Another Man's Treasure: 1969 Genny Shovel ‘Dirty Rat’

Words: Geoff Baldwin Photography: Luke Ray.

What is it that defines something as being either trash or treasure? Perhaps it’s differences in perceived value, need vs want or maybe it just comes down to personal taste. In a world where throwaway technology and mass production is prolific it’s easy to see why there is so much being discarded that still holds some sort of value. In Australia local councils manage the accumulation of unwanted goods by conducting annual ‘hard rubbish’ collections.

When I was a student this was the time to deck out your pad with furniture, electrical goods and whatever else you’d stumble across without costing you a cent. For some people though, hard rubbish presents an opportunity to find unique curios that can be used in ways they were never intended. One such person is ‘Diamond’, a tattoo artist from Thailand living in Australia and taking full advantage of our hard rubbish habits to build his ‘Dirty Rat’.

Back in 2009 after migrating to Australia Diamond purchased a ’69 Genny Shovel rolling chassis from an eBay seller on the Gold Coast. The bike was stock aside from its Springer front end and hardtailed frame and was the perfect base for his first custom build in Australia. From 2009 till 2012 the Genny’s transformation from stock roller to intricately detailed, lavishly embellished Chopper took place. Covered in treasures he found lying in hard rubbish piles Diamond’s ‘Dirty Rat’ is one of the most unique builds we’ve seen and best of all it’s actually registered and ridden around town.

The individual parts on the Dirty Rat have themselves all been customised in some way before being mounted to the bike. Nothing was a straight bolt on solution and some things, such as the headlight, were made using parts from several different sources. As well as his career as a tattoo artist Diamond and his wife are avid collectors of vintage clocks, fans and anything else that they see as having artistic use, so their collection was another great source for parts during the build. Clocks, lamps, a vacuum, his son’s toys and jewellery are just some of the things we discovered as he walked us around the bike.

Starting at the front end Diamond explained that the headlight was made by combining pieces from an old teapot, a champagne glass and the springs and hinges from an antique clock. The handlebars were made using the pipe from an old vacuum cleaner that he bent into shape and welded together and the tiny rear view mirror uses parts from an old brass fire extinguisher. The fuel tank is from a BSA Bantam, which was narrowed and mounted by Diamond’s buddy Renea from ‘Rattle Clunk Roar’ and its brass embellishments come from a lamp found in hard rubbish.

Like most Thai guys I’ve met Diamond has a great sense of humour, always smiling and making a joke, so for a laugh he mounted a vintage, hand painted seltzer bottle to the frame as a makeshift fire extinguisher. The foot pegs use more of the same ornate brass castings from the hard rubbish lamp and the oilcan is made using more parts from the vacuum cleaner.

The leather seat is handmade by Diamond and features the spade emblem that he uses as a logo for his tattoo business. More spades can be found on the exhaust, along with all the other suits from a playing deck, in the form of brass rings (jewellery) that he cut down and welded in place. His stoplight also feature a spade shaped lens mounted in a hand cut brass teapot held in place by the ornate handle of a vintage cupboard. The suicide shifter was hand carved out of a block of aluminium and combined with a glass perfume bottle, the clutch pedal is off a tattoo gun and the kick pedal uses wooden parts from another lamp.  

Along with all the functional parts he fabricated Diamond has added plenty of embellishments to decorate the Dirty Rat “like a Thai temple”. Skull chains and badges like the ones he wears on his hands and wrists hang from the petrol filler and add details to the forks, engine and even the bikes key. The Dirty Rat/fighter bomber artwork was hand laid along with the etchings on the chopped exhausts, pin striping on the frame and forks and the Dirty Rat text on the 3” primary belt. He gave the rear wheel a solid appearance using the hubcaps from an old Ford Falcon, which were again found in hard rubbish and even the leather pannier was once a ladies handbag.

Diamond also used some fairly unorthodox techniques to give the Dirty Rat its aged patina. The Springer front end was torn down into pieces and cooked…yes that’s right, he cooked them. Using the gas oven in his home he heated the parts (pre-heat oven to 240 degrees and place parts in a lightly greased baking dish for 45 mins) to soften the alloy before hammering them to create the eroded effect. This process was repeated several times before he shot them with rattle can matte black. He then went over each piece with sandpaper to rub away the paint leaving only the black that had made its way into the indentations.

This effect was also used on the air cleaner cover after the chrome had been rubbed away to expose the steel and copper beneath. To discolour the springs they were heated and cooled multiple times in the oven until the chrome started to temper, turning them yellow and blue in the areas where the heat built up the most. All of the welds on the bike have been also left raw, along with the surfaces of the tank, fender and oil can to add to the aged look that he has achieved so well with this build.

Diamond’s Dirty Rat was one of the 30 custom bikes that appeared in the 2013 Oil Stained Brain exhibition adding his unique style to the mix of traditional and original builds. The bike attracted a lot of interest and was even pointed out as a favourite by local actor Eric Bana when he dropped by the show for a visit. It’s a bike that stops people in their tracks even if bikes aren’t their thing and that’s just the kind of bike we like to see. Diamond’s now hard at work piecing together his next build and if his description to me was anything to go by it’s going to be a wild one!

This article first appeared in Tank Moto issue 03.