If you've attended a chopper event on the East Coast over the last few years, chances are you’ve seen one of Wes' helmets sitting on the raffle table or hanging off a sissy bar in the parking lot. Wes and his wife Madi run a company called Custom Destruction which specializes in making low profile, ¾ helmets using new shells, or completely restoring that vintage lid your father used to rock in the 60’s. Since Wes and Madi are fellow North Carolinians, I decided to pay them a visit and get my old “Captain America” helmet restored. This helmet literally washed up in my yard during a hurricane, so it was in pretty rough shape and needed Wes’ special attention to get it roadworthy again.
I admit that when Wes told me he was doing helmet restorations a few years ago, I thought he was relining old helmets with bandannas or something along those lines. As soon as I stepped into Wes' workshop, I quickly realized that this was a much more sophisticated operation than expected. The back wall of the shop was lined with shelves containing neatly labeled boxes of supplies, stacks of new helmets awaiting custom liners, rows of vintage helmets needing full restorations, and boxes of completed helmets ready to ship. Wes was sitting at his workbench surrounded by all the specialty tools required to do each step of a restoration correctly, which is essential when you consider he is replacing crucial items like chin straps that can't just be installed half-assed. New to the shop was Madi, who has taken charge of managing all the details of this ever-growing business. With clipboard in hand, she makes sure that every order is being done exactly to each customer's specifications, as each helmet is basically a one-off custom.
While Wes started prepping my helmet, we spoke about how he got into helmet restoration. Wes told me it all started when he was watching a Choppertown video. He spotted an old Shoei helmet on one of the riders that he just had to have. Finding a similar helmet turned out to be easy, but of course, every helmet he found needed a new liner. In the end, there was nothing to do but learn how to reline the helmets himself. This led to doing helmets for friends, and before long, he started selling relined helmets on the side.
That was over 10 years ago, and since then, he has developed a multi-piece replacement liner system that can be customized to fit any shaped head. Typically, you wouldn't go to his shop for a custom fitting, you would send Wes your dimensions, and he would put together the right pads to fit, but since I was there in person, I got the royal treatment. I have a narrow face and a small head, so it took a couple tries to get just the right combination of pieces for an all-around snug fit, but once we found it, the result was a comfortable helmet that fit close to the head, all without any wobble. Once the fitting was complete, Wes covered everything with my choice of material (a plain black one for me, I'm not into flashy colors) and glued the new liner into my original shell. He also replaced all the rusted snaps and installed a new leather chinstrap to finish off the restoration. The result was a helmet that fits great with completely new padding and lining, but one that retained its original vintage exterior.
Wes and Madi have put together a new website (https://www.customdestruction.com), which has photos of all the available helmets and liners, plus a "helmet builder" to help you construct the perfect lid to match your bike or just our wacky personality. You'll want to contact Wes directly if you have a vintage helmet you want restored, but if you have a good shell, Wes can build you a fully functional helmet. Wes personally relines each helmet by hand, so when you order from Custom Destruction, you know that you are getting a high-quality piece.
As noted in the intro there is a good chance you’ve seen one of Wes’ helmets sitting on a raffle table at your favorite chopper event because Wes is a strong supporter of this community. He doesn't just make helmets to pay the bills, but lives and breathes motorcycles, riding his Shovelhead chopper to events all over the East Coast. You can usually spot him walking around wearing his old boonie hat which he got back during his time serving our country in the Marine Corps. I honestly can't say enough good things about Wes and his work and I can guarantee if you are looking for a helmet that doesn’t make you look like your trying out for a Spaceballs reboot, then Wes is the man you need to contact.
Panhead Jim / @panhead_jim
Be sure to grab Issue #3 of Classy Trashy Magazine for Jim's article with Wes and Madi. Available in digital download or a hard copy.