It was such a pleasure finally meeting Buz Ras of Seattle Speedometer at The One Motorcycle Show in Portland, Oregon a couple weeks ago. Buz is the go-to guy when it comes to custom gauges, with many of the best builders out there tapping his shop, because the design, quality, and finish are top notch. For me, seeing the 12 custom speedos that he did for The One Show blew my mind. Lined up on his tidy table like little soldiers, each one was a beautiful work of art. I wanted to buy one on the spot, but they were all CB (Honda) speedos, great for display because of their big faces that really show-off his incredible work. After a couple drinks, a few hugs, and many laughs later we headed over to Sassy’s across from The One Show and kept the good times lubricated while we shot the shit about what he does.
TSY: So Buz, I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer– but I couldn’t help noticing at The One Motorcycle Show that you are one tall drink of water, brother. I mean, how the fuck are you 6″10″ and allowed to profess that you hate sports? Ain’t nobody got time for that! Did they just tear your poor Dad up?
SS: My dad was an amazing basketball player in school, won awards. I played basketball for one season in high school. Fouled out of every game, and got ejected from 8 games. After that I decided I was not a sports guy. I kinda regret not pursuing it more because I could have made a ton of money with very little effort, but there’s no going back now…
TSY: (That’s what she said, Buz.) So have you always been a motorhead, Buz? Was this a natural career path for you, or did you just kinda fall into it?
SS: I’ve always loved motorized things. Taking stuff apart, seeing how it worked. I was going to go to college to be an engineer but I quickly learned its 95% paperwork, 5% actual building. So, I ended up with a degree in anthropology.
TSY: This is so interesting for me, because I’ve always been drawn to speedometers since I was a little kid. I remember walking up to cars and bikes and going straight to the speedo to get the critical 411. And I’d be so matter-of-fact in stating, “Yes, this Mercury Bobcat will do 150 mph. I know because it says so on the speedometer right there!” Funny, doesn’t quite work like that, but as a kid…. Anyway, how do you go from anthropology to speedometers?
SS: When I was going to school I needed a job. A friend told me about a shop that worked on vintage cars that needed help. So I called them and got the job. They rebuilt American car gauges, that’s how I got started. I really fell in love with the craftsmanship of old gauges and the appeal of tiny things under glass that no one can get to. They are such a Rube Goldberg contraption. A hair spring here, a counter weighted cup there; and in the end it’s all very useful. There is also something very satisfying about repairing something and making it look beautiful. It’s a very fulfilling job, I love it.
Seattle Speedometer x Stevie Gee, UK – steviegee.com
TSY: Yes, I get it. In today’s super-disposable society, it’s rich to have true quality and craft in life. So, when working with clients do you prefer having creative freedom with designs, or fulfilling someone’s specific vision?
SS: I like both. It’s cool when someone has an idea and you can say “yes, we can build that!” I always end up adjusting things how I want them but I always try to keep the customer’s idea and vision at the forefront.
TSY: So what can someone expect to pay for one of your a custom speedos?
SS: That depends how crazy a design they are after. Usually they fall between $200-$500.
TSY: For a gauge that is completely custom assembled, designed and a piece of art– I’d totally pay that. What is one of your more memorable projects?
SS: I like 1950s and ’60s European sports cars. Awhile back I did a set of gauges for a 1955 Aston Martin DB3 S race car, that thing was awesome!!
TSY: Yeah, your vintage Porsche-inspired motorcycle speedos are sick. So, tell me the craziest or weirdest project that’s come your way?
SS: The craziest gauges are probably the ones we built with Pen and Screen Printing Co. for The One Motorcycle Show. Some of those are pretty nuts!
Seattle Speedometer x Kurt Walter, Portland, OR — Design Director for rideicon.com
TSY: Like, amazeball nuts, Buz! So who are some of the coolest people you’ve worked with and why?
SS: One of the cooler people we worked with was Walt Siegl. We built a custom-faced Motogadget for him then flew to NY and hung out and talked. Such a nice guy and zero ego. I’ve also met a ton of new builders lately and I’m excited to work with all of them.
TSY: You’re so right about Walt. I’ve had the honor of meeting him a few times, and he’s pure class and handsome as hell. He has this centered, confident calm about him that makes you feel this sort of reverence in his presence. We all know how talented he is, and even the biggest jackasses totally cool it when Walt is around. They’ll literally say, “Shit man, that’s Walt. Be cool, bro.” Anyway– Any new projects / ventures on the horizon?
SS: We have a ton of stuff in the works. Unfortunately it’s for bikes being built under contract so we are not allowed to talk about them. But, my wife and I are putting together a clothing line which I think is going to be amazing, so stay tuned!
TSY: That’s exciting, man. I won’t spill the beans… So when you’re not working, what do you love to do?
SS: I’m not a super crazy guy. I really like hanging out with my family, towing our dirt bikes around with our 68 VW bus. There are some pretty amazing spots to bike and camp around here.
TSY: Come on out to Pennsylvania, my friend. I’ll take you camping. Buz, so what do you ride? I mean– you’re so goddam big, man. Do you have a bike for each ass cheek?
SS: Ha! I just bought a ’72 Yamaha dt250 that I’m pretty excited about. My usual bike is a ’78 Ducati 900 with an aluminum Imola tank. I’ve got a fleet of old Italian bikes, most of them not running..haha!
Seattle Speedometer x Johnny Swing, Brookline VT – johnnyswing.com
Seattle Speedometer x Bob Hansen of Portland, OR – Puddle Cutters Moped Gang
Seattle Speedometer x Brent Wick of Portland, OR – heavyscene.com