Highlights of the 2019 Donnie Smith Bike & Car Show

If you love riding motorcycles, you probably agree that the best part about winter is when it’s over. And for those of us in the Midwest, there’s no better way to give Old Man Winter that final kick out the door than to hit up the Donnie Smith Bike and Car Show presented by Dennis Kirk at the Saint Paul RiverCentre.

After a season that introduced us to the polar vortex and the bomb cyclone, it seemed every bike and car enthusiast within 500 miles of the Twin Cities was at this year’s show on March 23 and 24, ready to reclaim some fun in their lives.

View of the show floor filled with people and custom motorcycles at the 2019 Donnie Smith Bike & Car Show

As usual, the show was a lot to take in, with attendees roaming the exhibit halls like kids in a candy store. After watching everyone drool over the entries, find treasure at the parts swap and meet some of the biggest names in the industry, here were some of the bikes, cars and moments that stood out to us.


The Loss of a Legend

As soon as the show opened Saturday morning and attendees started to pour in, it didn’t take long for word to spread that the world of custom motorcycles had lost its king, Arlen Ness, just the night before.

Arlen Ness passed away March 22, 2019

To the Donnie Smith Show family, Arlen Ness was many things—a hard worker, a creative genius, and a fellow Hamster—but above all else, he was our dear friend.

Losing Arlen the night before an event in which he has been so engrained wasn’t easy, but in a strange sense, the show acted as a gathering that held his spirit. Spending two days surrounded by some of the people who knew him best allowed us to recount old stories, laugh, cry and celebrate his remarkable time on this earth.

Rest in peace, buddy.


TJ Design Unveil

A huge crowd gathered around the TJ Design booth Saturday morning to see TJ Hilgers unveil a fully custom Harley he created for his wife Lizzy. The project initially began as a gift for her, but after she was diagnosed with a terminal illness, TJ decided to make it into a memorial to her, filled with things that she loved.

Lizzy Hilgers sits on top of the custom Harley unveiled in the TJ Designs display at the Donnie Smith Bike and Car Show

TJ never expected Lizzy would see the bike completed, let alone that she would beat the odds. When she miraculously recovered, he decided to give it to her during the unveil at the show.

The judges were just as impressed as the crowd and Lizzy to see this bike. It took home 1st place in the Modified EVO/Twin Cam class.


Pro-Class Bikes

Builders in the pro class were out to impress this year and left our judges with some super tough decisions to make.

Ruby from PJ's Garage in the Pro Class at the Donnie Smith Bike and Car ShowAs soon as you hit the pro carpet, you couldn’t help but get drawn in by “Ruby” from PJ’s Garage. The longer you looked, the more cool aspects there were to notice—intriguing Mayan theme, copper wheels, brass risers and controls, the bezel on the light, and whoa, is that a truck tire on the back?


Close on the Mayan theme on the tank It was no surprise the judges awarded it 1st place pro class custom.


The Goat competes in the Pro Class at the 2019 Donnie Smith Bike and Car ShowThis wasn’t the first time we’d seen “The Goat” from Dana Halberg of Deadline Customs at the show, but sometimes love is sweeter the second time around.


A closer look at the engine and turbo on The GoatThe whopping 150+ custom parts, Hayabusa mill and big ol’ Garrett Turbo had us at hello during the 2018 show, so we were happy to have it return in 2019, along with its new matching helmet. It took home Baddest Bagger 1st place.


Retro FLH in the pro class at the 2019 Donnie Smith Bike and Car ShowWe dare you to try to find a cooler looking ’81 FLH than this retro chopper Levi Dambroten brought to the show.


Harley 1 emblems on pegsWe really dug the chopped back fishtail exhaust, Crazy Frank Style fender and the little HD 1 emblems cut into the pegs.


Half scooter half lowrider in the pro class at the 2019 Donnie Smith Bike & Car ShowHalf scooter and half lowrider, it’s safe to say the 1947 Moto Scotte that Outlaw Customs brought to the show was like nothing most had seen before.


