July 15, 2019
Justin from Show Class Magazine surprised us last February with a call to let us know that the book was shutting its doors for good. Biltwell has been a supporter of the PC show the Friday before Born Free since day one, so when Justin asked if we’d like to take it over, it was an obvious decision. This event has a long history of casting a spotlight on lesser-known, but highly-talented builders from around the world who have gone on to be official Invited Builders at Born Free and the event can be a significant boost to someone on the come-up. Exactly our kind of people, so we weren't about to let it go away. Besides, it’s a fun spot to hang out and drink a cold beer with friends the night before the big show starts.
Trophy by @9fingerfabrication
The 2019 People’s Champ was already midstream when we got handed the list of 25 builder’s names and told “good luck!”. We figured out a couple deadlines, made a plan and started communicating with the builders. In mid-march we published a poll to trim the OG25 down to the Lucky 13. The internet voted, and thirteen builders kept buildin’. About five weeks later, another open vote was held and six builders became the contenders, affectionately called The Final Six Pack:
Nick Busby, Salinas, CA • 1962 Panhead
Caleb Denton, Elko, NV • 1975 Harley-Davidson FLH
Ben Jefferies, Ft. Wayne, Indiana • 1960 Harley-Davidson FLH
James Juarez, Los Angeles, CA • 1951 Harley-Davidson Panhead
Suzy Pilaczynski, Yuba City, CA • 1977 Harley-Davidson
Matt Pontano, Williamstown, NJ • Harley Davidson 45 Magnum
In the meantime, we hit up our motorcycle industry friends to try and scratch up enough cash to make sure the Champ would go home with a legit chunk of change. Every one of these builders poured so much time and treasure into crafting these machines, and our generous sponsors pitched in to the tune of almost $10k. We rounded it up with our own cash (note that we didn’t take a dime of the sponsor contributions, they all went into the pot, plus some) and the purse worked like this; The Champ would get $7500 as the grand prize, plus a bad ass trophy hand-built by @9fingerfabrication and the five remaining builders each received $500 so at least a bit of their travel expenses were covered. (There was no second place, third place, etc. There’s just the Champ and everyone else.) We’d like to say thanks to our buddies at the following companies for not only pitching in cash, but prizes, gift cards and swag for the builders:
We made it to Cook’s Corner bright and early Friday morning to load in the massive banner, sound equipment, pedestals for the bikes and all that junk. We thought the light rain might deter some of the delicate So Cal types but by late afternoon the parking lot was lined with bikes and the patio was hoppin’. All the builders showed up on time, some haggard from finishing touches applied just that morning, and a couple confidently casual and ahead of schedule. Many beers were poured and tickets got stuffed into ballot boxes right up until the last minute. We collected the tickets and did a triple count to make sure there were no discrepancies. The Champ was decided by a margin of only nine tickets. Otto got on the mic and announced each builder in a random order, and we gave each one an Exfil-48 backpack with some goodies and a wad of gas money. Each builder had an individual story of hardship and struggle to get their bike wrapped up and to the show and all deserve respect for the labor and talent displayed. In the end however, there can only be one People’s Champ and this year it was Nick Busby from Salinas, California. He went on to display his bike the next day with the Invited Builders at Born Free and ended up getting the Mooneyes award, so later this year he and his glorious Panhead are headed to Yokohama Japan. See below for his video and bike feature. We’ll feature the rest of the Final Six Pack Builders every Monday for the next five weeks, so stay tuned!
Nick Busby, Salinas, CA
“Double Take” 1962 Harley-Davidson Panhead
Nick’s bike featured a lot of details so nicely done, many observers might not even notice ‘em. The dual drum front end looks like it should’ve been a stock Harley item from back in the day. The chromed frame means no flaws hidden by bondo and covered by paint–it’s all there out in the open. The paint is so subtle it’s almost hard to photograph. It’s black from most angles and then when it gets a little sunshine at the right angle you can see the subtle black cherry flames come alive. Truly an impressive machine. Lest you think it’s just a show pony, Nick fired it up while it was still on the show platform and it was starting to rain. He built this bike to be a keeper, something to ride with his family and friends for a long time, and that perfectly fits the title of the People’s Champ. Good job, Busby!
Model and year: 1962 Panhead
Frame: Chrome Molded straight leg Frame
Fork: 4 over 41mm
Engine: 1962 Panhead
Transmission: 1962 Transmission w/ Custom Chrome Hydraulic Kicker Cover
Wheels: 16 rear and 21 front
Body Work: Nick Busby and Matt Busby
Paint: Black by Matt Busby
Thanks to: Family and Friends