David Freston, aka Chopperdave, has been in the industry since 1989. He's always been interested in motorcycles but fell in love with them while working at Vic's Custom Cycles back in the day. Dave also worked as a bike builder for four years at West Coast Choppers. He credits working with Jesse for some of the knowledge that was passed on to him and has nothing but positive memories. For the past ten years, Dave has owned and operated Chopperdave's Casting Co. This 1,200 square foot shop, located in Hawaiian Gardens, is full of racing and motorcycle memorabilia, bikes, and old machinery.
Dave's currently building a ‘53 Panhead that will be given away during Born-Free 8. Like many of you, I have been following the build process through his Instagram feed. Dave seems to be going the extra mile for a bike that, at the end of the day, will not be his.
One thinks, ‘why not take the easy way out and keep it simple?’ The answer is, there's nothing simple when it comes to Dave's vision and expectations. He has added his personal touch by casting many of the parts versus buying them. I was fortunate to meet up with Dave over the weekend and see the Panhead up close. I can tell you that whoever wins it will be receiving one hell of a custom motorcycle! I would like to thank Dave for his time, friendship and for answering my questions so candidly.
What types of services do you offer at Chopperdave's Casting Co.?
I offer motor and trans work, machine work, vintage race bike work, custom car club plaques, car parts, foot pegs, points covers, sand and investment cast. Basically, if it can be cast I'll try to do it. I also have a fairly complete machine shop and have been doing one-off parts and machining lately as well.
You are well known for the Cheat Death foot pegs. What are your thoughts on others producing them as well?
It is what it is. I'm not making lots of money on them, so what can I really do? People will always copy stuff they like. I have a ton of weird random one off stuff that would bother me more if they were to be knocked off.
What is your favorite piece of equipment in your shop?
I would have to say the service grinder that I just bought. I've been obsessed with them for years and haven't been able to find one that would fit. I've been hitting machine shop auctions and bought it and a bunch of additional item for 500 bucks. There's always good deals to be had, and I walked away with almost $5000 in goods. I can't wait to start using it! I have also really just started using 5C collets, I need them all.
What is your least favorite tool in the shop?
My phone. I'm very happy, tool wise, as I've eliminated things that took up valuable space. There are a few things left on my list but most of them are modifications to machine shop equipment I already have.
What is your biggest outlet for communication?
Right now Instagram takes priority as that's where everyone is at. My blog was my main point of contact but has been on the back burner for a while. I do share girl photos through my Twitter and Tumblr accounts just to keep them active.
Your blog is very well known for naked women. How did photographing naked girls come about?
Hmmm. I'm a pervert, lol. I did a photo shoot with a model for The Horse Magazine awhile back and as they say, the rest is history. I currently contribute images to Hardcore Chopper and Show Class Magazine
Do you keep in touch with anyone from West Coast Choppers?
Aki Sakamoto worked as an engine builder during the time of my employment at West Coast Choppers. We have become good friends over the years as his shop, Hogkillers Inc., is a few doors down. He uses my machinery and I use his. We often bounce ideas off of each other and I'm honored to call him my friend.
What does it mean to you when people express admiration for your work?
It's beyond humbling and freaks me out at the same time. I've personally gone up to someone that I admire and know that it takes balls to tell someone you dig their work. At the end of the day, I'm just a regular guy doing my best to support my family.
Is there anyone in the industry that you would like to pay homage to?
Randy Smith, for being the first guy to cast custom chopper parts. Pat Leahy has a wealth of knowledge and rarely gets the credit he deserves. Jeff Wright has opened my eyes to see that there's so much more out there than just Harley-Davidson. No matter what there are a ton of talented people out there.
I've been very fortunate to travel to Japan, Sweden, Brazil, Germany, and Italy.
What music are you currently listening to in the shop?
That all depends on my mood, but there's a lot of stoner rock, Crowbar and C.W. McCall.
Which of the Born-Free shows have you attended?
I’ve attended and but one year, but loved year two. It's been cool to watch Born-Free grow, but I enjoyed the underground feeling of year two. You can't hate on Born-Free for growing, as that happens with everything. I honestly believe that Born-Free has raised the bar for the garage builders. More guys are learning how to tig weld and really fabricate than 10 years ago. I was asked to be an invited builder for Born-Free 5. I built The Steel Shoe, which is the result of my obsession with the movie On Any Sunday. Turbo madness, lots of power, race suspension. RACE SHIT for the street. I never imaged taking home 2nd place for a race bike at a chopper show.
I'm building a bike based on the red version of the 1957 FLH I built in 2000. I have so many people tell me that bike did it for them, so I'm seeing if I can push the bar without reduplicating the original. Not a copy per se, but the same style period custom. To a point that is. The Steel Shoe allowed me to step out of the box and change the recipe on a street tracker. This build has allowed me to go back to my roots, while incorporating new ideas. My main goal is to produce a well-built, reliable machine for the winner. It's very easy for a ten-minute project to turn into a few hours of R&D. Hell, every part I make seems to become full-time R&D. That’s what I love about doing it. Thankfully, Mike and Grant have given me full rein, but it's up to me not to over complicate everything in my mission to make it simple.
The Steel Shoe allowed me to step out of the box and change the recipe on vintage racing. This build has allowed me to go back to my roots, while incorporating new ideas. My main goal is to produce a well-built, reliable machine for the winner. It's very easy for a ten-minute project to turn into a few hours of R&D. Thankfully, Mike and Grant have given me full rein, but it's up to me not to over complicate everything in my mission to make it simple.