When it comes to the Greasy Dozen Builder Collective, you never know what you'll see. The range of makes, models, and even styles is so broad, when selecting builders each year we look for things you don't always see and Fred Elwell's submission was exactly that! Fred submitted a 1980 Harley Davidson Shovelhead into the chopper category. Along with his submission photos, he wrote a little bit about his plan to build a swing arm chopper... that got our heads turning, it seems to be a continuous debate within the "chopper world" if a swing arm bike can be considered a chopper. Could Fred's build change the mind of the naysayer's? We had alot of faith in him, and we must say, he absolutely knocked this build out of the park! Without further ado, let's dive into this interview and learn more about his build.
What’s your name and where are you from?
My names Fred Elwell, also known as Loctite, best known as the host of the lowlife chopper podcast. Im a Massachusetts native, I grew up 30mins out side of Boston, MA. After way to many run-ins with the law I moved to New Hampshire where I have lived for the last 7 years. I now sit on a dirt road, the only house on the rd surrounded by 20 acres with a 3 bedroom ranch house and a 3 bay garage, best known as the Unicorn ranch.
Give us the backstory on how you got into motorcycles and how long you’ve been building for.
I wasn't always into building choppers. Actually most of my life I was a car guy! Since as long as I can remember I was turning wrenches trying to get every ounce of hp there was to be had. Which later in the story ends up playing a key roll in the bike I built for the greasy dozen. But cars aside I started riding when I was 17. My first bike was a 2001 gsxr 1000, which I heavily dove into. I ripped it down to the frame polished the entire frame by hand, added a longer swing arm, new bars, stiffer suspension and some go fast parts. As one would assume I didn't have my license for long after that. I got pulled over for doing 155mph in a 50mph zone. At that point my dad told me to sell the bike or move out but with the bonus of if I sold the bike he would give me his first harley which was a 1987 sportster which later became my first build the "step child"
Take us back to the day you found out you were selected as a builder for this year's GD, what was going through your mind?
The day they released the first 12 I remember clear as day. It was Thanksgiving and i was sitting on the couch drinking a beer talking to my brother in-law. Then all of a sudden my phone started blowing up with notifications! When I opened Instagram and saw I was picked to build this shovelhead, it was a rush of excitement then instantly panic. There is something to be said about knowing your about to be building a bike where the world is watching and you have a time limit. But I instantly knew it was time to take this serious and only turn out my absolute best.
Tell us about the starting platform for your build (year, make, model)
The starting platform was a bone stock running riding 1980 cone shovel. This thing had brand new white paint was legitimately a 1 kick bike and honestly I didn't hesitate for even a second to rip that thing down to the bare frame!
What was the inspiration for the build?
The inspiration for the build is actually pretty funny. A listener on the lowlife chopper podcast asked what my thoughts were on a "swingarm chopper" and my reply was, if you do a tank lift, add a sissy bar, a 6over front end and change your handlebars in my eyes its not a chopper. And with this there was uproar hahaha. People started saying I just don't like swingarms blah blah blah. So I decided to submit my shovelhead as a "swingarm chopper" and in a way make a blue print to what standards I had, which in reality who the hell am I? But people wanted my opinion so instead of trying to find the right words I decided to build it. Later on I find out exactly how hard this would be. With my style being super tight narrow clean lined ridged choppers its hard to get this look with a big bulky swing arm. Another battle I had was trying to build this bike with out making it look like I was trying to make a swingarm look like a narrow ridged bike if that makes sense? I took all the same steps, with ripping the bike all the way down to bare frame. I molded the factory cast joint and ground down the factory welds. I cut the rear suspension out and pushed it back just over 3" to get cleaner lines and lower the bike dramatically. I windowed the neck for that 70s chopper feel. As for the gas tank, I started with a stock wassel tank from lowbrow made that a mid tunnel, then cut the old gas cap out welded that closed and pushed the new gas cap up 2" to the top of the tank and had my brother grease tig weld in a growler cap type filler neck that sticks up 2-3" with a porcelain growler cap on it. The sissy bar I worked with steal city black smithing for weeks trying to get this right with a one of a kind unique twisted metal to add a little Character. Pretty much everything was done in house, everything on this bike was done atleast twice. Like I said before this was my chance to show people what I can do out of my tiny shop and I was not going to waist the opportunity.
