Speaking of that existing dealer network, conventional wisdom holds that there's a huge disconnect between a company known for importing and distributing Taiwanese scooters and one that builds custom V-twins. However, both Holdsworth and Pierce say the other is a perfect fit for their prospective businesses.
Cobra is looking to have a full line of products —scooters, ATVs, UTVs, full-size motorcycles, the whole shebang. "Eventually I'd like to have every product that a dealer, who's not an OEM dealer, could need," Pierce says. "Let's say a guy can't qualify for Yamaha or Suzuki. He can qualify with me and have a whole range of products."
Although he looked at a variety of V-twin manufacturers, he found that too many of them were bikers first and businessmen second. With Holdsworth, he found the opposite.
Holdsworth was ready to expand his business and was considering the move to production-bikes and a dealer-network. "It makes sense for us. It makes sense for them. And most importantly it makes sense for the dealers," he explains.
"They've got what I don't have, and I've got what they don't have. I build the bikes, but they've got the professional staff of salespeople, customer service people and technical people who can really help us sell and service the dealers. Not just in the beginning, but through the course of the relationship," Holdsworth adds.
An Enthusiastic Goal
Under the distribution partnership, Cobra plans to establish about 24 dealerships over the next year. If Brass Balls can ramp up production a bit, this may jump by a third. Currently the 10,000 sq. ft. Oklahoma City facility can produce three to four bikes a week. "I don't anticipate that we're going to do that many bikes the first year," Holdsworth says. "We just want to make sure we've got the capacity to handle it. We certainly don't want to over promise and under deliver."
The main concern is how to outpace the company's parts vendors. Given the nature of the operation, the company works in concert with suppliers to meet just-in-time delivery.
Each bike starts out with an S&S Cycle motor and a five-speed transmission nestled into a rigid standard frame, with basic controls and a variety of stock-ish parts. From here customers can upgrade the tranny, opt for a softail-style frame, change the finish on some parts, and trade up to various name brand parts and accessories.
All of this can be done online or through a dealer kiosk.
The model lineup includes the Digger Bobber, the Classic Bobber and the Retro Chopper. Eventually Brass Balls will offer the Indian-style Power Plus motor as an option to the S&S power plant.
The bikes are listed in the NADA guide and are set to appear in the Kelly Blue Book this fall. As such, they can be financed and insured, Pierce notes. All come with a one-year manufacturers warranty, and dealers can opt to upsell an extended warranty.
While customers will be free to design their bikes, each build will be overseen by Brass Balls to make sure the motorcycles makes sense mechanically and aesthetically. The company is also refining the custom-ordering software to make bike building fairly foolproof.
"We're not going to let anybody build an ugly bike," Holdsworth says. "It's important to us that the customer be really happy with it a year from now. Of course they're going to be happy when they first get it, but we want it to be a lasting, timeless bike that represents our brand well."
See it work: Go to www.brassballbobbers.com and click on "Bikes" on the main menu.