A DREAM CALLED KON-TIKI
Jorge "George" Arrues 1928-2008 Founder of Kon-Tiki Motorcycles
Many years ago, as young man with talent and a dream of establishing himself in the motorcycle business decided to leave violence torn 1950ís Buenos Aires Argentina during the infamous reign of President Juan Peron.
From George's younger days when he had seen Ernesto ìCheî Guevara speak at his university to dodging bullets on his way home from his motorcycle & machine shop, ìArrues Bros. & Verdierî a Norton, Matchless, Bultaco and Zanella dealership, he concluded this was no place to build a business or raise a family. So he set his sights on America.
George negotiated his flight north and packed all he needed for work: toolbox, some machine equipment (including lathe and boring bar), clothing and a few personal effects.
The journey across South and Central America was arduous, abbreviated only by bad weather, endless refueling stops and a host of equipment maladies. By the time they reached Mexico City, major mechanical issues brought this journey to a halt. After days of waiting for repair parts, George seriously weighed the realities that Mexico might be his final destination. Undeterred, he unpacked his trusted tools and repaired the battered old plane himself, (George received his aviation mechanic certification at age 15), and continued north all the way to California.
Despite not being able to speak English, he found work at Milne Brothers in Pasadena as a motorcycle mechanic and machinist. He used public transport to haul himself and his tools to work each day. Months later his wife Olga and his children joined him.
By late 1964, the Arrues family moved to San Diegoís Pacific Beach community where George ran the service dept at the new Pacific Beach Honda before striking out on his own, setting up a machine shop to cater to dealers, racers and local area small equipment engine needs.
Business was so good that George opened Kon-Tiki Motorcycles in 1965 and soon signed on as Kawasaki dealer #13 in the USA. As Kawasaki grew, so too did Kon-Tiki. Introduction of the powerful H1, H2 and Z1s proved a boon for the little shop. Dealers might remember that crankshafts in these machines were fragile and spare cranks non-existent.
Kon-Tiki's service department became Kawasakiís USA crankshaft rebuilding station. ìMy dad, brother and uncle Cacho spent hours rebuilding crate fullís of Kawi cranks shipped in from all over the country with tools they made like this lead hammer.î says Georgeís son Alex, hefting the same hunk of metal.
Over the years, Kon-Tiki has continued to service the racing community. Riders like Marty Smith and Marty Tripes were regular customers. ìMy mom was the best, and fastest wheel builder anyone has ever seen,î says Alex. ìBack when Tripes was riding, he was hard on wheels and my mom would rebuild six or seven sets in a single day for him.î
In 2006, health issues forced George to finally step aside and let Alex return to guide the shop that he himself was raised in. Still, as it has remained from day one, Kon Tiki continues to specialize in service and repair for motorcyclists, from daily commuter, to weekend warrior, to San Diegoís racing community.
ìKon Tiki Motorcycles started as nothing more than a dream and it was built on my familyís willingness to work hard, and never give up,î says Alex. ìI canít think of a better way to do business.î
And finally, why the name Kon-Tiki? George took the name from the book, Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific in a Raft by Norwegian explorer and writer Thor Heyerdahl about his 1947 expedition across the Pacific Ocean from South America to the Polynesian islands. To George this book symbolized his journey to the United States.
The expedition was a major factor in the "Tiki" craze with bars, restaurants, fashion and music in the 50's and 60's.