Meet Grant Vlahovic: Customized Bike Builder for Hollywood North

I really feel a bit self-conscious as I park my Toyota Corolla within the yard exterior Grant Vlahovic’s workshop. I’d initially deliberate to trip my bike (a Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Traditional LT) out to fulfill him right here in Langley, about an hour east of Vancouver, however the roads have been icy all weekend and I don’t need to danger a spill.

Nonetheless, even with Christmas simply across the nook (on the time of this interview), many motorcyclists proceed driving right here in British Columbia’s Decrease Mainland, the place circumstances are thought-about delicate—for Canada, anyway. I’m reminded of this truth and make a psychological notice to refill on winter driving gear as Grant steps exterior to greet me, carrying a heated vest and Gore-Tex jacket.

The Canadian-born Mr. Vlahovic is a person of many abilities. At 60 years outdated, he’s been a preacher, a instructor, and an opera singer (amongst different issues). However our dialog at the moment will concentrate on the intersection between his life in bikes and his life in Vancouver’s bustling movie & tv trade, generally known as Hollywood North by the solid, crew, and different creatives who work right here.

Black and white editorial photo of Grant Vlahovic

Photograph through Ashley Ross.

A Man of Many Abilities (On & Off-Display)

Grant and I are each actors, in addition to motorbike lovers—though there’s actually no comparability past these primary details. He’s a lifelong rider, red-seal mechanic, flat-track racer, and {custom} bike builder who’s established himself because the go-to motorbike provider for the realm’s many manufacturing firms. He’s additionally one of many leads in Lengthy Misplaced Christmas, a brand new Hallmark film that premiered within the US on November nineteenth.

In the meantime, I’m a 32-year-old freelance powersports journalist and still-relatively-new rider with one or two modest TV roles below my belt, and I nonetheless really feel achieved after I can alter my clutch cable unassisted. We aren’t the identical.

That is one thing Grant picks up on straight away—it’s apparent from the second we begin speaking that I don’t have his extremely developed wrenching expertise or a long time of driving expertise—and but, any preliminary worries I’ve about being judged harshly by him are instantly put to relaxation. “This isn’t my world anymore; it’s yours,” he says. “The extra individuals who can get out and revel in this lifestyle, the happier I’m—that’s the necessary factor.”

You would possibly anticipate somebody who’s put a lot effort and time into their ardour to have stronger opinions, however refreshingly, Grant’s no gatekeeper. He exudes a pure, down-to-earth confidence that by no means as soon as comes throughout as smug or superior; he’s open, approachable, and pleasant during our interview.

Editorial photo of Grant Vlahovic

Photograph through Ashley Ross.

It’s simple to see why casting administrators need to put him in feel-good vacation motion pictures, regardless of a shaved head and piercing blue eyes that wouldn’t be misplaced on Mayans M.C. or The Satan’s Trip. It’s additionally simple to see how passionate he’s about his work—in bikes and in motion pictures. This turns into much more apparent when Grant walks me over to the shed to point out me a few of his favourite builds.

Grant Vlahovic's three Kawasaki Vulcan 800s customized to look like vintage 1940s Indian cruisers

Grant’s three “Indian” bikes—truly Kawasaki Vulcan 800s retrofitted with a wide range of American (or {custom} handmade) elements.

Japanese Indians in Canada: Three Bikes with Really Distinctive Origins

“I construct Indian clones”, says Grant when requested concerning the highlights of his assortment. “I began constructing them for The Man within the Excessive Citadel.” For individuals who aren’t acquainted, the sequence takes place in an alternate-reality model of the Sixties the place the axis powers—Nazi Germany and Japan—received the Second World Conflict.

On condition that data, it makes a sure type of sense that Grant’s “Indians” are literally Japanese bikes—Kawasaki Vulcan 800s decked out with American components. I ask if this was a artistic selection to determine the bikes extra authentically on this planet of the present, however Grant explains that it had practically as a lot to do with sensible issues. The manufacturing had initially tried utilizing authentic classic Indians, he tells me, however the stunt individuals had hassle driving them due to their kick-starters, left-hand throttles, and tickler carburetors.

“The final Indian bike was inbuilt ‘53, and the final new mannequin got here out in ‘47,” he says. “In order that’s the period you’re for these bikes—you’re not gonna discover a 1963 Indian, as a result of they didn’t exist. However once you return that far, the bikes are just about unrideable for somebody who didn’t develop up with them.” Vulcans, against this, will be retrofitted to look just about an identical to basic US cruisers, however are considerably extra economical and rider pleasant (a truth I do know from expertise).

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Tools on bench in Grant Vlahovic's workshop

Grant’s workbench is plagued by instruments, towels, and spare components—like the remainder of his workshop, it’s the setting of a person so accustomed to what he does that he appears to navigate extra by instinct than any apparent set of organizing ideas.

So Grant and his son, who’s additionally a mechanic and racer, went to work. The three Vulcans obtained new seats, tanks, bars, and pipes—one set of which the 2 truly made out of scratch. After the work was completed, the bikes went to a close-by auto physique store to obtain a faux-patina that may make them look older and extra rugged. “Actual post-apocalyptic stuff”, as Grant places it.

