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John Calicchio racing at Ascot Park in 1982. Photo courtesy John Calicchio.
John Calicchio, the founder of JRC Engineering and a major force in developing competition-winning Triumph dirt trackers in the 1970s, has been named Grand Marshal for the 2016 Bonneville Vintage GP. Triumph is the featured marque for this year’s Labor Day weekend event, Sept. 2-4, 2016, at Utah Motorsports Campus (formerly Miller Motorsports Park) outside Tooele, Utah.
Calicchio’s introduction to Triumph motorcycles came in 1968 when he went to work for Bultaco, Honda, Triumph and Yamaha dealer Award Motors in Costa Mesa, California. He bought his first Triumph in 1969, salvaging a customer’s broken 1968 Bonneville. In 1970 he opened his own shop, John’s Racing Cycles, and started racing flat track and TT – on a Triumph, naturally.
Calicchio’s dream was to secure a Triumph dealership, but when that didn’t pan out he instead founded JRC Engineering in 1975, manufacturing replacement and specialty parts for Triumph motorcycles including performance clutch parts and aluminum connecting rods. A racer as well as wrench and designer, Calicchio was a regular at California dirt track venues like Ascot Park, where he could be found leading the pack on one his fully developed and kitted Triumph race bikes. By the late 1970s, Calicchio was offering performance street bikes base on the lessons he’d learned on the dirt – what was probably the original street tracker!
When Triumph America closed in 1983 Calicchio acquired the company’s stock and became an original equipment parts supplier. He was appointed the distributor for the post-Meriden Les Harris Triumph Bonneville, but insurance and other issues nixed any U.S. sales.
Calicchio’s career took a detour when he got into designing computer software, a necessity-is-the-mother-of-invention situation created when software he purchased from an outside vendor failed to work as promised. The growing software business led Calicchio to sell JRC Engineering to Bill Getty, who along with his wife, Maria, still runs the business today. Yet Calicchio’s love of Triumphs and motorcycling never really abated, and so a few years back he decided to re-embrace his first love, restoring Triumphs and building custom, high-performance variants of the classic Bonneville through his new company, Triumph Classic Motorcycles. Calicchio currently offers three different bikes, all based on the classic Triumph Bonneville and powered by balanced and built 650cc, 750cc or 800cc Triumph engines with 5-speed transmission. A return to his first love, Calicchio’s newest venture is simply the continuation of what he started back in the 1970s.
Calicchio will have all three versions of his new Triumphs at Bonneville and will help judge the Motorcycle Classics Vintage Bike Show on Saturday, Sept. 3. He’ll show off his bikes, mill around the track and share his history with the Triumph brand. This will be a unique opportunity to meet and learn about the man who did more to make Triumph famous on California’s dirt tracks back in the 1970s than anyone else. Don’t miss it!!