Saturday, May 14, 2011

Kevin Starke Manufacturing co.


Turns out the Frame I picked up with my Shovel project is in fact a little piece of local history. I first heard the name, Kevin Starke, at this years Cyclemania. Some guy I was talking to said he had an old Starke Manufacturing frame in his garage and wanted to know if I was interested. I then started hearing the name again when I started looking for an ID on the frame that came with my Shovel. After doing some research and chatting with a few folks from the interweb forums I've started piecing together a bit of Starke's legacy.

In the late '70's Starke Manufacturing operated out of a small shop in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Far as I can tell they mostly built a few different rigid frames for big twins. These frames have a few unique features that make them identifiable.


First the positioning of the squished tube connected to the motor mount.

Second, the axle plate design and finally the necks are stamped with SM0xxxx (Starke Manufacturing co.). All accounts I've found suggest these were excellent frames and quite sought after during the '80's.

By the late 80's SM co. had closed it'd doors and Starke had moved one province over. In the early '90's Kevin Starke started a new venture out of Red Deer Alberta called Tripoli Manufacturing. Tripoli manufactured several frames including rigid and very popular Softails.


Tripoli sold a lot of frames through SUMAX in New York. My first responce from Sumax representatives simply said, "what are you looking for and why?" After removing suspicions that I was after some dirt or money owed on old Kevin Starke I convinced Max from SUMAX to shed a little light on their partnership with Tripoli.

Kevin made frames for us in the early 90's. He made an excellent Softail frame. At the time Harley had long waiting times to get a bike, dealers were building them with his frames. We were lucky to work with him on some one off exotic frames... some even went into production: Rubbermounted Softail, Rubbermounted Sportster Softail, Rubbermounted Rigid and a Shovelhead Softail. When he passed away, so did his business. He was jovial and had a keen mind for engineering.

Max

Kevin Starke died in the late '90's, but from the fragments of his life that exist on the web it sounds like he had a passion for his work and knew how to have a good time. I'm pretty pleased to find out that my Shovel project has got a little more local flavor than most and I'm looking forward to putting a Saskatchewan made frame back on the prairie highways in the future.

12 comments:

  1. this is very cool! thanks for the history on this man... did you pick up that other one that was for sale?

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  2. very cool man, way to dig out the history. pretty neat to find out some local chop history. now get building that bike!

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  3. @ Canada Rob - Still trying to re-locate the guy with the other one. Hebb's got a "Badly Bitched Kevvy Stark Frame. Serial number is Branded (Unregister able) By SGI. Good Rear Section (Hardtail)", but he wants like $400 for it.

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  4. Just found your site....Thanks for the info on your Frame
    I am the guy with the frame for sale with the pics on green background...Agree...Very Cool to know the Canadian history

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  5. Would like to post a picture of one of Kevin's frames in my old shovel Low Rider.

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  6. I have what I am told is a Kevin Starke build. I know its one of his frames but anyone that has the knowledge of Kevin's builds I would very much like to communicate with that person. I wish I knew how to post a picture so all could appreciate the amazing design features of this bike. Way before his time.

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  7. i have a chrome tripoli rigid frame on my merch chopper and it's reg and insured in ab
    as a harley rigid

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  8. i have a chrome tripoli rigid frame on my merch chopper and it's reg and insured in ab
    as a harley rigid

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  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  10. So, I happen to work in an antique bike shop here in Canada, on the east coast, and my boss happens to have what we believe to be a Kevin Starke frame. It appears to have a lot of the characteristics of the frames that have been shown here, however, it appears to have a makers mark stamped in to the neck, just beside the serial number, it looks like a lower case b with an s inside of the circle of said b.

    We found this especially cool, as my boss, and the owner of our shop, used to operate out of red deer, and actually dealt with Kevin a fair amount, they were distant friends at one time, to the point my boss has a full book of stories he can tell about Mr. Starke

    So to satisfy our curiosity, if anyone could possibly check any Starke frames that they may have, and look for the stamp I described, we'd love to see a picture, we want to know, at which point did he start using such a stamp.

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  11. Kevin was a friend of mine from Saskatoon. Great big red headed guy. He was very bright, funny..larger than life. Worked hard and played very hard. Left his open primary shovel with me a few times when I lived in Calgary and he went off doing who knows what. Definitely had a buzz going with Tripoli but again he played very hard and sadly died far too young.

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