Over 180 custom motorcycles filled the Daytona Lagoon for the 40th Anniversary Rat’s Hole Custom Bike Show.
The spirit of “Big Daddy Rat” was smiling down on the Daytona Lagoon Saturday, March 18, as a monster turnout of incredible custom motorcycles showed up in support of the Rat’s Hole Custom Bike Show’s 40th Anniversary held during Daytona Bike Week 2012. The Rat’s Hole has come a long ways from its modest beginnings, its longevity due largely in part because it is truly a family affair which is heading into its third generation of support.
The Rat’s Hole was kick started long ago by a passionate man of vision who many thought was crazy. Who wouldn’t have if you saw ol’ Ted Smith running up and down Main Street in the “Big Daddy Rat” suit beckoning people to come into his t-shirt store? But Smith not only started the institution that has become the preeminent custom bike show of Bike Week, his influence extends to Bike Week as a whole. It was Smith who fought against the city of Daytona to keep the curbs on Main Street two inches high so motorcyclists could park along the road. The city wanted to make them a more standard six inches, but Smith fought tooth-and-nail to prevent that, using his own time and money. If you’ve ever parked your bike on Main Street, you’ve got Ted Smith to thank for that.
Though many thought the Rat’s Hole would never be the same after Big Daddy Rat’s death during Bike Week 10 years ago, the show is going stronger than ever thanks to the diligence of Ted and Pam Smith. Big Daddy Rat’s son has worked hard to continue the tradition, expanding the show’s presence nationally and internationally, and now his son Teddy Jr. is learning the business. They are supported by a faithful crew of judges and long-time friends like emcee Radical Randy, whose been the voice of the Rat’s Hole for the last 20 years. One of the highlights of the 40th celebration was when Ted’s daughter came out to present her dad with a framed reminder of the past, a piece originally done by his father, a move which brought a big lump in Ted’s throat. Until emcee Radical Randy got on the mic to remind everybody that there were 22 classes of trophies to push through and it was time to get down to the nitty-gritty.
This year’s show featured a Café Racer Showdown. The café racer craze has seen a surge in popularity as the motorcycles of choice for the Mods and Rockers are once again hip and cool. Shannon Hulcher used a 1974 Honda CB450 as his palette, adding a slew of handmade parts as he pieced the project together in three months working
Sic Chops ‘Rat Cafe’ is made primarily from recycled parts and won the Cafe Racer Showdown at this year’s show. The Sic Chops crew proudly steps up to accept the award.
out of his garage. Stan Nitkowski made an “All-American” Harley-Davidson café racer because “not many people were building café racer from American bikes!”
But it was Scott Laitenen and Ben Beck of Sic Chops out of Lake Havasu, Arizona, who received the most votes from the crowd to win the Café Racer Showdown. Laitenen said the “Rat Café” was built mostly from recycled parts. Powered by an engine salvaged from a Virago 250, the small Suzuki powerplant gets a big boost from a turbo system. Sic Chops cut up and contoured an old CB gas tank to fit the frame. The original gas tank of the Virago was pounded into the tail section while the front end features an inverted dirt bike fork. Mounted on the fork is a custom number plate with the handlebars integrated directly into it. The Sic Chops crew stretched the stock swingarm and swapped out tires, running a 23-incher on the rear and a 21-inch tall hoop on the front. Seeing as how it was the Rat’s Hole’s 40th, they painted it in tribute of the anniversary using primarily black, yellow and red. Laitenen called the “Recycled Rat” the “sweetest bike I’ve ever built, the sweetest bike I’ve ever ridden” and after building the café racer added it “changed his direction in custom builds.” He also wanted everyone to know how honored he was to have won the showdown.
And while Sic Chops won the people over in the Café Racer Showdown, it was Steve Galvin and Wikked Steel who won over the judges and was crowned the overall champion. Wikked Steel’s “Four Wheeler” has a frame composed of oversized tubing that houses the gas and the frame and fork are one piece. The unconventional fork appears to have an internal spring mated to a handmade front swingarm. A sprotor brake and internal wiring on the bars keep the front end ultra clean. But it’s the back side that is even more intriguing, with dual chain drives propelling three wheels. The arrangement has four sprockets, two per side, and four idler sprockets, again two per side. The two outer wheels are offset and in concept should act like one giant wheel when rolling. At its core is a 152 cubic-inch Ilmor Engineering V-Twin mated to a Baker 6 Speed Transmission with an automatic shift kit. The engine also serves as a stressed member of the frame. Galvin’s bike is full of creativity and originality and is the first one front-three back wheeled custom motorcycle we’ve encountered. Its combination of unique traits scored high with the seasoned Rat’s Hole judges who honored Wikked Steel with the coveted “Best of Show” laurels.
