Interview: Anvil Motociclette Costruttori
How much do we love you guys? Here’s not one amazing bike, but two of them, served up with some delicious pasta dishes, a Spanish road trip, and a side of authentic Italian design genius. Welcome to the Ristorante Anvil Motociclette. Buon gusto!
Can you tell us a little about yourselves?
San Marco Filios Here I am. I was born in a small village in the Piacenza countryside, in the far 1983. I have been living in Milan for 8 years. Milan is a perfect city where you can find anything you are looking for, but my country soul makes me want to move to the countryside as soon as possibile, maybe to open a fantastic Anvil garage.
I have been attracted to motorbikes ever since I was a child, so I passed most of my time riding a cross bike, jumping on the tracks. After I got my bachelor in the Communication Academy I worked as art director for 4 years in the “Armando Testa Advertising Agency”. Now I draw tailor-made, leather, motorbike suits in a very popular company that makes professional motorbike wear.
I am Alessandro Phonz Fontanesi, born in 1983. Scorpio. I am from Parma, a small city in the north of Italy. I have been living in Milan for 8 years and like Marco I understood I am more a country boy rather than a city one.
I have been keen on motorbikes since always. My dad was a professional biker, he used to race in motocross category in the 60s / 70s and my grandfather had the same passion too. So, motorbikes are a fundamental part of my life. I still remember the first time I rode a motorbike, I was 5 years old, it was a beautiful spring Saturday afternoon and I was at my grandmother’s house when my dad came with his truck, a small yellow cross motorbike was on it.
As soon as I saw it, I felt like the happiest boy in the world but then, when my dad kick-started it, I was scared because I had never heard such a strong and high noise before. Then he told me to get on it, after few minutes I understood that riding a motorbike was easier than I thought. I remember that yellow motorbike was very small, but it was too high for me! So, I have always needed somebody to help me when I had to start and to stop ’cause my feet couldn’t touch the floor.
Since that day, motorbikes have always been a steady presence in my life. Now, my friend Marco and I can perfectly express our motorbike concept!
Take us through the build of the WILD/AJK. Is there anything left you’d like to do?
Anvil Selvatica and Anvil AJK are the first 2 bikes produced in our garage. They are number 0, the ones that started up our project, the guidelines that settle the basis of our style. They are our everyday bikes that can never be sold. These bikes have their own story and they represent the memories and feelings of the stories of getting them, the excitement of the first time we heard the engine roaring. They represent a whole world of emotions: 2 queens of a beginning empire!
Marco: About a year ago, we were looking for a classical bike, something with a story behind. We wanted something belonging to the Olympus of motorcycles, but still alive, with a big heart still beating. Thou something competitive with the naked on the market today.
Surfing on the Internet, we found the classified of an old man, owner of a chromium plating company. On an saturday morning, the “Selvatica” stepped into our life. She was screaming at us from the corner of a dusty garage, covered by a canvas since more than 10 years. It was love at the first sight. The owner had (sadly, he told us) to give it away for a matter of space. He strongly recommended us to take care of her as if she was a doughter, making us promise not to modify her in any way… He even gave us a wood-plank to put under the kick-stand when parking on irregular grounds, to ensure she wouldn’t fall. If he knew her motorbike would have become the Selvatica of today, he ‘d rather gave us her daughter.
We started disassembling the shell. The bike even had 3 stiff luggage-boxes! Grindign machine in the hand, we started removing all the unnecessary pieces. – what is almost everything. Starting from the front part, we removed the quarter fairing, replacing it with an old tractor-light, found in a small anonymous flea market. Fender removed, instrument panel removed. Handlebars repalced with 2 small side-handlebars, custom-made for the Selvatica. The grips and some other details are made with a drilled-leather stripe – those used for the cycles grips. In the engine, we replaced the original airbox with 4 cone filters.
At this point of the work in progress, looking at the Selvatica was really exciting. She almost was the mirror of the idea we had in our mind. The long and heavy muffler were replaced with 2 skinnier mufflers, adquired on the Internet. In the back side, we took off the whole seat-block and then we shortened the frame 20 cm. We ordered a custom-made double seat, realized with stitched ovine leather. We replaced the back fender with the modified fender of and Honda cb 400 supersport. We were concerned about lightening the whole structure of the motorbike, to ensure a better manageability. Therefore we drilled some metal components of the bike.
Excluding the engine, all other mechanical components has been re-painted in matt black, high-temperatures resistant. Matt black is our color, the color of everything pure, hard and rough in nature. If the story of the Selvatica was a tale, it would be the ugly duckling one. The ugly duckling that turns into a swan. A gorgeous matt black swan.
Phonz: The Anvil AJK was born as a city-bike. A small, manageable bike, with a light engine, but thou aggressive and nasty. Like the Selvatica, we wanted a bike with a story behind. During our research for the next custom-bike to build, we found on the internet a Honda cb 450 twin k5. A bike with the following features: 45 hp, 9000 rpm, 5 gears,Telescopic fork (front), swing arm (rear). Actually it was a long research, because we wanted something very special. We love exploring and researching and we are quite proud of it, because it guarantees a satisfactory result.
A week later, we jumped on our track truck. 40°C outside temperature, 40°C inside temperature (no air conditioned). A safari adventure. But finally we were standing in front of a weird man in Padova, who wanted to quickly get rid of that bike, to make some money out of it. He wanted the money for a trip to Santo Domingo. He ownes a kind of storehouse, full of any model of Honda. Everything there was disassembled, the ground full of motorbikes’ pieces and dusty engines.
He arrived with our little queen, and tried to fire the engine. We immediately noticed that one of the 2 cylinders wasn’t working (which the guy hadn’t mentioned). He was pretending to make us fool, but at the end we bargained a bit and took the motorcycle at a much lower price than the classified.
