Bennett Dunn’s turn as a legendary singer has drawn rave reviews. But have you heard him play the bagpipes?
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When it comes to building custom choppers, Jeff Shelton tips his welding mask to the spirit of the original bikers.
Like a blacksmith or a sculptor, Jeff Shelton is able to create an original work of art from mere chunks of metal. Who but a true artist would attach Corona and Miller High Life bottle caps to the end of a motorcyle’s foot pegs and handlebars?
It’s this sort of creativity, along with a stubborn independence, that’s kept Shelton in the custom bike-building business for nearly a decade. In fact, he named his business Independents Choppers to honor the folks who started the biker movement.
“These guys were independent,” Shelton says. “They got on their bike and they took off and they lived the way they wanted to. I don’t like being told what to do.”
Shelton’s Newark-area shop is filled with works in progress. The business resembles an indoor parking lot for bikes of all styles. “It’s definitely a shop, not a showroom,” he says.
Shelton, 42, does most of the building in-house, including fabrication of fuel tanks and exhaust pipes, but he ships out the paint, chrome and powder coat work. He also handles repairs.
Customers include state cops and senior citizens. They bring photos and ideas and Shelton takes it from there. Variables such as the size of the tires and motor, the type of finish and frame choice factor into the price, which typically ranges from $25,000 to $50,000. “It can basically be as much as you want to spend,” he says. “It depends on what you want. We charge by the hour and keep track of our time.”
Shelton is currently building a number of custom bikes, including a special trike for a handicapped youngster. Shelton warns that customers must be patient. “It’s not TV, ” he says. “It’s not going to be built in two or three months.” —Drew Ostroski
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