“War of the Twins” Indoor Flat Track Motorcycle Racing will kick start a weekend of moto heaven at the Midwest’s largest custom bike and car show, parts extravaganza and tattoo expo this month.
Saint Paul, MN (March 8, 2018) – Gear heads and riders will soon be coming out of hibernation to gather and meet fellow enthusiasts and friends at the 31st Annual Donnie Smith Bike & Car Show presented by Dennis Kirk. In addition to the motorcycles, cars and the largest parts swap in the Midwest, the ever-expanding event now includes Indoor Flat Track Racing and a Tattoo Expo. The Donnie Smith Show will take place at the St. Paul RiverCentre in St. Paul, Minn., 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, March 24 and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 25, 2017. The “War of the Twins” Indoor Flat Track Racing will kick off the moto extravaganza on Friday, March 23. Doors open at 3 p.m. and the Main Event runs from 7 to 10 p.m. in the Lee & Rose Warner Coliseum. Tickets may be purchased in advance online or at the door. More information can be found at www.DonnieSmithBikeShow.com.
The show’s activities offer the opportunity to hang out and learn from specialists, see the latest in moto inventions and customizations, hunt for parts, shop and win prizes throughout the 225,000 sq. ft. indoor event space.
Bikers will have the opportunity to discuss the best parts options with Dennis Kirk representatives who will be on hand to answer questions. The prize wheel is back with bigger and better prizes and riders can receive information about the annual Patriot Ride, benefitting Minnesota’s active and veteran military and law enforcement organizations. Attendees can purchase a $10 raffle ticket to win a 2018 Harley-Davidson FLHXS Street Glide Special in support of the Patriot’s Ride.
One of the year’s biggest custom bike unveils will take place on Saturday, March 24 when Kuryakyn and the Sturgis Buffalo Chip reveal the 2018 Rock, Rumble & Rebellion bike. The 2018 modified Indian Chieftain Dark Horse bagger features state-of-the-art Kuryakyn parts and paint by Gilby’s Street Department.
Blues rocker Corey Stevens will be setting the stage for beer-thirty Happy Hour presented by Budweiser 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 24.
Sugar Bear of Sugar Bear Choppers will be on hand in the Metzeler display March 24 and 25 to showcase his innovative products and share stories from the grass roots of the chopper world. Metzeler also brings a bike build in progress from Kevin “Teach” Baas and the Lakeville North High School students. The bike features one of Sugar Bear’s iconic front suspension systems.
GEICO Motorcycle and the Sturgis Buffalo Chip teamed up to create the ultimate Street Hooligan motorcycle for the Buffalo Chip’s 2018 Moto Stampede Bike Giveaway. The custom Indian Scout 60 will be on display in the Buffalo Chip booth, where show attendees may register to win it this August on the Chip’s main stage.
Custom builders will be competing in over 35 classes at the show. Some of the most recognizable names in the motorcycle industry will be in attendance, displaying their latest work and meeting with fans. The list so far includes:
Donnie Smith – Donnie Smith Custom Motorcycles
A custom bike builder for more than 30 years, Donnie Smith’s innovations continue to influence custom bike builders today. Smith will be on hand to sign autographs or just hang out and discuss classic builds and new innovations in custom bike building.
Paul Yaffe – Bagger Nation
For almost 30 years Paul Yaffe has been designing custom motorcycles and is known as an industry leader and a true innovator and he will be available for questions and motorcycle parts discussions. His custom bikes have been featured in hundreds of magazines both in the United States and abroad. He’s participated in Discovery Channel’s Biker Build-Off in 2003 and participated in Biker Battleground Phoenix, a 10-episode series on the History Channel. He is a 3-time “Trend Setter of the Year” award recipient and has won several engineering and product design awards.
Curtis Hofmann – Hofmann Designs
A Minnesota native, Curtis opened Hofmann Designs in 2009 and has produced stunning, magazine-worthy motorcycles every year since. Hoffman is known for his lay frame big wheel baggers and his bikes are often sold on reputation alone, sight unseen.