Moto Scotte rear trunk in the pro class at the 2019 Donnie Smith Bike & Car ShowYou could haul a lot of junk in this trunk. The sleek custom-fab rear kept the motor exposed while concealing the rear hydraulics and the 11” Hoosier dirt oval kart tire.


Friends & Fun

It was practically impossible to walk the show floor without running into familiar faces from the industry or friends who you hadn’t seen since winter hibernation started.

Sturgis Buffalo Chip president Rod Woodruff with the Jasmine Cain band at the 2019 Donnie Smith Bike & Car ShowRock and roll! Here’s Rod Woodruff from the Sturgis Buffalo Chip and the Jasmine Cain band.


Donnie Smith Show attendees learn about the Best Party Anywhere and register to win custom motorcycles in the Sturgis Buffalo Chip boothThose eager to kick off riding season seemed just as excited to plan its grand finale this August at the Sturgis Buffalo Chip. While learning about the Largest Music Festival in Motorcycling, plenty of you dropped your name in the hat to win the custom Scout and Street Rod the Chip will be giving away this August.


Show attendee tries his luck spinning the prize wheel in the Dennis Kirk booth at the 2019 Donnie Smith Bike & Car ShowThere were cool prizes and free money to win over at the Dennis Kirk display as well, and plenty were ready to step on up to try their luck.


Virtual tours of Route 66 in the State Farm Display at the 2019 Donnie Smith Bike & Car ShowFor most of the show, a long line stretched out of the State Farm display with loads of people waiting to take a virtual tour down Route 66 and get their own custom street sign made.


Open Class

No matter your taste, there were bikes for everyone in the open class, ranging from big-wheeled baggers to mini bikes and antique restos to futuristic builds.

Greg Lew's panhead at the 2019 Donnie Smith Bike & Car ShowYou can always count on Greg Lew’s panheads coming with a story, and this 1949 Harley FL certainly was no exception. It was restored to exact specifications, which included many one- and two-year-only accessories that are incredibly difficult to find.


Close up on the hard-to-find accessories on Greg Lew's panhead at the 2019 Donnie Smith Bike & Car ShowAs usual, Greg paid close attention to every last detail. Among other parts, he tracked down nipple style fork nut covers, Western-style saddlebags and a ton of accessories including the leather rosettes whose color indicated the model year range. All the effort earned the bike a well-deserved title of Best Antique.


The best display at the 2019 Donnie Smith Bike & Car ShowBilly Wesp’s set up for his 2003 HD Deuce and Rupp Roadsters stopped many dead in their tracks, including the judges who awarded it Best Display.


Billy Wesp's Rupp Roadster on display at the 2019 Donnie Smith Bike & Car ShowYou just couldn’t help but smile checking out the purple 1970 Roadster up on its revolving platform that had a base made out of snare drums. Small in size with a Tecumseh 4-horse motor, this mini bike was pretty big on detail with a 1920 Plymouth Plum Crazy paint job, stingray fork bag and mud flaps, and a hydro-dipped torque converter with skulls and flowers.


Many styles of cool paint on Joe Manley's FXR at the 2019 Donnie Smith Bike & Car ShowThe paint job on Joseph Manley’s ‘85 FXR drew us in from a mile away, and it only got better as we got closer. The gold and orange glitter bomb paint, pinstripes, gold leaf, and lace overlay really popped next to the murdered out engine, pipes, and wheels.


"Gas Hole" painted on the gas cap of Joseph Manley's FXR at the 2019 Donnie Smith Bike & Car Show“Hermano” brought home 1st in the EVO/Twin Cam Dyna Class. Awesome job, Gas Hole.


Best Paint Award recipient in the House of Kolor Display at the 2019 Donnie Smith Bike & Car ShowOf course, there was even MORE beautiful paint to behold in the House of Kolor display, including this top-to-bottom-painted 2013 Roadglide from Kory Souza that won the award for Best Paint.


Lakeville High School Chopper Class student poses on top of Chopper ZeusKevin “Teach” Baas and his Lakeview High School Chopper Class built this incredible chop especially for the Buffalo Chip’s 2018 Motorcycles As Art Exhibition, Passion Built, where it dropped jaws of countless Sturgis Rally attendees.


