Although my bud Dan Carballo claims his insurance underwriting job isn’t that exciting, he knows what works when it comes to shovelheads. I first came across Dan’s shovel on social media. With tons of likes and just as many positive comments, this build really stood out. He’s one of the few dudes I hadn’t come across at events like Ride to Skate and Strange Days. Funny thing was, after we talked online, we started running into each other all the time!
Dan’s first exposure to bikes was when he was a teenager. His friend Justin had dirt bikes and eventually worked his way up to a Honda Rebel. Over the years, Dan started getting into the scene, but it wasn’t until he landed a real job with some decent cash that he could swing his own bike. He didn’t grow up in a bike household. Justin helped him find his first bike and even rode it home because Dan didn’t have any clutch experience. That was just 9 years ago and things sure have changed for Dan.
He bought this shovel as a basket case in April of 2015. He had been looking for a cone shovel and came across this one on Craigslist. His priority was finding one with a numbers-matching frame and motor (to avoid any problems with DMV) and a ratchet-top trans for a fair price. There were almost enough parts in the deal to build a full bike, but Dan sold the extras he didn’t like and had to hunt down the missing pieces.
At one time, Dan had a different cone shovel he had put together, but there were too many changes he wanted to make to justify keeping it. It didn’t make much sense to tear apart a perfectly running bike. Around the same time, his buddy was looking for a ready-to-ride shovel, so they worked out a deal. Dan sold him the shovel and used that money to buy the basket case you see here. He digs the look of the cone motors with a mag; I have to agree.
Back to the basket case. Dan estimates the shovel pictured here took about 18 months. It took about a year to source all the parts he wanted and put it all together. He rode it around like that for a while, but realized it just wasn’t running the way he thought it should. He took it all apart, addressed the issues, and now it’s at the spot where he’s happy with it. When I asked him about how much he personally worked on it, he estimated about 70%. He cites help from some good friends for the success of this build. Ron Watt from The Bike Works in Glenside, PA, helped with motor and trans work. Adam Jordan from Cast and Salvage in Philly hardtailed the frame for him, using a Haifley Bros kit. Mike DeFonzo helped him sort out some carburetor and magneto issues. Hutch came through big time, gave him advice on the clutch issues he was having and hooked him up with some parts to fix it. Nick McCormick painted the frame. Dennis Troxell painted the tank, and Kev Kates helped with the assembly.
When I asked Dan to name the smallest change that made the biggest impact, he explained the switch from a 16-tooth kicker gear in the trans to a 14-tooth. This gave him a much smoother kick. Dan explained that this is the third bike he has built. One was a running bike he tore apart, hard-tailed and put back together, teaching him some general mechanics and challenges you face with a project of that size. Another one was a rigid frame bike that had some serious damage from Hurricane Sandy. He got it running, changed the look of the bike and did a little fabrication to make it all work. The last bike is the shovel featured here. This is the first time he put one together from scratch, finding all of the parts and getting it sorted. He explained that his bud Kevin Kates gave him a helping hand as well as his shop space and tools whenever he needed them. He couldn’t have built this bike without that invaluable help.
Over the past few years, Dan has headed to the Night of the Troglodytes show in Wildwood, NJ. The first time was back in 2016 when he was about 75% done with the build. The event came at a great time, when the home stretch was in view. It gave him great motivation to complete the shovel and get it to show. The bike, however, had other plans, and he wasn’t able to get it there. The distance from Philadelphia to Wildwood, NJ, isn’t that far and he didn’t want to trailer it to the show. He had the bike running in time but not in a state where he could make the trip. He and his buddy Kev decided to have the necessary parts overnighted and pull an all-nighter to make it happen. At about 2:00 a.m., one of the trans studs stripped out of the case and all the trans fluid came with it. Wildwood wasn’t going to happen. It probably worked out for the best because after that, he took the summer to get the bike running properly and work out all of the bugs. He got another shot in 2017 and rode it to Wildwood, making for a pretty rad weekend.
Obviously, online shopping can assist with many aspects of a build, and Dan’s shovel was no exception. He bought the quality repop wassell tank and fender at a fair price from Throttle Addiction. Regatta Garage provided the bars. The well-crafted hardtail kit he got from Haifley Bros is top notch and perfect for shovelheads. Installation without a jig and getting to keep the HD VIN and all the numbers is a huge bonus.
