A passion for bringing the past back to life
In Auburn, one man has mastered the art of preserving the vintage look of Japanese motorcycles from the 1960s through the mid 1980s. Matt Higginbotham started Matt’s Vintage Motorcycles in an effort to appeal to a niche market in Auburn. Since starting his business a year ago, Higginbotham has successfully refurbished and customized several local bikes.
After working in construction for many years, and not receiving a call back to work from a construction company in 2011, Higginbotham decided it was time for a change. He opened Matt’s Vintage Motorcycles in Auburn on April 1, 2012 and will be celebrating his one year anniversary on March 30.
“Everyone says take your passion and do what you want, so that’s what I did,” Higginbotham said. “It was something I thought I could do. Anything that I know I can give my all to, I know I can do. It felt right.”
Higginbotham began riding at the age of 8 and has owned several different bikes, but eventually decided that the vintage look and feel of the older bikes were right for him.
“You can have a brand new Harley or Honda and it’s a nice bike,” Higginbotham said. “But if you take one of my bikes and do a side by side comparison driving down the road, the classic always gets the thumbs up. People can appreciate that it’s been saved and someone took the time to love it.”
According to Higginbotham, conditions of older bikes can vary and his prices reflect the amount of customization and rebuilding that might be required. Customers who do not own an older motorcycle of their own can purchase one of Higginbotham’s bikes (a Honda CB750 or CB550) for $5,000, with a complete customization included.
According to Higginbotham, once renovations are complete, older Japanese motorcycles can usually last another 40 years.
“Basically it’s taking that old bike that’s worth $1,000 and upgrading it to fit modern standards,” Higginbotham said. “It maintains the stock look, but is updated. It’s like getting a facelift. You are still the same person, but you look more young and hip.”
According to Matt’s Vintage Motorcycles customer and Auburn resident Jim Arbogaft, who owns a 1966 Ossa and a Honda Ascott ft500, shops specializing in older bikes are hard to come by.
“Café-style bikes are becoming very popular again,” Arbogaft said. “He [Higginbotham] has a knack for the older bikes and there are not a lot of people who do what he does around here. I paid some guy a lot of money to rebuild my motor and he could not get it running. I took it to Matt and he got it running in one day. He is also a stickler for detail. He makes them look right.”
Another customer, Kelley Gray, was impressed with the work done to his 2004 Ducati. According to Kelley, his bike was originally made to look retro and he wanted to keep it that way while improving its overall condition.
“His attention to detail is pretty amazing,” Gray said. “He also fixed a few things and did a lot of really nice extras. He made it look even more retro. He had good input and foresight on what it will eventually look like.”
Higginbotham hopes to continue networking and promoting his shop within the vintage motorcycle community in Auburn. He enjoys the work and believes in quality customer service.
“I treat every customer like he is my buddy,” Higginbotham said. “I try to treat everyone like we are going to go have a beer. I try to remember people’s names and give them one on one attention.”
Besides specializing in older bikes, Matt’s Vintage Motorcycles is also a full-service shop. According to Higginbotham, he is able to work on, customize, and order parts for all types of motorcycles, new or old.