Published In The February 2014 Issue Of Cycle Source
Article & Photos By: Mitch “Magoo” Bodine
Nick’s has been my goto place for hard to find parts for years now. I never knew much about the history of the shop so I was stoked when we finally were headed down to Williamstown, NJ to do the story. Many of you readers might have seen Nick’s featured on recent episodes of “American Pickers” or Dale Walksler’s “What’s In The Garage.” Talking with Nick and his wife Veronica was awesome. They told great stories; too many to write about! Nick met his wife as a pen pal while he was serving in the Navy. They got married and bought the house and coops in 1969 after he got out. Once he left the Navy, Nick worked at Camden Harley, and he was also working on bikes on the side. When winter hit, Nick got laid off. He says that back then if you were a biker, you were the first to get fired and the last to get hired. He kept himself busy working out of the coops. At that time he would trade off work for parts, cars or whatever. He says you had to do anything you could to keep the bikes’ running back then. He did everything he could including painting and ground-up builds.
Walking around through all the coops was overwhelming. There were bikes all over, each one with its own story. There were also rows and rows of motor parts, flywheels, heads, cylinders, and cases — all older stuff. The pictures don’t do it justice. One time I went there looking for a headlight trim ring for a nacelle. Nick told me where to go, down this row, third shelf, half way down, and boom, one was right there! No computers here; Nick has the inventory all in his memory. The receipts are all hand written just like they were when he opened the shop in 1971.
In one of the coops is the restoration shop. We saw some Knuckleheads, a Flathead and off to the side was an old Truett and Osborn nitro drag bike from the late ‘70s – early ‘80s. Its just a rolling chassis. Nick told us the story about how the motor was sold off. The bike had never been completely finished. It had a high gear only set up in it originally. He will get it back together though and it will be on display there.
In another of the coops we saw some long bikes from the early ‘70s. They were really cool back in the day. Nick told how he used to reinforce his frames when they used the long flex tube forks back in those days. It’s just a lot for you to take in.
We went upstairs of the main shop; it was full of newer parts. There were tins from anything you can imagine. He found some cool storage shelves from an old shoe store in Camden. They are full of more goodies. The parts come from Harley shops that are going out of business, closeouts from Custom Chrome or whoever.
He bought 600 and some spoke sets for next to nothing. Nick has been using them for years when he builds wheels. There are rows of forks from every era, new stuff all the way back to old Springers and long girders.
We then moved to the upstairs of the front main shop — my personal favorite area — that’s Nick’s “Motorcycle Storage Area.” He can’t call it a museum because Gloucester County red tape makes it not feasible — too many rules. The bikes up there are amazing, top quality collector pieces. There’s every bike you could imagine. My favorites are the old race bikes. He has one CAC bike; he had two until just a couple years ago. The CAC he still has was mostly all original and restored back in the ‘60s. The other one was a nicer bike, more original. It even had the original hand grooved tires. Harley-Davidson bought that one off of Nick and it now sits on display in the Harley Museum.
There are also a few XR750s, my personal favorites. One of the XRs is a brand new 1980 that has never been run. Nick got that from a shop up in Vermont for $5256: imagine that! Another one of the XRs is a 1970 cast iron XR750. That was a one-yearonly bike. The original owner used it for “Run What Ya Brung” dirt racing. It had been rigged up with all kinds of crazy stuff; “uglified” as Nick calls it. The bike had sat in an alley in Camden for five years under a tarp. One day the owner came in to the shop looking for some parts, and a deal was struck up to trade out for Nick to get the bike. It has been restored since then. Other bikes up in the “storage area” include Shovelheads all the way back to the beginning years. There are some beautiful Excelsior bikes, pea shooters, choppers, some trikes … it just makes my head spin looking at them all. There are all kinds of motors on display as well: Knucks, Pans,Shovels and some crazy old rare stuff including an original Harley Factory four cam race motor. Nick stumbled across it and traded for some Indian parts.
So after spending the morning with Nick and Veronica, we learned a lot of the history and heard some great stories about the shop and the bikes. If all goes right we will have a gypsy run leaving Nick’s for the 2014 Big Mountain Run so make sure you come so you to can check out Nick’s Custom Cycle. Stay tuned!