Built by Richie Russolello

Story and Photos by Dangerous Dave – Earl’s Garage

A bike builder needs the inspiration to start a new project, Richie Russolello was working in Kansas and met with some Veterans building a memorial with no support. As he talk to them he made a promise to help them on their mission to honor veterans and the wounded warriors that have come home and need that helping hand. When he was young, Richie wanted to join the service and fly an F14 Tom Cat, but because of reasons, he could not do what he desired. However, he went forward in his life working on airplanes, trains, and all the associated support equipment. He has worked for Continental, Colorado Railroad, and now Signature Flight Support, and his A&P license to work on aircraft and Qualified Maintenance Personnel (QMP)for trains. Learning and perfecting over the years all of his fabrication skills, welding, metalwork, and building motorcycles. He has shown many of his custom bikes over the years and like most builders, he enjoys the design and building as much or more than riding. This year he is elevated to the judge at the Mountain Regions’ largest motorcycle event, Colorado Motorcycle Expo going strong for 43 years.

 Richie “We want to get the people to talk and see if we get them to come on board with us and support and donate to the Wounded Warrior Project.  You know, there’s a lot of military charities out there, they’re all good but the way I feel is that you gotta fix the soldier first.  We could get them houses, we could get them jobs, we get them finances, but we gotta fix them.  We got to fix him and his family and the only way we’re gonna do that is through the Wounded Warrior Project.  They handle all the medical. They handle mental and physical rehabilitation.  They even have programs to get them back into the workforce. ‘Cuz these guys and girls are coming back pretty messed up.  So what do we do, we gotta get them back into, into life. That’s why this whole program came about.  We’re doing it for them.  We’re doing it for the veterans that we want to say thank you to the veterans by building this bike but we also want to use it for our project supporting Wounded Warriors.”

The Wounded Warrior is designed to provide a tribute to all branches of the service, Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. Not to look like a show bike all bright and shiny, but the tools they used coming back from years of service fighting for what they stand for. Richie starts his bike with a Pro Street Frame unless it is a mod on an older bike. Getting the frame he took to chopping it up and making it his own design. Lowering the backbone and building a crazy swing arm. The backbone was lowered to bring the shape in line with a fighter plane. With help from a friend with a machine shop in Florida he came up with the custom swingarm. It came in two pieces and he finished welding it up. Then put on an Avon 300 tire in the back and a 21-inch tire in the front. From there he took off all the chrome for more of a military finish. The bike looks like it just came back from the battlefield. That’s what he was looking for.  Not looking for the pretty stuff.  He finished the frame and did all the welding, trying to keep the welding as careful as he could. But he liked a little bit of the roughness in some welds. He duplicated the look of something you see from an airfield or a battlefield. If something breaks, they’re gonna stick it back together and send it right back out. That is what this bike represents.

The tank was a prefab but it didn’t end up that way, he redesigned and finished it. It was just a tank with a ton of welds so he had to cut the back off, shape it and then finish everything. It is the military shark that you see on all the fighter jets. It is equipped with a gas cap resembling a gun turret, He actually took a taxi light off an aircraft, the glass top and made it look like the gun turret from a B-17. It has two cannons and is glass top and there’s a guy inside that they used a 3D printer to make. The gas cap closes perfectly with the guns facing forward.  He said they had a blast with that.

The seat was all handmade.  A friend, Aaron did the work on that. Richie designed it all and Aaron cut the leather and did all the custom tooling displaying the five military branches. You see all five branches of the military cut right into the leather. That came out pretty cool.

The front fender was just a fender, Richie cut it up to the design that he wanted. It has an eagle’s head proudly on it. The is a lot of design to capture everything as real as he could. The rear fender is the tails of an F-14, Tom Cat with the engines as lights. They actually light up and flicker when it’s starting, the taillights are bullets. He had to bring that Tom Cat to the bike.

The engine is 96 inches.  He wanted to keep it down. Anything over 96, you get to the 110s and better, it is gonna shake itself apart. This bike isn’t built for that, it’s built to cruise and enjoy. So, he stayed with the 96, it’s got a different piston, and it has a different cam so it’s got a great sound and is running great. The carb is typical, just a stock carb, nothing racy about it.

The primary color he started with was a block of metal, black aluminum and then went with a true military green.

The air cleaner is a bomb, he wanted it to resemble the old fighter aircraft where they put the pin-up girl with her name on it. The pin-up is on the bomb and she’s called Belladonna.

This is all hand fab, everything came from nothing.  The chin spoiler is from an f117 Nighthawk that was a nightmare but we got it by hammering every day, throwing it away, like that bike is two years of accidents.  He kept trying and trying and trying to get it and made a big old sheet metal pile.  And then looking through the pile he found the perfect one at the bottom. 

Another thing, he is really proud of that is the exhaust system.  He hand fabricated the exhaust.  Starting with a wide pipe and cut it, and he made his own single tube and then made a machine gun and it’s called a GAU-17, which is the same as an M-134D, it’s a military Gatling gun.  Still in service today.  And these guns shoot 3,000 rounds a minute, 50 rounds a second. It looks just like it and it’s got everything on it.  It’s got the Gatling tubes, there’s six of them and the size of 50 millimeters. There’s even the toggle switch that you throw when you start firing in the handle and have a little glass window, where you can see a 50 millimeter round.  Everything on the bike is fabricated for a branch.

