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Interview: Shasta Smith – The Vintage Monkey

Posted on October 26, 2012 by Scott in Café Racer, Other. 47 comments

Let’s be honest, there’s not a lot of females working in the motorcycle industry. So when I recently stumbled across a site called The Vintage Monkey, I was pleasantly surprised to find it was run by a fiery red head from Sacramento called Shasta Smith. She doesn’t claim to be the female version of Shinya Kimura, but she is passionate about building vintage motorcycles, so we asked her a couple of questions…

Can you tell us a little about yourself and The Vintage Monkey?

I (Shasta Smith) have personally been a motorcycle enthusiast since I was a teenager and have always had a fondness for vintage motorcycles. I have a 13 year background in design for construction (architectural design) and on really good days I get to incorporate motor-sports into the interior of buildings. I operate The Vintage Monkey full time. The Vintage Monkey acquires vintage motorcycles and respectfully modifies them based on designs by Shasta Smith. In support of the brand, The Vintage Monkey designs and manufactures apparel and accessories. 

Do you do all the work on the bikes yourself?

I have a painter and do all the sketch outs for him to paint according to design path of the bike. I do welding and mechanics, however my projects don’t require extreme fabrications. I’m not a know it all but I do strive to learn all I can. To answer the overall question, I do the majority of the work including bike selections, buying, hauling, and selling. Since not everyone rides, nor can I supply motorcycles for all that inquire, I wanted to make sure The Vintage Monkey provides a quality product that can be available to everyone worldwide, this is why I also run and am heavily involved in the clothing and accessory line of The Vintage Monkey. It’s a lot of work, but I love every minute of it.

On your website it says many of the bikes are in your personal collection. How many bikes do you have?

I currently have 5 motorcycles in my collection; however I do sell off one now and then and acquire new projects. 

It’s great to see a female building bikes. It’s obviously a very male orientated industry. Have you had any resistance from anyone?

It is a male orientated industry and I’m okay with that, it does not bother me and I’m not trying to change anything, I’m just a motorcycle lover and out to have a good time with the boys and enjoy the love of vintage motorcycles. 98% of people are very supportive and it’s the “fuel” that keeps me moving… the other 2% just woke up on the wrong side of the bed. When I do motorcycle shows I spend most of my time convincing people they are my project bikes.  

Looks like you love your vintage Honda’s. Do you work on any other bikes?

I will say I love ALL bikes and see design/restoration potential in them all – however, I really love European and Japanese bikes the most. I have both types in my collection.

Do you have a favorite motorcycle that you’ve built?

I love my little 1972 CB175, it’s small, sleek, and steals all the attention at motorcycle shows. I’m working on a Triumph right now that I’m pretty excited about – I hope to finish up with it in a couple months.

Do you sketch before you build the bikes? or just go with the flow?

Both… I do a little sketching to start, but I’m pretty impatient so the pencil goes down fast and then I go with the flow (what is in my brain).  Most of my sketching is when unique details need to be achieved such as:  attachments, and aftermarket applications.

If money was no object, what would be your ultimate motorcycle?

I want to get my hands on an authentic, vintage, race winning bike, all I want to do is knock a little dust off of it and park it in my living room.

What do you love most about your job?

I love that people find such an interest in what I do that I get people “talking” about motorcycles; especially people who were never interested in motorcycles. When they see it as “art” everyone starts talking. I also love that I get to communicate with people all over the world about a common interest via email, video, web-site, and The Vintage Monkey Facebook blog

You recently combined your architectural design skills with your love of bikes. Tell us about the ‘Motorcycle Vanity’.

I have worked in design for construction for many years and I was asked by a cable channel to do a custom design for the show. I wanted to do something that would really get people talking. I took an abandon vintage motorcycle with no paper work, a seized engine, rusting away in a field, then sketched it out, and turned it into a vanity in a large bathroom. It is now a stunning art piece that is preserved into a unique design. This episode will air the month of November on the DIY channel episode of “Bath Crashers”. You can view addition information on the “about” page of The Vintage Monkey. 

What’s next for The Vintage Monkey?

