® Trade-Tech

When a teenager I bought my first real bike, a Honda CA160, used from the local dealer. Soon after I decided that being around motorbikes full-time was a good gig and enrolled in the Motorcycle Mechanics program at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College. In 1970 Trade Tech was, with the legendary Pat Owens and Joe Minton as instructors, the national epicenter for quality powersports mechanics' training.

It was a great course; AS degree, four semesters, four different instructors, each with his own perspective. I don't recall the first guy. But second semester was Ted Malloy with his quiet, down-to-earth way. Third was Owens, the edgy ex-Romero-tuner with already a lifetime of experience. And finally, the one and only Joe Minton. What a treat Minton was! Soft spoken but with a vast experience! I have mentioned Owens and Minton elsewhere. Like all training institutions, Trade Tech couldn't completely prepare one for the real world, only ease your transition into it. It takes hundreds of OEM courses and scores of years in the actual trenches to turn the beginning mechanic into something better than dangerous.

But I'm glad I did it. Recently, memory carried me back to my first semester at LATTC. The motorcycle program classroom/shop was next to the school's body shop, and deep enough into the building that the entryway was dark and cavern-like. It's stamped indelibly into my mind: cool darkness, oil-stained Levi-clad students, the unique and not unpleasant odor of equal parts gear oil, parts solvent, hot cast iron and aluminum. A mechanical aura permeated that semi enclosed greasy-knuckle grotto.

Many who graduated the bike program eventually made their mark on the industry: Dave Arnold, a year or two after me who went on to become the manager of Honda's Motocross team. Dave Wolman, the first president of Motul USA. Don Church, for a time Director of Training at Kawasaki's corporate U.S. office. Wayne Pollack, a 200 mph club member and very successful career drag racer. Chuck Rust, renowned Chevy Corvair expert. Even Bruce Hammer, who though not in the bike program was also a Trade-Tech student and who founded the championship-winning roadracing organization, Team Hammer.

Everything about Trade Tech comes back to me vividly. Mechanical rites of passage, of knowledge, of professionalism, of acceptance, of place. And ultimately, of destiny.

Email me
© 1996-2020 Mike Nixon