TWMX All Access: Billy Who and the Man Funnel

“I got tired of making a mess in my garage while changing the oil in my CRF450.” That’s how Billy Frank described the motivation for creating the Man Funnel, an oddly-named, and even odder-looking plastic device that’s a simple answer for neatly draining oil from the engines of four-stroke Hondas and Yamahas which have less-than-conveniently-placed drain holes.

Jokingly, Billy says, “I send them e-mails just about every week thanking them and telling them how good their oil draining system is. Nah, not really. But I do encourage other companies to design theirs drainage systems the same way.”

Of course, with names like Billy Who, and the Man Funnel, he frequently gets asked where the names came from. “The company name came from when I raced professionally in the mid-to-late 80s. Back in ’85 was my first year in the nationals, and no one knew who I was, obviously. I did really well, getting a fifth in my first national, so there was a little buzz. I rode for Gear Racewear at the time, and they were a great bunch of guys. No one really knew who I was, so they sent me pants with that name on it. I just showed up and it said Billy Who, and that kind of stuck ever since. I kept it on my pants for most of my career. I liked it, it’s kind of a catchy name. I know what the next question is, but go ahead.” (Laughs)

Okay¿how’d he come up the Man Funnel name? “I’m not a chauvinistic pig or anything, and it’s nothing sexual. A while back I was designing an injection-molded clothes hangar. All of the hangars I was looking at had these shoulder strap notch for women’s dresses, and every time you pull a t-shirt off, it’d snag. If you’d put a pair of jeans on them, they were super-cheap and would break or fold up. I wanted to make a really good hangar that you could hang a heavy-duty pair of jeans, and for when you were in a hurry in the morning and you ripped your t-shirts off the hangar. I was messing around and told people I was making a Man Hangar¿that was the joke around the shop. The Man Hanger name stuck, so when I started designing the funnel on the computer, someone came in and asked what I was making. I said, ‘An oil drain funnel.’ He asked if I was going to name it the Man Funnel. The name stuck ever since. It’s kind of an inside joke, but it makes you look. It grabs your attention, and it’s a very useful tool. What else am I going to call it? The All-In-One Oil Drain Funnel? I wanted something different.”

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With its modern art look, we figured it must have been a tough item to design. Billy said, “It wasn’t easy, but I just had to reverse engineer it. I brought a bike in the shop, and just took the measurements. I did a couple prototypes to figure out the hard points I had to fit to it. The rest of it’s just the flow and general shape. I kind of designed it as I was going. I didn’t wake up and think, ‘I know exactly what it’s going to look like.’ I’ve got the hard points and did what I had to do to make it function correctly. Then I just tried to make it look aesthetically nice.”

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“When I first started designing it, it was going to be an open-ended funnel, and it stayed that way up until within two weeks of releasing it. It was good for draining, and tt was it. A couple people told me it’d be good if you could also use it for refilling the transmission.”

“I wasn’t going to do the splashguard, either, and at the last minute I decided to add it in. Half the people I talked to when I showed it to them didn’t realize that you had to kick the bike over to get the last bit of oil out. But I’m happy that I added those in. They’re pretty nice features. The splashguard keeps oil from splattering all over the wall. Before that, the standard thing was to hang a rag over the shifter. Then you have an oily rag that’s worthless.”

“I just wanted to make something that took all the headaches away from draining oil, because it can be quite the hassle.”

“You don’t have to take the skid plate off, and you can do it with the bike on the stand. When you clip funnel in place on the frame, you can pull both bolts out at the same time. You’re not going to overflow it. Pull the bolts, walk away, and work on something else, or just come back in five minutes after it’s drained. Then put the splash guard on. Give it three or four slow kicks while you’re holding the kill switch. You want to make sure it doesn’t fire up. That gets out a lot of additional oil. The splashguard redirects the oil back down into the funnel so you don’t get sprayed.”

“When you’re done with that, pop the funnel off and clean the dirty oil out. Then you can use it to fill up the bike. I mainly made it for the tranny side, but it makes the whole oil change process really nice and clean.”

So how much does Billy sweat design changes in upcoming new bike models? “I’m a lot more anxious than I used to be about getting my hands on the first one. The best situation is to have the product out before the bike’s even available.”

“I currently have four funnels, and they’re all held uniquely onto the frame of each brand bike. The CRF250 kind of twists on. You have to twist it into place. It’s designed to be a little tight the first time, and after that it just slips right on.”

“On the YZ250F funnel, there’s also a gray piece I call the longhorn, which kind of looks like the Texas A&M longhorn. That gray piece clips onto the frame, for the frame drain. Then the main portion of the funnel clips into place, and holds it so that it juts out from the frame. It angles up a little, so you just take your t-handle, pull the bolt out and away from the stream of oil. One other nice thing about all the funnels is that when the oil comes out it’s such a tiny little stream that it’s very accurate. You don’t need a funnel underneath the funnel. You can make it into a little Gatorade bottle easily.”

