Interview: Justin Kell of Glory Los Angeles

Justin Kell runs Glory Sales and Service in LA. It’s the kind of store many of us would probably love to own, with a strange mixture of 1950s home furnishings and vintage British and American motorcycles. On any given day you can buy a 1960s Triumph flat track racer, a set of 1930s salt and pepper shakers, or maybe a stuffed boar’s head. Justin has spent most of his life surrounded by motorcycles—not only riding them, but also restoring and selling them.

What was the first motorcycle you bought with your own money? That would be the 1979 Yamaha MX80 [below] that I got when I was around nine or ten years old. I had my money saved up from birthdays and Christmas and what not, and bought it for $300 from a kid on my baseball team. I terrorized the neighborhood on that bike. There were crashes that would cripple a grown man. (I sure do miss being a fearless ten-year-old.) As I grew older and moved onto street bikes, there were a few Japanese 500s. The first classic that I ever bought was a 1969 Moto Guzzi V7. I loved that bike.

Yamaha MX80 owned by Justin Kell of Glory Los Angeles
What do you think is the most beautiful production motorcycle ever built? This is a tricky question. Motorcycles are like women. There are times in your life that you find yourself drawn to speed or danger. There are times when all you want is sleek and sexy. These days, I often find myself appreciating stability, comfort and reliability. I do have a soft spot for Vincent singles, and I’ve spent many hours admiring the lines of a Gold Star [below]. As far as modern bikes go, the Ducati Hypermotard gives me the horn for sure, and I secretly find BMW’s GSs as sexy as German can be.

BSA Gold Star brochure
What motorcycle do you despise? Any machine with the word “Kustom” attached to it.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? Perfect happiness to me would be finding a balance in life, allowing me to support my family without feeling the need to work seven days a week. I’m always afraid that I will look up one day and find out that I missed my children grow up. I think that we’ve all been swept up in the chase for more stuff. The idea that one more possession will make you happy has certainly been burned into our every waking moment. It’s hard not to fall into the consumerism trap and the quest to have the newest and shiniest.

My life is not simple. I do, however, realize how cool a life I have. To be able to transform your passion into a way to make a living is really a dream come true.

I think that as I get older, my priorities are changing and I realize that you do not need a million dollars in the bank to be happy. I’m sure that it helps, and I’d certainly like to experience that, but to have a family and live an honest life is much more valuable to the world. I see a lot of nasty stuff in both the motorcycle and fashion business. The pisser is that people who operate without any moral compass generally make shitloads of money, and there seems to be no recourse for their actions. It’s tough to watch, but at the same time, if you can look at yourself in the mirror and know that you haven’t moved forward by fucking people over, you’re the richest man in the world.

I should mention that some days, my idea of perfect happiness is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Electric motorcycles: Yes or No? Yes. The future is unwritten.

Which ‘everyday’ modern bikes do you think will become future classics? The equivalent of the Honda CB750 or Moto Guzzi V7 Sport, if you like? I think that the Ducati Monster [below] could be in the running. I suppose that a Triumph Bonneville could be. I’m not really sure about this one. It also depends on where you live in this world. I’m in Los Angeles. In this town, motorcycles are fashion accessories, not transportation. This drastically changes what is considered a “classic”.

Think about a Rotax single: you’re hard-pressed to find a more durable motor. An F650GS BMW is one of the best city / commuter bikes that I have ever ridden. It’s also very “uncool”. Looks and style seem to dictate what is the current hot classic. In LA, I have to look at 20-year-old wankers with mustaches and stupid sunglasses. These are the guys that have made classics out of heavy 750 Hondas. If I can understand why fashion is what it is, I can say I know something about predicting future classics. I can say without hesitation that I do not know anything.

Ducati Monster S4RS Tricolore
Who are your real-life motorcycling heroes? The guys developing new motor technology. It’s a bit much to still be using turn-of-the-last-century technology to power motorcycles. Don’t get me wrong: I love vintage motorcycles more than anything, but I’m really interested in seeing what comes next.

Are you optimistic for the future of motorcycling? I am. I’m quite ready to see some new ideas and styles.

What is your current state of mind? It’s been a wordy and introspective summer. I’m ready for the fall and winter. I’m looking forward to change. I’m looking forward to growth, and I’m looking forward to new chapters.

Portrait image by Coop. MX80 by Rjeep72. BSA brochure via MotArt.