Interview: Shasta Smith – The Vintage Monkey
Let’s be honest, there’s not a lot of females working in the motorcycle industry. So when I recently stumbled across a site called The Vintage Monkey, I was pleasantly surprised to find it was run by a fiery red head from Sacramento called Shasta Smith. She doesn’t claim to be the female version of Shinya Kimura, but she is passionate about building vintage motorcycles, so we asked her a couple of questions…
Can you tell us a little about yourself and The Vintage Monkey?
I (Shasta Smith) have personally been a motorcycle enthusiast since I was a teenager and have always had a fondness for vintage motorcycles. I have a 13 year background in design for construction (architectural design) and on really good days I get to incorporate motor-sports into the interior of buildings. I operate The Vintage Monkey full time. The Vintage Monkey acquires vintage motorcycles and respectfully modifies them based on designs by Shasta Smith. In support of the brand, The Vintage Monkey designs and manufactures apparel and accessories.
Do you do all the work on the bikes yourself?
I have a painter and do all the sketch outs for him to paint according to design path of the bike. I do welding and mechanics, however my projects don’t require extreme fabrications. I’m not a know it all but I do strive to learn all I can. To answer the overall question, I do the majority of the work including bike selections, buying, hauling, and selling. Since not everyone rides, nor can I supply motorcycles for all that inquire, I wanted to make sure The Vintage Monkey provides a quality product that can be available to everyone worldwide, this is why I also run and am heavily involved in the clothing and accessory line of The Vintage Monkey. It’s a lot of work, but I love every minute of it.
On your website it says many of the bikes are in your personal collection. How many bikes do you have?
I currently have 5 motorcycles in my collection; however I do sell off one now and then and acquire new projects.
It’s great to see a female building bikes. It’s obviously a very male orientated industry. Have you had any resistance from anyone?
It is a male orientated industry and I’m okay with that, it does not bother me and I’m not trying to change anything, I’m just a motorcycle lover and out to have a good time with the boys and enjoy the love of vintage motorcycles. 98% of people are very supportive and it’s the “fuel” that keeps me moving… the other 2% just woke up on the wrong side of the bed. When I do motorcycle shows I spend most of my time convincing people they are my project bikes.
Looks like you love your vintage Honda’s. Do you work on any other bikes?
I will say I love ALL bikes and see design/restoration potential in them all – however, I really love European and Japanese bikes the most. I have both types in my collection.
Do you have a favorite motorcycle that you’ve built?
I love my little 1972 CB175, it’s small, sleek, and steals all the attention at motorcycle shows. I’m working on a Triumph right now that I’m pretty excited about – I hope to finish up with it in a couple months.
Do you sketch before you build the bikes? or just go with the flow?
Both… I do a little sketching to start, but I’m pretty impatient so the pencil goes down fast and then I go with the flow (what is in my brain). Most of my sketching is when unique details need to be achieved such as: attachments, and aftermarket applications.
If money was no object, what would be your ultimate motorcycle?
I want to get my hands on an authentic, vintage, race winning bike, all I want to do is knock a little dust off of it and park it in my living room.
What do you love most about your job?
I love that people find such an interest in what I do that I get people “talking” about motorcycles; especially people who were never interested in motorcycles. When they see it as “art” everyone starts talking. I also love that I get to communicate with people all over the world about a common interest via email, video, web-site, and The Vintage Monkey Facebook blog
You recently combined your architectural design skills with your love of bikes. Tell us about the ‘Motorcycle Vanity’.
I have worked in design for construction for many years and I was asked by a cable channel to do a custom design for the show. I wanted to do something that would really get people talking. I took an abandon vintage motorcycle with no paper work, a seized engine, rusting away in a field, then sketched it out, and turned it into a vanity in a large bathroom. It is now a stunning art piece that is preserved into a unique design. This episode will air the month of November on the DIY channel episode of “Bath Crashers”. You can view addition information on the “about” page of The Vintage Monkey.
What’s next for The Vintage Monkey?
The Vintage Monkey is going places I never thought it would go – so quickly. It is gaining momentum with the support of our international motorcycle family and motor-sports enthusiasts. I don’t have all the answers for this question (yet); however keep your TV eyes open… there are some interesting developments happening. When it’s all said and done, I always encourage a positive attitude in motorcycle community, because if you are not having fun, it’s not worth it.