THE REAL CAPTAIN AMERICA
FRED “CAP” TILLY & HIS BIKE
A Wheels Of Grace exclusive interview
W.O.G.: First and foremost let me begin this article by telling you once again: THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE SIR!
CAP.: You’re very welcome and thank you for your support.
W.O.G.: I remember when we met. Back in 2019, at a Christian event in Las Vegas. Hard to believe it’s been almost a year. Time flies when a Pandemic is upon us . In the middle of the afternoon, in the hot Las Vegas heat, when everyone was out on a ride, I and a couple of others stayed behind. That’s when I heard you roll in and I did a double take. You know the kind we used to do at the beach during Spring Break?
CAP.: Wow! I didn’t know that but I’m sure my cult 45 2 into 1 exhaust helped.
W.O.G.: As my wife says I can talk to anyone, and I did not hesitate to begin a conversation with you. You must have felt like, “who is this guy asking all these questions?” But when I see a bike like yours, with such beauty and detail, I don’t only admire the craftsmanship and the unique built, I think in magazine editor’s head: photos, images, story, close-ups… So tell us a little about you first. Where were you born?
CAP.: Los Angeles California.
CAP.: Up until the age of 14, I grew up in a cool neighborhood in the San Bernardino Valley then my parents moved us to Las Vegas.
W.O.G. Tell us a little about the young Fred Tilly. Let’s say from birth to 18 when you became an adult. What was the kid and the teenager Fred Tilly like? Was he the same as he is today? Same interests, same passions?
CAP.: All in all I can say I had a great childhood. I was born to very strict parents and I have two older brothers and one younger brother. My father worked very hard and my mom stayed home to take care of us kids. Even though they were very strict, they did their best to keep us happy. Of course we didn’t have the Internet or cell phones back then so me and my little brother after school were always outside riding our bicycles or our skateboards or playing in the front yard. Every Fourth of July was awesome the whole street would come out and celebrate together with lots of food and great fun. During Halloween, every kid in the neighborhood was out; it was an awesome carefree time, which I’m afraid kids today will never understand. Christmas time was the best though! We would go to church for Christmas mass but before leaving the house my mom always came to the car and said she had to run back inside to use the bathroom. Of course as a little kid you don’t figure it out and when we got home from church Santa Claus had been there! We ate dinner and got to open our presents (European tradition is to open your presents on Christmas Eve). When I was 14 our parents moved us to Las Vegas since my dad was traveling there anyway to do most of his work. At the age of 15 1/2, I was not doing so good in school so my mom and dad took me out and put me to work in his shop. At 16 I got my first vehicle and when I was 18 the 80s had just started and Las Vegas in the 80s was really cool! I was working for my fathers marble and granite company making a really good paycheck during the day and at night my friends and I were always out having fun. On the weekends we loved to go to the skating rink and afterwards you could find us cruising Fremont St. trying to make our trucks look cooler than they were already.
W.O.G. Sounds like a great childhood indeed! If Fred Tilly could say something to a younger Fred today, what would he say to him?
CAP.: Life is not always fun and games. Take a little bit more time to make your decisions, don’t be a hot head and also try not to be so selfish.
W.O.G.: How old were you when you joined the Army?
CAP.: I was 20 years old.
W.O.G.: And at some point you went to Germany… or were you transferred to Germany? Tell us a little about that:
CAP.: I was extremely excited to be transferred to Germany being as my parents are German. As a matter of fact my mother spent her teenage years living in Berlin during the war and while I was there I tried to use my time wisely visiting various historical sites and learning about my family history, meeting up with people from my family that I had never met before in my life.
W.O.G.: How long were you in Germany?
CAP.: A little over two years.
W.O.G.: And you met your wife in Germany as well, right?
CAP.: Correct and I must say that meeting my wife Silvia was one of the best things that ever happened to me.
W.O.G.: Well said! I’ve been to your house, and I’ve seen your wife’s Bike in the garage. What year and model is her Harley?
CAP.: My wife rides a 2016 Street Glide Special.
W.O.G.: Go Sylvia! How long has she been riding?
CAP.: I helped my wife get her drivers license in Germany for her 30th birthday so she has been riding for about 14 years now.
