Based out of Vancouver, Washington, Nash Motorcycle Company is making a name for itself in the custom builder scene thanks to the hard work and talent of brothers Trent (left), Teddy (center), and Taber (right).
Crossing over the Columbia River on I-5 we dropped in on Vancouver, Washington to visit one of the up-and-coming talents in the custom motorcycle scene: Nash Motorcycle Company. Attending the Easyriders Centerfold Tour when it stopped off in Portland this March, we couldn’t pass up a quick run north to check out the Nash shop. (For our geographically impaired readers Vancouver, Washington is part of the greater Portland metropolitan area. That other Vancouver is way further North in Canada, eh.) Being a Pacific Northwest company ourselves, it’s easy to sometimes overlook the talent located in our own geographic backyard, but we were privileged to swing by for some photos and a chat with NMC’s main man, Taber Nash.
The 27-year-old Taber runs the shop with his two siblings, older brother Trent (32) and little brother Teddy (22). NMC got its official beginning in 2003, but Taber Nash started building bikes with his brothers before then. The Nash brood has been turning wrenches from adolescence and in a sense the origins of NMC stretch back to when Taber’s mechanical interest was fostered by a supportive high school shop teacher.
High school was also the place where Taber started riding motorcycles, having picked up a 1986 Harley-Davidson Sportster. His educational shop training reinforced an already existent mechanical interest, so a stint at MMI (Motorcycle Mechanics Institute) seemed like a natural progression after high school. Attending the Florida campus of MMI with his brother Trent, the Nash bros were less than impressed, with Taber commenting on his six month experience that “it just wasn’t the school for us.”
Instead of more formal training the brothers opted instead to go off on their own, converging on their parent’s place of residence, Vancouver, and deciding it would be as good a place as any to start up a motorcycle shop.
“The weather’s a little crappy in the wintertime, but in the summertime you can’t beat it,” said Taber on Vancouver’s benefits. ‘The Couve’ is a hip town to be sure, and NMC’s retro feel blends in perfect – it’s the local custom motorcycle shop.
“We actually started off doing maintenance and repairs but got out of doing all that about a year ago because we got too overwhelmed with the ground-up builds and the parts,” explained Taber on his shop’s progression from repair shop to full-on custom builder.
Creating old-school custom bikes are the best use of Nash’s time in our opinion, because NMC is everything that is right about a custom builder shop. Nash builds choppers and bobbers sporting a classy retro style. One look at a Nash bike and you can tell the builder is getting his inspiration from the designs of motorcycle classics and not the exaggerated pages of a comic book.
Nash Motorcycle Company produces clean, simple bikes with classic styling cues, like this one the Nash boys dubbed Sancho.
“I’ve always appreciated all the old Indians and the early model Harley stuff, and even the old British stuff,” answered Taber when we asked where he got his old-school look. “We try to just mix that old school with newer components that function better than the old stuff, and I guess it’s just kind of the look that turns out.”
Aside from the classic aesthetic feel of the Nash creations, the entire NMC operation oozes a cool hipster/retro vibe. Although Taber says his customers range up and down the age spectrum, NMC is representative of a more youthful wave in the industry – a fact which gives Nash’s old-school style a contemporary feel.
While choppers and bobbers are standard fare at the NMC shop, the Nash boys don’t set any limits on what kind of bike they’ll make. Each custom motorcycle is unique because they’ll use just about anything component-wise. As far as engines go, at Portland they had a show bike on display utilizing a Rev-Tech 110, but they’ve used other aftermarket powerplants like S&S. They’ve also sourced stock engines and even restoration projects, like a ’54 Panhead. About the only thing that stays consistent from bike to bike are the use of NMC original parts, which consist of forward controls, front-end risers, pegs, fuel cap assembly, and Nash’s signature component – the handlebars.
A great example of a NMC creation is AWOL , which Nash describes as a Frankenstein machine. Powered by a 1200cc 1974 Shovelhead Twin with open-chain primary drive, AWOL is chock full of NMC goodies. Nash fabricated the frame and the front-end’s dramatic handlebars and risers, which sport a 38-degree rake angle. The foot controls are Nash originals as well and this ain’t your typical setup either, with the right foot control operating the front brake and a foot clutch with jockey shift taking care of the other rider commands. Another cool NMC touch on AWOL is the three-chambered tank – the main tank being located on the right, with a fuel reserve and separate oil tank sharing the left.
The new EPA emissions regulations, which have hit a lot of custom shops pretty hard, haven’t been too much trouble for Taber and the boys. Since they manufacture less than 24 bikes per year, NMC can sell non-compliant machines as “Custom Motorcycles”, which makes them exempt from the stricter emissions as show bikes.