Have you named the bike? If so, how did you arrive at that name?
The bike does have a name, the name I came up with was "WHITE TRASH" and honestly it pretty much came from the fact that it's "controversial" people love to hate swing arm bikes and some people try to pass swing arm bikes off as choppers. For a controversial topic it needed a controversial name.
Were there any favorable moments during the build process?
Favorable moments in the build? I would say one of my favorites was the drive I had to really turn out my best work and with that meant it was time to tool up heavy. I probably spent just as much on tools as I did the build. But now that the build is over there is not much I can't do in my shop. I ended up buying a lathe, a new welder, a fab table, a whole polishing set up, countless hand tools, belt sanders you name it, if it had to do with fab work I ended up needing it at some point son I bought it. I would say my favorite part is how much I grew as a builder.
We know building a motorcycle can be challenging and everyone runs into a set back at some point. Did you have any notable setbacks that you were able to overcome?
As far as set backs during the build, the biggest one was about 2 months into the build my welder shit the bed. At this point I just dropped some serious cash on tools materials and parts so the funds were low. In desperate times desperate measures were taken. I ended up selling my car. And the worst part was, it wasn't selling fast enough so I dropped the price dramatically to 700$ the amount I needed for a new welder, and it sold that day. But at that stage, I was at a stand still until I got a new welder so I did what I had to to get back to work. I would say the 2nd biggest set back was [covid] that absolutely screwed me with being able to get parts or go to machine shops, it pretty much stopped me from being able to do anything I couldn't to in my shop. Those were definitely the two things that stand out when it comes to set backs.
Throughout the build process we tend to learn new things whether it's a skill, knowledge or even something about ourselves. What are some things you’ve learned throughout building this bike?
As far as things I learned during this build that a long list! I got pretty good on the lathe, my welding got better x10 my creativity definitely took off for this build. One thing most wouldn't think of is I really learned how to market/promote what i'm doing. The greasy dozen definitely kept me active on social media and kept me striving to put out new content and updates on the build which in turn made me work harder and turn out my best work week after week.
Paint tends to be one of the first things that draws people in and then they start looking at all the other details in the build, who did your paint and what made you go with the color scheme?
Now to one of my favorite parts of this build THE PAINT. My good friend Matt Day from Salem, NH came to me and said "ive got a deal for you, trade me your fxr and i'll do a wild paint job" now normally this would not have been an option haha but Matt is ta homie and with 3 other bikes to build after the shovelhead, the fxr was just going to collect dust. So with that we made the deal. I left full creative control in Matt's hands. He asked me to show him a few paint schemes I liked so he could see what style i was going for. I pretty much showed him heavy metallic 70's style paint jobs."a paint job you could not walk by" And with that he knocked it out of the park. He laid down a candy oriental blue with big daddy roth flake over the entire frame and tins. The frame has ghosted pinstripe through out the entire frame. As for the tins he laid some gorgeous orange old school style flames out lined and pinstriped with a magenta color to really make it pop. Never in a million years could I have dreamed up a paint job like this. I highly recommend if you trust your painter let them run wild chances are you will get a wild paint job!
Now that the build is wrapped up, what’s your plan? (Catching up on sleep?, ripping it around the countryside?)
Now that the build is done the plan is to lay low and enjoy the build. Really looking forward to showing off the hard work and really just putting miles down. And with any free time i'll be starting my van build on my 77 chevy g10 shorty. Change up the pace a little bit that way I can go in to my next bike build fresh and not burned out. But make sure you watch the next build
Any plans for a new build?
Next on the list is a 69 cb750 will probably be a full ridged long bike. I've yet to build a legitimate long bike so that definitely next on the list. Which will include a hand made front end by me along side heavy frame modification.
They say “It takes a village” who would you like to thank?
And last but not least i want to thank old bike barn for this opportunity and for working so hard to promote small garage builders. Along side all of the sponsors of the greasy dozen.
Lastly, where can people find you (Social media)?
You can follow my work on instagram @loctites_chop_shop and @unicorn_ranch and catch the podcast @lowlifechopperpodcast link is in the bio and can be heard on any streaming platform