Lowbrow Spotlight: Kelly Messia's 1958 Harley-Davidson Slabside Shovelhead


Owner: Kelly Messia


Fabrication: Tanks, Exhaust, Frame, Controls, Sissy

Build Time: 2 YEARS

Engine: Year/Type/Size: 1958 HARLEY PAN/SHOVEL 102ci stroker, Dual plug w/ Morris Magneto & MFS split wires. Carburetor: S&S SUPER G. Exhaust: Was built using exhaust bends I cut from some stock Harley Sportster exhaust pipes I got off na XL with cocktail shaker tips. I then had my good friend Evan Scott at Iron Cobra Fab weld all my pieces together. Air Cleaner: Boyle Custom Moto - I’ve been friends with Kim since our days working for DC Shoe Co 16+ years ago. He did a cool run of 12 covers that were engraved by Denny's engraving.

Frame: Year/Type: HD Swing Frame Rake/Stretch: 4” up in the front down tubes. Windowed and gusseted neck

Front End: Type / Brand: 5” over Harley Davidson 33.4 narrow glide with K-Model drum brake

Wheels: Front Size:  21” wheel with Buchanans stainless spokes and Avon SpeedMaster tire Rear Size:  18” Harley JD style hoop with Buchanans stainless spokes and Coker “Diamond” tread tire w/ Chrome HD Juice drum

Finish/Paint: Paint by: I did it myself. Rose coral pearl (from a 1987 Toyota Corolla) and have to give a special thank you to my good friend Joseph Jurado for introducing me to Spray Max2K Brilliant clear. (2 part epoxy clear coat) GAME CHANGER! Plating/Polishing: Clemente New Year Metal finishing in Santa Ana.

Accessories: Front Fender: n/a Rear Fender: Wassell Ribbed Duck Bill Gas Tank: H-D 5Gal Split Tanks That I cut shaped and narrowed. Then once again my good friend Evan at at Iron Cobra Fabrications did an incredible job making the interior panels and mounts. Handlebars:  8” Mini Apes Handlebars that I cut to run in a HD 2 piece style riser. Grips: Lowbrow Customs Beck Grips (perfect color match!) Mirrors: small 3” round I picked up at Long Beach Hotrod Swap Hand Controls: Early HD. Foot Controls:  I had an idea to use early Shovelhead swivel kickers for my mids. Thanks to Evan it worked! Headlight: S&M Lamp Co. Taillight: Cats Eye “Flower Lens”. Turn Signals: n/a License Mount: Custom one I made. Seat: River Seat Co Seat, Vintage P-pad

Ryan Loughridge: A while back at the So-Cal Cycle Swap I scored a peanut tank with the most bitchin’ Miami Vice looking paint job you can imagine. It was a subtle pink pearl with bright pink and teal accents. As I walked around the rest of the swap clutching my latest score an older gentlemen yelled from his booth “Hey, you know you’ve got a pink tank there right?” I looked down at my flamboyant purchase and then retorted “It takes a real man to rock a pink tank on his bike.” The gentlemen gave my words some thought and replied, “I guess that’s true.” So if it takes a real man to rock a pink gas tank, what does that say about Kelly Messia, a man with a whole pink bike… or is it technically salmon colored?

I first laid eyes on Kelly Messia’s beautiful chop the “Smoked Salmon” at the David Mann Chopper fest in January of 2018. I had taken a couple of photos when Kelly, who I already knew, came up and asked “How do you like my bike?” I had no idea that the bike was his. The last time I’d seen it, it was bare metal. The pearly pink complexion made all the difference.  With plenty of period correct pieces and a few modern upgrades resting in a nice and narrow profile, it’s the perfect California lane splitting machine.

The “Smoked Salmon” is easy on the eyes. Every part on the bike serves a purpose or adds just enough character to make it unique. It doesn’t need a crazy long front end or a sissy bar that reaches for the heavens, the beauty is in the bike’s simplicity. A quintessential chopper that still manages to stand out from the crowd.

Kelly Messia: I decided to start building this bike when I was going through a big transitional period in my life. I had just gone through a divorce and not too long afterward I found myself being laid off from work due to a failing economy. Fortunately I was able to find work rather quickly but I knew an idle mind can be one’s worst enemy when going through tough times. I had a rigid EVO sportster chopper at the time but was always in love with anything slab-side so I figured what better way to keep myself occupied than with something constructive like trying to assemble a vintage chopper. It ended up being one of the best most satisfying decisions!

