A Pair of Harley Customs from Eastern Ohio
Do you ever think ahead about where your interest in bikes might lead you over the years? Motorcycles exist throughout the countless stages of our lives in various forms. They become a dependable accomplice connected to our past, present, and future. Down the line the stories will start to pile up—and so will the parts.
This connection of man and machine manifests in someone like Greg Gump—a true motorhead with a passion that stretches through generations. He has been at it for quite some time and continues to lend a helping hand to those yearning to build something truly unique.
Greg Gump was first mentioned to me by Rich Gatchel, who originally met him when they worked together at the Yorkville Mill in Ohio. At the time, Rich hit a deer with his ’66 Impala SS and asked Greg to help fix it. After painting the car, he then pinstriped Rich’s shovelhead. The two bonded after that.
Alexa and I got together with Greg in Wintersville, Ohio, at Sugar Shine Auto Detailing. The shop is run by Zak Klink—the owner of this beautiful baby blue mid-seventies Harley-Davidson FLH that Greg helped build. “I like working with younger guys because it often gives the bikes their own original style,” Greg mentioned as we went over the shovelhead. He typically builds rat style Harleys but wanted to challenge Zak to complete a finished bike. Some of the noted work on this California-style lowrider was the narrowed front end, stretched fenders, lowered swingarm mounting points, skinny 21 inch front tire, and a fierce amount of chrome. “I’m a blue guy,” he said about his custom paint work. “When it comes to painting, I’m very critical of myself. It has to be absolutely perfect. All paint should be perfect.”
The second bike was Greg’s own 1990 Harley-Davidson Evo. The build is a panhead tribute—his favorite H-D engine. While many of the modifications were done himself, his good friend Jimmy Travis of JT Custom Cycles helped with the mechanical work. “I’m a less-is-more kind of guy. There’s nothing on this bike that doesn’t need to be there,” he said after pointing out that the wiring was hidden in the frame. “I never thought of myself as a biker, but I’ve always had motorcycles. There’s just something about the freedom.”
Greg grew up in the Wintersville area. What really got him hooked on custom projects was when his friend’s father hired him at sixteen years old to work on a bunch of Volkswagens he had. At one point, the guy bought a 1948 Cadillac convertible and had Greg accompany him to Imperial to drive it home. As he remembers, it was painted a beautiful baby blue with a red leather interior. “I was never right since,” he said.
Dave Batting, who has since passed away, was a good friend and an important part of Greg’s life. “Dave was a custom painter, and the first thing we ever did was paint flames on a ’47 Ford in his dad’s garage when we were sixteen years old. I later went off to art school, then married a stripper but ended up getting a divorce.” He continued, “ In the early 1970s, Dave and I had a place in Steubenville called Brush Brothers. It was during the van craze, and that’s where I started airbrushing vans and murals. He then went off to Nashville to become a country music star, and I took over the business. It went from there. Although the names and locations have changed, I’ve always had a paint shop since.”
The story didn’t end there. Eventually Greg remarried and lived on a horse farm with his wife in Richmond, Ohio. About nine years ago, she passed away. To occupy his time and mind, he got back into building custom stuff. “To make myself feel better, I started buying everything, but that doesn’t work. I just ended up with a bunch of stuff,” he recalls. “Now I have a body shop and do custom work. I don’t really consider myself a body man, but you can’t just polish a turd. So I learned the metal work and developed more of an interest in building stuff.”
Do any of us know how our stories will play out? Of course not. But if there is advice to take away from those like Greg Gump, it would be the undoubted encouragement to find your passion and stick with it. No matter where we are in life, there’s always more to learn.