Dave Dupor – DD Custom Cycle
Dupor’s motorcycles are intelligence with tailpipes. He is known as a perfectionist and his bikes are a balance of bold confidence and understated elegance. His meticulous and relentless pursuit of perfection has thrust DD Custom Cycle onto the pages almost every major motorcycling publication in the country.
Kevin “Teach” Baas – Baas Metal Craft
Baas, is an expert metal fabricator and high school shop teacher who transformed his curriculum into a full-blown Chopper Class. For 15 years, he has taught generations of bike builders and gained the support and recognition of countless industry heavy weights.
Kurt Peterson – Lil’ Evil Inkorpor8ed
Peterson is a Master of All, specializing in precise fabrication, design, and quality. His 27 years in the industry, and no-nonsense, high horse power creations have earned him numerous racing and industry accolades, but, more importantly, they have earned him distinction and the respect of his peers.
Dave & Jody Perewitz – Perewitz Cycle Fabrication
There is no stronger father-daughter team in motorcycling than Dave and Jody Perewitz. Dave is a legend in custom building, an AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame 2003 inductee and master craftsman who has been painting and building motorcycles for over 40 years. Jody holds 15 land speed records, one World Record, is currently the Fastest Woman on an American V-Twin, and a talented painter in her own right.
Sugar Bear – Sugar Bear Choppers
Forty-six years ago, Sugar Bear opened up shop in Los Angeles and began hand-making his legendary springer front ends and rockers. Sugar Bear’s influence and contributions have shaped motorcycling history and in 2008 he was named the Harley-Davidson Museum’s Man of the Year.
Tim McNamer – Ballistic Cycles
A Twin Cities area native, McNamer is the inventor of the ground-breaking hubless wheel design and is known for regularly pushing the limits of engineering. His bikes are instantly recognizable and have raked in awards from nearly every competition. Producing some of the most technologically advanced motorcycles of our time, Tim’s designs are paving the way for the advancement and evolution of customization.
Todd “Gilby” Gilbertson – Gilby’s Street Department
Gilby’s bikes are unique hot-rod infused sculptures that test and challenge convention. This Twin Cities area native has been pin-striping for decades and his motorcycles reflect a wildly artistic vision. His contributions to motorcycling inspire and challenge, raising the bar of creativity higher with every unforgettable chopper he creates.
Tickets for the Donnie Smith Bike & Car Show are on sale at the RiverCentre Box Office, all Ticketmaster locations, charge by phone at 800-745-3000 or online at www.ticketmaster.com. Adults are $15 and children under the age of 12 are admitted free. The Donnie Smith Bike & Car Show is sponsored by Dennis Kirk, GEICO Motorcycle, Indian Motorcycle, The Sturgis Buffalo Chip, Budweiser, Lucas Motorcycle Oil and Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys.
Tickets for the “War of the Twins” Indoor Flat Track Racing can be purchased at www.IndoorFlatTrack.com. All seating is assigned with box seating VIP tickets available for $21 and general auditorium adult seating for $15. The first 500 children under 12, accompanying an adult, will be admitted free. “War of the Twins” Indoor Flat Track Racing is sponsored by the Sturgis Buffalo Chip, Dennis Kirk, GEICO Motorcycle, Lucas Motorcycle Products, Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys and S&S Cycle.More information can be found at DonnieSmithBikeShow.com.
Find high resolution photos here:
About the Donnie Smith Bike and Car Show
In its 31st year, the famed Donnie Smith Bike and Car Show presented by Dennis Kirk is the largest custom bike and car show in the Midwest. The show draws the nation’s most prestigious brands, top competitors and tens of thousands to the RiverCentre in Saint Paul, Minn. It is widely known as the annual kickoff to the riding and cruising season and features a unique mix of competitions, shopping and entertainment in a fun, family-friendly environment with 35 classes of custom motorcycles, 16 classes of cars, the largest swap meet on the planet, a tattoo expo and other entertainment including Indoor Flat Track Racing at the Lee & Rose Warner Coliseum. Additional information can be found at www.donniesmithbikeshow.com
“Flat track plays into that American spirit of independence, competitiveness and the need for speed,” said Neil Ryan, promoter of the Donnie Smith Bike & Car Show. “We have a rich heritage going back into the ‘60s. The Donnie Smith Show’s always had a swap meet component, along with the biggest custom show in the region. Adding racing back to the mix brings it full circle and completes the package.”
