Green resident Tom Stutler and his stepson Bill Snider strengthened their relationship by working together restoring motorcycles.
Tom Stutler has always liked motorcycles, especially Harley Davidson models.
He got his first motorcycle shortly after he returned from Vietnam in 1971 and, one year later, he purchased his first Harley – a 1971 XZLCH 900cc. A few years after that, he bought his second Harley – a 1976 FX EX 1200cc.
He enjoyed the new bikes, but he also wanted to get more involved in the process of building them, instead of simply riding the finished product. That led to his buying three truckloads of parts for a 1972 Harley 350cc “Sprint” in 2003 with the aim of rebuilding and restoring it.
The project had another effect on Stutler’s life, one that he could not have anticipated.
His stepson, Bill Snider, saw what he was doing and asked if he could help out with the restoration project. Their relationship, not the best at times, grew much closer thanks to their mutual interest in motorcycles.
“It has definitely brought us closer together,” Stutler said. “I really enjoy him coming over and working with him on a restoration project. There is a lot of work involved. We brainstorm ideas and come up with solutions as to the best way to solve a problem.”
For Snider, building bikes with his stepfather has been an uplifting experience.
“He is a great father, the only I have really have known,” Snider said. “I love him dearly. Working with him like this has really brought us closer together.”
One look at Stutler’s garage reveals much about how the two men have grown closer. The hunks of rusty metal laying on the garage floor and work bench testify to their hard work and dedication. Seeing the bikes before and after their restoration provides a testimony to the pair have done.
“Our first project, the ‘Sprint,’ went pretty well,” Snider said. “And we had enough parts left over to build a second one.”
It turned out that the first two bikes were just the beginning. Both Stutler and Snider had been bitten by the restoration bug.
Today, their collection includes eight fully-restored Harley Davidsons, including Tom’s original two that have been restored and rebuilt over the years. The gem of the collection is a Vespa-type Harley scooter, the “Topper.” It was the only motor scooter Harley Davidson ever produced.
The “Topper” was initially introduced in 1959 and production ran until 1965. It was powered by a 165cc single-cylinder, two-stroke engine. Unfortunately, it never really caught on and today it is quite rare. Most people never even knew it was produced.
“I actually bought two of these,” Stutler said. “One had a sidecar, and when I put it on eBay for sale a guy from California immediately bought it. He wanted it so badly that he drove here from California right away to pick it up. I remember watching him pull away with it and turning to Bill and saying, ‘Boy, we really made a mistake selling that.’”
Page 2 of 2 - Still, even if it was a mistake to sell the second “Topper,” the two men have not lacked for projects. They are currently working on restoring a 1971 Baja 100cc Factory Racer. Their work takes place with a specific focus on creating bikes they can ride and not simply put on display at shows.
“We don’t put them together for show,” Stutler said. “We put them together to ride and show as riders and it allows us to show the different riders at local shows over the summer.”
Stutler once rode out to the famed Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, S.D. on one of the restored Harley bikes.
Another of the pair’s creations – a 1958 125cc Harley “Hummer” – was used in the play “Grease” at Coventry High School.
Of, course it is not just about the motorcycles. Their love of Harleys has forged a bond between stepfather and stepson that is evident to anyone who spend time around them.
“We are both passionate about it,” Snider said. It’s a fun hobby. I have lots of good memories from all the time we have spent together.”
Stutler put it more succinctly. “The Harley family that rides together stays together,” he said with a grin.
Of course there is still a little opposition at home from Stutler’s wife and Bill’s mother.
“Mom just tolerates it,” Snider said. “And she says, ‘Not another one.’”