Shaw Harley-Davidson Custom Shop Profile
Roland Sands Design recently caught up with Steve Willis, the man behind the Custom Shop at Shaw Harley-Davidson in England.
Shaw HD is a huge prescence in the world of custom motorcycles, from “full-blown custom chops to tweaked cafe racer sportsters and motocross inspired customs.”
Following is the interview transcription from RSD:
RSD: Motorcycles, why?
Steve Willis says: “Fell into motorcycles to be honest, did 16yrs working on cars then joined John Shaw on the service side of his turf business, this soon changed when the Turf side was sold and Harley Davidson was discovered. The passion for two wheels came naturally and the competitive streak in us all was to be the best.”
RSD: Where do all the ideas come from?
Steve Willis says: “The ideas come from interacting with the customers and really getting a mood board together, understanding their backgrounds and passions, lifestyles, and looking at bikes that we have done before or others we feel we reflect their desires. We then see how we can reinvent the Harley that fits the build and build something new and fresh, we are always trying to push the boundaries, and love to mix Retro with new, everyone loves the old styling, so if you can add some freshness you are onto a winner.”
RSD: How did you get started and where is the Shaw Custom shop going?
Steve Willis says: “We’ve been a Harley-Davidson Dealer for 10 years this year,and in 2009 we lost Buell, we did well with Buell and won awards for excellence so suddenly we had a big gap on our floor and workshop.
“We have always customised bikes from day one, and in 09 we thought we would take it to another level with a cool Speed Shop consultation area over looking the workshop floor where the bikes are built and working really closely with customers, consulting, project managing, having meetings with the custom paint team, and having the customer involved from day one. It’s been hugely successful and now we work on many International Clients bikes, from Australia, Russia, Dubia, Monaco, Milan and Angola.
“The Speed Shop has grown organically, so we are happy to carry on and see where it takes us. Our seven technicians in our workshop never went without a tool in their hand over the cold winters, and now we re taking on projects for 2013. I guess one day it would be very cool to have a vibe and feeling like you guys at RSD.”
RSD: We’ve noticed you taken to custom dirt bikes lately, what’s the story there?
Steve Willis says: “We are getting a lot of young new comers to HD in our Dealership, with customising Sportsters we have seen a new following. These guys are from different back grounds from Road Race and Motocross, the MX feel of some of our bikes was part customer wanting to be different and out there, and the Speed Shop wanting to try new looks but ones that reflected the past.”
RSD: I’ve seen you dance, you are good. Any chance we might see an internet video compilation any time soon?
Steve Willis says: “No compilation plans, but maybe in the future we might do “the Best of Steve Willis” dance moves.”
RSD: You seem to enjoy a night out, what is your typical night about town and where do you like to go?
Steve Willis says: “When I do make it out, I like to sample fine wines and beers and dance expressing my feelings.”
RSD: Longest jump you’ve ever completed?
Steve Willis says: “Getting married…”
RSD: Fastest you’ve been on two wheels?
Steve Willis says: “Off the clock.”
Steve Willis says: “Probably caused a few.”
RSD: World Champion, how does that feel and what does it mean to your team?
Steve Willis says: “The World Championships in 2010 really kicked everything up a gear and really made us believe in ourselves. The win lead to more interest in our bikes and detail that we put into the projects and put the Speed Shop on the map.”
RSD: Who’s the team on the Shaw Custom side and who does what to whom?
Steve Willis says: “The Speed Shop Team is lead by myself and our Chief Customiser Neil Sefton, Neil’s eye for detail is exceptional and his ideas are new and sometimes crazy but he has the ability to carry them out with true perfection.
“Dave is our Fabricator, super talented and his own worst critic. What he can do with a sheet of metal is fantastic. Our other team members are all very talented and specialize in their own areas, Tom, Gareth, Craig, Ted and Joe back everything up and finish the projects in the Speed & Custom way.
“The unsung Heros are our Parts manager Peter, and Simon who leads the service team… and of course Image Design Custom, without Tom Fuller and his team doing magnificent paintwork the custom bikes would lose that “wow factor?”
RSD: I heard you used to sell lawn mowers?
Steve Willis says: “We did, American made TORO, specializing in Turf care, Golf clubs, football stadiums etc.”
RSD: You make all kinds of funny voices, why? Are you covering up the real Steve?
Steve Willis says: “Didn’t realize my voices were funny, that’s the way I speak….hahahahaha.”
RSD: Fruit or Veg?
Steve Willis says: “Fruit especially Toffee Apples.”
RSD: What’s it all about really?
Steve Willis sasy: “Good question. To me it’s about doing the best job you can and looking after the ones you love x.”
RSD: When you wake up in the morning what’s the first thing you think about?
Steve Willis says: “Depends on what I did the night before..If I didn’t go out its the kids, if I did go out its shit! Did I dance?”