We’re interested in hearing about the origins and influences of motorcycle builders, whether they’ve been on the program or not. First up in this new series is Lossa Engineering’s Jay LaRossa.
Although Jay Larossa is a gifted car and truck builder whose work has been featured in dozens of magazines and who once worked for Jesse James at West Coast Choppers, his heritage is in motorcycles and his current business started just like so many do: in the garage.
Jay has been on Café Racer TV three times and we’re very happy to report that he is recently recovered from a second bout of cancer. Here’s Jay’s story in his own words.
I didn’t get into motorcycles because I just liked them or was trying to be the cool kid. I was born into motorcycling; it was pretty much in my blood from birth.
My parents met at a motorcycle shop. My mom’s family owned Van Nuys Cycle in California and my dad was a mechanic there. But it goes even further back than that when my grandparents came to California from New York. Grandpa opened up a motorcycle shop in North Hollywood and sold and serviced new Yamahas, Nortons, Matchless, Ossa, Kawasaki and Lambretta scooters. He serviced the brand new YCS-1s that the original TV series Batman and Batgirl motorcycles were built on.
At a very early age my pops would ride me around on the back of his bikes. He had Harleys and a bunch of different Yamahas. We would always go to the flat track races on the weekends. In the mid-1980s my dad, uncle and I rode up to Laguna Seca and watched one of Kenny Roberts’ last races. I rode up on the back of my dad’s Yamaha XS1100. I also remember riding in my uncle’s sidecar that was on his old Harley. He’d put that thing up at a 45 degree angle and scare the crap out of me.
My first motorcycle that was mine was a brand new Yamaha GT80 my parents bought me when I was 9. Then, when I was about 14, I bought, with my own damn money, a Honda Aero 50. I completely painted it custom, installed a radio and air horns and terrorized the streets of my hometown. When I was in my early 20s I walked into a Yamaha dealer and bought a brand new 1992 FZR600. I fully customized that bike too and kept that until I moved to Long Beach.
Life happened, several cars and trucks later and the opening of a custom automotive shop and then getting the cancer. When I was done with my treatment and all clear, I decided I wanted to get a motorcycle again. I really wanted a Ducati Monster and I found a 1999 Monster Chromo Edition. I instantly started to modify the crap out of it and was actually modifying it more than riding it. At that point I wanted another bike and wanted a vintage bike this time, so I bought my first Honda CB550. I always dug motorcycle racing, so wanted to build a race-looking bike for the street (Cafe Racer).
While looking for parts to build my 550, I came across more CB550s and CB160s and amounted a horde of about 10 bikes within the few months. I built that first CB550, put it up for sale while building a CB160 in my four car garage. People dug my first two bikes so I stopped building cars, I love building motorcycles.
I put up the CB160 on eBay to sell to try and jump start the business. It sold and a few custom ordered bike builds started coming in. I was banging away at them and decided that wasn’t too professional working out of a garage and I didn’t want all these strangers at my house. So, in 2007 I put my 1966 Cadillac up for sale and used the money to pay for 6 months of rent in a real shop. I figured, if after 6 months, if I couldn’t start paying the rent with building motorcycles, I would shut down.
I’m still here.