Tuesday, December 02, 2008

An Interview with John Dodson, Owner of Gangster Choppers

While I totally love Harley Davidson I'm a big fan of custom choppers. One day I was surfing MySpace and found John Dodson owner of Gangster Choppers. I totally loved his bikes and contacted him about an interview. John was nice enough to say yes.

So John...Give me a bio about yourself...
I was born in '74, born and raised in Richmond, Virginia. Both my Mom and Dad were into cars and influenced me and greatly cultivated my passion for old bikes and cars. I have pictures of me propped up by my toy box with drag racing stickers all over it before I could walk. My Mom would pay for my magazine subscriptions while I was in middle school, some of those early mags are still in a closet somewhere.

When were you first aware of your interest in motorcycles?
For some reason (?) Dad bought me a mini bike from JC Pennys when I was 5 yrs old. I wore the old skool helmet with the goggles! There were little ads in the back of Hot Rod Magazine back then for stickers! Yes stickers. They had every design that you could think of, Iron Crosses, Skulls, Girls, Flames and all of the traditional STP, PENNZOIL, SkyJacker shocks etc... So, one evening my Dad ordered a few and we stuck them on the mini bike! A custom was born? By the way just like a bunch of broke bikers...we kept the mini bike in the "mud room".

What was the first bike that you owned?
1ST -JC Pennys mini bike
2ND - '82 HONDA XR80
then they all ran together, one dirt bike after another till the first Harley Davidson when I was a young 17.

How did you decide on the name Gangster Choppers?
Truthful, I have family that was part of a famous NYC crew. I remember stories as a kid and back then it was only the Godfather for a mob movie. Now they're hundreds of gangster flicks. But, back then it was my Uncle Sal, his stories and the movie Godfather.

Where do you get your inspiration?
I know that tons of guys and gals say "oh, I just love bikes!!" Well that's true for me too but, I need something more. I want an outlet to display my metal fabrication skills. If I am to fulfill the desire to machine functional art, a motorcycle offers the perfect platform. Cars are great too, but you can cover a bunch of junk up with a car, you can close the hood, choose not to open the trunk, put upholstery over sloppy floor pans or hide sloppy wiring behind a dashboard. Not a bike. Everything is seen. Since I choose not to have any "frills" pieces to just sit there and look pretty, all my art needs to be functional. So ordinary items like foot controls, fuel valves, exhaust pipes, key switches, motor mounts take on an art form.

Who are your idols?
I don't have idols, that may be something best left for 10 year olds. I am old enough to know that everybody past and present (except for Jesus Christ) all where humans and we all make mistakes. So RESPECT is the word for me. Finding someone to respect is tough, you all should evaluate this theory. I respect my Grandparents, keeping a marriage together for 59 years. My Dad for working and supporting the family blue collar style for 36 yrs and counting.

Do you have a favorite build?
My favorite build is always the recent one I am building and machining parts for, beating the fenders out stuff like that. You must realize that in order to keep these award winning bikes churning out - I have to be 110% into each one.

Do you manufacture your own motorcycle parts?
Yes, Gangster Choppers manufactures and distributes parts to customers daily.

How many bike shows have you been in and what awards have you won?
There are only a select few Motorcycle Shows I will enter my creations into. Most shows are too small to really provide an honest level of competition, so as a professional builder I want the amature and spectators to enjoy themselves. I provide my bikes at those shows for display only.

What motorcycle magazines have you been featured in?
All the good ones! haha. No really, most all the American mags, bunch of regional publications, and about a half a dozen international magazines.

What has been your most rewarding and memorable moment since you began in the motorcycle industry?
I like working in the shop, seeing the bike come together. I love riding the bikes, bikes most people would feel uncomfortable sitting on. I like it when little boys and girls stare at the bikes. If the kids think its cool then it is for real. I would have to question my style if ordinary 55 year old men were all into my bikes.

What is your favorite rally?
like Sturgis the best and kicking off the year in Daytona is cool too.

How many people work for you and who are they?
Bunch of idiots that try and provoke me into anger fits daily. No, no, I am easy going but I am really detail oriented. My Dad, Ken Dodson does machine work with me. Larry Mann performs all the wiring tasks. Robert service tech. Brian direct helper to John Dodson. Patrick fabricator. Chris welder with 20 yr experience. Ralph machinist with 14 yr experience. Norman an old style craftsman who knows everything about forging steel, heat treating, brazing, silver solder, and tons of other boring stuff it takes 40 yrs to acquire knowledge of.

