By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – While you’re sleeping, Dan Patterson is in his garage building custom British motorcycles.
Not just any motorcycles, though. Patterson’s retooled, older-model Triumphs have gained an international cult following and spawned a league of copycats channeling his style.
Some call him an artist; others, a revolutionary.
“He has uncorked some kind of demon in the underground bike-building world,” said Dave Helrich of Helrich Custom Cycles in Tempe, Ariz. “Everybody is copying his bikes now.”
Patterson, a furniture store manager by day, toils at odd hours to complete his creations. He builds them one at a time, doting over each detail until the finished product emerges six to eight months later.
“I feel a personal responsibility, as a garage builder, to try to build a better Trump than a professional shop would build,” Patterson recently explained to his industry peers. “We backstreet builders are not tied to imposed deadlines, or customer input. We build what we love. Period. Long live garage builds.”
The 41-year-old Tupelo husband and father started riding motorcycles as a teenager. It was around the same time he developed a knack for metal and machine work.
The two passions finally merged eight years ago when Patterson built his first bike, “Olde English,” from a 1968 Triumph 650.
Since then, Patterson has produced a half dozen bobbers with names like Lefty Lucy, Low Tide Larry or Angry Monkey.
Angry Monkey, a 1956 Triumph TR6 650, is Patterson’s current ride and also the name of his side business – building “kustom-made death traps.”
He sold his other bikes to clients across the globe, including to one in Japan who got Low Tide Larry on eBay for $20,000 – about twice what these types of bikes usually fetch.
Patterson’s work has been featured in the national chopper magazine, The Horse. And his online build threads, which document each step of his projects, have drawn numerous spectators from this underground world.
An estimated 1 percent of motorcyclists ride older British bikes, said Rikki Rockett, founder and administrator of Brit Iron Rebels, a worldwide club of enthusiasts. He’s also the drummer of the rock band Poison.
“What’s great about British bikes is that they were meant to be rebuilt endlessly,” Rockett said. “You can rebuild them three or four times. These bikes live again.”
Rockett said he’s impressed with Patterson’s craftsmanship and might even want to add an Angry Monkey ride to his collection.
“His stuff looks great,” said Rockett, who owns eight bikes, including several Triumphs. “Thank God someone’s building stuff other than out of a Harley Davidson.”
No Harleys for Patterson. So far, he has focused solely on Triumphs, like his current project – a 1969 Triumph 650 unit bike he dubbed “Black Adder.” He’ll finish in a few days, and it already has a waiting buyer.
The Adder arrived at his shop like most bikes: a dusty, neglected machine that seemed destined for the junk yard. But in the months that followed, Patterson transformed it into one of his signature steel sculptures.
“That’s the satisfaction is taking something that’s totally ugly and making it into something that somebody is stoked to ride,” Patterson said, a grin spreading across his face.
His next project veers a bit off the path. Instead of a Triumph, Patterson will work on a 1971 Birmingham Small Arms 500 he got from his father-in-law. He plans to strip it, rebuild it, and name it. To top it off, he’ll fit it with a turbo booster for no other reason “than it shouldn’t be done.”
Helrich said he’ll be watching the BSA evolve and expects another masterful creation.
“His bikes have a completed quality about them,” Helrich said. “They look finished. Nothing is out of place, nothing that needs to be added or subtracted to it. They’re very reminiscent of old-school hot rods. Respect is what I say. Respect.”
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or firstname.lastname@example.org.