The Secret Life Of Ron Finch

Ron Finch opened Finch’s Custom Styled Cycles in 1965 in a small building in Pontiac, Michigan. Not only to design, build and paint striking one-off motorcycles in his own very unique extreme style, but also creating metal sculptures and other objects resisting any aesthetic classification. All along his professional career, Ron has pursued a broad spectrum of artistic activities and is highly esteemed for his ground breaking experimentations with unusual materials and paint processes.

His first nationally known custom was a 1966 BSA named “Kaleidocycle”, which prompted Ed Roth to headline him as “Michigan’s Motorcycle Madman” In 1968 Ron married Ruth and together they grew the business. He taught Ruth how to ride and built her a custom 1966 Triumph, which was painted orange and white pearl and named after her favorite treat a ”Creamsicle”! They could be seen riding together with Ron on his three cylinder BSA, called “Ron’s Rocket” and Ruth on her rigid Triumph chopper. In the late 1970’s, Ron built a Triumph Trident three wheeler named “Trilogy”, that featured the “tri” theme throughout with triple gas tanks, rear fenders, exhaust and a front end that resembles the number three.

Ron Finch’s career was interrupted in 1981, when he was hit from behind by a drunk driver, who left him and his motorcycle lying on the road. He spent six long weeks in the hospital in traction and was told that he would never walk again. His crew came in and installed wheels, a gas tank, handlebars, and a headlight on his hospital bed, so Finch could keep on riding! He left the hospital in a wheelchair, but soon progressed to crutches and eventually to his own leg power!

To celebrate his recovery, in 1982 Ron completed an Ironhead Sportster that hid the gas tank in the rear fender and had a two-part detachable frame. The neck tubes attached to the engine as the arteries to a heart, inspiring the name “Aorta”! Then his first “bagger” called “Loophole” because the exhaust pipes artistically looped through the frame above the engine. Another loophole in the Law of Average! In the 1990’s, Ron built a very industrial looking custom, this time hiding the gas tanks in the floorboards! In 2003, Finch completed another outrageous personal custom that was affectionately called “Wing and a Prayer”.  The multi-functional aluminum saddlebags house the 3.5 gallon gas tanks and also provide storage space! While working with charities, Ron took again a very unique approach in building a giant motorcycle sculpture that is known as the “Dreamcycle”. It measures ten feet tall and fourteen feet long and actually has the capability of blowing flames from the exhaust! Ron’s latest was unveiled in 2010, an amazing sidecar called “Outsider” featuring a gorgeous and intricate twisted metal work.

In June of 2004, Ron and his dedicated crew were filmed building his latest personal custom for the the Biker Build-Off on the Discovery Channel broadening the number of his admirers to a younger audience not born when he started his artistic career. In April of 2005, competing with today’s top builders at the Las Vegas Biker Build-Off, Ron was awarded the “Biker Blacksmith” Award for extreme metal fabrication.He was recognized in Daytona Beach in March of 2006 at the V-Twin Biker’s Ball with a Lifetime Achievement Award!

To this day, each of Ron’s extreme creations continue to draw big crowds of admirers, to attract international media attention inspiring magazine headlines such as “The Fabulous Finch”, “The King of French”, ”Finch Effect”, “King of Custom”, “Mad About Metal”, “Michigan Magician”, “Ron Finch is Nuts”, “Finch Fest”, “Got Finch?”, “Ron Finch Gets Finicky” etc…

A highly imaginative and versatile artist, Ron is a colorful and high-esteemed presence in the custom motorcycle industry. He assured me that his life’s work was not finished and that his contributions to the motorcycle industry are far from being over. Yes, he has plans to do much more! So, expect more of his “2 or 3-wheel architectural achievements” in a show near you, on TV, in magazines and of course in my Blog. While in Daytona for Bike week and before returning to his Pontiac studio in his beloved Michigan, Ron answered my questions… Finch’s Custom Styled Cycles (top 3 pictures copyright and courtesy Tom Zimberoff for Cyril Huze)

Cyril. In High School, what your teachers said about you? Ron. My teachers said  “You will never succeed because all you do is goof off and try to be the class clown” I did succeed……I’m still a clown!

Cyril. Who were your childhood heroes? Ron. I had lunch with “ Soupy Sales” (a local kid show comedian). Soupy would announce what was for lunch the next day and my Mom would fix it for me. When I came home from school for lunch, the TV would be on and lunch would be ready! I remember having tomato soup and grilled cheese with Soupy Sales and White Fang!

