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Armando Magri

From CycleChaos

April 14, 1914, to April 21, 2001. Described by author David Wright as 'the patriarch of Harley-Davidson dealers', he came from Chico, California where, as teens, Armando and his brother Ernie were taught to ride a 1921 Harley WJ Sport Twin by a 19 year-old girl named Jeanne Boutin. Armando ended up riding, racing, selling and restoring Harleys for the next 72 years.

In 1936 He moved to Sacramento, eventually securing a job with Frank Murray's Harley-Davidson dealership, while also racing for Murray throughout Northern California. As a Class C racer he matched skills with the region's best, like Ed Kretz, Jack Cottrell, Sam Arena, Ernie Holbrook, Ray Eddy, and his old friend from Chico, Mario Stillo. Magri never had the best equipment, but he was a rugged competitor and consistent top finisher. His most unbelievable finish was 3rd place at the 1938 AMA National Miniature TT in Marion, Indiana. After winning his heat on a 61" Harley that he rode to Marion, Magri accidentally started the main event in neutral, then rode with abandon in a nine minute race to catch the entire pack and actually challenge for 2nd. Walter Davidson saw Armando's spirited performance that day, and it began a lifelong friendship between the two. Magri's biggest wins were the controversial Oakland 200 Mile National in 1939, and the 1941 Pacific Coast TT Championship in Hollister, California.

In 1939 Armando married Ludella (Lu) Tritten, who quickly became a willing partner in the racer's life. At the onset of World War II Magri rode to Fort Knox to join the Army, and was made an instructor at the motorcycle school there. Even during war years he managed to win a race, the 1943 Fort Knox endurance run, before eventually being shipped out to Okinawa, then Korea. After the war Magri briefly returned to racing, taking 4th at the 1948 Riverside. But with a daughter on the way, he honored his wife's request and hung up the skid shoe for good. In 1950 he and Lu purchased the H-D dealership from his old boss Murray. They built their new dealership around Lu's business acumen and Armando's ability to mix with all levels of riders (from the Harley and Davidson families to Hells Angels). In 1963 Armando's brother Ernie Magri joined the business as Sales Manager. In 1973 Armando and Lu moved into a beautiful new store and their dealership grew. Despite the chance to take on Japanese and British franchises, the Magris stayed loyal to Harley-Davidson. The couple retired in 1983, leaving a large, healthy dealership behind.

"If it involves motorcycles, I'm all for it!" he once said. Through six decades as a competitor, Magri tried his hand at field meets, TTs, speedway, flat track, hillclimbs, drag races, motorcycle chariot races, endurance runs, ice-runs and trials competitions, winning many. He test rode experimental models both for the Harley factory and the California Highway Patrol. In 1960 Magri and KCRA TV cameraman Harry Sweet scooped the entire CBS television network by broadcasting the world's first film footage of the 1960 Winter Olympics opening ceremony. Magri raced his panhead, with windshield and snow chains, 96 miles through blizzard conditions, from Squaw Valley to downtown Sacramento. Calling it "the coldest ride of my life," he delivered Sweet's freshly-filmed Olympics footage to the KCRA station in a brisk two hours and eleven minutes.

In retirement years Armando wrote his autobiography "Then and Now" and restored antique Harleys, including a 1936 EL knucklehead, a 1950 FL panhead sidecar, a military XA, a replica of his old WLDR racing machine, and a 1921 WJ Sport Twin, the same model he learned to ride on. Later he and Lu donated the sport twin to the Harley factory museum in Milwaukee. Armando rode motorcycles until age 86, and his adventures as the ultimate Harley-Davidson enthusiast have been included in many books on the brand. His restored motorcycles appear in several publications, as does the HD memorabilia collection he and Lu amassed. After his death, tribute pages were created on Facebook (Armando Magri's Knucklehead) and at (Armando's Page), by his son Ken. They contain excerpts from "Then and Now," hundreds of photographs of Class C racers, and photos of the Sacramento dealership from the Magri family photo collection.