Unless you're the purchasing manager at one of more than a dozen custom motorcycle fabrication and parts companies in the USA, Anthony Keeling probably isn't a name you recognize. That's only because this talented 33-year-old fabricator and founder of Chassis Design Company doesn't pound his chest like a lot of guys in the industry. Instead, Anthony, his feisty Chihuahua Chopper and three other craftsmen stay busy building frames, handlebars and machined alloy components at a tidy 9,000 square foot job shop in Riverside, California. This is a peek inside Anthony's well-oiled machine.
Anthony, please list all the companies and builders Chassis Design Co. has made frames and parts for since you founded the shop in 2003.
Grave's End Cycles
Mondo at Denver's Choppers
Lefty Brothers Cycles
There's probably a ton of others I can't remember. We've also done stuff for FMA, Falcon Motorcycles, and most recently I've been modding a frame for Jeff Holt at Street Chopper.
Damn, that's a ton of work for a four-man shop. Who does what around here?
Chris McCormick is our lathe operator, frame prep guy and fabricator. Michael Daugherty welds and does custom-fabbed oil tanks. Sean White is our CNC mill and lathe operator. I own the place, and I make most of the frames and manage the CNC. Everyone in the building can pretty much do everything.
Where did you pick up the confidence to own and operate a full-service specialty fab shop at such a comparably young age?
I have been working at many fab shops most of my life. Before I opened Chassis Design Co. I built safes, race trucks, roof racks, race cars and other stuff. A while back I did a ton of fab work for Big Gun, but what really got me started on the chopper thing was landing a job at Daytec in '99. I worked at Daytec for four years, then started making parts and frames for other guys with a buddy named Jeff Delise. Eventually I got into making my own parts because it seemed less stressful than making complete bikes. As we grew I started making tools to make building frames and other mass-produced parts easier. When business grew, we bought a Hass VF-3 mill and took classes to operate it properly. In school I learned master CAM X5 design and programming so we could offer a complete range of billet trees, risers, hand controls, kickstands, grips, pegs and other parts.
How many frames did you make last year? Can you break the numbers into "pro" and "garage builders?"
Probably 180 frames for custom clients, give or take, and another 160 or so for garage-based home builders.
That's impressive as hell. I wouldn't have believed it if I didn't see your shop personally. There's a lot of jigs and fixtures everywhere, so it's clear you understand the virtues and challenges of mass production. So tell me, what do you do when you and the guys aren't building motorcycle frames for other motorcycle frame builders?
I've got a '61 Biscayne and a Jeep Cherokee I tinker with, and I'm into snowboarding, shooting and personal fitness. When it comes to riding I try to hit Sturgis every year by motorcycle. In 2011 Chris and I rode 4,400 miles in nine days.
Thanks again for letting us snoop around your shop. Anyone you'd like to thank?
Phil Day and Terry Marino. Also, please let CC readers know where they can go to check out our stuff.
Done. See you at the swapmeet, Anthony!