W.O.G.: Was Sylvia one of those wives that said: “I will never ride my own bike. I am happy on the back…” or has she always wanted her ride?
CAP.: She has most definitely always wanted to have her own motorcycle.
W.O.G.: That’s the European side. I remember you sharing with me about purchasing your bike. I think you said you bought it in Germany right? And then had it shipped? Or did you buy it here?
CAP.: Yes both mine and my wife’s bike where purchased in Bamberg Germany and when we moved here I had them flown over.
W.O.G.: How did you get the vision of the Captain America theme?
CAP.: I originally wanted to paint it a burgundy wine color then the Captain America and avengers movies came out and identified so well with the Captain America character that I decided to go that route. I thought to myself: “what would the motorcycle look like if Captain America went to the Army Motor pool to pick it up?”
W.O.G.: How long did it take to customize the bike from beginning to end?
CAP.: Well let’s see, I bought the bike in April 2012 and I’m still not finished I’m constantly adding or changing things to it.
W.O.G.: I sure know how that is! Can you share with us the steps, what was done to it and who did the work?
CAP.: The day I bought the bike I actually never rode it; it was rolled to the back of the dealer and they swap the motor with a screaming eagle 120 R, added a new fuel injection system, added the Screaming Eagle Chip Tuning Kit, added the Chopped Tour-Pack. After that, I pretty much did what everybody else does and bought bits and pieces here and there and saved my money because I knew one day I wanted to make some major changes. When we moved back to Vegas I knew this was my chance to start building the bike. I took it to Paul Yaffe’s Bagger Nation. I have been following him for quite some time and I knew he had the expertise and parts that I wanted. While the bike was there they did the “Steam Roller Touring Kit” which includes raking the front forks, adding a taller and fatter front tire; they also added a SRT Front fender, Dynamo Yaxle, a Chin Spoiler, Swoop Stretched Saddlebags, the Razorback Stretched Tank with a steel stretched Dash, a Swoop Rear Fender, Smooth Side Covers, 10 inch Monkey Bars with added cross bar, Cult 45 2 into 1 Exhaust System and custom remolded my Bat Wing Fairing. After that I took it to Raw Tin Garage in Utah, where it was painted in all of Drab Green with Tan Graphics.
W.O.G.: Just a couple of things! Well the bike is a ONE-OF-A-KIND! I truly believe this is the perfect time to publish a story like yours and feature your CAPTAIN AMERICA bike with everything going on in our country. So, thank you for all the detailed information. What was the first bike you owned?
CAP.: My first motorcycle was a Yamaha. It was handed down to me from one of my brothers.
W.O.G. Mine too. Imagine that! What was the worse bike you owned? And why?
CAP.: I can honestly say I’ve never had a bad or a lemon for a motorcycle.
W.O.G. How old were you when God made a difference in your life for the first time?
CAP.: I was 50 years old.
W.O.G. Have you had an experience with God you would like to share, that made an impact on you?
CAP.: A couple of years ago I was blessed to be chosen to go to a men’s Bible camp called Wild at Hart in Colorado. I had decided to ride my motorcycle there. The trip there was pretty normal and I was very excited to attend. Upon arriving I could already feel the atmosphere was different. I was one of the first to arrive and as more and more men showed up you could just feel how everything changed. It was like being in a huge protective bubble created by the Almighty Himself. I am not the best storyteller but what I can tell you is, as the days went by, lesson after lesson, I could feel myself changing. I learned how to let go of certain ties to people and things I had in my past which I did not need, and to see the Lord in a different light which would change me and the way I want to live the rest of my life. When I left the camp, I had this new Energy and a new outlook on life. I started riding towards Texas. I felt very different. I felt protected, satisfied, like I had a purpose and a goal. I was charged with energy like I’ve never felt before, and I swear to you during my whole ride home I could feel two angels: one flying to the left of me and the other to the right of me. I can’t tell you how many times I looked over my shoulders to see if I could see them. I couldn’t, but I was sure they were there.
W.O.G. I, and many of our readers know EXACTLY what you’re talking about. Can you share with our readers an impactful story form your years in the Army?
CAP.: Not really. All I can say is war or conflict however you want to put it is not fun. It takes a while to get used to and you have to rely a lot on your fellow soldiers, which builds camaraderie unlike any other; those are some of the names and faces I will never forget.