The bike was such an elegant old woman! And we started to take off all her clothes. Like the Selvatica, we took away every unnecessary part. The only recognizable thing we left, is the historical honda twin engine. Everything else is changed, following the idea of motorbike we had in our mind in this case. Somenthing about the name “AJK”. The Selvatica is Marco’s motorcycle, his own one. The Anvil AJK is mine.
Last summer Marco, me, and some friends, travelled very adventurous from Italy to Spain, riding our bikes. My girlfriend was on the seat with me. That was her first motorcycle trip, on a very very uncomfortable historical bike, which we’re re-building right now. The trip was hard but she didn’t complain once, revealing herself as a prefect travel-mate. That’s why I decided to dedicate my city motorbike to her, which name is Armela Jakova, even because she will spend a lot of time on it!
A clarification about the names: we noticed you call it the “Wild”. Our bikes have an italian heart, and so are their names. The CB 750 is our “Settemmezzo Selvatica”, and the CB 450 is the “quattroemmezzo AJK”. So are their names in every language. (Oops. Selvatica it is, then – Andrew) If there’s something more we’d like to do on them? No. We can proudly say that they are perfect the way they are.
Did you sketch, Photoshop, or just improvise while building? Did you draw any inspiration for other bikes?
About the Selvatica, Anvil’s first one, we built it without a concrete project, just improvising during the construction, using our imagination.
But we sketched some of other creations, most of all the motorcycle fairing, so we had a better idea about the final result. About Ajk instead, we projected the modifies we made to the 450 in every single particular. For our customers, thou, we first realize a mood board, just to give a general idea of the type of bike we are going to build. Of course, we respect the requirements needed for the bike during the building. Then, we sketch to share our ideas in each specific case. We love to provoke “love at first sight”, so customers enjoy to see and “touch” the real project of their future bike.
Have you (or will you) entered the bikes in any shows?
Premise: our philosophy in not to build bikes for the shows. First of all we build them for passion, for us and for our clients. If, in the future, there will be the opportunity to enter some bike in a show, we think we are competitive enough to do it. Among the shows, we are tempted by the “Verona bike expo”, in January. This year, for example, we think we could have entered some bike, because we noticed that the ANVILS were quite different from the average of the bikes competing.
How have the mods you’ve made changed the way the bikes ride?
As a matter of fact, riding an Anvil attracts a huge amount of looks on you, with any kind of comments. Good and bad. Motorcycles considered “beautiful”, are admired by a reduced range of followers. Our motorcycles are admired by anyone, even by the chicks. An Anvil never pass unnoticed, and we experienced it personally during the 2500km of our trip to Spain.
They surely would NOT match the description of a “quiet driving experience”. An Anvil is a tougher experience, therefore more exciting, with the 5 senses spread between seat and handlebars. Every Anvil gives then a different driving experience, because we don’t choose just one kind of engine mod as a starting point. This allow us to offer to our clients the driving experience they are dreaming of.
What sort of reaction do the bikes get from strangers?
During our trip to Spain, last Summer, we recorded some nice experience in this sense. We used to park the motorcycles in a crowded place, and then we took seat a bit far away, observing the reactions of the strangers. It was funny to see how they first started staring at the bikes; then, like courious animals, they came nearer and nearer, trying to understand what the hell they were looking at. A word for describing the general reaction? “Astonishment”.
Any lessons you’ve learnt from the builds? Any words of wisdom you’d like to pass on?
We’ve already told that, but the most important thing is passion. Passion is the engine that makes everything work. It makes you face everything with strenght, overcoming the problems with conviction – and in a building process there are plenty of problems! Let the instinct guide you. Let the emotions flow. Then, of course, you should try to store as much expertise as possible. It is important to keep the eyes open on the others, on the market, on other garages, with the humility of being able to learn from the people who are more aware than you.
If money was no issue, what woud be your ultimate custom bikes?
Money doesn’t make a Custom. It’s not matter of money. It may help, but the start-up comes somewhere else. It is comparatively easy to build a beautiful Custom spending a huge amount of money. One of our main issues, is to build beautiful and functional bikes, even disposing of a limited budget.
What bikes are you planning to customise next?
Marco: Right now we have in the garage a SUZUKI GSXR 1100 of 1989. A 6 cylinders CBX 1000 of 1983. Then a Honda 400cc pumped to 520 (classic cafè racer), and right in this moment, while I’m answering this question, we have in the trunk of our jeep a Moto Morini Corsaro Country 125 of 1974. It belonged to my girlfriend’s father when he was young. This project is particularly important to me, first because it will become my girlfriend’s first motorbike, and second, because with it we start a section of ANVIL bikes for women. That is, customizing bikes adapting them to a feminine public, which is something very innovative in this market.
I saw your “design cards,” is classic design important to ANVIL?
Of course the whole communication of our project is very important to us. Beside building bikes, it’s funny to develop different things related to this world. Our “project card” are an example of it. We both have experience in the communication field, and we are well awared that a strong image is made of several things. We ARE, in fact, designers. That’s why we are developing other projects signed ANVIL. We can give you a sneak revealing that we are developing a “HELMET PROJECT”, and a vintage technical motorbike wear. A lot of exciting things upcoming!
If the bikes were classic Italian cuisine, what would they be?
The “Selvatica” would certainly be a dish of “spaghetti aglio olio e peperoncino” (garlic, oil and chilli). Simple, traditional, but with an unforgettable spicy taste. The “AJK” would be dish of spaghetti dressed with butter and Italian parmesan cheese. The classical Parmigiano Reggiano. Simple, at a first sight, but with an unmistakable Italian taste.