By Kalea Hall
Although there is a large responsibility that comes with building his hero’s commemorative custom motorcycle, David Cook loves the thrill.
The Warren native with the custom-motorcycle shop, Sledgehammer Bobbers, in Warren and his team are in the frame stage on daredevil Evel Knievel’s 1974 shovelhead bike that is set to be complete by next year.
The goal is to build a priceless bike, focus on execution and delivery of this machine, and to reflect on how a guy who built 10-speed bicycles at age 8 went on to have the honor of building Knievel’s bike just a few years after the start of his custom-motorcycle-building company.
“The bottom line is, I love to build bikes,” Cook said. “[Evel] was a superhero to me.”
Last August, The Vindicator wrote on the early stages of the Sledgehammer team picking up the contract from K&K Promotions, the Knievel promotion company, to build the first tribute bike for Knievel with his memorabilia included in the bike.
Nearly a year later and the team, which includes Cook, Danny Kelly, head fabricator; George Beharry III, head machinist; Big John, head mechanic; Dennis “Moot” Markle, detailer and bike handler; and Clayton Manning, marketing officer, are awaiting the return of signatures from Knievel’s friends and family for the frame.
Cook wants to have the “wicked, sexy and seductive” bike complete by Thanksgiving. Overall, there has been upward of $150,000 invested in the bike, and that does not include the memorabilia going with it.
“This is my destiny,” Cook said. “I deliver. I don’t play games.”
It’s obvious Cook doesn’t play games. Just four years ago he was in a hospital bed with heart failure and realized he needed to capture his dream while he was alive.
He worked for years as a financial adviser but was always a bike builder.
“Life is about living your passion,” he said. “Do what you want to do when you want to do it.”
He started Sledgehammer Bobbers in 2012 and built his first bike, Sledge, that year.
He didn’t just want to build a bike, though. He wanted to build a winner that would be featured in top motorcycle magazines next to bike-building greats.
The dream came true.
Sledge won the Easyriders Bike Show in Columbus in February 2013 and was the feature story in Ironworks Magazine in March 2013 — right next to custom chopper builder Paul Teutul Sr. of Orange County Choppers.
“If you would have told me five years ago that I would be in a magazine spread with Paul Sr., I would have told you, you are crazy,” Cook said.
What is crazy are the course of events that led to getting the contract for Knievel’s tribute bike. Cook met George Sedlak — the painter behind the images on Knievel’s motorcycles and helmets, who is also working on the Knievel bike.
He told Sedlak what an honor it would be to build the tribute bike.
And the rest is history.
“I dig the pressure,” he said. “It is us building to the unique individual [Knievel was].”
The bike will tour the U.S. and Europe in 2015 until an auction for it will take place in Las Vegas in August. It is estimated to go for seven figures.
Cook will receive half of the proceeds of the sale.
“We are positioned to absolutely hit a grand slam,” Cook said.
The company already has a large following on Facebook with close to 19,000 likes — a number that has grown immensely over the last year.
But with or without the Knievel bike in the works, Cook said he was going to make it in the industry no matter what.
He sees Sledgehammer Bobbers as a brand and wants to build beyond the custom-bike garage with elite bikes to have an apparel store, tattoo shop, saloon and more.
“I want to have a sledge cave and build four to five bikes a year,” Cook said.
Pictures of the complete Knievel bike are not allowed for release at this time. Read The Vindicator for updates on completion of the project in the future.
“I want to build a cult following,” Cook said.