Where are you located?
Richmond, Virginia is home to The Gangster Choppers Global Headquarters

What is the average price of one of your choppers?
Show winner built from scratch ready to "wooh" the crowds are $55,000. Very nice bikes can be had for much less though.

Do you have Support Gear that people can buy?
Gangster Choppers is a world recognized logo and is trademark protected. Tee shirts, Shop shirts, Caps, pens, posters, Ladies tops, panties, just about anything can be had with the Gangster Choppers logo.

Where is the best place in the United States to ride?
I personally enjoy riding along the Appalachian Mountains. I love the scenery. I also enjoy riding to OBX North Carolina. Entering into any ocean town and having the salt water smell hit you is 'bout as good as it gets.

What advice would you give to someone looking to get into the chopper/motorcycle industry?
Rule #1 If you cannot build a bike better than the top 10 builders in the world stay away from it, there are enough idiots in the industry that doesn't belong and its ruining it daily for the good ones. You will not succeed.

If you actually have spare time what do you do to fill it?
In my spare time I like to ride and also go to car shows / cruise ins.

If you could do any other profession what would it be or is the motorcycle/chopper lifestyle the best gig ever?
love what I do, but if it wasn't the bike industry I would have to be involved in something that run off of gasoline and burns oil, so I would do something with old cars.

What is your latest project?
Your readers will really love this one. A 1987 Harley Davidson FXR. It caught my attention and I involved myself knee deep and it turned out way cool.

Favorite swear word?
When a bike upsets me its a Whore. When a person upsets me they're a Cocksucker.

What music are you listening to?
Shooter Jennings, Metallic, Old & In The Way

Check out Gangster Choppers @ http://www.gangsterchoppers.com/main.htm


Webster World said...

Great interview. Good read. I really do like the picture taken at the back of the 58 Chevy for some reason.

Dean "D-Day" said...

Like their bikes. Bought a shirt from them about 4-5 years ago.

Didn't like his answer about advice for someone looking to get into the chopper/motorcycle industry though.

"You will not succeed." WTF?!?! Doesn't sound like very encouraging advice to me.

"If you cannot build a bike better than the top 10 builders in the world stay away from it." So, what is he doing in the industry then? I can name more than 10 builders off the top of my head that are better than him.

Sorry but this answer really rubbed me the wrong way.

B.B. said...

Great interview Steph, congrats on landing it.

fasthair said...

MS, IHG: You do these interview posts very well. How do you do them? Do you email the person a list of questions or do you set up a chat session and go from there? I think chat would be cool because depending on the answer you could think of something else to ask at that moment.


FLHX_Dave said...

Taking it to the next level girl! This is awesome material. I really enjoyed this post. I loved the response to the questions regarding favorite Idols and Swear words.

Well, I would say more but I have to go check out the GC site now.

Thanks for the inside look!

Mr. Motorcycle said...

Great interview, Thanks for getting us in the know!

Road Captain said...

Great post,thank you!

Ann said...

That was a great interview, Steph! But I must agree with Dean on his answer to that question. Made him sound like a total jackass.

But I LOVE that you do these interviews! Awesome!

TRT said...

Great interview, but I agree about the answer about getting into the industry. I guess if we all followed that logic, no one would do anything new.

Lady Ridesalot said...

Good post Steph! You really should be a human interest reporter. You seem to know what the people want and know and get it for us! Your interviews bring us to the table with you and I feel like we just sat and had a nice visit. Way to go!

KT Did said...

Great post and had some really great questions. I have seen his work at the shows and looking forward to the Pomona Easy Riders. I go to that each year. Love it.

Margo said...

Next time I see you may I get your autograph??...LOL. This was cool to read, some of it reminded me of Tim.

Introducing Fylix said...

Awesome interview, very cool. I just found your blog through 'fasthair', I've been reading a few posts and its all really interesting. Will add you to the blogroll!

I wish I lived in the US and had the wide choice of roads to ride on! At the moment I'm just competing with London traffic...

Kirst x

Dean "D-Day" said...

Whoa Steph. Worldwide.

Welcome Kirst.

One Harley Rider said...

Nice Post! Thought I acidently clicked on the Speed Channel - Two wheel Tuesday.

IowaHarleyGirl (Stephanie) said...

Thanks everyone! Glad you enjoyed it. Hopefully I can get back in the swing of things after the 1st of the year and post more of the same!

Happy Holidays! :)