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“It’s nice to make something unique, and actually works as advertised. It’s not a gimmick, and I’m not just looking to make a quick buck. Some people don’t care. They pull the drain plugs and let it go everywhere. But it’s lame when you’re tracking oil into the house. But I get a lot of e-mails from happy customers who are thanking me up one side and down the other for making this because it’s such a nightmare without it.”

How does Billy sell his $15.99 pieces of plastic modern art? “I have a web site, www.billywho.com, and we sell direct online through PayPal. Or you can call directly to us. MTA West (909-272-0971) is our distributor out here, and they’re doing a good job taking care of dealers. I’m not soliciting dealers, but we still get a lot of dealers calling us because they’ve heard about the product. Word of mouth is a very powerful thing. After two or three people start asking for the same thing, they tend to look it up and get it in there.”

What other products should we look for from Billy? “I need to do funnels for the KTMs, and I’ve actually got a new project I’m working on that I’ll introduce in October at the Dirt Expo at the U.S. Open. I think Sunday it’s a consumer day, and people are more than welcome to come by.

While we tried to pry some info out of him on the new product, he hung tough and wouldn’t spill the beans. “Obviously I came from the motorcycle industry, so I’m trying to do what I can to improve it. The company’s really going to concentrate for several years on the maintenance issues, like oil changes and that kind of stuff. Just to make things easier. There’s a lot of little stuff that it just sucks doing every time you’ve got to work on your bike. There are certain things that you dread doing. That’s something we want to remedy. Just make it as painless as possible. We’re constantly looking at new ideas, and we’re going to diversify and get into other products. I’m very particular. I don’t want to just take some little thing a tiny bit and throw my name on it. I want to make something unique and that isn’t out there already, and is really needed.”

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How about other future plans? “In Octoberish we’re going to relocate to Texas. I say we because I’m taking on a business partner, David Vaught. He does all my packaging. The only thing I don’t do right now is the packaging and the web site¿that kind of stuff. When we move back there, we’ll be opening Billy Who, LLC, as a joint partnership, and that’s when we’re going to crank up a lot more stuff. Doing everything myself on the product side is a lot of work, but it’s a lot faster than waiting for someone else.”

“I really like being in the industry. One drawback about moving to Texas is that everything is here in Southern California¿all the manufacturers and people. I’ll probably be out here at least ten time a year, getting to the big races or meeting with people.”

“Time permitting I’m also looking at making injection-molded tools for other companies who are looking for someone who can make a mold quickly and doesn’t charge an arm and a leg. I really enjoy making the designs and tooling.”

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“I’m not looking to be a one hit wonder. We’re going to back that up with a lot of products. We have certain goals for the company, and we’re really trying to find a hole in the market first, and then go from there. My hope is that in five years we’ll have 30-40 products, but I always want that base of original products that are well thought out, and not just thrown together to make a buck.”

Contact:
Billy Who
26741 Portola Pkwy., Ste. 1e-272
Foothill Ranch, CA  92610
Tel: (949) 916-7607
www.billywho.com

er day, and people are more than welcome to come by.

While we tried to pry some info out of him on the new product, he hung tough and wouldn’t spill the beans. “Obviously I came from the motorcycle industry, so I’m trying to do what I can to improve it. The company’s really going to concentrate for several years on the maintenance issues, like oil changes and that kind of stuff. Just to make things easier. There’s a lot of little stuff that it just sucks doing every time you’ve got to work on your bike. There are certain things that you dread doing. That’s something we want to remedy. Just make it as painless as possible. We’re constantly looking at new ideas, and we’re going to diversify and get into other products. I’m very particular. I don’t want to just take some little thing a tiny bit and throw my name on it. I want to make something unique and that isn’t out there already, and is really needed.”

[IMAGE 4]

How about other future plans? “In Octoberish we’re going to relocate to Texas. I say we because I’m taking on a business partner, David Vaught. He does all my packaging. The only thing I don’t do right now is the packaging and the web site¿that kind of stuff. When we move back there, we’ll be opening Billy Who, LLC, as a joint partnership, and that’s when we’re going to crank up a lot more stuff. Doing everything myself on the product side is a lot of work, but it’s a lot faster than waiting for someone else.”

“I really like being in the industry. One drawback about moving to Texas is that everything is here in Southern California¿all the manufacturers and people. I’ll probably be out here at least ten time a year, getting to the big races or meeting with people.”

“Time permitting I’m also looking at making injection-molded tools for other companies who are looking for someone who can make a mold quickly and doesn’t charge an arm and a leg. I really enjoy making the designs and tooling.”

[IMAGE 5]

“I’m not looking to be a one hit wonder. We’re going to back that up with a lot of products. We have certain goals for the company, and we’re really trying to find a hole in the market first, and then go from there. My hope is that in five years we’ll have 30-40 products, but I always want that base of original products that are well thought out, and not just thrown together to make a buck.”

Contact:
Billy Who
26741 Portola Pkwy., Ste. 1e-272
Foothill Ranch, CA  92610
Tel: (949) 916-7607
www.billywho.com