Cyril. What was your 1st vehicle? Ron. When I first got my driver’s license my parents didn’t want me to have a motorcycle. Winter was coming and they asked me to decide if I wanted a used car or a motor scooter to drive to work! They thought that “ Mrs. Finch’s Little Boy Ronnie” would be smart enough to choose the car. They were wrong. I drove a Cushman Eagle through the snow and ice all winter long!

Cyril. If you were not working in the motorcycle industry, what would you do? Ron.  Race car Driver.

Cyril. Best/worst qualities? Ron. Best Quality: Fun to be around. Love to party. Worst Quality:  I’m perfect……..I don’t admit to any faults!

Cyril. What is your favorite way to relax? Ron.  I enjoy riding my motorcycle, building metal sculptures, doing creative landscaping with rocks, trees and bushes while drinking a cold barley pop!

Cyril. What is the last music you downloaded in your iPod? Ron. What’s an iPod. A pPod? Who cares? If I did, it would be Funk 49 by the James Gang.
 
Cyril. Preferred city in America and in the world? Ron. Pontiac, Michigan where is my studio. All cities have something cool.

Cyril. What are you afraid of? Ron. I used to be called “Fearless”, took lots of chances. I have calmed down, just a little!

Cyril. What is the person you would love to meet? Ron. I would like to meet Jay Leno and see his car and motorcycle collection.

Cyril. Which film made you cry? Ron. Crying is for punks!

Cyril. Do you have any tattoos or piercings? Ron. No tattoo or piercing.

Cyril. Name five things you hate. Ron. I hate Japanese Motorcycles and cars, slow people in the fast lane, people talking on a cell phone while driving, people trying to be cool, the plastic throw away world………. especially water bottles.
 
Cyril. Do you practice/watch any sport? Ron. No sports for me.

Cyril. What is your best life achievement? Ron. My greatest achievement is realizing my dream………..building custom motorcycles.

Cyril. What do you miss most at home when you are on the road? Ron. I miss home cooking when I am traveling.

Cyril. What was the last book you read? Ron. I never read a book in my life ….. I like the pictures! Who needs a book of rules or those “some assembly required” instructions? 
 
Cyril. Where is your favorite vacation place? Ron. Grand Canyon at sunrise is my favorite vacation view.

Cyril. Do you have any guilty pleasures? Ron. I don’t have much of a conscience. Guilt is a waste of time.

Cyril. Do you collect anything? Ron. I collect fire hydrants, manhole covers, light poles, rocks, meat grinders, and all kinds of unusual treasures.

Cyril. What was your worst buy? Ron. Investing in property before the bottom fell out!

Cyril. How do you take your coffee? Ron. I am not a coffee drinker.

Cyril. What was the most embarrassing thing you have ever made? Ron. I don’t embarrass easy!

Cyril. What is the best thing you can cook? Ron. I cook a mean breakfast.

Cyril. When was the time you were really angry? Ron. I was extremely angry in 1981 when I was rear-ended by a drunk driver while riding my motorcycle. Lying by the side of the road, my furious yelling at the driver (as he attempted to cover me with a blanket) caused him to leave the scene of the accident! I suffered a crushed pelvis, broken hip socket and leg. Doctors said that I would never walk again…

Cyril. What is your perfect weekend when you are at home? Ron. Riding my bike through small towns in northern Michigan or driving my van to garage and estate sales.

Cyril. What is your preferred rally? Ron. I had great times in Sturgis. Daytona cops SUCK!

Cyril. What is the worst question a journalist asked you? Ron. All always asking me. “But where is the gas tank?”

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50 Responses to “The Secret Life Of Ron Finch”


  1. 1 Mark Pavlica Mar 30th, 2011 at 8:07 am

    Finch is the man.

  2. 2 Harry Mar 30th, 2011 at 8:17 am

    He is a character. Only one like him. A lot of talent beyond building bikes. An artist acting like an artist.

  3. 3 Rob Campbell Mar 30th, 2011 at 8:39 am

    Thoroughly enjoyable read. Good interview, Cyril! Helped a lives under a rock guy like me get to know a great guy like this a little. Thanks!

  4. 4 Fathead Mar 30th, 2011 at 9:31 am

    Ron is a true artist we are lucky that he picked a two (or three) wheeled canvas

  5. 5 Unkl Ian Mar 30th, 2011 at 9:58 am

    Ron Finch is an American treasure.

