Chrome HeartBy: Jason Black
Crafting the Kingdom
IT STARTS AS A SOLID SHEET OF STEEL. Then, more than 50 templates get cut by hand, each precision hammered and rolled on the English wheel until it’s perfectly smooth. Pieces are then fused together using intense heat and pressure… and the shape of a gas tank begins to emerge. This is the “roaring heart” of the Stiletto-a high-end custom motorcycle built exclusively by Dan Kokubun and Tracey Kehler at Kingdom Customs in Waipahu.
“It’s been a long process to get this point,” opines Kokubun, who was a mechanical engineer before making the leap to custom motorcycle designer, builder and now shop owner. “Two years ago, I built my first prototype, pouring in hundreds of design and fabrication hours. I recruited Tracey… And now we’re ready to roll out our first production model based on my original concept.”
The timing couldn’t be better: Custom bikes have gotten no shortage of exposure over recent years, thanks to Hollywood’s obsession with Jessie James’ West Coast Choppers and Orange County Customs.
Always had hankerings for your own bike, but not sure how to initiate the creative process? Kingdom’s founders make it easy.
“First and foremost, we sit down with the customer and get to know them. That way, we can design a bike that best suits their needs and their lifestyle,” explains Kehler, who grew up riding sport bikes. “Are they looking for a certain design, a high-performance bike or both? Whether they’re a novice rider or an expert enthusiast, we want to deliver their dream of a custom bike and hopefully make them a customer for life.”
From conception to completion, a Kingdom custom bike will generally take about three months; the base model costs $60,000. (By comparison, a top-of-the-line Harley Davidson costs around $50,000.) Essentially, the more custom you go, the greater the costs associated with your bike. Yet here, there’s no shortage of attention paid specifically to your bike, which truly shows in the craftsmanship of each one. It’s a true work of chromed art.
Although fairly new on the scene, attention hasn’t eluded the Kingdom crew. Hawaii Five-0‘s production department tapped them to coordinate sport bikes for a recent shoot. Fans of the show, they’re hoping that this budding relationship may lead to further collaboration. They’ve also had inquiries from the show’s stars Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan, as well as local pro surfer Sonny Garcia about crafting their own bikes.
Beyond courting the jet set and getting their business off the ground, Kehler and Kokubun are not above giving back. This January, they donated one of their bikes to the Sony Open in Hawaii for a silent auction, the proceeds from which will benefit the Friends of Hawaii Charities.
“Generally speaking, people don’t associate custom bikes with pro golf. But we believe that it’s important to give back to the local community right here in Hawai’i. So, when the organizers approached us, we thought, ‘wouldn’t it be cool if we donated a bike?’ So we did. And, hopefully, whomever buys it will feel good about purchasing a well-made custom bike.”