Two of Grant’s custom bikes including a Yamaha Road Star 1600 used for one of the Predator films

Two of Grant’s {custom} bikes, together with a Yamaha Highway Star 1600 (left) used for one of many Predator movies.

Predator, Deadpool, & Past

The three Indian clones are removed from the one bikes Grant’s doctored for highly-stylized productions. Together with a slew of smaller tasks, he’s additionally constructed bikes for main movement footage in franchises like Predator and Deadpool.

Not all of those are what you’d name image bikes. Grant exhibits me a Yamaha Highway Star 1600 that was employed out to one of many Predator motion pictures however by no means truly appeared within the ultimate minimize. “However that’s the life,” he laughs. “You know the way it’s generally—you’re employed your ass off for a wonderfully good scene and it finally ends up on the chopping room ground.” Apparently, this occurs to bikes and different props about as usually because it occurs to performers.

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Among the strangest and most intriguing bikes in Grant’s assortment are for motion pictures and TV exhibits I’ve by no means heard of. “What a beast,” I say, strolling over to a completely large motorbike that seems to be a type of Frankenstein Monster cobbled collectively from components for a number of completely different automobiles.

Suzuki motorcycle heavily modified by Grant Vlahovic and Bill Hutchison

It’s the refined particulars—like these large silver skeleton fingers on the mirrors—that actually promote this one.

“This was for an unbiased zombie image,” Grant explains. “The rear tire is an off-road ATV tire—simply large. And but, it rides superbly. The bike was initially an 800 Suzuki Boulevard C50, however the entrance finish on it got here from a Husqvarna grime bike.”

Invoice Hutchison, a contact of Grant’s from sixth Gear, was answerable for the preliminary construct, whereas Grant took care of the ultimate modifications to create the bike as you see it now. “When it’s in full trim,” Grant says, “there are additionally throwing axes that mount to the fuel tank and throwing stars that go alongside the handlebars. The headlights are HIDs, and so they strobe.”

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Diagram of a lemon car

Suzuki motorcycle heavily modified by Grant Vlahovic and Bill Hutchison

Hey, that’s not a bike tire!

However Grant’s tasks are available in all styles and sizes—considered one of his custom-built cruisers is so small he can carry all the entrance finish off the bottom by hand. “This can be a 7/eighth scale chopper,” he says. “It’s completely tiny—which makes the rider look huge. That’s why it was constructed.”

Grant Vlahovic holding up custom 7/8th scale Suzuki chopper by front end to demonstrate how light it is

And also you thought your {custom} Suzuki was light-weight!

“It was for a venture that by no means occurred,” he explains. “They needed the rider to look gigantic—he was a giant man to start with, however they needed him to look even larger. So it began out as a package we discovered,” he laughs, “however then we modified the hell out of it as a result of it was a bit of s***. The entrance neck meeting is off of a 250 Suzuki, as is the motor. But it surely’s turbocharged, so it truly goes fairly good—it’s a good quantity of horsepower for 250cc!”

Suzuki engine on 7/8th scale chopper

Tiny, however turbocharged.

How Grant Strikes His Creativity from Motion pictures to Bikes

You’d by no means see these items anyplace else; Grant is likely one of the solely individuals within the Pacific Northwest who’s doing what he’s doing. “It’s as a lot of an artwork kind as it’s a tradition,” he says. “Constructing bikes is a big creative outlet; to have the ability to put one thing collectively and trip it”.

A number of {custom} builders describe their work as artwork—however once you’re creating one-of-a-kind fashions to suit inside the world of a particular film or sequence, Grant believes his performing arts background is a serious asset. After he finishes displaying me his workshop, we chat briefly about life as an actor and the way it’s knowledgeable his method to engaged on bikes for various productions.

Grant’s profession in entrance of the digicam has been fairly prolific. Lengthy Misplaced Christmas is likely one of the larger issues on his resume to date, however he’s additionally been in a lot of tasks you received’t see on the Hallmark channel. Take Shadow of the Rougarou, as an example, an APTN miniseries set in Canada within the 1800s the place he performs a ruthless fur trapper stalked by a monster from Indigenous folklore. Evidently, it’s considerably grittier fare.

Grant Vlahovic surrounded by cast members for Shadow of the Rougarou miniseries on APTN

Grant (fourth from left), surrounded by his fellow solid members for Shadow of the Rougarou. By way of APTN.

However being a storyteller with that type of vary means you need to be considerate, delicate, and versatile—qualities which have additionally helped Grant in his bike constructing. He’s passionate, however versatile; whereas some customs outlets reside and die by their design ideas, Grant demonstrates a capability to create really distinctive machines whereas sustaining a willingness to accommodate the precise wants of every manufacturing that hires him.

Putting this stability, he explains, is one thing he’s realized largely from working within the arts. “Artists can’t be inflexible or one-dimensional,” says Grant. “The extra you be taught, the extra priceless you turn out to be.”

With that type of mental curiosity and sheer ardour for his work, it’s no marvel Grant’s managing to thrive concurrently in not one, however two careers—movie actor and {custom} motorbike builder—that most individuals would take into account dream jobs. We stay up for seeing no matter he makes subsequent, whether or not in his workshop, in entrance of a digicam, or each.