We’ve received more than a couple of comments about who really did the work on some of the well publicized custom motorcycles seen on TV or in the magazines. They come from the big name shops but did the “Big Name” build the bike? Well, sometimes yes, sometimes no or sometimes some of the parts.
It isn’t a conspiracy or super secret that once a business becomes successful the person who started the business cannot continue to do everything by himself or herself. This does not mean he can’t do it, just that there are many other things to do. I think the reason these comments are made is more focused on the fact that these unsung heroes often get little credit while the big name on the door gets the pat on the back.
Jesse James, who can absolutely build with the best of them, turned out the VTX Cafe Racer some time ago but a lot of the work was done by Mike Cook who has since gone on to start his own company, American Cafe Racers. (His website is gone, not sure about the business) Mike has a lot of skill and experience and some of it was gained while working with Jesse James so he did receive something for his work over and above the pay.
Arlen Ness, the King of Choppers, had a lot of design and paint work done by Carl Brouhard. Carl did the designs and/or paint for several of Arlen Ness’ well known bikes. Few people knew this and now Carl is focused on his own motorcycle business, Brouhard Designs. Arlen Ness can certainly still build bikes but what’s the point in becoming successful if you can’t relax a bit? Carl certainly benefits by being able to point to the great work he did for Arlen Ness. A win-win.
Jesse Rooke, has a lot of work done by Todd’s Cycle, in fact it was a comment last night about this builder that started me thinking along these lines.
Motorcycle building is a business like any other, once the company grows there is more work to do than one person can do. At that point, the key is keeping the quality up to the big name standards, no matter whose hands do the actual work.
Maybe in the future, some of these unsung builders and designers will get a little more credit to begin with, but whether they do or do not, they still gain skill, experience and contacts while doing the work and can choose to strike out on their own if they really want their own name on the door (and the headaches that go along with that).