The Vintage Monkey is going places I never thought it would go – so quickly. It is gaining momentum with the support of our international motorcycle family and motor-sports enthusiasts. I don’t have all the answers for this question (yet); however keep your TV eyes open… there are some interesting developments happening. When it’s all said and done, I always encourage a positive attitude in motorcycle community, because if you are not having fun, it’s not worth it. 

  • Stroker Deux


  • $52244477


  • fonaktamas

    hats off, I am absolutely stunned… that red CB550 is just perfect. and I am fond of red hair as well.

  • DougDevine

    I wish more women would get involved in building vintage bikes, the designs are really simple and clean compared to most guy builders. The know how to accessorize without overdoing it. Great jog!

  • So now supermodels are building bikes? I quit. I think everybody and apparently their sister can build bikes better than I do.

    • You’re just not wearing the right clothes, Tony ;^) And it looks like some people can’t take a joke – but it made me laugh.


    I like some of the work she has done here with the hondas however I think people throw the term “art” around very loosely these days.

    • Paulo G

      Yes, people mistake artist for artisan!

  • Little Hondas are a blast to work on and have nice lines to begin with. Shasta’s done some good work here – best of luck.

  • Series 2A

    Come on…………………….really????

  • jlgace

    Why does an interview with a woman have to be something exploitative? If this was a man, would you have felt compelled to mention he was a ‘fiery red head’? Would any of the photos have been remotely provocative? This just goes to show everyone that you have a firm understanding of your target audience and their interests. Keep up the good work. Oh, and black and white photo on the right… very hot. Joking aside, any woman that ventures into a male-dominated industry is admirable and gutsy and I’m glad to hear she’s on her way to success. Some nice work being done there.

    • Check out her website and facebook. She uses her sex appeal to her advantage. Just saying.

      • Like every woman Tony, like every woman…

        • …But it’s fine with me, and I prefer talking about bikes with a beautiful gearhead, rather than being with a barbie, a blond-mind barbie, if you catch what I mean…

      • jlgace

        Wow. And so she should. She’s every male motorcycle enthusiast’s wet dream and I honestly would have been disappointed with less. Or more for that matter. Those sites seem to strike a good balance between content and sex appeal in my opinion. She’s intriguing but not cheap, which I think is excellent promotion as that same notion transfers over to her product. I may even pick up a t-shirt… just saying.

      • She’s a beautiful woman. So what if she knows it. Like any natural talent, it would be a shame to waste it and not use what you got.

  • revdub

    These bikes are awesome. A keen eye for design is very apparent. I have a few female friends that are way better at bikes than I am, and I think that’s great. Anytime someone is working to create and promote vintage bikes, this is a massively positive thing. And, it seems like the attitude is right as well. Nothing to prove, just quality bikes being built.

  • name withheld

    How lame–cheesecake and over-professionalized, repetitive branding. Sad.

    • revdub

      What’s inherently wrong with branding, might I ask? Should businesses hide under a rock and hope that no one finds them? Should builders change styles with every bike, as to avoid creating a “brand”? Seems like branding has worked pretty damn well for both Deus and the Wrenchmonkees, and both still manage to build awesome bikes, in my opinion. Also, “name withheld”? At least own up to your words. That’s sad.

      • I’m with you revdub – Nothing wrong with branding. Mule does it, Shinya does it, DP Customs does it. It gives a sense of continuity in design. As for Shasta, she’s doing what she loves and makes a living at it – more power to her. Being nice looking isn’t a bad thing either.

      • Seems that any hater in this case is just jealous that she’s getting it done and they are not.

    • Series 2A

      +1…….thank you

  • Flying Pig

    I’ve met Shasta. A real deal biker who has been able to make money off their love. I love bikes, but am not skilled to make money off them, luckily I also love BBQ.

