Chasing timelessness is a fool’s errand because times and tastes change. Beauty is forever fleeting; all anyone can do is create a fearless design that functions as intended and elicits a positive emotional response that outlives its designer. Builder and industrial designer Samuel Aguiar will someday be forgotten, but his immaculate 1972 Harley-Davidson FLH won’t soon fade from memory.
The 33-year-old Frenchman has loved motorcycles since his sixth birthday when his parents gifted him a 50cc Yamaha PW. He started modifying as a teenager, uncorking his MBK Rocket and other scooters under the name “Heavymotor.” At age 24, Sam received a degree in automotive design from Institut Supérieur de Design in Valenciennes. But after only five years in automotive design, Sam felt stifled; dispassion crept in, and he quit the industry to focus instead on furniture design.
In 2010 Sam opened Shiny Hammer, a creative workshop and design firm in Fayet, France, two hours north of Paris. “It’s a place where I can throw around some of my thoughts that have been generated by passion and frustration,” he says. “The two words — Shiny and Hammer — are like a bittersweet feeling: Hammer being the rough cut, and Shiny being the subtleties.” His furnishings are all handmade, each distinct and unconventional, with a tasteful steampunk flair. Shiny Hammer’s Plee chair, for example, bends aluminum in such a way that creases and wrinkles form, making the metal look like bunched-up fabric where seat meets backrest.
Sam started building bikes again, too. His first build, Hope, is an all-electric bike that required four years of work. It uses the bones of a Polish-made Vectrix scooter, is powered by 102 lithium-ion battery cells, and is moved by a planetary gearbox. It looks like a streamliner, with a highly polished, riveted aluminum body capped by a big, round, black nose and tail. He then built a tidy 883, followed by a bare-metal Ironhead, but neither of the Sportsters spoke to him. “I was looking for something that you have a conversation with when using it,” Sam says.
Swooping, thin, and balanced, it’s exactingly built but doesn’t take itself too seriously, with its spaghetti exhaust and tires typically used on trials bikes.
The Harley-Davidson Duo-Glide caught his eye because it’s an old Harley Sam can actually afford. He stripped the bike down and started with its frame, lowering the rear to create a level spine. He trimmed and de-tabbed what he could, narrowing the bike by an inch and a half, and shaved the engine’s top mount to open up space for the fuel tanks. Masterfully wedged between the frame and almost-split rocker boxes, Sam fabricated twin triangular tanks out of 1mm steel and connected them by T-hose at their base. Under the bike’s seat, next to the custom oil tank, is a third, smaller fuel tank — because Sam thought his Shovel should be able to carry at least eight liters (2.1 gallons) of gasoline.
An S&S Super E carburetor hangs from one side of the Big Twin engine, and on the other side is a big, exposed two-inch primary belt drive. The meandering, raspy, popping stainless-steel exhaust is bent naturally as if it’s wandering the same path the bike’s exhaust smoke would have without pipes. Two-piston Nissin brake calipers replace the Harley’s stock slag and are fed by a Beringer master cylinder. The Shovelhead sits on spoked wheels with Shiny Hammer hubs, Excel hoops, and DOT-approved Pirelli MT 43 knobbies. A stubby duckbill rear fender hides the frenched LED brake light, finished with a stainless-steel surround, and there’s a thin, ribbed solo seat that blends into the bike’s frame like a beach shoreline.
An oleo-pneumatic monoshock — originally designed for aeronautic use — replaced the FLH’s dual shocks and provides about two inches of travel. Sam fit the front end with conventional telescopic forks but thought they looked jarringly wide and too typical for his build, so he spent 300 hours designing, modeling, and building a one-off girder. “I basically placed the frame at the height I wanted and set the front wheel,” he says. To finish the girder, he fit another smaller oleo-pneumatic damper near the bike’s neck and snuck in a small, circular, offset LED headlight.
Shiny Hammer’s artfully engineered Shovelhead looks firmly rooted in the past, understated and dripping with chrome, but benefits from subtly integrated modern technologies. Swooping, thin, and balanced, it’s exactingly built but doesn’t take itself too seriously, with its spaghetti exhaust and tires typically used on trials bikes. It’s bold and characterful, and it will haunt your dreams as it does ours. It’s a build we’ll never get tired of studying because there’s always more to discover.
Sam started Shiny Hammer so he could chase his desire to design and build unconventional, timeless objects. His offbeat, striking creations are infused with personality and artistic appeal. He continues to push himself and his designs, and you’re sure to see his name again and again in years to come. One day, Sam Aguiar will be forgotten, but not anytime soon. And his wonderful work will be remembered fondly — maybe until the end of time.