The 40th Anniversary Rat’s Hole Custom Bike Show also featured another first when we encountered the first true 3-D paint job on a motorcycle. We were skeptical when Rick Merriam handed us 3-D glasses to check out his bike, but after our eyes adjusted, the paint was incredible. Blue ghost flames swirled around a red demon on the rear fender while
another winged gargoyle sat atop the ramparts of a castle under the blue-misted moon. The effects are killer, the true illusion of depth captured on a one-dimensional surface.
The build is a five year love affair. It took Rick Merriam six months and a day alone to figure out how to achieve the 3-D effect after seeing it in an abstract painting. When Merriam asked the artist how he pulled it off, the artist said he’d give the secret to Merriam only if he bought the painting. For $30,000. Merriam declined the offer but the act of trying to figure out how to artist achieved the effect became an obsession. Merriam used the knowledge he gained from working at DuPont for six years to his advantage, and after a day over six months, he finally figured it out. When asked, he wouldn’t share his secrets, of course, but did say the motorcycle has 24 layers of clear coating. And he’d share the secret with us if we bought his bike for $100,000. He was joking, of course.
Merriam’s Pro Street style custom has an 8-ballmfg.com frame and a 100 cubic-inch Ultima engine. Two-inch TV screens are mounted on the bars replacing the mirrors as two lipstick cameras aim backward. Two mountain bike shocks mounted under the seat keep it from being a full rigid. John Hoover did the airbrushing but Merriam, who runs Custom Paint & Collision Center, was ultimately responsible for the paint.
Speaking of paint, the bagger known as “INK” has a paint and graphics that helped set it apart from its competition. Scott Maeyert of Chanhassen, Minnesota, deservedly won the “Extreme Full Dresser” class with this one. We had only seen his custom 2011 Road Glide in pictures after reporting on it in the Ultimate Builder Custom Bike Show Minneapolis Results 2012 article, but photos don’t do this bike justice. Maeyert’s bagger is skinned with a full body tattoo, from the tank which has womanly curves, back piece and neck scroll included, while its fork resembles full sleeves with tribal and dragon themes running down each arm. The randy girl painted on the left rear saddlebag has tats on her body that you’ll find spread out elsewhere on the bike. Its seat was once a leather jacket. You won’t find any turn signals because they’ve been hidden in the bodywork. Likewise with the license plate which rolls out from underneath the bike at the push of a remote control button.
(L) Wikked Steel built the bike we’d chose in case of the ‘Zombie Apocalypse!’ Dig the big knobby Kenda tires. (M) Copper Mike Cole brought a strong contender in the form of his ‘Steampunk’ bike. (R) This rat bike was more artistically arranged than most rats.
But there’s more to this bold bagger than extraordinary paint. Its owner also happens to drag race a Harley-Davidson Destroyer, and his penchant for speed bleeds over to his bagger. “INK” runs a heavily modified Screamin’ Eagle 120 cubic-inch engine. Big bore cylinders and a 4 5/8” SE Pro Stroker fly wheel team with SE Hurricane Heads, an SE cam plate, and SE high flow oil pump to help churn out a claimed 148 hp at the rear wheel. Adding a D&D Boarzilla 2-1 exhaust and an SE high flow oval intake manifold didn’t hurt the power gains, either. And then there’s the Nitrous Express nitro system. Add a squirt of nitrous and you’re at a claimed 175 horses. On a bagger. With power to match its striking good looks, not to mention a boomin’ stereo system, “INK” blends the best of all worlds.
Ted Smith seemed surprised by the huge turnout for this year’s show. We’re not. The Smiths are good people who have gained a lot of friends and fans over the years, so giving back a bit to a family who has spread a lot of love to the biker community over the years is only fitting. After the fantastic turnout for the 40th anniversary show, we can’t wait to see what the Rat’s Hole’s 50th celebration will hold.