Article And Photos By: Chris Callen
Originally Published In The April 2013 Issue Of Cycle source Magazine
Many of you have heard me talk about Will in the capacity of the cat that has been in charge of my nutrition lately. More will recognize him for the killer tech articles that he has in the magazine each month, but this time around we get to show you a comprehensive look into what Will Ramsey considers the perfect motorcycle. This Shovel was selected by our own Roadside Marty as the Cycle Source magazine’s “Editor’s Choice” award winner in Vegas during Artistry in Iron this past year. From front to back, it is the perfect example of form and function. After spending most of his life in the gym and bar businesses, Will had come to an epiphany: he was ready to move on with his life. Well, that actually came from a near fatal crash on a Roadking doing a hundred miles an hour with a pocketful of cocaine. Now I don’t tell you this story so that you will think he’s a badass, he is, but this is the story of how a man turned his life around and has made something out of himself. Will had a pretty bad habit around that time and something was gonna give, so it was no surprise that he had an accident and was waiting to see if jail time would be the result–no surprise at all. What was unexpected was the effect this had on him during the time he was waiting to see what his fate would be.
Instead of going further down the rabbit hole, Will decided to keep himself busy. Still hardly able to walk from the accident, he would have his mother take him to a local shop where he’d spend eight hours a day learning to weld. A clean and sober path was going to be his direction and he was ready to face the consequences for what had happened, but he’d face them straight. In the mean time, he was picking up mad skills and started working at a couple of hot rod fab shops in the Louisville area doing sheet metal work. As luck would have it, Will managed to stay out of the joint and his life was finally coming together. He decided after working for the other shops for a while, he would venture out on his own and open Faith Forgotten Choppers. So yeah, everyone wonders about the name right off and I can tell you that this is the foundation of their shop’s philosophy. Will and his guys believe in form following function–staunchly! A bike has to be a strong running motorcycle before it can be an artistic expression. He thinks that is where some people go wrong; they forget about having a bike that you can have faith in, the kind it takes to ride across the country or ride so hard you think you’re going over the edge. That’s what comes first in a Faith Forgotten build, and boy do they put them to the test. Just for the BMR this year, Will rode to my house from Louisville, then on to Reliance, TN, back to the East Coast for Metalfest, and then home again to Louisville, all on his hardtail Shovel. No doubt, a bike he has faith in.
So what can be said about “Dead at 19” here? Well, it’s an incredible build. For as simple as it looks going by, when you take a knee and start to really pay attention to what Will has achieved in its construction, it blows your mind. So many details are packed into such a small package, and the reward for this craftsmanship was an invitation to Artistry in Iron with only his second complete ground-up build. The second of which is being featured in a national magazine; the other having been named one of the 2012 top customs of the year from its feature in Easyrider magazine. The beginning of this story is a simple tale. Will and his brother found an old ’81 Shovel basket in the sticks near Louisville. Will’s brother Warren was born in 1981 so that would have to be the year of the motor for his bike. When they got the Shovel into the shop, they stripped it and dumped everything. They cut the neck off and redesigned the frame using American made DOM tubing; no slugs for this beauty. All the castings came from a company out of Wisconsin that Fab Kevin turned him on to, and they were off to a good start.
For the motor, they immediately split the cases and took it to their buddy Jesse Cleary that works at Kentucky Kustoms. Jesse rebuilt the whole mill, keeping it at 80 inches, but Will decided to hot rod it by decking the cylinders and heads to bump the compression up to 10.3 to 1. By welding up some custom intake manifolds they were able to retro fit a CV carb to it. To top the motor off, they fitted a set of Bare Knuckle Choppers’ split rocker boxes to it. The fuel tank was an absolute work of art. Maybe you caught it in the four part tech series he did on it. The oil bag was handmade in much the same fashion and surprisingly there is not a single piece of chrome on this beauty. Every shiny piece you see is either polished stainless or aluminum. The jockey shifter was machined out of a 2 inch piece of stainless on a manual lathe. The carb mount was hand forged on an anvil; really, these cats are masters at working metal.
When it came time for the paint, Warren wanted to reflect the modern day look of the BMX culture. They went to the local BMX pro shop and looked over the pastel satin finishes that everything had and decided to keep with that scheme. The satin blue with white bars, fork legs and wheels make it look just like a freestyle BMX ride. And that’s about how these cats ride too. While we’re on the subject of wheels, these are HDWs that are American made and heavy duty, unlike some of the cheap, foreign import stuff out there. The seat was hand tooled by Warren, just like all the Faith Forgotten Choppers’ bikes get, and it’s quality work all the way. It was about a month till the Artistry in Iron event when Will got the invitation. At the time, the bike was only a frame, a gas tank and a motor.
That’s when the 16 hour days with no time for the gym or sleep started. They made it just in time to roll into the show, where we grabbed it up, but that’s not even the end of the story. Like I said, these cats love to ride hard so after Vegas they continued out to the West Coast and hauled ass all over PCH and Malibu Canyon. They rode hard and had a blast, but it wouldn’t be until weeks later when we were making plans to do this photo shoot when Will would see the effect salt water air has on polished metals when left unattended. Most of the bike would have to be taken a p a r t and polished in a matter of days before he’d meet me in St. Louis for the deal. Damn, these cats gotta be tired of building this bike by now, right? I doubt it. You can’t put this much love into something without being obsessive, and man they are a crew for obsessing about the bikes, about those details, about riding and hell yeah, they obsess about the gym!
I almost forgot to tell you the story about the name. So, remember earlier I told you they went out into the sticks to buy the basket? Well, as they were loading the bike into their truck, the cat who they were buying it off of and his ol’ lady stood on the porch talking to them. The ol’ lady spoke about her kids. One daughter was in jail; you know, real Cousin Eddie stuff. Then she told them about her other daughter– the beautiful one. She was only 19 when her boyfriend strangled her to death. Then the woman proceeded to show them the lock of her daughter’s hair that she had on an earring she was wearing. Warren looked at Will in terror and they never said a word till they were 10 miles down the road when they both agreed the bike had to be named “Dead at 19!” Y o u know, ya gotta have a sense of humor baby! Keep an eye out for these cats. They just recently moved into a new 4,500 sq.ft. facility and are getting ready to start their third commissioned build. Their skill level is insane either behind the bars or at the machines so you can expect to see their names in the news again real soon.
Dead At Nineteen Tech Sheet
Owner: Warren Ramsey
City: Louisville, KY
Fabrication By: Faith Forgotten Choppers
Time: 8 Months
Builder: Jess Cleary
Ignition: Morris Magneto M5
Air Cleaner: Joker Machine / F.F.C.
Exhaust: Faith Forgotten Choppers
Primary: Primo Rivera
Make: Baker 4-Speed
Year: ‘81 Cast Neck
make: Redesigned and Built by F.F.C.
Type: 39mm Narrow Glide Hydraulic
Triple Trees: Bare Knuckle Choppers
Front Wheel: HDW
Brakes: Performance Machine
Rear Wheel: HDW
Tire: Metzeler 180mm
Brakes: Performance Machine
Painter: Robbie Gaddis
Color: Carolina Blue & Pearl White
Molding: Brian Emeric Howell
Chroming: None – Polished Steel or Aluminum
risers: Monkey Town Customs
Hand Controls: Beringer
Gas Tank(s): F.F.C.
Front Fender: None
Rear Fender: Led Sled
Seat: Pan-Fab Kevin / Tooling-Warren Ramsey
Foot Controls: F.F.C.
Oil Tank: F.F.C.
Taillight: Paughco Modified by F.F.C.
Headlight: After Hour Choppers
Photographer: Chris Callen