked out.”
Joe and Brock had the pipes made by a local company. “It’s my neighbor, Vegas Steel Motor Sports [www.vegassteelmotorsports.com],” said Joe. “They handmade those and wrapped the pipes around the magneto and they’re kind of cool, one-off pipes.”
That awesome seat shock was also locally made. “The mountain bike-looking shock was made by Chopper Shox [www.choppershox.com]. He makes those little seat pans here in Vegas. It just takes that real bone-jarring hit out and makes riding a rigid a lot easier,” he said.
Instead of paint, Joe and Brock turned to something a little different. “The dark green parts are actual piston coating, it’s not a paint,” Joe said. “We piston coated the fender and the tank and the front forks, and then we painted the red over the piston coating.”
The build took place in 2006 and since then Joe and Brock have put roughly 5,000 miles on the Urban Tracker. “We mostly use it for bar hopping and riding around town,” Joe said. “I’ve got several other bikes, but I ride this one quite often. It always gets looks everywhere it goes. I guess it’s testing the borders of being legal because there’s no blinkers or anything like that, but we have a lot of fun with it around town. We also ride to Goodsprings, to an old bar that’s been renovated. I don’t really take it out on the open road, obviously it’s a rigid and a little uncomfortable on the highway.”
Being the talented bike builder and successful businessman that he is, it comes as no surprise (to me) that Joe is originally from the great state of Massachusetts! Born in Lowell, his family moved out to Las Vegas in 1958 when he was two-years-old. “I went to school and grew up in Vegas,” Joe said. “I got into the electric sign business right out of high school. My dirt bike riding buddy in high school got me a job sweeping the floor in his dad’s shop; he was a neon glassmaker. I worked my way up to doing electrical on signs and service, then to manager. Now myself and another fella own the sign company. I’ve been in the electric sign business for 33 years.”
Joe co-owns Casino Lighting & Sign in Las Vegas, which is probably best known for those enormous works of art you just can’t miss. If you’ve ever been to Vegas or Atlantic City, you’ve seen signs made by Joe’s company. In Vegas he’s done the signs for MGM Grand, Planet Hollywood, and the Harley-Davidson Café, among others. In Atlantic City he’s done the signs for Donald Trump’s Taj Mahal, Bally’s, and more. Casino Lighting & Sign also does restoration work on neon signs for private collectors (oh yes, there are collectors who live for vintage neon). Check out his portfolio of amazing neon art at www.clsnv.com.
Joe’s co-builder is his son-in-law Brock Lammers, who also works at Casino Lighting & Sign as an estimator. Of Brock, Joe said, “Hopefully he’ll take Dad’s job some day.” Joe and Brock enjoy building bikes just as much as riding them. “We try to ride every weekend,” he said. “And we go to some of the meets in the West. We go to Laughlin every year, the Las Vegas BikeFest, pretty much local stuff.”