Overall, the build turned out pretty much what Dan had in mind. He’s not a huge fan of over-fabricated bikes. He respects the scene but wanted to build a straight-forward chopper with some cool parts that he can comfortably ride around his hometown of Philadelphia. He explained that the most challenging part of the build was the general assembly. He did all of the fab work - which amounted to welding some bungs and tabs here and there, getting the sissy bar setup, etc. All of that went down pretty smoothly but when it came to general assembly, the bike really fought back. Dealing with after-market parts can be a real challenge, especially when the parts aren’t machined perfectly or don’t fit properly. He gave the example of the belt drive primary. Even though this is the belt with the extra teeth to allow for easier assembly and more slack, it was still too tight to go on the bike. He also had to mill the trans plate out so that he could move the trans up and make the belt fit. He also had a lot of clutch issues when he got the bike running. He had an after-market clutch hub which was brand new, but he didn’t think it was properly machined. After talking with Hutch, he hooked him up with an OEM clutch hub and different rollers for the hub. This was a huge help. The wheel spacers didn’t fit correctly and had to be machined down. Dan bought the wrong regulator the first time around so the bike would run but the lights wouldn’t work. He had the wrong spark plug cables and they weren’t the kind that work with the magneto. Looking back at the build he says that a lot of the time he was stressing over running into unexpected problems or trying to locate specific parts. In the end, it’s all worth it: rewarding, but challenging, and stressful.
Some key points make this shovel really stand out. A lot of people ask Dan about the handlebars and where he got them. He came up with an idea and asked Regatta Garage to bend them up for him. They’re based on the bars they normally sell but Dan asked to make them a little taller than normal. These are 12 inches. Their shop also makes some cool risers and is more than happy to do custom work. Well worth looking into if you’re searching for some rad bars.
As far as what Dan has planned for the future, he’s looking to keep the bike the way it is for now. Of course, he’s had some offers to buy it and I’m sure this Chop Cult feature will keep those offers coming. However, he really appreciates the time and effort he put into it. Dan says he gets pretty attached to bikes, so he doesn’t tend to buy and sell as much. Right now, he has a ’51 panhead motor, so that’s on the short-list. It’s going into a wishbone frame he's had for a little while, so he’s collecting parts for that project but hasn’t started the real build yet. It’ll have a 19” rear but with a mechanical brake. It has the same front end as the shovel, a magneto, wassel fender, etc. Sometimes he worries that it will look like the same bike but isn’t concerned enough to change anything! It’s a look he likes and isn’t changing anytime soon. He and his wife had a baby over the past summer, so the pan project has been slowed down a bit, but I’m sure he’ll get to it.
Dan would like to thank a few people for the help with this build. Justin Crean for going with him to get the bike and helping with random things along the way. Ron Watt for the motor and trans work. Kev Kates for helping with assembly and letting him use his shop and tools. Adam Jordan for hard-tailing the frame. Mike DeFonzo for helping him sort out carb and mag issues and letting Dan pick his brain. Hutch for being an awesome dude, selling him the mag, helping sort out clutch issues and loading him up with parts. Nick McCormick and Dennis Troxell for paint. Most of all, his wife Alessandra for always supporting him, not being bummed when Dan was disappearing to work on it all weekend, and dealing with his mental breakdowns during the process. Also, thanks to Dan Venditto and ChopCult for this opportunity.
Chop Cult Member profile: Dcar1
Engine, year and make, model, modifications: 1972 Harley Davidson FLH. No major mods or performance upgrades to the engine. It is a stock 74”.
Frame: Stock frame, hardtailed using a Haifley Bros kit.
Fork: HD 33.4 mm
Chassis mods: Like I mentioned, the frame got hardtailed. I cut off the stock dash mount and welded in some top hat bungs to mount the gas tank. I welded in the seatposts and some extra tabs off the crossmember so that I could mount the back of the oil tank directly to the frame instead of the fender. I also had to add a seat hinge for the front of the seat, and had to fab up some exhaust mounts.
Tire/wheel size and style: The front is a 21” with a hamburger brake and an Avon Speedmaster tire. The rear is an 18” star hub with a juice drum and a Dunlop K70 tire.
Favorite thing about this bike: Probably the magneto. I just think mags are such a cool idea and part, and it really changes the look of the cone motor. Also, knowing that the Morris mags are made in New Jersey is cool as well. This one is an older one and is actually cast and has the original sticker on it. After finding the mag, I took it to Morris and had them rebuild it so that it was in perfect shape. It was pretty cool to see that operation in person.
Next modification will be: The only thing I really plan on changing is the oil.
Other mods, accessories, cool parts, etc: Throttle Addiction tank and fender. Haifley Bros. hardtail and seats. Pangea Speed clutch pedal. V-Twin exhaust. Chicago Motorcycle Supply kicker pedal. Cool little shifter I found at the Harrisburg swap meet.
Thanks to Kev Kates, Justin Crean, Adam Jordan, Mike DeFonzo, Hutch, Nick McCormick, Dennis Troxell, Ron Watt, Dan Venditto, Joey Lively and most of all, my beautiful wife Alessandra.
Follow Dan Carballo on Instagram @graveyardbars
Thanks, Daniel Venditto / @dv8sport / Store