Marines have the actual Marine logo, he also has the K-bar, which is the weapon that the Marines get when their training in hand-to-hand combat. It’s the most important weapon the Marines have. He was asked by a friend, a Marine, to include it so it had to be on the bike.

Everything that he put on has to do with Military, artillery ordinance, you name it, it came from the military.

Another biggie is the headlight. He struggled with the Coast Guard. He didn’t know what to bring in to represent them. He decided to make a rescue spotlight as is on a Coast Guard boat. The only thing he found was a housing and then he did the machine work on the rest of it. It’s a search and rescue spotlight now. “It came out so good.  I mean, you know when you do something and you stand back, man! I’m not bragging at all, just – when it turns out good, it’s wow, look at that. I really like this. It has the fins that they used to use for the Morse Code. It also has working night vision. I just thought that was cool. You know, some of the things we just had fun with.” Richie

Pretty much the final piece on it, is a true GPS speedometer. It is built inside of a housing that compliments the front forks. So the front fork comes up and then the housing continues over. The speedometer is right inside of it. A pure GPS, so there’s no wires, just an antenna.

Isaac “Izzy” Reyes is phenomenal with an airbrush. “I gave him my thoughts. I said, This is what I want this thing to look like. I don’t want a green bike with a white star on it.  I need to this thing to look real. So he went ahead and turned all my sheet metal into riveted sheet metal. With an airbrush. When I showed the fender to my wife Donna, she touched it, she wanted to feel the rivets. There ain’t no rivets there.” Richie Then Izzy went ahead and completed the shark artwork and also put red cross on the top of the tank. Looking like it came straight from M*A*S*H. Then he put age into it. And that’s what topped it all off.  He put wear and age into every part of the bike, even the red star, the red cross, it’s all worn down. It looks like it’s been the battlefield for the last 20 years. Pulled the whole bike together. The best airbrush guy is not somebody that copies a picture you give them. It’s the guy you talk to and then he turns out and he does just what you were thinking.  That’s how Isaac did it.                                                      

Richie wanted to imitate, a Jeep  coming back, you know, being in the battlefield. They way it would look. There are even bullet ricochets on it. Scratches, that looked like it was just a quick hit, no indents, just scratches on the bike. It fit in perfectly, just like those Veterans returning from war.

For those who were the prisoners of war.  Richie put on, a POW license plate. He weathered it to show the pain and weather on those that endured that fate.

I would like to thank some people, that’s Isaac, Isaac “Izzy” Reyes who did all the airbrushing. My two sons and daughter, Michael, Ricky, Jessica, they did all the 3-D printing for me. A big guy that I have to thank is Metal Supply and        Machine, Del Rey Beach, Florida.  He’s a buddy of mine from when I used to live in New York. He opened up a machine shop and when he found out what I was doing, his whole family is military. He said, “Rich, you need something done, you tell me, and I’ll get it done.”.  I owe this guy everything to be able to finish this bike. All my thoughts and all my pictures, he turned Into reality and gave it back to me. I put it together and on the bike, then away we go.” Richie

So, it all came together, a bunch of good people that helped me put it together and especially the wife, she supported me doing this. Even though she thought I was crazy, with the hours and hours and hours, I spent. She was okay with doing the whole Wounded Warrior thing, for the warriors, for the soldiers.” Richie

This whole project is for those who served. Richie and his helpers want to reach out to them and let them know they are appreciated. They would like to stir good memories when they see it, and would love to hear comments like “ Hey, I used to drive an F-4 tank, or I used to shoot an M-134D or, you know, I was a naval officer. Maybe, I have a K-Bar at my house, that I took when I was in the Coast Guard.”. If they accept it from the military, that’s what I’m hoping for.  Richie hoping that they see the parts from that bike came from, where they were. To thank them for what they did. That’s why he did this. Richie and the team also want to raise some funds for the Wounded Warrior fund, it will also be used to help. Richie has permission to use the Wounded Warrior organizations name and logos and the funds raised will go to them.

If you would like to help Richie and the team support Wounded Warriors, visit them at Facebook https://www.facebook.com/donate/1818049438379057/3039319403062923/

War Machine 2021 Prostreet Mutant Sled

Prostreet Frame with shortened down tube and lowered backbone with 48 degree rake

S&S 96 inch Engine

Ultima 6 spd transmission

BDL open primary

Avon 21 front and 300 rear tires

Custom built handle bars

Prostreet tank finished and lowered

DNA 66mm inverted front end

Harley controls

One off B-17 Gun turret Gas cap

Custom seat by Kruger Customs

One off F117 Nighthawk Chin spoiler

Custom Primary cover machined to M-4 Army Tank

War Medal “All Gave Some, Some Gave All” in 24 Karat gold plating

One off shift rod “Freedom isn’t free” in 24 Karat gold plating

Custom designed Coast Guard Search and Rescue Headlight

Custom Military service pistol foot pegs

One off custom exhaust as a M134D/Gua-17 Mini Gun

Custom designed front and rear fenders with F-14 Tails and Nacelles

Custom bullet style taillights and turn signals

PM brakes front and rear

Custom Bomb Air cleaner assembly

One off custom blend Black Olive Matte paint

Custom Marine Kabar with sheath

Airbrushing by Issaic “IZZY” Reyes

Thanks to Marc from Metal Supply and Machining Inc. and his team. Matt Dominguez as the events coordinator and transporter. To Richie,s children Jessica, Ricky, and Mike for help and support with paint, leather work, and 3D printing. A special thanks to his wife, Donna for letting him complete his vision and putting up with a crazy bike builder with a dream.