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Seek and Restore
Shawn Seelan turned his passion for motorbikes into a restoration and customisation project right from his home backyard.
Shawn Seelan is 19, but you might mistake him for being five or six years older. He speaks without missing a beat, specifically when explaining the types of motorbikes displayed in the driveway of his family’s home. Multi-coloured Honda zoomers, vintage foldable bikes, and a quaint pizza delivery bike from Japan are just some of the 30-odd bikes that Seelan has in his collection.
What’s hard to believe at first is that many of these bikes were battered bits of metal meant for the junkyard. “These Honda zoomers came in from Japan, totally trashed and broken,” says Seelan, pointing to a row of gleaming, fully functional road bikes. “We had to rebuild them completely.”
Malaysia’s automotive market is robust. In 2013, the Social Statistics Bulletin published by the Department of Statistics indicated that nearly 24 million vehicles were registered with the Road Transport Department (JPJ). Of that total, more than half are motorcycles. But bikes remodelled by Shawn Seelan Creations however, are not actively put up for sale, as one might assume.
Seelan works alone as a custom builder, each bike a passion project more than a for-profit product. “Seeing the reactions of people: ‘wow that is a kapcai, that was a normal street bike and this guy made it like that?’ That, for me is worth it,” explains Seelan. “Money isn't the point. These bikes deserve more than just the junkyard.” However, he does have a price for some bikes. “If there is the right offer and if you have the money, then it's yours.”
Prices of customised bikes from Seelan’s workshop range from RM8,000 to RM35,000. “We have custom bikes, we have restored bikes, and we also have bikes that are resto-mod, which means it's been restored and also modified.
His latest project is a drag bike for Honda Malaysia’s 30th anniversary, which will be displayed in July at the Art of Speed, the largest automotive event for motorcycles in Malaysia. “It'll be a classy black bike with gold flakes in the paint, which you can see under a spotlight,” he says. Seelan also promises that the bike will be something that has “never been seen in the country before.”
For such an ambitious project, it’s easy to assume that Seelan has been building his bikes for a long time, but it’s only been two and a half years since he started seriously. “It took me over two weeks to complete my first bike, but that was a simple one,” Seelan recalls. “I hardly had any knowledge. I had to refer to YouTube a lot.”
But what really helped the most was watching fellow builders and listening to constructive criticism. “It's come to a stage for me where even a little scratch on the paint has to be repainted. If a screw size is not right and I force it through, that’s the wrong way to build.”
In the Malaysian custom bike scene, Seelan says there are just a handful of workshops that do his type of work. “As a home builder, we feel that we should set the standard for others like us. Whatever that you build at home should be as good, or may I dare say, even better than the shops.”
Despite the market potential in a burgeoning custom motorbike scene, Seelan sees his craft mainly as a hobby and has had to turn down numerous requests for custom builds. “I'm actually studying to be a veterinarian,” he says. “That is my true calling. It's everything that I wanted to be when I grew up.” His three dogs, a cat, a monitor lizard and a bird are proof of his love for animals. “And most of them live in my room!”
For more on Shawn Seelan Creations, visit www.facebook.com/Shawn-Seelan-Creations.
By Shermian Lim
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