David Mann - biker, artist and legend.

The Mann. David Mann was born on September 10, 1940 in Kansas City, Missouri, USA. He began drawing and painting at an early age, doing pencil sketches of cars while in high school. His father Paul Mann was a very large influence on him as he was an illustrator his whole life and a member of the prestigious Society of Scribes and Illuminators of London.

David's sketches were heavily influenced by the rock and roll he was listening to, the Pacific Ocean rumbling nearby, its white sandy beaches, the palms, the bikini clad babes and the custom cars and hotrods that paraded up and down the strip.

His sketching earned him his first job in 1957 with Doug Thompson and Ray Hetrick, pinstriping cars in their Kustom Kar shop in Kansas City. With his first job in hand he began taking formal art classes with his father at the Kansas City Art Institute. The classes didn't last long for either student as they both realized they had more ability and talent than their teacher.

The Rock and Roll life and his first love, custom cars prompted him and his best friend Al Burnett to leave Kansas city and travel to Santa Monica, California soon after they had graduated. With bags packed they drove across to the east coast of the USA in a customized candy apple red and pearl white Chevy coupe, the tunes of Jerry Lee Lewis belting out around them.

While enjoying his Rock and Roll fuelled trip he came across a custom car house, Bay Area Mufflers and discovered the world of chopped motorcycles. Choppers as they were then termed were instantly appealing to him. Their air of freedom, power and thundering sound combined with a romantic yet violent appearance had him entranced. He was immediately hooked on these chrome and steel hand built motorcycles.

From Santa Monica to Los Angeles David returned to Kansas City and purchased his first motorcycle, a 1948 Harley Davidson Panhead for a mere $350. Inspired by his first custom chopper, he shifted his efforts from drawing cars to choppers. It was also at this time he created his first of many chopper paintings; a watercolor titled Hollywood Run. A symbol of the Hollywood outlaw lifestyle he had witnessed while he was in California.

The painting screamed of wild freedom, a herd of hallucinogenic horses bolting out of the Hollywood hills. It was the essence of chopper riders of the time¦ gladiators, warriors and free men with blood in their eyes, looking for somewhere to taste it.

In 1963 he rode to the Kansas City custom Car show on his now fully customized Harley, the first chopped Harley in the state, with his very first painting firmly tucked under his arm. His bike was the only custom bike to have entered the show. For his efforts and innovation the judges created a new class and trophy just for David.

His bike attracted a lot of attention, mainly from an enormous outlaw biker by the name of Tiny from Sioux City, Iowa. Tiny loved Davids scooter and he also noticed his great bike painting. He instantly decided to take David under his wing.

Tiny became a very close friend of David and soon added him to the ranks of the club. Also with Davids permission, he had taken a photograph of Davids first painting and sent it off to another friend, Ed 'Big Daddy' Roth. Big Daddy Roth was a pop artist and the then publisher of one of the worlds first motorcycle magazines, Choppers.

Ed Roth loved the painting so much he purchased it and the rights to have it reprinted in Chopper magazine in a limited number in poster form. Davids second painting Tecate Run was also purchased and published by Roth in Chopper magazine before being reprinted for posters.

Ed Roth insisted that David again head west and make a second trip to California to stay at an outlaw ranch in San Bernardino with people who have become legends in the biker community. David painted another fourteen works in his time there while immersed in the dark and mysterious biker lifestyle. He captured his own and his comrades parties, warring and experiences of freedom on canvas. Ten of which were published and then sold as posters.

He again rode home to the east coast and in 1965 began working in the mailroom of Scheffer Studios in Kansas City. In his time here he met an architectural renderer, Dave Poole. While having a chat one day Poole told Mann about this crazy looking green motorcycle he'd heard of without realizing it was Manns bike he was talking about. The following day, Mann rode the wild looking Harley to work and another lifelong friendship was born.

Dave Poole recognized Mann's talent immediately. Poole taught him how to use an airbrush and the techniques involved with architectural rendering. David Mann used the airbrushing techniques in most of his art from that point onwards. By 1967 he had picked up all the skills used by an architectural renderer; how to show detail, dimension, reflection and perspective. In the later 1960s, Scheffer Studios moved to Clearwater, Florida and Mann allowed his talent and new learnt abilities to flourish across numerous subjects.

He went on to study Salvador Dali's surrealism, fantasy art, Trompe l'oeil and he had mastered the use of acrylics and gouache. The time and effort he put into learning all these new techniques to create art didn't go unrewarded. He started to pick up best of show awards in art shows like Dunedin and Seminole Springs. His name soon began to be mentioned in the company of famous masters such as Norman Rockwell and Leroy Neiman.

Dave Mann was very quickly refining his talent and ability to deal with detail and realism when he found a new motorcycle magazine and a very different for the time one at that. It was of course the grassroots biker magazine, Easyriders.

Easyriders magazine, rather than concentrating on the technicals of building a motorcycle or chopper, focused on the lifestyle surrounding the riders and their women. In the back of this magazine he discovered a small classified advertisement for a motorcycle artist. Late in 1971 David made enquiries about the position and the publishers responded almost immediately with an affirmative to him getting the position. It was the very start of a creative relationship that endured many decades with an ever-changing style and lifestyle to draw inspiration from.

Throughout the magazine, year after year, David endeavoured to show the fun of being a biker, the hard times, the battles and the ironies. His work ended up showing even more then he had hoped for or expected to an ever-growing biker population worldwide.

Later in life, his health had deteriorated and after a long battle it was so poor he was forced to retire in 2003 as he just simply could no longer work. Thirty years of Mann's magic had come to an end. From this lengthy illness came his sad and eventual death on September 11, 2004, just one day after his 64th birthday in Kansas City.

In what was to be only days before his death, the US hit television show American Chopper commissioned a bike in his honor. The David Mann Bike was to be a tribute to David Mann for his inspirational paintings that tempted so many to become bikers and embrace the lifestyle. Sadly though, midway through the fabrication of the bike, Mann passed away. The project then took on even more emphasis with Paul Senior wanting to create a bike worthy of his now dead hero.

With the completion of the bike, Orange County Choppers presented his wife, Jacqueline, with a print of the bike, donating the proceeds from the entire print run to paying off Mann's medical bills and funeral costs.

In 2004 David Mann was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame for his fine art as a painter whose work portrays the essence of the motorcycle lifestyle for a generation of riders.


Every year in December the Ventura County Fairgrounds once again play host to the David Mann Chopperfest. This prestigious event attracts those who honor the lifestyle depicted in David Mann's artwork and who appreciate the wild array of chopper designs spawned by his amazing art. Art that spans across generations, across continents and just about any other barrier you can think of. Art that stands the test of time.

Originally the brainchild of David (Huggybear) Hansen, the Chopperfest show has consistently drawn the world's best custom builders and their incredible bikes to the event. Past participants have included huge industry names like Russell Mitchell, Chica, Dave Perewitz, Keith Ball, Donny Smith, Scott Long and Gard Hollinger.

Every year David Mann's wife Jacquie will fly out from Kansas City to present the "hand crafted and one of a kind Bike Show trophies."

The event continues to grow every year with additions like a swap meet and festival.

RIP David Mann.

Live To Ride - Ride To Live

(C) All rights reserved.