  • LM Fields

    Shasta, you’re awesome girl. I’ve always respected you and your creative genius. Have fun and shine like you always do. Your friend, Linda

  • ecosse

    i like these! there’s a no b.s. rejection to trendieness in what i see in these machines. more clean function of a club racer and less “artistic statement.” that the owner of the company is extremely fetching doesn’t matter if the product she builds is crap.

    btw: to all the cynics here i would point out that branding IS an inherant part of business. all businesses do it (at least successful ones) and if this attractive woman builds bikes people like i say all the more power to her. if her bikes suck the market will react accordingly.

  • That room looks amazingly like CG. Almost makes the shots look computer renderings…

  • Oldnbroken

    Some interesting comments on this one. Seems the word art can be as provocative as a moody black and white photo. As utilitarian art is one of my favorite things in life it was cool to see a interview with a similarly minded craftsman.


  • notsexist

    junk bikes. attention due to gender not to talent.

    • Sounds like you have it wrong. First of all, she says she doesn’t know it all, but she is working up these bikes the way she sees fit. And as for t-shirts and branding, With such low production numbers, how else is she supposed to make a living?

    • Mike Cambareri

      I’ll parrot the usual reply to critics like you. Show us your builds, and give some actual, well-considered criticism, and then we’ll talk. While I agree that there are probably plenty of male builders out there who make comparable or perhaps better bikes, she’s challenging an industry trend. That’s kind of a big deal from a societal standpoint alone, and this blog at its core serves as a bit of a barometer for the industry, so it’s a rather pertinent topic.

  • zavio

    I love this website… even the sexy Friday girl posts. I’m a branding creative director and disagree with some of the comments. At first glance this article was heading the right direction, soon to realize this just another person using sex appeal to sell her product. Yes, yes some people call it branding. If that would be he case every designer would wear their creations, lead the role in their ad campaign, and be the target group in their research; Sadly that would quickly discredit them:(

    I do applaud Shasta breaking into male dominated business. I just wish it was less”posing” and more motorcycle building insight.

    Btw, I do build bikes, and I do have a gorgeous girlfriend that is a designer and also builds bikes.

    My two cents worth..

    • Just for the record, this isn’t the site that does the sexy Friday girl posts.

      If you check out Shasta’s website you will notice we have chosen the least sexy shots because we wanted the article to be more about the looks of the bikes, not the builder.

      • I don’t think she has a “least sexy shot.”

      • zavio

        My apologies for the mistake, it’s “the return of the C.. racers” website that features the friday girl.

        And yes Scott I agree, my mistake was to check her website afterwards;)


  • Luke

    “The Vintage Monkey acquires vintage motorcycles and respectfully modifies them based on designs by Shasta Smith.” Is someone referring to themselves in the third person, or is there a third person that’s not given credit?

  • arnold

    You’ve got to brand while the iron is hot, cowboys.

  • Eric Henderson

    She builds tasteful cafes. Very nice!

  • ShapeShifter

    Is that a bowl of oatmeal at the top of the canvas tarp?

  • Connor

    Serious bike very well finished off ! asome job , the art is in the line of the bike and the way it sits the way its perceived when it stops some where or flying past full tilt its nat allways in the crazy colours or far out parts. asome !

  • GS-King

    Sorry, but as long as she poses like a model, she will be regarded as a model and not a motorcycle builder. I wish she would come trough as the designer and welder and not the -blurry eyes on her back-girl. What does she expect?

  • Wha? Huh? Dah? Hot girl. Make her own bikes? They’re cool. Hot girl. Drool. Wipe. Beer. Wha? Huh?

  • Muttmutt

    Glad to see your work. Women elevate about every human endeavour but killing. Respects, see you on the road, maybe….

  • Frank Spero

    be my friend on FB

  • I love what you do and is something very sexy about it ! thanks .

  • steve lloyd

    Shasta– Super nice . I have always loved cafe racers and number plates on a street bike. I just finished a small Suzuki GS that got a lot of attention at an almost all Harley run{Roar on the Shore Erie, Pa} 100,000 + people showed and 30,000 bikes . Small Japanese bikes are also my favorite to redo to cafe bikes.

  • gary

    I really like your bikes. Please read John ch. 3 it can change this life and your eternity, if you truly believe it. Gary an old retired Detroit Police motorcycle cop 30 years Lord BLESS Ya Gary