You’ve got it seriously made when your career is literally wrenching Harleys all day, every day, day in, day out.
However you want to describe building a custom Harley-Davidson or any custom motorcycle, we don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that every rider reading this would do practically anything to make that happen.
There’s a reason for the slogan “Ride. Wrench. Repeat.” Because, that’s the life. But all jobs—even working as a motorcycle mechanic—have their downsides. For bike builders, it’s always doing what the owner wants, especially when you don’t want to do what he wants you to do. As they say, the customer is always right (even when he isn’t).
But that wasn’t the case for builder Evan Favaro, owner of Speakeasy Motors in Wallkill, New York, when it came to this particular assignment, a 1976 Harley Shovelhead. “One day, a customer named Mike dropped his Shovel at the shop and told me, ‘I started this project. I have no idea how to weld or how to finish it,’” remembers Evan. “He just bit off more than he could chew.”
Sure, building a bike (almost) completely from scratch can be invigorating, even for a veteran craftsman. But the real plus was that Mike pretty much gave Evan free reign.
And there was a lot of free reigning to do. “Mike had a front end and frame and wheels and motor,” Evan says. “But it was basically a box of parts at the back of his car. It wasn’t even a roller. He had some of the major components. But I had to take it from there.”
Another plus: even though Evan had full creative license, Mike gave him just one guideline. “Mike said, ‘Just make it simple, then you can do whatever you want.’”
Why is this a plus? Turns out, most of the builds that Evan does are, in his words, “quite involved.” By that Evan means bikes with “a lot of sheet metal work,” and choppers and bobbers that are over the top. With descriptions like that, we don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to think that this bike is pretty close to being one of the simplest builds Evan has ever done. Believe me, I asked. If there was some type of “simplest builds in the world” list, it would be, as Evan said, “definitely up there.”
Much like the overall style of the Shovel, the process, too, was pretty straight forward. “It was fairly simple. I pretty much hacked away at it really,” he explains. As you’ll find out, Evan wasn’t joking when he said “fairly simple.” The word simple came up quite often during our chat with him. Evan described all of the non-hacking mods as such, including the “simple fender struts,” which he custom-made. The Sportster oil tank, which Evan modified and installed under the transmission with the kickstart, was referred to as “a simple fab.” Even the motor, which he rebuilt so it would be “all nice and fresh,” was anything but difficult.
Same can be said of the battery box. But there’s actually a whole lot more to say about the battery box. And what we have to say has nothing to do with how simple its installation was (besides it being mounted on the side of the bike). Ironically, though, we can’t actually say much, except that the bike is named after it, the “Little Black Box.”
Back to the bike. Just because building the Shovelhead was easy doesn’t mean Evan “took it easy” when it came to ensuring Mike would get a quality bike. “There’s actually a lot involved in bike builds, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a simple or high-end, complex bike,” Evan says before adding, “especially if you do it right.”
Builds that aren’t done right Evan refers to as “botched jobs.” In many cases, these bikes are botched because the builders didn’t have the proper tools, such as wheel spacers. “Bikes aren’t like cars,” Evan says. “If a wheel on your car comes off, you can just stop. But on a motorcycle, that would be catastrophic.” That’s why this bike is comprised of components from GMA, Paughco, Three Two Choppers, Biltwell, Unity, and BDL, among others.
“With customers, you’re putting their lives in your craftsmanship. It can be a little intimidating,” Evan says. “There’s still a lot involved in making a bike a safe machine.”
While most of the bike is minimalist, there’s nothing minimalist about the paint job. “I left it all up to my painter,” says Evan. “I kind of pointed him in the direction and said, ‘Have some fun and make it look cool.’”
As you can see, the painter did just that. But seeing as Mike likes it simple, we were dying to know what he thought of the design. “I think the paint was a little more involved than what he was expecting,” responds Evan. “He was probably just expecting a single color. And we gave him a lot more than that.” But besides the rad palette choice, the bike was exactly what Evan was looking for: something plain and simple. “He loved it. He was speechless. It was everything he wanted,” says Evan. RC