For almost two decades Tom Keefer has been servicing and building motorcycles at Franklin Church Choppers in northern York County. For the past 15 years Keefer had to balance working at his growing business with his schedule as a long time Pennsylvania State Police Trooper. He says, "So I`d be in the shop in the morning for six hours before a three to eleven. Go in for three to eleven, double back into a seven to three, and be back in the shop by 4 o'clock the next afternoon and worked until about ten or eleven."
Keefer recently retired from the PSP. He has now turned his attention full-time to his motorcycle service business and his passion for building older Harley-Davidson motorcycles. "Old, primitive motorcycles from the like the 60, 40`s and 50`s. I just fell in love with them. A lot of people call them a 'bobber'." Keefer's shop walls are adorned with magazine articles showcasing the many bikes he`s built over the years. "And now I`m still building the same type of bikes but I've actually even transferred even further back in time."
And these days he`s not just building vintage bikes-- but racing them too in old school races that replicate events of yesteryear. "It's basically racing any motorcycle like board track era motorcycles from early days of Harley-Davidson and Indian's rivalry."
All motorcycles in these types of races must be push started, have no gears and no brakes. Keefer says, "March Daytona this is the one I raced and got afraid-- and started getting a little comfortable-- and got afraid again. And then a little more comfortable. It's one of those things!" In fact, Keefer says his first time on the track on the 1916 Harley in Florida was eye-opening. "So I went around the first corner my eyes got about this big and it just scared the death out of me!"
Keefer says he loves the thrill and is the first to admit he`s not in it to win a race. He calls himself a 'field filler'. "We start the race. We all look good. We all go around. I can stay with the pack but I`;m not going to win the race and I`m okay with that."
Keefer`s newest creation is a 1947 Harley-Davidson. "It was built from pretty much original parts." A vintage motorcycle that just won a top award at this year's Gettysburg Bike Week. The bobber's next destination is an old school race at a dirt track Sturgis South Dakota. "It`s a smaller track. It's got a high bank, but its dirt and its rough!" And while he knows he'll likely not win the race, he's on the track with others who share a deep passion about breathing new life into old motorcycles. "Anything that is vintage is gold again. They are coming back. So it's kind of nice."
Twelve bikes were supposed to race in Sturgis, but in the end because of mechanical issues, only three made it to the track. Keefer, the self-admitted 'field filler' finished third. To see more pictures check out the Franklin Church Choppers Facebook page or the Franklin Church Choppers website.