Words and photos by Phoenix Naman.
In a time where instant gratification is a commodity, we’re quickly forgetting the value of true craftsmanship. The craftsmanship that comes from repetition, and repetition, in today’s culture, is not that cool. We’re all suckers for the quick dopamine hit. Be it the newest iPhone, or swiping left or right. It seems that ‘Next, Next, Next’ is the mantra of the times. Being still is a rebellion. A rebellion that Shinya seems to have mastered.
Far removed from the influencers of Venice beach, there stands Chabott Engineering. A workshop that upon entering, looks like entering Nebuchadnezzar of the Matrix trilogy, while Shinya San likened to a current day Morpheus.
The day I visited Shinya was a balmy, quiet, California afternoon. It’s a short 45 minutes cruise on the opposite side of the road from where we were staying. Three-quarters of the way there, the road opened up to a vista of mountains. I parked my trusty rental, a Ford Futura Hybrid right next to Shinya’s ride a classic Dodge truck that was sticker bombed to the nines. The back of the Dodge was a pilgrimage for those who visited Shinya, and felt compelled to leave their mark on his truck.
Shinya is one of the most humble people I’ve met, and definitely not one to talk about himself, albeit having many noteworthy achievements. He generously showed me around his workshop and gallery upstairs. I was like a kid over Christmas, gawking at motorcycles, paraphernalia, and the vintage artifacts. He then introduced me to his partner in crime, Ayu. All of us stood around reminiscing about the salt flats together.
There are tools everywhere, new tools, old tools, and tools to make tools. Chaos to an untrained eye, yet to Shinya it is a well-organised machine. Everything has its place, and everything has a purpose. Shelves full of old parts, fuel tanks, vintage posters hanging on the wall, angle grinders, oils, welding equipment, and pretty much anything to build a running motorcycle from scratch. Not to mention a handful of vintage motorcycles lined up like horses in a stable. If there was ever a place where you’d be glad your bike broke down, this is it.
There is no sign of a screen anywhere in the workshop, apart from an old laptop that sits in the gallery upstairs. The gallery is kitted out with some of the most beautiful pieces of art in the form of motorcycles, and frames of more of the same. Calling it a workshop doesn’t do it justice, it is more than that. It is a museum of its own. The motorcycles that come out of this shed are more than automotives. They are a mash-up of moving machinery, minimalism, and art.
It is safe to say, that I know exactly where I’ll be headed if there is ever an apocalypse.
After a few hours of hanging out, taking photos, and shooting the breeze, it was time for me to hit the road. Whilst I got into my hybrid rental, they jumped on their hand-built custom motorcycles and headed the other way waving goodbye. Thank you to Shinya San, and Ayu San. It was a pleasure, and I hope to come back and ride with you one day.