There is so much written on the man, that I am not even going to attempt to give you a rundown on his accomplishments and his well deserved notoriety. Finch is a genuine OG. I recall reading about the man in magazines as a kid in the early 70’s. He was wild, he was cool. In 1965 he opened Finch’s Custom Cycles and built it into a thriving shop that employed a bunch of people; he had a catalog of parts available. He hated it. Being a boss wasn’t what Finch wanted, but it paid the bills and bikes gave him a good platform to express himself creatively. In time he made a break, reinvented himself and pursued the creative spirit.
Looking at Finch machines is a different kind of experience. You know you are looking at a motorcycle, all the cues are there, but what is layered on top is a touch of humor, a dose of brilliance and an unbelievable amount of fabrication talent and creativity. These might be quirky, wild machines – but they are built with the precision and care of the finest timepieces. Finch sees things differently than we do.
Rod work and fins are some of the recurring and distinctive styling cues of Finch’s work. Supported by his ever loyal “Finch-men”, the amount of time dedicated to the building of these machines borders on the unreal. Every single piece of metal must be individually cut and fit due to the fact that asymmetry is one of his works driving forces. Every hand wrought piece of each machine is unique in its dimensions, shape and position. Taking the time to study one of these machines is an exercise in focus, each and every quadrant, component and part is a story in and of itself.
Finch can also play well with others, just look at his collaborations with Gary Maurer of Kustoms Inc. The latest machine to come from this collaboration was on display in Michael Lichter’s Eternal Combustion show at the Broken Spoke this past Sturgis – beautiful and striking.
Ron came out and we walked up into his shop. This is a guy who simply crackles with creative & life energy and you get the sense that there isn’t enough time in the day for him to get his work done.
Finch’s funhouse where he has the unfettered freedom to express himself, has the rough dimensions of a big barn and it is packed to the gills with all types of stuff. Walking through the building to the front, Finch’s latest creation “the Outsider” a sidecar rig made from rod and all sorts of tools and found objects was sitting outside in the sun. I’d seen the rig at the VTwin Expo earlier in the year and didn’t have enough time to spend checking it out so this was a great opportunity to study the machine. To say it’s intense would be an understatement. I couldn’t photograph it because it was promised to another magazine, ahh, oh well – it was fun to see, and I encourage you to seek it out for a look. I can’t look at a vehicle like the Outsider, made completely from rod, sidecar and all – and not wonder “whats it like to ride in”. I asked Finch – and he said “I don’t know, no one has ever ridden in it”, lets take a ride, you’ll find out.”
Before I knew it, I was sitting in the sidecar of the Outsider with Finch at the helm, speeding down his driveway into the quiet suburban street. I don’t often find myself a passenger, especially in a hack, but being a passenger in the sidecar with Finch driving around his “hood was a blast. Nothing like sitting 3” from the ground with it passing as a blur beneath you or have, your arm ½” from a spinning tire, resting on a fender made from rod, in a sidecar made of rod, zipping down the street at speed, with a grinning Finch next to you. It was a lot of fun, it was a treat and it was pretty damn scary – perfect!
Got back to the shop a few minutes later, laughing with Finch about the lack of good judgment I showed by getting into the Outsider as a passenger. I wish’d I’d have had the presence of mind to have Holdsworth shoot a few pictures – but I was too enthralled by the whole scene to be thinking straight.
The tour of the Shop started and to say it is an amazing place would, be to sell it short. There is motorcycle history a hanging from the walls in every possible space, vying for attention next to a rack of eggbeaters, or barrels full of die punchouts from electrical conduit boxes waiting to be turned into wondrous Finch sculptures. Finch might be a pack rat and collect some peculiar and odd stuff, but he knows exactly what he’s got and exactly where it’s located. All this stuff… it aint junk, it’s the raw makin’s of Finch’s art.
The tour continued through the building, we go up to see his “creature gallery”, his animal and insect sculptures made from found materials and wildly, vividly painted. I fell for a green bug and bought it on the spot. An unbelievable amount of American and motorcycle memorabilia fill this wondrous building.
With the motorcycle shop closed, Finch works on only the project he wants, pursuing his muse. His building gives him enough space to fabricate his one-off masterpieces and he doesn’t need much more. A small, unassuming spray booth with a view of his pond right is where he works his painterly magic.
The paint that comes from Finch is legendary in its wildness, technical accuracy and outright stunning beauty. The tour continues, only to be broken up by Ruth, Finch’s wife and business head (and excellent cook) serving some much appreciated lunch. During lunch it was great to hear Ron and Ruth tell stories of their friends, of mishaps and adventures – all of which is centered around a two wheeled, art powered culture and appreciation for history.
A walk around Finch’s property after lunch aided in digestion and gave us a look at some of the artifacts the man has placed around his property. Manholes covers, fire hydrants and all matter of urban detritus litter the backcountry of Finch’s property in perfect planned disarray, interconnected by a series of confusing walking paths. Follow Finch, he knows where he is going.
Getting back to the shop, I was still in a daze from all the stimulus and input.
Images & Words: Stephen Berner
FINCH’S CUSTOM STYLED CYCLES
Pontiac MI 48340