  6. 6 burnout Mar 30th, 2011 at 10:31 am

    Ron Finch is a MAD man!!! I mean that in a good way! His work speaks for itself. peace

  7. 7 Shifter Mar 30th, 2011 at 10:40 am

    Thanks Cyril for paying tribute to a true artist somewhat unknown by bikers outside the industry. Great write-up.

  8. 8 2Low Mar 30th, 2011 at 10:41 am

    Spiritual son of Ed Roth?

  9. 9 Rod Fairchild Mar 30th, 2011 at 10:42 am

    Heard he also knows how to party…like an artist.

  10. 10 Hamilton Mar 30th, 2011 at 10:44 am

    A visit to his studio must be an interesting experience. Maybe one day when I am close to Pontiac.

  11. 11 chopmonster66 Mar 30th, 2011 at 11:09 am

    Ihave always admired Rons work , love all the rod work and the wild colors . .Ido use alot of rod work were i can makes for great lines and accents. would like to meet him in person, and party !!!!
    Do have an old Finch front end off an old ironhead don’t know what am going to use iit on yet..It will come to me one day.. keep up the great work …

  12. 12 Roberto Mar 30th, 2011 at 11:25 am

    Protect all the artists of the industry by buying their stuff.

  13. 13 Keith Stone & Kiki Mar 30th, 2011 at 11:31 am

    Ron is the best ! RON your the coolest !

    Ive had the distinct pleasure of having the “Finch” tour of his house before. Its truly custom and very awesome ! Got to climb up on that big motorcycle out in his front yard like a (respectful) little kid…

    If you ever have a chance or invited over, you need to see the ‘glass wall’.. the “living room” is just AWESOME and probably my favorite is the the paint booth up stairs with the walls that slide all around, with the out side walk around with the holes in the floor….. freaking cool ! (list is too long, whole house is cool)

    Ron, if you are reading this, you are truly and artist and a super nice guy. As with you, all your work is one of a kind and I love it !!! Thank you for the tour, that was AWESOME !!!!!…………………….

    RF= LEGEND !

  14. 14 Jeff Nicklus Mar 30th, 2011 at 11:42 am

    After Finch God broke the mold .. he is truly one of a kind!

    Over & Out,

    Jeff

  15. 15 DUHL Mar 30th, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    so cool!

  16. 16 TodT Mar 30th, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    Finch, a true American treasure.

  17. 17 nuno maroco Mar 30th, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    Free biker, free builder, free artist, all the best.

  18. 18 Kevin Mar 30th, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    Hats off to Ron and his unique expression of life.
    As an artist and ‘hands on’ in my Japanese Garden he is
    one of the guys I’d truly love to meet. Actually reading this
    motivates me to head north and see if he doesn’t have a
    sculpture I can add to my garden.

    Great story Cyril. You have friends we can only dream of hanging with.

  19. 19 Manhattan Choppers Mar 30th, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    A complex dynamic force of our time..One of the true greats..

  20. 20 Knucklehead Mar 30th, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    He has alays been a an oddaty. Back in the early 70′s I first went to his shop to get some part no one had. My first meeting was impressive. I’ll never forget it. Had a beer and all. PBR I think.

  21. 21 Gas Man Mar 30th, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    Having lived in Flint for many years, always frequent Arts, Beats, and Eats in Pontiac every summer (Royal Oak last year), Bikes on the Bricks, the large chopper at Rockys, and being a michigan biker my whole life. I have met Ron and his creations many times. He’s always just as he is on tv. Super nice, appreciative to our compliments on his work, and way way laid back. What a treasure to all of us around him!

    Great interview Cyril. Finch is a living legend!!

  22. 22 JC Mar 30th, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    The few times I have had the pleasure to meet him he has been very humble and very gracious.
    I look forward to seeing him again. He is the true Junkyard Dog!!!
    Finch is Greatness!!

  23. 23 Jason Ferguson Mar 30th, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    I had the fortunate opportunity to meet Ron at the Street Chopper party in Cincinnati. Ron and my wife spent a while talking shop. My wife is a educator and so is Ron’s daughter. So they had lots to talk about. We didn’t talk about bikes at all. He is a real dude. No ego. Just Ron. I liked the the guy before I met him. A true American eccentric. And ya he can party. We ran into him later that night leaving the Brodown party. He was with Paul Yaffe headed off to another party. We were wiped out and calling it a night. He wasn’t waisted just having a good time. An inspiration and role model for a mid lifer like myself. I only hope I have his zest when I’m his age.

