Errett Austin Kathcart Jr.
Feb. 1929-Sept. 2005
“Lifelong friends are a very special commodity in this uncertain world today.”
I have been told that true friends do not care if they have problems bigger than yours, and they are willing to forfeit the last dollar they have to make sure you have something to eat or gas in the bike. A true friend is how his close friends describe Austin Kathcart Jr.
Austin was born and raised in Austin, Texas, and in 1967 he moved to Dallas where he gained employment at a local speedometer repair shop where he excelled and was truly missed when he moved to Missouri. Austin’s skills were widely recognized throughout the Midwest in a wide range of racing and standard applications. Austin was a true legend from that perspective and gained the respect of hundreds of people in Kansas City, Missouri. Formerly known as the “Bore Master,” his passion for motorcycles and the sport he truly lived and loved continues to follow him through his close friends, such as Donnell Shiflett, a friend of Austin for 59 great years, and owner of Donnell’s Motorcycles in Independence, Missouri. Ray Worth, who started Worth Harley-Davidson, was not only Austin’s true friend; he trusted Austin’s incredible precision as a machinist.
Austin was 76 years old when he suffered a fatal heart attack and later died. This was not the first time the Kathcart family was faced with such a loss. Austin’s father, grandfather and even his uncle all died from this same heart issue. This never stopped him from doing the things he loved and cherished including long drives in one of the four Chrysler cars he owned and never missing the races at Daytona Beach, Florida with his friend Donnell.
At the time of this interview I was touched by the passion of Austin’s friends. Larry James, Stewart Basey and Tim Sickel have all lost a great friend and miss the Thursday night beer sessions that Austin was a part of. He was a soft spoken gentleman who was always there to help out, even at the dirt race track where so many people depended on his engine building techniques that won so many races in the past.
I have always believed that those who have touched us in this life and offered their true friendship without a second thought remain in our hearts and minds forever. Austin was one of those people. He will be truly missed among his immediate peer group, but since his passing he is always the topic of discussion.
Though I never had the honor of meeting Austin, I realize that Kansas City and the world have lost a legend in the motorcycle industry and he will be remembered by the true friends he had in the past and present. He has touched many people and has etched a big piece in the motorcycle community.
If you have not seen the movie, “The World’s Fastest Indian,” according to Donnell, this story is an exact replica of Austin’s life. Who knows—maybe someday they will make a documentary on Austin and his travels.
By Dave Miller
Photos provided by Stripe and Larry James