'English wheel', the usual tool for hand-forming smooth metal body panels, it's only used "twice a year, as I prefer to use a mallet to shape metal." As a result the tanks, seats, fairings, and beaten parts are clearly handmade, artisanal, with character on the surface - ripples, dings, asymmetries, tiny voids - exactly the sort of 'mistakes' a journeyman panel expert would avoid, but which on Shinya's machines are evidence of the maker's hand; a signature, a fingerprint.
Honda Cub, but it wasn't until his second motorcycle, a Suzuki OR50 two-stroke, that he began making changes, adding a larger tank from a DT1 and smaller seat, plus low handlebars for a café racer look. He wasn't able to move the footpegs; an awkward riding position was the result. He kept making changes over the years to his motorcycles, eventually founding Zero Engineering in Japan, where he customized around 300 Harley Davidsons with a very distinctive look.
Wishing to branch further into his art, and work with other kinds of motorcycles, he moved to Southern California and founded Chabott Engineering, where the shop is minded by his partner, Ayu. He hoped his move "would make me more accessible to people, as it can be difficult to communicate with Japanese businesses from America and Europe. Now about 60% of my customers are American, the rest in Europe and Japan. The client is very important to me, as there would be no bike without them; I don't make bikes for myself."
Shinya interviews those who commission his machines, finding what music they enjoy, what they wear, what they eat, but takes no input regarding the direction of his labor. After finding a donor motorcycle and necessary parts, he may ask a client if the particular marque is an acceptable base for their machine, as happened when a friend offered Shinya an MV Agusta 750 to modify. Would that I could have been on the other end of that phone call - 'I have a four-cylinder MV - can I make you a bike from this?' Mind boggling.
Of his working process, Shinya says, "I don't always know what the bike will look like; I don't imagine the finished design when I begin. I would get bored if I knew what I was going to make. Every time I'm surprised..."
|The repair to a broken rocker arm support is distinctively his own; it has lasted over 1000 miles 'so far'. A beautiful bodge.|
|An Arturo Magni exhaust for the MV. The shaft drive is retained, as he loves the radially-finned final drive box.|
|Cockpit of the dohc Italian exotic; all business, all metal.|
|The MV gleams like a diamond amidst the oil, rust, and debris natural to an active machine shop.|
|The modified Honda C90 Super Cub shown at the 2008 Legend of the Motorcycle Concours; light enough to easily lift.|
|Based on a 1957 Triumph T110, the Triumph especially hints at Shinya's university studies in Entomology.|
|Triumph and Excelsior; the tanks gleaming like a future vision from the past.|
|The Triumph-based special was built in Japan, the chassis mostly assembled from scrap.|
|The H-D Knucklehead; a recent build, sits between his 1915 Indian and a '28 H-D JD, originally imported into Japan. "It has come a long way back to America." Japan was Harley's second-largest export market in the 1920s, after Australia.|
|'Chabott' means 'fighting rooster' in Japanese. The painting is by Makoto, a friend and expert pinstriper.|
|The Excelsior front end; an Indian leaf-spring fork with shortened leaf, plus a damper from a Moto Guzzi!|
|Triumph, Excelsior, Honda.|
|The 1974 Ducati 'round case' 750GT.|