This was written and published on Bikernet in September, but since I’m slammed, it’s easy to cut-n-paste it for the enjoyment of all you bikerMetric readers.
I met Justin Kell like I meet a lot of people, in the evening when I’m drinking beer and surfing the net. I was browsing my favorite bike sites and found a photo and a paragraph about a recently-discovered 1954 Vincent Black Shadow that was going to be turned into a drag racer by a vintage expert in Hollywood.
“A vintage expert in Hollywood,” I smirked out loud, moved by the hare-brained chatter of my irresponsible frivolity as I belched, “who the f**k is that?” Now, I know a few things about Harleys and Hondas but not much about British bikes and certainly very little about Vincents, other than they are considered remarkable bikes largely due to the many unprecedented design and engineering elements and their amazing speeds.
On the night I discovered Justin’s bike, I left a message on the site where I found it stating that the photo of the bike looked as if “someone saw a Confederate Fighter, didn’t have six figures to blow on one, but had a wicked Vincent motor and a machine shop.” Thus I exposed my ignorance of all things Vincent and was set off on a path of discovery.
I wasn’t the only one who thought the bike had a Confederate style on the site. Soon though, Justin replied, “Those who said Confederate should have their mouths washed out with soap.” I thought to my drunken self, “Who is this f**ker? What a smart-assed thing to say.” I smiled because I like passionate people and with my amazing Google powers, I researched Justin Kell.
I quickly found that Justin is the motorcycle coordinator for movie productions, with a resume that includes the Benjamin Button film, the latest Star Trek and Indiana Jones flicks, as well as the Quentin Tarantino-produced 60’s biker take-off, “**** Ride,” which youy guys ought to rent, it’s freaky. Justin Kell owns a retail shop on Hollywood Boulevard called Glory, where you can see a bunch of cool bike stuff. He also has a garage where he repairs and restores vintage British and American motorbikes somewhere in the Silverlake district just outside of Hollywood. I learned a lot about vintage motorcycle history and Vincent motorcycles in general.
Enjoy the interview, ladies and gentlemen.
bM: Please tell us about how you found the Vincent. It’s one of those classic barn finds, right?
JK: The finding of the Vincent was actually pretty classic. Steve Crocker, a Northern California collector and Moto Melee rider, found it on the Vegas craigslist. He called me, knowing that I was looking for a Shadow project. He made the initial contact with the owner and then I took over. The owner was a bit rough around the edges to say the least. Seeing that I’m fluent in “biker,” I decided to take over negotiations.
I got the long story of how the bike was acquired as well as the some very interesting views on world politics. Turns out, some ****** calling himself a “Vincent collector” from Tennessee was trying to buy the bike as well. Good thing our Nevada desert friend only wanted cash. Also, it’s a much quicker drive from LA than from Tennessee.
Two days later, I’m driving my truck in 110-degree heat with a shotgun behind the seat and a wallet full of cash. Soon, I’m back on the road to LA with this shipwrecked sprinter strapped in the back.
bM: Why the shotgun? Because the current owner was edgy or because you’d have a rare bike exposed in the back of your truck? Or was it the money in your pocket? Probably all three, huh?
JK: That was funny. See, the guy I bought the bike off of spent hours on the phone telling me about his “views” about everything. Because I wanted to solidify the deal, I just kept listening to him and taking it all in with a grain of salt. I was expecting to arrive at some crazy compound in the middle of the desert.
Traveling with an *** load of cash is always a bit nerve racking, but when you kind of expect to show up at a less-than-safe location, it makes it even more scary. My wife was very nervous. It was pretty funny, she kept telling me to call her when I arrived, when I left, etcetera. The truth is, the guy I bought the bike from was all talk. There was no revolution at his house, just a bunch of cats and a killer old Vincent! He let on like he didn’t really care about the bike, that he was “a Harley guy,” but I saw that look in his eyes. It was killing him to let go of a bike that was his favorite possession. It may have sat in parts in his care for years. ****, he may have never even ridden it, but since 1972, he could tell people that he owned a Vincent Black Shadow.
As for a rare race bike in the truck, very few people could recognize that machine (Confederate anyone?). When I got back to my house, I told my kids that I had a new Vincent in the truck. The five year-old said, “That’s not a Vincent,” and the seven yearQ
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