SAN PEDRO, Calif. - Although she would probably deny it, Cindy Rutherford is a legend. The Grand Dame of Century Motorcycles grew up in the San Pedro, Calif., shop and lived through the motorcycle retail business in the roaring ’60s. She knows just about everyone who worked in the trade or raced through the ’70s and ’80s.
Her conversations are spiked with references to people like Jim Hunter of BSA racing fame, Ascot Ace Sammy Tanner, Grand National Champion Bart Markel, ex-racer now distributor Skip Van Leeuwen to name a few — not to mention her relationship with the late, counter-culture icon, Von Dutch.
Like many in the business of selling and servicing motorcycles, Rutherford (right) started out as the shop’s self proclaimed “gunk-girl. While her father (Century’s founder, “Wild” Bill Cottom) didn’t believe girls could sell motorcycles, she began at an early age learning the business from the inside. With teachers like the legendary Jim Hunter and Clyde Earl, Rutherford soon developed into sales person, mechanic and later general manager.
Although Rutherford has taken a time out from Century’s day-to-day operations as she fights cervical cancer, for years she’s worked as the historic shop’s head greeter, sales person and sometimes mechanic.
If you were only able to use one word to describe Cindy, it would have to be outrageous. The redheaded founder of Huzzies International is anything but conventional. You can usually spot Cindy at just about any local vintage event — she’ll be the one riding a mini sidehack, wearing a pink tutu and fireman’s hat. Or, maybe she’ll be the one on the off-beat scooter with the oval rear wheel.
Her latest rig is a baby carriage capable of 45 mph, but she tries to keep it around 25 mph. Above that speed and it “gets squirrelly” she says.
Her sometimes silly exterior hides the fact that Cindy is very knowledgeable about our business and the products that are sold. She’s also not afraid to get her hands dirty. On several occasions I’ve dropped into Century to find her on the floor with a wrench making some adjustment to a bike, or cleaning rust off a chrome wheel with tinfoil and Simple Green. Need a part, chances are good that it’s somewhere in Century’s vast store room. If not, she usually knows where one can be found.
Cindy’s especially proud of the fact that her son, Tim, has been able to step up and continue to successfully operate the family business and sustain a historic motorcycle shop in this roller-coaster economy.