Parts weren’t easy to find for these classic vehicles, but when they were located, Jake and Rob used allowance savings or did extra jobs around the house to pay for them. If a part couldn’t be bought, the lads had to invent a way to fix the existing part by modifying, welding or machining an entirely new one.
By the time Jake was in 9th grade, he could restore a British motorcycle by himself. Overhauling a motorcycle entirely is a large task for anyone, let alone a 9th grader. But, when you consider that British bikes are notoriously tough to work on, and that most mechanics will turn down such work, you realize the value of the boys’ childhood training.
Jake attended Appalachian State and studied cost management. His first job was in construction management, which didn’t agree with him. He next worked with Volvo Heavy Equipment in their parts technology department. It was Jakes’ responsibility to monitor customers repair progress and answer technical questions. If a part didn’t fit, or didn’t fix a problem, Jake had to engineer a solution. It was a perfect job for a man who grew up improvising motorcycle repairs.
When brother Rob graduated from high school, he attended UTI, better known as ‘NASCAR Tech’, a trade school for individuals who want to work in automotive racing. Rob learned to become an engine builder and machinist. Engine machining is more than just running a mill, lathe or grinder. These machinists fully grasp power plant theory and how engines can be modified to develop more power, such as re-grinding cam lobes for better valve timing, or boring crankshaft journals. Rob found employment with a racing shop called Andrews Motor Sports in Concord, NC. Like his brother in Asheville, spare time found him working on his own motorcycle projects.
As children, the Hall brothers spent many summer weekends at racetracks with their dad. Far from being a collector whose bikes existed purely as eye candy, Stuart campaigned an old BSA Goldstar with the American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association (AHRMA). His sons worked as pit crew and in doing so received even more education in ancient bike engineering. Race bikes are pushed beyond the breaking point, so the brothers learned quickly how to improvise trackside repairs.
When the lads each turned 18, they were able to race per the AHRMA rules, so two more vintage machines were pulled from Stuart’s collection and converted to racing trim. This was to become ground zero for their future business venture, though the brothers were too busy to notice.
Opportunity Flows In
In the quest to win more vintage races, Rob utilized his race engineering experience and picked the brains of his fellow NASCAR engine builders down in Concord.
The antique bike he was racing was a single-cylinder BSA of similar displacement and technology as the race car engines he worked on, the only difference being that the cars used seven more cylinders. Concentrating on flowing engine gasses more efficiently, Rob modified his cylinder head. It worked; his race bike began producing more power and winning more races. Success at the track is instantly visible…and sought after. Fellow AHRMA racers asked Rob to modify their cylinder heads too. Customers loved his work, so they began to talk it up on vintage racing Internet forums.[quote float=”left”]Business success is not only about competence; it is also about credibility and trust. The modification of racing engines, therefore, was the perfect starting point for HCV.[/quote] The orders began to roll in from New Zealand, Denmark, Germany, UK, Belgium, and three land speed competitors, one of whom did 158mph on a highly modified 1963 BSA twin. He was still working full-time at the car race shop, including nights as a crew chief for Andrews customers. During his personal time, Rob was machining antique motorcycle heads for racers, as well as working on his own bike. The pace became too much for Rob, but as luck would have it, brother Jake suddenly found himself without a job due to Volvo leaving Asheville. The young men decided to launch their own business.
“Did the boys consult me before they launched their business?” says Stuart Hall. “Hell no. One day, Jake walked in with a baseball cap that said ‘HCV’ on it, I found out when I asked what HCV stood for.” (Halls Custom Vintage, in case you already forgot)
The Hall brothers decided to concentrate on what they knew best: working on old British bikes. Rob would continue to machine parts from his home in Concord, and Jake would set up shop in Asheville where he’d tear down and assemble engines, as well as entire motorcycles. Fortunately, Stuart had extra room in his auto parts store, City Foreign Auto, and he was in the habit of displaying some of his motorcycle collection amidst the parts racks. Co-locating HCV was a natural instinct, the brothers moved in.
Business success is not only about competence; it is also about credibility and trust. The modification of racing engines, therefore, was the perfect starting point for HCV.
Rob and Jake were, by this time, young men whom their fellow racers —most were their dad’s age — trusted. Part of the AHRMA racing ‘family’ for most of their childhood, the Hall brothers were known to be good, honest, hard-working guys, and the machines they raced spoke loudly about the quality of their work: they were competent, credible and trustworthy.