  24. 24 Doc Robinson Mar 31st, 2011 at 6:24 am

    Ron Rocks!

  25. 25 Mark Mar 31st, 2011 at 7:11 am

    Cyril,

    Do an interview like this once a month. Excellent work!

    Motormark

  26. 26 Harold Mutter Mar 31st, 2011 at 9:52 am

    Ron is not only a gifted artist, he is truely a nice guy (hate to spoil your rep. Ron). Ron and I first met at a bike show in London, Ontario in 1980, where we were set up beside one another. Over the past 30 years Ron and I have run into one another several times and he never forgets you. I can confirm from experience that Ron likes his beer, especially in the company of freinds. Also a I want to say hello to Ron’s side kick, Dozer. See you down the line. Ron, your :”Tulip” sculpture still sits in a special place in our home.

  27. 27 CAROLYN TOMAS-KIWI INDIAN MOTORCYCLES Mar 31st, 2011 at 11:28 am

    Ron Finch is so Cool!!!

  28. 28 Cochise Mar 31st, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    Good man, great talent!!!! Misunderstood. yes? I dig him and his work!!!

  29. 29 Sara Mar 31st, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    Had the amazingly fun pleasure of hanging out with Ron this past V-Twin Expo….GREAT article and truly a funky fun guy with a heart of gold!! Had a BLAST with you, Ron…hope to see you again…
    Sara
    MOTORCYCLE MEDIC
    PITTSFIELD MA

  30. 30 LENNY SINNET Mar 31st, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    Ron is definitely the best of the best a true artist

  31. 31 Steve Hog Radio Producer Mar 31st, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    Ron its great to see you featured here. Glad to have interviewed you. Possibly we can catch up this year at Sturgis since we will be out spending time at Desperado Junction and other locals.

    Great job Cyril.

  32. 32 martin Twofeather Mar 31st, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    Thanks Cyril…

  33. 33 Mrs. F Apr 1st, 2011 at 8:58 am

    I took me a long time to realize that Ron Finch was an amazing artist- I just thought he was my best friends’ dad! (love you Sara and Gail!)

  34. 34 Ape Apr 1st, 2011 at 9:14 am

    Wonderful man with a wonderful family! Glad to have shared in his life and talent over the years!

  35. 35 SupermanMF Apr 1st, 2011 at 10:23 am

    He is the best dad a kid could ever had. It’s his and Ruth’s upbringing that made me who I am today. I am so proud of what he has made of himself, while still being there for me. In these times when heros are in comic books, sports figures who cheat and fake reality shows My dad is my real hero. He means the world to me. His fame never got in the way of being the dad he needed to be for me. He and Ruth taught me how to be a real person in a world where it’s easy to con everyone around you and be something you’re not. Cyril Thanks for the great recognition of a great man with a great woman to support him. Dad and Ruth you really are the best. I love you both, Marc

  36. 36 Ritchie Apr 1st, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    no B.S. kinda guy, awesome

  37. 37 Gail Vires Apr 1st, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    This dude is awesome! Last year we took him and his giant motorcycle to the Special Olympics in Mount Pleasent. I don’t want to tell any stories on him but, it was a really moving experience – anyways crying is for punks! He may look like a big tough guy, but he’s just a teddy bear! Can’t wait to go to Port Dover-me and my dad!

  38. 38 Eric Apr 1st, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    I’ve met Ron a number of times, and even worked with him on a few non-motorcycle projects. He’s a great guy and a great artist. you will never have a better conversation than talking with Ron.

  39. 39 BadLands Bruce & Debbie Apr 2nd, 2011 at 2:39 am

    One of the greatest highlights of our lives is getting to know Ron (and his awesome wife – Ruth). This guy sure is driven, tireless, creative, unique and TONS of FUN ! ! WOW – his lifetime of stories and accomplishments are such a blast to catch up with and I encourage anyone to approach and spend some time with this dude while he is still with us on this earth – - – just be careful, you just may end up spontaneously helping him work on just about any project you could imagine AND you may even enjoy a morning milk or Budweiser or two while you’re at it (cause he just doesn’t stop). Thanks for the spectacular article Cyril – - Ron has certainly earned a well deserved LEGENDARY status in his industry and so many other areas. I’m sure I’m speaking for many others when I say it’s great to see him recognized! What a “True Biker” ! ! ! !