It’s no secret: we love the Donnie Smith Show. We cover it every year for Iron Trader News, as we did for decades at IronWorks. Why? Because it’s the most genuine bike show attached to the biggest swap meet in the Midwest and it has kicked off the riding season here for the last 30 years. Midwest builders work all winter on bikes they debut at the show and with expanding features and greater reach every year, nationally-known custom builders are catching on to the grass roots authenticity this show radiates.
With the bike show and massive swap meet as the mainstays from the beginning in 1987, visitors now find national companies such as S&S, Metzeler, Magnaflow, Kuryakyn, Dennis Kirk and Lucas Oil. The Hot Rod & Classic Car show added several years ago keeps growing and a Tattoo Expo joined the list in 2017.
Student-built shop-program bikes turn out to line up among the most eclectic bunch of show entries you’ll find anywhere. High end, one-off builds from the likes of Gilby and Dan Roogsvold, Panheads, Knuckles, military tribute bikes, big wheel baggers, café racers and bobbers,– they all roll in to the St. Paul River Centre. There’s always a slew of old school Shovel and Sporty choppers and a ton of top shelf custom paint work. The list of builders is a roster of the best names in custom motorcycling, including Donnie Smith, of course, who celebrated his 75th birthday over the weekend with much fanfare.
Entries from car and truck customizers have increased in both number and quality, filling the Roy Wilkins Arena to capacity this year. Rat Rods – on both car and truck platforms – were especially prominent.
Industry-impacting custom bikes were unveiled by S&S Cycle and Kuryakyn, both connected to happenings at the Sturgis Buffalo Chip. The S&S build is an FXRT-styled, 143 cu. in. Dyna Low Rider for the Legends Ride, and the Kuryakyn build showcases new bolt-on lines and custom paint for the Rock, Rumble & Rebellion promotion.
As before, Happy Hour rocked on the show floor at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday with blues guitarist Corey Stevens in the house this year; and he brought the house down! The Red Bull After Party at Eagle Street Grill was a cool scene, bringing vendors, builders and influencers together for the first time.
We could go on – but we’ve already admitted fandom. So read instead what others say (below) and scroll through the pictures (also below). You’ll learn for yourself why the Donnie Smith Show is the best in the Midwest – and keeps getting better!
What people say:
It’s the camaraderie and the wide array of styles and passions. It brings us all together. It opens my eyes and the eyes of my students. It sparks new ideas!
– Kevin Baas, Technology Instructor, Kennedy High
As a first time vendor it’s been incredibly rewarding, It’s great having such a passionate audience of riders – men women both, a lot of families, too, so we’re getting the next generation of riders. I like the diversity of the regional demographic in this part of the country with so many loyal, intense riders.
– Chris Magee, PR and Mktg
It’s a business showcase where we create alliances and see what the trends are. This is where we find out what everybody’s been up to. It stays fresh. This is always just a huge market for us.
– Cejae Phillips and Kurt Petersen, Lil Evil Incorpor8ted
Everybody comes to the show because it’s the kickoff to the season. This is what everybody’s looking for, where they find all their buddies they haven’t seen all winter. This is a great social event. I come down here every year and even had a booth here for my shop back in the day. I see people I don’t see anywhere else.
– Jeff and Forest, Kuryakyn
It’s an impressive bike show, one of the better shows in this part of the country. There are always fresh ideas here, not the same things like at other shows, I like that. We have a good presence here.
– Bill Barber, National Motorcycle Museum
Editor’s Note: The Donnie Smith Show brings out the best bikes – and cars – in the Midwest each spring and it reminds us that the genesis of custom motorcycling runs back to a few early pioneers. Guys like Donnie Smith, Dave Perewitz and Arlen Ness not only have talent and creativity but, equally important, they’ve had the persistence to stick with motorcycling as a business through the decades.