I think one of the best things about motorcycles are the countless hours spent in the garage with your friends drinking beers and talking shit while going over ideas. Moving a part 1/4” and then sitting there staring at it for hours! Waking up at 5:30 in the morning to go hunt for parts at the SoCal swap meet and everyone knows what everyone else is looking for.

I can say I have met some of the most genuine and stand up individuals through the process of working on this bike. I want to give some special thank you’s to a few quality humans that helped me with this thing when I didn’t have any idea what the fuck I was doing! First off, thanks to Evan at Iron Cobras for his help in taking all my duct taped and wired brackets and tanks and making sure they stayed where they were supposed to! His welding and metal smithing is second to none!


Also, a big thanks to my man Vince @MotorManVince for his help going through the motor which I was told was freshly rebuilt when buying it, only to find out that couldn’t have been further from the truth and would require a full rebuild. Thanks to Jerry Novak at Novak Cycles for his years of HD knowledge and willingness to help anytime I had a question or was stumped. Last but certainly not least want to thank all the Dead Squirrel Boys! Tony and Chops over at @landspeedmotorcycleshop for always having my back and just being good friends. Last and most importantly my family Meenzwell, Elron and MazzaBalls this shit wouldn’t be half as fun if it didn’t involve putting down miles and making memories with you guys!


Words by: Ryan Loughridge & Kelly Messia Photos by: Ryan Loughridge

4 thoughts on “Lowbrow Spotlight: Kelly Messia's 1958 Harley-Davidson Slabside Shovelhead”

  • Hi! Nice clean bike, but that toolbag in front of de cylinders ... For cooling not the best solution I think

  • I have a question . I wanted a hand clutch for my wife when she stops so she can put both feet down. I added a dual cable plate where my foot shift was. Now my forward controls have both options of hand or foot clutch. Is this dangerous? She has foot clutch to use when in motion. But when she stops she can downshift till she at crawl using foot clutch, then use original hand clutch while she wait to get started again.... Using both feet for stability...
    Plate let's shifter pull forward and open clutch, hand couch controls pulls foot control back from bottom pulling clutch cable toward on top of foot shift, opening clutch.
    There are 2 cables attached to foot controls for clutch. Top cable is directly from clutch, push control down, opens clutch. 2nd cable is attached to bottom of foot clutch lever. When hand control is squeezed it pulls bottom of foot shift back... Pulling top cable forward, opening clutch... Shift is with nice black 8 Ball style. 1st forward... 2nd-5th back... I have LEDs to show her what gear she is in. There are 5 red and 1green for neutral (green is in speedo display. The gear lights are on plate attached to front of Benzine tank. 1st is one led... 2nd adds a 2nd led and so on till all 5 are lit. Important to know when in neutral only led lit is green on speedo display... Red LED's are off!

    David - Chiang Mai, Thailand

  • A really simple, uncomplicated, beautiful motorcycle. A study in the traditional enigmatic "skinny tire" chopper. Uncomplicated by 300 pounds of billet, chrome, fender skirts, goat or bull horns, curb feelers, whip antennas and un-necessary garbage. The choice of a Pan/Shovel is an excellent choice only to possibly be bested by a Knuckle, but that is imposing my personal opinion here. The color goes well with the overall feeling of the bike. It is not the old worn candy apple red, or too used black, nor is some over the top flamboyant monstrosity, it is tasteful and understated. Indian Larry stated it best when spoke of the " mechanicalness " of a motorcycle. This simple work of art typifies its mechanicalness. Larry would be proud. The use of selected parts from by gone days in the construction of this beauty is a breath of fresh air in this dull, electronic, mass produced, repetitive world in which we live. This scooter harkens back to days of the long gone past when custom motorcycles did not look like some cookie cutter assembly line factory produced everyone the same designer accessory motorcycle that costs $100,000. I am pleased that people still truly understand the definition of a traditional chopper. Thank you for sharing this beauty with us. Ride safe, live long, and be well.

  • Thanks soo much Nelson! Really appreciate the kind words!!

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