Custom Builder Spotlight: Tom Keefer of Franklin Church Choppers

High Seas Rally is packing more grease, more gears and more motorcycle eye candy into our weeklong rally at sea. To create the ultimate immersive experience for all levels of bikers, riders and gear heads, we’ll be cruising with a crew of awesome custom bike builders who will host talks, show off their work around the ship and spark some exciting new entertainment on the cruise. Each month we will throw a spotlight on one of these amazing builders who will be bringing some of their awesome motorcycles to display on the ship. To kickstart this series on our featured builders, we’d like you to meet Tom Keefer of Franklin Church Choppers out of Dillsburg, Pennsylvania.

At Franklin Church Choppers, Tom believes that everyone should have the motorcycle of their dreams. Every person is different, so why ride the same bike as everyone else? Tom can customize your bike as much or as little as you like to give you a true one-off look. No job is too big or too small at Franklin Church Choppers and Tom will provide photos and video updates on a regular basis so you can follow along and watch your custom scooter come together.

We met up with Tom during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally last August at the Michael Lichter “Motorcycle as Art” museum show. Tom is known for doing everything from general service on motorcycles to full custom choppers, and as a lover of antique motorcycles, he is a proud builder and racer in Billy Lane’s “Sons of Speed” antique races in Daytona, Florida each year during Biketoberfest and Bike Week. 

We asked Tom to tell us what spark first ignited his life-long love of motorcycles. “I grew up in a trailer park and there were always motorcycle parts in my living room,” he recalls. “My dad was a mechanic and had a Harley Panhead and then a 1979 Low Rider. We eventually moved to the country and I got a mini-bike. My first real motorcycle was a 1974 Aermacchi 175cc Harley. I was just fourteen-years-old but motorcycles were in my blood.”

That love of everything with a motor and wheels led Tom to become a mechanic. “My dad was a mechanic and I was mechanically inclined,” Tom tells us. “I started early, turning my friends’ bicycles into choppers.” This eventually led to Tom opening his own shop in 1999. “It was a hobby at first. I wanted to build a bike for myself.” Keefer built a bigger shop in 2001 and became Franklin Church Choppers. “I mostly handle service and repair work, but my passion is building custom bikes and then to bring them to shows,” Tom says. “When you bring an old killer-looking bike to a show, it gets a lot of attention. I like bobber-style bikes and mine are reminiscent of some of Indian Larry’s or Billy Lane’s work.”

Speaking of Billy Lane, in 2016, Tom attended the first Sons of Speed Vintage Race during Daytona Bike Week. “I met Billy and Xavier Muriel and I lent a hand in the shop, keeping the bikes running with the rest of the crew. I’ve been part of the team ever since, even racing my own 1916 Harley Twin,” Tom says with a grin.

Interestingly, Tom was also a Pennsylvania State Trooper for 25 years, retiring from the police force 4-1/2 years ago. “So, I had two jobs for many years,” he confides. “I didn’t want folks in the motorcycle community to know I was a Trooper because I didn’t want to put them off,” he says. “I want to be judged for my work in motorcycles.” You’ll get to see a few of Tom’s works of motorized art during the High Seas Rally. He has a couple of gorgeous Harley Knuckleheads he might bring and is currently working on a rare 1927 Harley-Davidson JD in a custom frame, sporting 23-inch wheels that looks like a cross between a boardtracker and a show bike.

His current favorite ride is a bright green 1993 FXR with a Twin Cam conversion and an inverted front end. When asked what advice he would give to other builders, Tom says, “Follow your passion and your intuition. It doesn’t matter what other people build, follow your heart.” Great advice.

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