W.O.G. That right there, is impactful enough! I briefly met your wife and you seem like a happy fellow. Just like you, I believe we married up. What is “your” secret to a happy marriage?
CAP.: Keep no secrets. Make all your decisions together. Try to be a good listener. If you tell your wife you’re going to do something don’t wait too long to do it. Last but not least, it helps a lot if you buy your wife a brand new Harley Davidson!
W.O.G. You have, two sons?
CAP.: I actually have three sons
W.O.G. How old are they?
CAP.: Christopher is 30, Shelby is 28 and Aaron is 20.
W.O.G. Are they married, single any grandkids?
CAP.: Shelby the 28 year old is the only son that is married and on July 21, 2018 God blessed him and his wife with a healthy baby boy (Ben) making me a grandfather for the first time.
W.O.G. Congrats! If tomorrow morning, you could do anything you want to do, what would you be doing?
CAP.: Having Christmas Dinner at my mom and dads house with the whole family there. Having fun and everyone getting along the way a family should.
W.O.G. Do you ever have doubts?
CAP.: Sure but then I always pray for guidance and strength and try to do my best in that situation.
W.O.G. What was the best decision you ever made?
CAP.: Joining the Army and marrying Silvia.
W.O.G. What is the most embarrassing moment you have ever had?
CAP.: One time I introduced my wife with the name of my ex-wife and believe me that did not go over well!
W.O.G. What’s your favorite quote? Or one of your favorites?
CAP.: “I don’t like bullies” ~ Steve Rogers (in one of the gloms).
W.O.G. What’s your favorite or one of your favorite Bible verses?
CAP.: EPH.6:13-17 put on the armor of God.
W.O.G. Rightfully said just like a Soldier! Now lets get into some of the more important and serious questions, LOL! What’s Cap’s favorite hobby?
CAP.: Riding my motorcycle of course, but I like to spend a lot of time in the garage making things.
W.O.G. What sort of things?
CAP.: I like to make, fix, or refurbish furniture. I make things like an A.R. 15 mount for my motorcycle. I like to work on or clean my firearms, make phone or tablet stands, pretty much anything that I would like to have. I see it in the store and think I can make it better.
W.O.G. What about some of your favorite TV shows or movies?
CAP.: Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean, Grease and Supernatural.
W.O.G. Back to chrome and horsepower… I would usually ask: “what is your dream bike?” But I have a feeling I know the answer to that question.
CAP.: The one I’m riding now of course but maybe with a little more horsepower.
W.O.G.: What about a second bike. What would you pick from everything out there?
CAP.: The LiveWire from Harley-Davidson.
W.O.G: What is your dream car or truck? Or, are you driving that as well?
CAP.: 1963 split window Corvette
W.O.G. What’s your favorite color?
W.O.G. What’s your favorite kind of food?
CAP.: My wife’s German cooking and baking.
W.O.G. What’s your favorite animal? Because you only have four, or five…
CAP.: Pugs, Chihuahuas and Okapi.
W.O.G. Who are your heroes?
CAP.: As a kid it was my dad because he worked so hard and he was very skillful with his hands. Then later on I was very much into Hulk Hogan because he always said pray and take your vitamins.
W.O.G: How do you want to be remembered?
CAP.: As an honest person that’s not afraid to get his hands dirty and do the right thing.
W.O.G. As we close this interview, anything you would like to leave us with? A final thought?
CAP.: Only that I’m grateful to be living in what I consider the best country in the world and that one day all this hate that’s going around right now will dissipate and we can live in harmony under the one true God.
W.O.G. In agreement my brother!
EDITOR’S NOTE: Over the last twenty years we have taken many photos and done many interviews. This one was impactful! After taking the photos, a family from Canada that was on their way to visit the Base, saw the Captain America bike, and good ol’ humble Cap, became a celebrity. They wanted photos of the bike, of Cap, of his Costume; even of his gun…it was quiet a treat! But what impacted me the most aside of Cap’s kindness and patriotism, is, when I was driving away and looked in my rearview, Cap was standing there in salute. A moment that impacted me. A moment that I will never forget. Looking forward to being in the wind with Cap one day. I proudly call you Brother Cap, and again THANK YOU for your service Sir!