Article By: Magoo
Photos By: Hannah Longo
Originally Published In The April 2013 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
Tommy Granger is a Jersey Shore legend. The man will do anything to help a brother out. The words above his garage door read: To all who enter The Church, may you be as lucky as I am to have such true friends. Tommy has many true friends. When you are Tommy’s friend, you are family. You can’t miss him when he shows up on his ’64 Shovel or in his ’23 Studebaker, “Contraption.” Tommy has built and worked on plenty of motorcycles and hotrods in his garage in Farmingdale, NJ, and has a huge network of friends through which he can get anything done. This is a little insight into his garage known as The Church of What’s Happening, a NJ. oasis that Tommy and his wife, Tuuli, have lovingly created. This past year, Tommy celebrated his 60th birthday and the party was epic. We pulled up and parked next to Mike Longo’s flat black, ’55 Chevy Stepside that was slammed to the weeds. Walking up was like walking through a motorcycle or hotrod show. There were beautifully restored Knuckles, Pans and Shovels everywhere, as well as bobbers, choppers and hotrods that were too many to count. Richie Pan was there on his sweet Pan/Shovel, and one of my favorite cars was Tommy Pattons’ ‘56 Chevy Gasser (an awesome sight when he’s ripping past you on the Parkway).
After checking out all of the bikes and cars in the front, we made our way behind the garage where the party was. Tommy had a big ol’ circus tent set up where we had some cocktails and food before the band came on. The large, handmade grill was cooking up hotdogs and burgers and the beer was flowing. Bill Kirchen (the original guitar player from Commander Cody), and his band played for us all that night. They killed it with some great songs and an epic version of “Happy Birthday.” Bill was out in the crowd with his trombone and Tommy was up there with the band blowing his harp, having a great time. A few months after the birthday bash, on a sunny day in mid October, we attended The Church of What’s Happening’s first wedding. Mike Longo tied the knot with Hannah Connors, a long time friend, and photographer for most of these pics. The ceremony was held right in the garage, in front of the c-clamps and under The Church’s official alter–an old Panhead hanging from the ceiling. In front of about 200 folks crammed in to the garage, they were married by their friend Bill Dolan who cracked jokes about masturbation, making everyone cry with happiness and laughter. The Church was the only place Mike and Hannah wanted to be married in. It is a magical place where they have changed a clutch, swapped a motor, fixed bikes, shared many great memories with the Grangers…and got married!
So enough of the party stories, on to the garage. Walking in to The Church is like walking back through time. Every time I’m there I see something I haven’t seen before: the Johnny Cash poster, the Easyrider poster, the door off of the old pickup from Station Garage, the scoop from an old dragster, and the spare Ford Flathead motor for his hotrod are just some of the first things you see. It’s a lot to take in; it’s telling a story of the past through the eyes and heart of an amazing man who loves life, motorcycles, cars, music, friends most of all, and of course his beautiful wife, Tuuli. Looking around on this day, I saw a Shovel motor on the bench getting ready for a rebuild, and a Knuck motor off to the side on a cart. The tools are laid out just like I remember my dad did back in the days working on his race cars; everything has its place. Tommy has all the basics: a small lathe, hand tools, welder, grinders and some other essentials are what he uses to get the job done here. Two old wood burning stoves heat the garage for the cold months, with headers for exhaust, of course.
My favorite bike is the 1946 74” Flathead that Tommy’s friend left him when he passed away. It is an incredible and beautiful example of a Flatty and is one of Tommy’s projects that needs finished up. Right now it’s 90% completed and the craftsmanship on it is impressive. Tommy’s other whips live in the garage as well. His ’64 84ci Shovel is the one he rides most of the time and has owned for 36 years. The flames on the tank are right out of the ‘50s -‘60s hotrod era, and its style reflects Tommy’s uniqueness and ingenuity. He also has a ‘37 80ci Flathead which is a badass little example of ‘70s customizing meets ‘30s elegance: straight pipes, z-bars, jockey shift, coffin taillight and a hundred other bitchin’ details. Tommy’s latest project is his ’56 Ford pickup that he has had for about 25 years. He has been working on bringing it back to life for the last 3 years. Tommy’s “Contraption” is another testament to his style and creativity. It is a ’23 Studebaker gone hotrod with a Ford Flathead and hand formed copper floorboards that Tommy built himself. It’s a lot like his garage in that you need to see it more than once to take in all the details; it’s all Tommy. You won’t meet many other 60 year old guys jumping in an open air hotrod at 4:30 in the morning to go to work.
One of my favorite things is hearing stories from the old days of Asbury Park and Long Branch: the partying at Mrs. Jays, Casey Jones, the Circuit and all the other adventures of the past. Tommy grew up in NJ entrenched in bike and car culture, witnessing and participating in some incredible moments. Who else can tell you about seeing Victor the Rasslin’ Bear fight bikers in a cage at Convention Hall in Asbury Park? Tommy was there watching other bikers pay a couple bucks to get in that cage with Victor and get thrown against the sides of the cage. Another great story is when Tommy and his buddy, Dave, were on their way to a bar in Tommy’s ‘56 Chevy pickup. It was a hotrod pickup, with a 283 motor, 3 speed on the floor, big ol’ tires on the back, and the driver door had to be really slammed to shut right. So they are rolling down the road Tommy whips around a corner, the door swings open and out Tommy goes. He hit’s the road and rolls, the back tire just missing him. Dave slides across quick and gets the truck stopped and checks on Tommy. He is scraped up with a big cut on his head. Sensible people would have probably gone to the hospital to get looked at, but instead they continued on to the bar. Tommy told the story to his wife some 30 years later and Tuuli called him on it saying, “Don’t you think you’re exaggerating a little?” A few months later they are walking around a local flea market and Tommy spots Dave. It was the first time he had seen him in 30 years! He called out, “Dave!” Dave turned and said, “Tommy Granger… remember that time you fell out of your truck?” Great stories every time.
Tommy and Tuuli Granger are two of the greatest folks you will ever meet; they are the real deal. Their personalities are what make their garage and home so interesting and fun. If you ever have the opportunity to visit their “Church of What’s Happening,” be prepared–your eyes will be taking in so much cool stuff your brain won’t be able to keep up.