The nondescript entrance to the building gives few clues about what’s going on behind its doors. Step inside though and you’re greeted by the gnarly knobby-shod build known as the Rustle Hustle, a 113 cubic-inch beast of an S&S providing its pulse. Behind the bike hangs the corrugated steel door from the old Nash Sickle Garage that was on Hollywood’s Melrose Avenue. A pinstriped and painted skateboard deck is mounted on the wall next to it, twin pistons tacked to the bike show trophy with the words “Live Free & Live Fast” scripted below them.
Step further in and the Nash Motorcycle shop is a literal museum of American industry. In the leather workshop sits a clicker press from the late 1800s that gets used almost daily. An old mill from 1934 still serves Taber Nash dutifully, Taber noting the Pre-World War II machine had seen a lot of block work because it had a different head when he got it. There’s a lathe from 1958 that was owned by the Air Force at one point with a weathered Bridgeport Drill Press nearby, each machine imbued with nostalgia and history.
“I always think about the work that’s been done on those machines,” says Nash.
Nash honors the history of American craftsmanship with the bikes he builds, from bending bars and pipes in-house to rebuilding engines. The no-nonsense style of a Nash-built scoot hails from what soldiers were doing to their bikes after returning from the Second World War, stripping things down to the bare essentials and allowing natural patinas to tell their stories of wear and use. Nash loves taking old parts, tanks and random stuff he has laying around the shop and incorporating it in a build. Sometimes he’ll store stuff in crates for years before he finds the perfect use for it on a build he’s working on. The Ironhead Sportster called “Trucky” he displayed in Sturgis recently at Michael Lichter’s “Skin & Bones: Motorcycles as Art” exhibit is a prime example.
“I took parts from an old chiropractic/tattoo bench that I had kicking around the shop for years. It was from the early 1900s and had so much character that I couldn’t stand looking at it anymore. I stripped it down and had to use some of the parts to build a bike with. One of the best parts on this bench was the foot release levers. I was able to use these cast parts as the foot pegs and for a shifter as well as the brake pedal. The paint job was inspired by an old Peterbilt I saw years ago,” stated Nash.
Currently there’s three bikes on the lift in the shop, all hardtails with handbuilt tanks. One is a Sportster 1200 that he’s “kept the frame real high to give it clearance” and tires with aggressive tread so it can “do some trail riding.” Tucked into a corner is a raked-out rigid with a Shovelhead engine and a springer front end “that’s been a long-going process.”
Taber’s appreciation for throwback styling comes as little surprise considering the forces that shaped him into a custom bike builder.
“When I was a kid I’d always see guys riding and I really loved that, to see the old timers bombing down the road on their Knuckleheads and stuff. When I was 14, 15 years old I was working with my dad a lot doing landscaping in the Pacific Northwest, and I started wrenching on cars. I had a really good auto shop teacher and I figured out I could start making money working on cars and stuff so I started taking on jobs in my parents little beat up garage behind their house. I basically set up shop and started cranking out work and it’s like dude, I’m starting to stack up some money now.
“Then one day it just kind of hit me because I was buying old cars and doing restorations that I could buy myself a bike. I rode dirt bikes a little bit as a kid and stuff but I’m like, I could own a motorcycle right now and be riding that thing to school. I think I was a sophomore in school at the time.
“So at first I figured I’ll just get me a little Honda or something to cruise around on then I’m like, screw that, I’m going to get a Harley, you know? So I found a Harley Sportster that was a good price and I was able to save up and bought it. That was it. Started choppin’ as soon as I got that thing. I think I changed that bike like four different times,” said Taber.
He eventually opened up shop with his brothers Trent and Teddy in Vancouver, Washington. As the business grew, Taber ending up moving to SoCal to open up another shop in addition to running the 10,000 square-foot facility in Washington. Admittedly, running operations 1,000 miles apart is no easy task, so these days Taber operates out of an intimate shop in Cerritos, California, which is much easier to manage.
This doesn’t mean that things have slowed down any at Nash. Contrarily, the shop is busier than ever as they continue to crank out handlebars including the popular Gimp Hangers and El Gringos, exhausts, controls, leather goods like the Nashty Nash Bag and other accessories for some big name accounts.
“Parts stuff is our bread and butter, handlebars and leather and all the rest of the accessories and smaller stuff we sell. Getting in with Drag Specialties, Parts Unlimited, and Western Powersports has been huge for the parts thing. Other than that, it’s the custom bike builds, the day-to-day builds we usually have, two or three bikes that we’re working on that are ground-up builds. We usually have three or four others that are backed up behind that,” said Taber.
And while the cycle of supply and demand might have changed for Nash, their methods haven’t. They still take pride in doing most everything by hand and by using machines that have proven themselves over time. In a time of robotics and mass production, it’s refreshing to see good old fashioned American craftsmanship is alive and well at Nash Motorcycle Company.