Here’s a look at the early years and the lifelong friendship between three of custom motorcycling’s biggest influencers – then and still.
Images courtesy of Jody Perewitz, Arlen Ness, Donnie Smith
Over the decades, custom motorcycling has seen good times and bad. Motorcycle builders have been on the top of the heap and relegated to the back alley. But for the faithful, those ingrained wrenches and riders who long ago claimed biking as their life’s work, custom motorcycles are as sublime and necessary as ever.
Among those few stalwarts who succeeded in the game is Donnie Smith, a man known for his custom creations not only in the Midwest but around the world. He’ll be the first to tell you that his early riding experiences didn’t exactly predict a happy life on two wheels; no, motorcycles were not his first choice. It was Uncle Elwood that got Donnie involved in bikes.
One day in the early ‘70s Elwood brought his Sportster into the drag race shop Donnie ran with his brother Happy and buddy Bob Fetrow; he wanted them to rake the bike’s neck. “We were three farm kids; we thought rake was something you did with hay,” said Donnie. Though they also had day jobs and were busy working on the Barracuda Funny Car they planned to race, they did their best for Elwood.
Soon Elwood’s friends took notice and the shop—Smith Brothers and Fetrow—started getting more bike work. A while later, when someone wanted a Springer and there were none to be found, the guys gave that a try, too. Then girders, and tanks, and fenders and so it went. After a year or so their bookkeeper said, “You know, if you got rid of that race car you could make a living out of this motorcycle thing.” So they did. Thank God for Uncle Elwood!
If you had a motorcycle business then, the way to get noticed—the only way—was to have your bikes featured in magazines. Donnie explained how SB&F first got hooked up: “The first guy that ever shot our bikes was Randy Smith from CCE. He was doing freelance for magazines in 1974. We met him in Bowling Green and he shot the bikes we were riding there. We were on cloud nine.”
Donnie also credits Bob Clark at Street Chopper for bringing attention to SB&F’s work. “He kept us out in front of people and got us to be household names.”
The next spring SB&F loaded some bikes in the van and headed to Detroit for a show called “It’s Called Detroit.” That was the first time Donnie saw Arlen Ness, though they didn’t meet till later at Tom Rudd’s Drag Specialties show in Minneapolis. But Donnie and Arlen both recalled meeting east coast painter Dave Perewitz in Detroit—it wouldn’t be the last time, either.
Arlen said the Detroit show was a real eye opener. He’d had bikes featured in magazines for a couple of years by then, thanks to Larry Kumferman, editor of Custom Bike. And though it was the first time he actually got paid to attend a show (“It was a big deal. I got a plane ticket and a hundred bucks!”) he wasn’t prepared for the reception he received. “There were quite a few people that wanted to meet me. I was shocked and surprised about that!” said Arlen.
Just a few years before then, Arlen was painting bikes and had designed a few parts. In the early ‘70s aftermarket motorcycle parts were in demand and tough to get from the few companies making them—AEE, CJ Custom Cycle Parts, Santee, Drag Specialties.
“You couldn’t get ramhorn bars,” said Arlen. “So I went to a tubing bender, then I welded it and took it to the chrome shop. That was my first product.” Next was a rear fender with built-in taillight. “I made it in steel then made a fiberglass mold and we started making rear fenders.”
Feature articles in magazines got the parts noticed. “People would call after they’d seen the magazine and want to buy the part. We didn’t know it then but we were building our brand,” he said. How did they spread the word? “Our first catalog was one sheet of paper that Bev typed up. It didn’t even have a picture!”
As Arlen’s product count increased he considered finding a distributor and went to see Gary Bang, who gave him the best advice of his young career. “He told me, don’t show these products to other people, they’ll copy you. First get your pricing structure right.” So Arlen educated himself on manufacturing and applied what he learned to continually refine the process.
Arlen also reached out to racer and builder Jim Davis. “I took a stock Sporty frame to his shop. We laid it on its side and I drew around it in chalk, extending it in the front and back and so on. He actually made the first frame for us working off the chalk marks on the cement.”