So far, Nash has been able to churn out about one original ground-up custom a month and Taber says business is good. The next four NMC project bikes already have names waiting to claim them. Who knows, as the business keeps growing, getting your grubby mitts on a Nash original might be more and more difficult if you don’t get in on the action now. Already the parts side of NMC is taking off, making up about 50% of the business and cutting into the custom builds.
While most of the Nash creations utilize aftermarket powerplants, Taber and the boys have used stock engines or restored older designs too.
“This year’s been a little bit slower with the bike building just because we’ve been building so many parts, manufacturing so many of our handlebars, so it’s been harder to build a bike a month,” said Taber on NMC production.
The aftermarket parts are a lucrative aspect of the custom builder scene and give riders an opportunity to add a little flair from their favorite designers, even if their bank accounts can’t justify an original custom build. While there are just 25 ground-up customs in circulation bearing the Nash Motor Co. stamp, many riders have already taken the opportunity to adorn their machines with some of NMC’s stylish aftermarket treats.
We could tell the parts side of things was heating up during our visit to the shop, as there was a whole stack of bent tubing ready to transform into NMC’s popular Gimp Hangers. Teddy and Taber bend and fabricate the handlebars in house and while the Gimp Hangers are popular, there are three other bar designs also available. Some NMC parts, like the risers and footpegs, are sent out to a couple machine shops in Vancouver; the forward control parts are water-jetted and then welded up in-house at NMC HQ. Powdercoating and plating is sourced out to Portland’s Masic Industries.
Out of the slick-looking list of NMC parts available http://www.nashmotorcycle.com/index.php?id=parts , the cigar pegs tickled our fancy, but you might find something else that piques your interest. At the Portland Easyriders show there were plenty of spectators who lingered at the NMC booth, getting their feel on the Gimp Hangers display. Lingering around the Nash booth, we overheard one browser speaking our mind to perfection when he said of NMC, “I like these guys’ look.”
Attending shows, which Nash does about a half-dozen times a year, gives Taber an opportunity to see how his work is received.
“I like getting out and talking to people, and actually see people’s reaction to bikes and see which ones they like better than others. I mean I don’t really build bikes for people, I build what I want to build, so I like them and then hopefully other people like them. But it’s always cool to talk to the people that are out there buying our products and knowing what they think about our stuff because, of course, they’re the ones we’re making our money off of.”
Shows provide yet another opportunity, as NMC isn’t just a Northwest commodity. In four short years Nash’s bikes are already sprinkled all across the nation. In fact, Taber is able to stay in touch with his builds long after they leave his door.
AWOL is a Nash Motor Co.’s creation. The Frankenstein machine sources a 1200cc Shovelhead for power, with an open-chain primary drive delivering power to the rear.
“It’s cool because our bikes are scattered all over the country, so we can call guys wherever and if we’re going to be at a show we’ll have somebody else either pick up the bike going out there, or we’ll pick it up. So we get to see them again and ride them around again. There’s hardly any bikes we’ve done that we’ve never seen again.”
Not that it isn’t difficult for Taber to part with some of his favorite creations. One these was dubbed the TFN bike, which was based off of none other than the ’86 Sportster Taber first started out on.
“It was a bike that I’ve had since High School and I just chopped it real low,” explained Taber. “I wound up selling it because I needed the money and was getting into a house, so I only ended up riding it for a couple of weeks before I sold it. So, that was kind of hard.”
Selling a sentimental favorite is tough but getting paid to do something you love helps ease those temporary woes. You can tell that the Nash shop is a fun place to work and hang out. A couple cozy shop dogs roam the garage, and it looks like the love of two-wheeled fun is getting passed on to an even younger generation, with a special Nash custom build for Taber’s niece loitering in the shop (it even has some cool mini Gimp Hangers to go with its black and pink paint job). The Nash shop also hosts an annual party for customers and employee’s friends and families. The Nash Bash last year had good food, some live punk rock and skateboarding at the corner bike shop.
As for the future at NMC, Taber envisions on keeping things on a forward tack.
“We’re planning on just staying consistent on what we’ve been doing. Trying to build bikes that people like and that stand out, and keep pushing our product line more and more so we’re selling more parts.”
Sounds like a winning formula to us. If you like AWOL, TFN or another NMC creation so much you can’t live without it, give the boys a call, because unlike some of the other big names in the custom-builder scene, Nash originals are for sale. AWOL and TFN have since gone off the market, but NMC still has a couple ‘For Sale’ signs up on their website. Also, the Nash boys have a contest going on to give away a free set of their signature Gimp Hangers, so make sure to check out Nash Motorcycle Company at www.nashmotorcycle.com.
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