Donnie Smith's Heavy Mettle Shovelhead

September 2, 2020

This Shovelhead show bike was the oldest and certainly one of the coolest bikes in the “Heavy Mettle” exhibition at the Sturgis Buffalo Chip this year. It’s a “Survivor,” but in such great shape, it just looks like a new Street Digger. Donnie Smith was still part of the famed Smith Brothers and Fetrow shop in 1982 when this was built, and so you see the SB&F rigid frame (front tube dropped for a 48º rake), and the 3” over SB&F Round Girder front end. He named it “Head Hunter” and I for one still see it as a relevant bike today. What do you think? Check out the full bike feature on my site. #hamstersusa, @donniesmithcustomcycle, #heavymettleshow, @motorcyclesasart, #motorcyclesasart, #maa20, #sturgisbuffalochip, #sturgis2020, #nikonlove, #nikonlife, #nikonnofilter, @nikonusa, @hamstersusa 

Photographed in Sturgis, August 2020

Here is what has been written about Donnie and this beautiful bike; “Head Hunter” appeared in Street Chopper magazine in September 1982. The bike was modeled after a drawing by Donnie of a street digger. The project took about a year to build, as most of the parts were hand made one-offs built in the Smith Brother & Fetrow (SB&F) custom motorcycle shop.  Donnie started SB&F along with his brother Happy Smith & Bob Fetrow in 1971. The frame is a rigid SB&F with a dropped top tube, 48º rake and a 3-inch over SB&F round girder. Donnie designed and fabricated the fender and tank areas. The intricate engraving was done by Cycle Fabrications, a shop in Massachusetts, owned by Donnie’s good friend, Dave Perewitz. The House of Color candy red, orange, & purple was applied by Kevin Winters of Sunshine Paint Studios. The pin striping was done by Street Chopper magazine cartoonist, Dave Bell and Keith Nybo stitched the solo seat.  When the project was finished, it looked almost exactly like the drawing Donnie had originally made.

SB&F was in business from 1971 until 1985 when the economy took a downturn. Custom motorcycle shops were one of the first to feel the impact as people were no longer purchasing luxury items. Donnie’s passion for custom motorcycles remained after SB&B closed down so he continued to design and build custom motorcycles in his garage where Donnie Smith Custom Cycle was born. The shop weathered more economic fluctuations over the years. Because of market volatility in this industry, to be true to his passion, Donnie learned early on not to allow himself to be seduced to grow too big just because the economy was doing well. This allowed him to get through the not-so-great times and stay true to his custom motorcycle design & build passion. 

Donnie’s custom creations have been featured in many custom motorcycle magazines in the USA as well as in Japan and Europe. He has received many accolades over the years including his induction into the Sturgis Hall of Fame in 1995 and his receiving of the Hot Bike Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998 for “continuous contributions in the motorcycle industry. Donnie is a pure artist, and as such, has lasted in this industry for almost 50 years.

Michael Lichter Photography is a commercial photography studio in Boulder, Colorado specialized in motorcycle photography and capturing the motorcycle lifestyle through images.

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