HOW BILLY FAVATA’S GARAGE BRINGS MUSICIANS TOGETHER WITH GEARHEADS
BUILDING A COMMUNITY
It’s an unmarked, nondescript two-story garage. There are thousands just like it all over Chicago. Safe to say, none of them contain what this place does.
Step inside and you’re greeted with a riot of vintage motorcycles and cars, all in various stages of rebuild. Triumphs, Harleys and Vincents. A '50 Fleetline waiting for the front end of a '81 Monte Carlo. An old Studebaker. The floor is covered in oil and grease and dust. Several torn up armchairs hold court in the middle of it all.
It might be the coolest garage in the city. There’s no official name for it, although the mechanics, rock musicians and artists who share it call it The Space.
“It’s a bunch of guys, a bunch of gearheads, who share the rent. They’ve each got their own space in here,” explains “British” Billy Favata in his slight British accent. He helped start The Space and acts as the manager. “It’s a mechanics’ network. A community.”
There are others in the community as well. Several bands use the back of the shop for rehearsal space. Billy plays double bass for three of them, including a psychobilly outfit and a duo called Torturing Elvis. A prop master rents space, and an artist and a filmmaker live upstairs.
Billy laughs. “They shot a horror film here. All of us were in it. We all got killed.”
But the main focus is the bikes and the cars and the guys who love working on them. “Everybody’s always helping each other out.” Smiling, he adds, “There are rarely fistfights.”
CRAFTING A LIFESTYLE
He points to a cluster of vintage bikes. “The guy who works over there is really into Vincents,” he says, referring to several of the classic British cycles. “He knows everything about motorcycles. He’s great totalk to.”
Billy knows a thing or two about rebuilding bikes. His main ride is a 1973 Harley Super Glide® he
customized himself. Currently, there are five or six bikes he’s working on for other people in the corner of his shop, including a Harley he is helping rebuild completely. “Everything is customized. The gas tank is hand-fabricated.”
“You have to approach this like a motorcycle manufacturer. You have to know how steel vibrates. How an engine vibrates. That’s why this network we’ve built is so important. We help each other out.”
Recently, Billy has started rebuilding cars too. The '50 Fleetline is his project. “Cars are a different animal. But it’s where the demand is.”
The shop doesn’t have a hydraulic lift. “We talked about putting one in, but we’re moving too much stuff around in here. It would just get in the way.” That means lots of improvising and finding yourself in tight spaces. “Yeah, it’s too bad we all have these fat fingers,” Billy laughs, holding up a hand with fingers that aren’t fat at all.
He looks at the SK X-Frame® Ratcheting Wrench on the table. “That helps.”
Tight spaces or not, Billy definitely enjoys the freedom of his lifestyle. “I can work when I want. I get to play music. There’s food in the cupboard. Bills are paid. Take a little vacation every couple of years. What else is there?”
THE TOOLS THAT MAKE IT ALL HAPPEN
“Hand tools take more abuse than any other,” says Billy. He believes in strong tools and likes SK Professional Tools because they’re forged in America. “It’s like Harleys before the war. The parts were forged then. Now they’re cast. Not as good.” Spoken like a true vintage bike rebuilder. He also likes the SK X-Frame® Ratcheting Wrench for its ability to work better in tight spaces. “It helps.”
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