Seeking out experts and learning from the best paid off. “I think that was one of my secrets,” said Arlen. “I always aligned myself with quality people, smart people. I paid more than anyone else but I always had good, safe products. That had a lot to do with our success.”
It took time but he ultimately developed a network that made it possible to offer a selection of cool, clever components. “The more neat stuff you made the more people wanted to do things for you,” he said.
Going to the major events like Daytona and Sturgis was important then and it became common for Donnie, Arlen and Dave to hang out together. You didn’t have a booth in those days, you just brought your bike, rode it around and showed people. In 1977 they were at the Rat’s Hole Show in Daytona. “Dave had that thing locked down, and it was fun” said Arlen. At the time Dave had never been to Sturgis so Arlen talked him into going. “I’d already been to Sturgis several times and had met Donnie there before. So we all hooked up in Sturgis that year.”
Compared to Arlen and Donnie, Dave was the youngster, the go-getter from the east coast. And it took grit and ingenuity to get noticed—the custom bike business out east was not as refined as in California. “We’d run to the book store every month to get a magazine because that was the only source you had,” said Dave. “It was pretty much trial and error.”
Looking at a new issue of Custom Bike sometime in 1974, Dave got the idea that the bikes he was building and painting were magazine quality, so he picked up the phone, got editor Larry Kumferman on the line and told him so. Two weeks later, Kumferman flew to Massachusetts to photograph Dave’s bikes, starting a run of publicity that continues still.
Early the next year, Dave learned about the “It’s Called Detroit” show, as he explained: “We threw bikes in a van and drove thru a snowstorm in March to Detroit. When we got there Larry was shooting the show and he introduced me to Arlen.” Dave met Donnie there, too. By the end of the weekend Dave had invited Arlen to Laconia that summer and Arlen accepted. “He shipped his bike and flew out, and we spent the week in Laconia. After that he said, listen, I know these guys in Detroit, why don’t we go to Detroit? So we threw the bikes in my van and went to Detroit. We spent a week riding there with Yosemite Sam, Carlini, Finch and slept on the floor at Sam’s house. Then Arlen invited me and Donnie out for the Oakland Roadster show and we’ve all been best friends ever since.”
Dave recalls that first trip to Sturgis well. Arlen brought him a bike to ride, a Sportster digger, of course. “That’s what we were all riding back then,” said Dave. “We stayed at City Park and it was pretty crazy. We were up all night while guys were drag racing in the street and doing burnouts.” He didn’t need to be talked into going back.
Even among like-minded people there’s no predicting the future, and this would be a good story if friendship had been the only result of a couple of chance meetings over 40 years ago. But lucky for riders everywhere, the rapport between Smith, Ness and Perewitz not only established custom biking in America but their passion for the subject continues to sustain it. That gives the story way more horsepower.
Custom Styling Cues circa 1975
Some say everything’s derivative. Read on and you might be convinced that there’s still room in the world for creative genius.
Arlen Ness • West Coast
“I always liked drag bikes, the racing look. Long and low and performance looking. Some people called them diggers. Then I started making those fancy diamond gas tanks and coffin tanks, that kind of stuff. Then flat bottom Sportster tanks for the Sportster diggers. In the early days we did quite a bit of stuff that nobody had ever done.”
Donnie Smith • Midwest
“We built a lot of bikes that had 16-over front ends, that seemed to be a thing for a couple of years. We would extend the frame but we would always slide the gas tank back, right to the seat. Other guys like Arlen used to sit their tanks out in the middle of the tube. We’d put little wings or fins on the front of the tank to blend it into the front of the fork. That was our look for a long time.
“We were a little more practical, we needed more gas to ride further. So I designed a tank that held close to 3 gallons. It had a long prismatic look that was big in those days.”
Dave Perewitz • East Coast
“Arlen had started the whole digger look of styling, the Ness style, and I was pretty much the first guy who started doing that on the east coast. My stuff was rigid frame, Sportster tank mounted high, 6-over front end with a raked frame. And I paid attention to the paint, too. When I first started painting there were a couple guys around who did candy paint on cars but that was the extent of custom paint on the east coast!”