  40. 40 Cynthia (kitten) Apr 2nd, 2011 at 9:04 am

    I had the pleasure of enjoying some of Ron’s work at ogemaw Hills Bike Week. He is a very unique individual & his talent is limitless. It’s nice to see he’s being recognized for his remarkable talent & living the biker dream!

  41. 41 Detroit Dave Apr 2nd, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    How cool to have shared some
    of the “crazy times” with Ron and the family.
    Let’s have a reunion!
    Neuman

  42. 42 Pete & Mo Apr 2nd, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    cool!

  43. 43 Ben Timm Apr 3rd, 2011 at 12:13 am

    Ron and Ruth where great friends of my fathers and now are my friends as time has passed on. I growup at Ron’s d shop and remember wathing the new one get done. I learn fro
    Ron that I wanted to make metal stick together and creat things. His family helped me and mine through a very hard time in our lives, the passing of my father “Fast Ed”. But I look forward to seeing them both when I am back in michgan, or on the road.

    Still don’t understand what the secret is though???

    Love ya both
    Ben

  44. 44 CAROLYN & PAUL SCHWAN Apr 3rd, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    Hey Ron ! You go. You’re the brother I never had. I’m thinking of ELO at the silverdome. Take good care of my sister. Love Paul & Carolyn

  45. 45 CAROLYN & PAUL SCHWAN Apr 3rd, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    RON: They for got the part where you left your floor in the hospital in your wheelchair and went to the bar next door for a beer. They also forgot the part where you went from room to room and cheered everyone else up on your floor. That’s the kind person you are. Paul

  46. 46 GEORGE Apr 3rd, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    RON: I think of you every time I go out my side door and see the tombstone you gave me 35 years ago when I came to see your shop with Paul. It sits next to my old phone booth in the yard. Keep up the artistic work that you’re a master of. The world needs more of it.

  47. 47 Dennis Apr 4th, 2011 at 12:44 am

    Without question your the greatest. Your brother in-law is a good friend and I am honored to pay tribute to you for being the best of the best. Keep up the Art, the world needs more of it.

  48. 48 V. Adam Apr 6th, 2011 at 8:11 am

    Thepeople at CIA LOVE your artwork, great Metal Work. Your other Brother-in-law Victor

  49. 49 jatinder pal Apr 8th, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    The true original…..the guy is genius,he builds bikes that no one really can copy.

  50. 50 James Parker Graham - Jimmy Aug 4th, 2011 at 6:23 am

    I first met Ron as a child dragging around an actual Ohio Willow Wood Artifical Leg. Life became easier when : Comfort Prosthetics in Mt. Clemens, MI provided me with the Otto Bock C-leg Computerized and Titanium. Ron’s Kindness helped me to realize that I did not have to be Wood Dependant. Ron and I, first meet at his Shop on Joslyn Rd. betwen I-75 and Keating Village. The shop itself had Concret Block Walls and the most curious Glass Sculptures and the Balastry of the Roofline. Ron Senced my disparity and said, ” How about I build you a side car ?’. No motorcycle at that time, due to a poor paying Job The Job was located at Frmington, Screw Products. Hand Clean Up for tollerance departures off the acme and gridles.

    I am telling all of this because the History Community.com has sponsered a FREE Web Site,with both individual and secure public access – NO Requirement for Social Community Membership. Access because any one can talk to any one else in a Very Secure manor with NO FEE’s

    I am trying to get help for organising an All Motorcycle Rider to Consideration for ” Celebration of Solidarity before Winter.” A specific location is under consideration. Leave the Collors at Home. My one contact with the “Hell is Our Home” Squad, is unreachable. For Christ Sake – NO Stones Concert at Altamont LIKE behavior – Please

    I am currently without any motorcycle ever since my episode – on Septermber1, 1971 Triumph Trident – greets the Rocky Mountains . All of my philosophy, concerns and Scoldings – can be found on the American Restoration History.Com Community Boards, Under American Restoration, American Pickers, or Pawn Shop. It is the new way of sharing and posting Good Posts, with a live woman Moniter. Any insults are causes for Dismisa. My Picture, and Posts are under “Tinman”. Find the post regarding THE RULE of 1-20-20. And the Brit Bile response, Under the Matchless Critism’s. There are most important and relevant. I need HELP, to Organise a “BLUE ANGEL” – Ride for silent vigal ? Answers Please to: Tinman on the History.com Comunity Board. Stay Safe and Pre-Flight Your Bike ! Tinman

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