BY WEVONNEDA MINIS

If you had a motorcycle engine built or rebuilt at Low Country Harley-Davidson in the late ’80s or late ’90s, there is a good chance you were fortunate enough to benefit from the passion of C.J. Quintana.

Mike Kelley, service technician with the company, says that Quintana, who was a lead technician there, was driven to improve motorcycles.

Quintana, who was born in March 1957, died March 7.

“He had a passion for building performance,” says Kelley, who worked with him. Quintana loved to make Harley’s run faster. He liked building stroker motors with a high-quality aftermarket kit to give the motorcycle more power.

“He would take a stock Harley and make it run a whole lot better,” Kelley says. “It would run easier when going down the highway and with two people on the motorcycle.”

Quintana believed in improving on a motorcycle’s performance so much that he once talked an elderly gentleman with an older Harley-Davidson touring motorcycle into getting a stroker motor, Kelley says.

The man’s motorcycle had a stock configuration and many miles on it, Kelley says. Most people would just have thought it was time to rebuild the motor, but Quintana’s vision of what was needed was different.

Quintana’s work on the bike brought back the enthusiasm the gentleman had for motorcycles and riding, Kelley says. The gentleman rode that bike many more miles before he sold it. The bike, a late ’70s model, is still on the road.

Quintana was 13 when his parents gave him a dirt bike. But even before then, he would modify his bicycles, says his wife, Mary Quintana.

“He’d give them ape hanger handle bars, and he would stretch the frame of the bicycle to resemble a chopper,” she says.

When Quintana was 19 and in the Navy, he purchased his first Harley-Davidson, she says.

What prompted this lifelong passion with motorcycles?

“To him, it was just the freedom, being able to get out and ride,” his wife says.

Quintana worked for Low Country Harley-Davidson in 1988 and 1989, a dealership in California in 1990, a motorcycle shop in North Carolina until 1995, and back at Low Country Harley-Davidson until about 1998, Mary Quintana says.

He had a different vision.

“We built a shop in our backyard, and he built custom motorcycles,” his wife says. “He used to give all of the motorcycles he built a name. He called the last one he built the Whopper Chopper.”

Rodney McKanna, warranty manager at Low Country Harley-Davidson, also is a master technician and recalls working on drag racing motorcycles with Quintana.

“We would be in there working together. There were a lot of late nights. Drag racing is off-the-clock time,” McKanna says. “Inherently, on drag bikes, things break. We would do whatever needed to be done.

“He was a very meticulous individual. He liked taking a frame and stretching and raking it. He’d cut the fenders down, take off the stuff that does not need to be there and just basically chop it,” McKanna says.

Quintana had more that one motorcycle entered into the Daytona Beach Custom Motorcycle Show in Florida, Kelley says.

“He enjoyed the Harley-Davidson motorcycle,” Kelley says. “It was very much part of his life. His craftsmanship. ... It just took my breath away.”

Reach Wevonneda Minis at 937-5705.