Chopper Zeus leather tank with gildingIt featured a Sugar Bear front end, custom braided electrical, and this super unique Zeus design crafted in leather with gold leaf gilding.


Best custom in the DD Custom Cycle display at the 2019 Donnie Smith Bike & Car Show

This engraved king in the DD Custom Cycles display broke its fair share of necks over the course of two days.


Engraved wheels and twisted spokes on custom Road KingAbsolutely everything that could be engraved had been to the finest detail. The combination of the water drop paint job, twisted spokes, and engraved forks and wheels was absolutely show-stopping. It’s easy to see why the judges awarded it Best Custom.


Oliver Dirt Trike combined a Goldwing, Mazda Miata and Oliver TractorOn the absolute opposite end of the custom spectrum was Mark Pullman’s unlikely mashup of a 1981 Goldwing, a Mazda Miata and a 1951 Model 66 Oliver tractor that won 1st place Rat.


Inspiration from the farm all over the Oliver Dirt Trike at the 2019 Donnie Smith Bike & Car ShowMany of its features looked as though they’d come straight from the farm, including its “NO TRESPASSING” warnings, pliers holster and windmill blade fenders supported by “T” fence posts.


Ransom MS Trike at the 2019 Donnie Smith Bike & Car ShowIt was fun to watch folks marvel over Herb Cowart’s futuristic-looking Ransom MS Trike that took home 1st place in the Trike Class.


Trike rear end with concealed carry stash boxes at 2019 Donnie Smith Bike & Car ShowThe rear was a fascinating study in and of itself, with its independent rear wheel suspension, custom fenders and two concealed carry stash boxes.


Long fork panhead at the 2019 Donnie Smith Bike & Car ShowWowza. There was no questioning why Dave Pyka’s bike won 1st in the Panhead with Long Fork Class.


Forks welded to Ford truck axles on panhead at 2019 Donnie Smith Bike & Car ShowAs it turns out, a Ford truck axle matched up perfectly with this bike’s forks, so they welded them right together.


Parts Extravaganza

After getting enough inspiration to fuel a lifetime of garage tinkering, the sprawling parts swap was a great way to track down the needed parts and tools to complete the job.

Couple picks up parts at 2019 Donnie Smith Parts SwapFor the first time ever, early bird ticket holders got entry into the swap meet an hour ahead of everyone else to get first dibs on the best parts.


Car Show

Overhead shot of the Roy Wilkins Auditorium during the 2019 Donnie Smith Car ShowA ride up the escalator from the parts swap brought you to the Roy Wilkins Auditorium, where you could drool over an eclectic collection of cars ranging from restored classics to lowriders and everything in between.


Military tribute vehicle at the 2019 Donnie Smith Bike & Car ShowIt was hard to walk in the room without this ‘56 Mack RB model immediately catching your eye. Tim Feidt totally outdid himself with this military tribute vehicle. It was equipped with a Dodge Cummins diesel turbo motor, 4 airbags on the suspension, super single wheels and color-changing lights.


American flag hanging on the back of a military tribute vehicle at the 2019 Donnie Smith Car ShowSure, you could use its 5th wheel hitch to hook up a trailer, why do that when you could put a flagpole with an American flag on the back?


Roamin display at 2019 Donnie Smith Car ShowWe asked the little old man sitting next to Dave Kalina’s ‘69 Mustang if he could tell us a little more about it, but he didn’t have much to say. Luckily a car like this truly speaks for itself.


Beautiful modification on this 1969 Mustang at the 2019 Donnie Smith Car Show“Roamin” was beautifully restored and given some mean modifications including Holley Terminator EFI turbo, Flowmaster dual engine exhaust, front and rear spoilers, hood scoop, rear window louvers, sport mirrors and a lowered suspension. It took home 2nd place in the Original Car Class.


’89 Chevy C1500 showing off some impressive modifications at the 2019 Donnie Smith Car ShowBig things came in small packages with this ’89 Chevy C1500 from Jeff Jurzynski. We’re talkin’ really big. This puppy was outfitted with a GM diesel engine and had a drive train so massive that the center of the cab had to be cut away in order to house it.


Kahlenberg air horn in the bed of this custom truck at the 2019 Donnie Smith Car ShowThe truck’s bark was just as big as its bite, too, thanks to a Kahlenberg air horn pulled from a ship named “Bessie” on Lake Superior.


1st place truck at the 2019 Donnie Smith Bike & Car ShowSpeaking of cool trucks, the show’s 1st place winner in the Original Truck Class was this 1972 International Harvester Scout II brought to the show by Bill Linsmayer.


Interior of Scout International at 2019 Donnie Smith Car ShowIt’s a good thing the keys weren’t in the ignition, or we would’ve climbed right in and taken her for a spin.


1950 Studebaker at Donnie Smith Car ShowFrom its signature bullet nose to its panoramic rear window and all parts in between, everything about this 1950 Studebaker was absolutely mint.


Lavender paint job on 1950 Studebaker in Donnie Smith Car ShowIt was a real test of will to stop yourself from jumping the barrier and running your hands over these curves with this alluring yet understated lavender paint job.


1955 Bel Air in the 2019 Donnie Smith Bike & Car ShowNot many adults can say they own their very first car, but Terry Sullivan can. He got this exact ’55 Bel Air in 1973 when he was 16 years old. After selling it in 1981, he probably never expected to see it again. But miraculously, he found it (same VIN!) and bought it back in 2015.


Drive thru tray on a Bel Air in the 2019 Donnie Smith Car ShowTerry had to make some extra space on this drive-in tray for his first place Chevrolet Classic award.


Dodge Dragster in the 2019 Donnie Smith Car ShowNorman Sugden’s ’65 Dodge Dragster has won some pretty prestigious awards before it took 1st in the Non-Street Class at the Donnie Smith Car Show. It was the NHRA’s first top fuel World Champion in 1965.


First place non-street class in the 2019 Donnie Smith Car ShowThis iconic drag racer set the NHRA record at 194.80 MPH thanks to its 345 cu. in. Chrysler Hemi that’s supercharged and fuel injected on nitromethane.


Ford Coupe entry from students at Henry Sibley High School in the 2019 Donnie Smith Car ShowA group of students from Henry Sibley High School in Mendota Heights, MN got special recognition during the awards ceremony for this car modeled after a 1930s Ford Coupe that they built over the course of seven months.


Bicycle tires on the front end of a Ford Coupe in the 2019 Donnie Smith Car ShowWe wish them luck as they take the car to the MTEEA Supermileage contest in May at Brainerd International Raceway to compete against nearly 100 cars from all over the region and Canada. Henry Sibley won the contest last year with a 6-mile run at 487 MPG.


Budweiser Happy Hour

Porkchop plays during Budweiser Happy Hour on Saturday night at the 2019 Donnie Smith Bike & Car ShowOf course, it wouldn’t have been a gathering of hogs without some pork. Everyone got a heaping helping of down-home biker blues from Porkchop during Happy Hour on Saturday evening.


Kevin "Teach" Baas celebrates a successful show during Happy Hour at the 2019 Donnie Smith Bike & Car ShowEveryone at the show had something to celebrate, and the tasty tunes helped ramp up the party. Builders raised a glass (or two) to commemorate jobs well done and all the enthusiasts took the opportunity to ring in riding season.


People cheers with Budweiser at the end of Happy Hour during the 2019 Donnie Smith Bike & Car ShowCheers! Overall, this year’s show was a huge success that wouldn’t have been possible without the efforts and presence of many. Special thanks to Dennis Kirk, Lucas Oil, State Farm, Budweiser, Metzeler Tire, and the Sturgis Buffalo Chip for sponsoring!

We’re already making plans for next year, and we hope you can join us. Mark your calendars for the 2020 Donnie Smith Bike and Car Show, March 21 and 22, 2020 at the Saint Paul RiverCentre.

Until then, to stay up to date with everything related to the show, be sure to sign up for the Donnie Smith Show newsletter.


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