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Bikernet Special Report: Two Custom Motorcycle Creative Types Collide

Andrew and Imogen Make Their Mark on the Cycle Culture

By Bandit with photos by Markus Cuff

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Check 5-Ball leathers for all your leather desires...
Check 5-Ball leathers for all your leather desires...

This story is about two young upstarts in the motorcycle industry. They didn’t stumble into each other until the evil Bikernet.com web site tossed them together in a Port of Los Angeles ghetto, but we can’t go there.

Actually, Imogen, who runs the Great Frog wild skull jewelry outlet on Melrose in Hollywood, was first discovered by the esteemed Bikernet Feature photographer, Markus Cuff, while looking cute at a Born Free Show. Her slender form and dramatic tattoos attracted his attention.

“I need to shoot you for Tattoo Magazine,” Markus spouted to Imogen, a Born Free 2 girl.

“Sorry, I don’t do that,” Imogen replied humbly. “I’m not a model.”

Since that fateful day in the dust and blistering sun at the outdoor California park bobber show, Imogen has glistened on the cover of Tattoo magazine, on the cover of Dice Magazine, a model for Sailor Jerry Rum, featured in a recent Harley-Davidson apparel catalogs, twice shot for 5-Ball Racing Leathers, Cycle Source magazine, and recently she blasted across the country on a new Harley, with four other girls and Lana MacNaughton.

Imogen, originally from New Zealand and related to the Great Frog in London, hadn’t experienced a number of states and was blown away while slicing through over 6000 miles and 19 states in 38 days on a modified Dyna Wide Glide by the HOG Magazine staff.

This is Imogen's Sporty ride.
This is Imogen's Sporty ride.

Here’s what the factory said about the ride:

Harley-Davidson celebrated 100 years of strong and confident women riders by supporting renowned photographer and motorcyclist Lana MacNaughton and the Highway Runaways Ride. Distinguished for her “Women’s Moto Exhibit,” MacNaughton lead four of her closest female friends, including Imogen, on a cross-country Harley-Davison motorcycle journey.

The four-week tour ended in San Francisco. The ride was inspired by the infamous Avis and Effie Hotchkiss ride in 1915, when the mother and daughter team became the first women to ride their Harley-Davidson across the U.S. Like the Hotchkiss ride 100 years ago, Harley-Davidson powered the Highway Runaways Ride.

During another 5-Ball Leather shoot.
During another 5-Ball Leather shoot.

“I wasn’t accustomed to a big bike,” Imogen said. The crew of girls jumped their new Harleys in Brooklyn and cut a concrete trail for the outskirts of the city. “I had to learn and acclimate to the big bike quickly while slicing through dense traffic.”

She discovered in a New York minute what a 6-speed Dyna loves to do. “It couldn’t wait to feel the freedom of the open road and 6th gear, which I loved.”

The bike builder Andrew Ursich is or could very well be a major member of the next line of serious United States custom bike builders. He has the touch, talent, and mechanical sense of detail and is about to have his second effort published in Cycle Source magazine.

Located on the backstreets of Long Beach in a shady industrial area scattered with small shops without signs, or faded marques and locked doors. Andrew’s shop was one of four in a line behind a tall locked metal gate wrapped with black sheet metal, so folks can’t see past the yard and into his roll-up metal door where his chopped and channeled ’59 Cadillac resides. Ultimately it will be a slammed El Camino/Caddy when he’s finished. Next to it sat this Sporty, a glistening jewel surrounded by Bondo dust, primer coated fenders, and gray shop equipment.

The McQuiston Cycle gang. That's Ryan in the front.
The McQuiston Cycle gang. That's Ryan in the front.

Andrew grew up in San Pedro. His dad, a machinist, and his mom worked in the office of a shipping company. Andrew was constantly surrounded by metal. He took a class at Wyotech, then a seminar in metal shaping by Gene Winfield and attended a dinner after the class. The next day Gene offered him a job as a shop intern. For two years he drove 100 miles out of the city, and spent the week sequestered in the Mojave Desert working on a ’49 Mercury chopping the top, learning fabrication, and metal shaping.

“Gene was a laid back boss,” Andrew said. “He told us what he wanted and let us go after the project.” Gene’s shop is located in the center of an old wrecking yard, surrounded with desert relics. After a couple of years Andrew was offered a Union gig at the Port of Long Beach with benefits and he jumped, but his desire to customize didn’t stop or even slow down. He towed his stripped classic Cadillac into his shop and went to work after hours.

Imogen with Andrew's second creation. You'll see the feature in Cycle Source first, then on Bikernet.
Imogen with Andrew's second creation. You'll see the feature in Cycle Source first, then on Bikernet.

But as you know too well, there’s an evil spirit surrounding every two-wheeled demon. It sucks in the unsuspecting average Joe who stumbles, unknowingly into the magnetic aura of the criminal bike builder. In this case a short stubby grinding and welding maniac, who lived under his MIG welder in the unmarked shop out front, surrounded by bobbers, chopped Sportys, frisco’d Yamahas, and ancient Shovelheads became the flashy lure.

No sooner did tall, clean-shaven Andrew move into his shop and start reworking the shapely ’59 Caddy body, when the sliding door to McQuiston’s custom cycles slid open on squeaky metal wheels and a passel of wild ape hanger maniacs screamed and snorted. With tall straight pipes shooting flames at the sky as they peeled into the cool Long Beach city night air.

It’s like the gypsy woman’s spell over an unsuspecting street urchin, turning his life suddenly upside down. Within a week Andrew purchased a basket case Sporty off the cracked and stained McQuiston concrete deck and a modified stock Paughco tail sectioned frame from his rusty iron shelves.

Slightly burnt out on the caddy project he shifted all of his free-time attention to his first bike build. Or was it the metal flake disease? “I thought it would go faster,” Andrew muttered. “I couldn’t stop.” He thought he’d build a quick classic chop, rattle-can the finish and go for a ride, but the engine contained a couple of brass elements and it caught Andrew’s attention. His Gene Winfield detailed learning surfaced and he started to build brass elements, with the help of Lowbrow. Some of the brass components came from Italy.

Andrew hand made the headlight bracket, then the fender struts, the inspection cover and the shift and brake linkages. His attention turned to making and modifying the sheet metal. He made the battery box, the ignition counsel, point cover, and modified the pipes from straight drags to upswept puppies.

He hand brass-braided all his lines and ran clear shrink tubing over them except for the ends, which are black strips of heated tubing. He hand made the bottom fender bracket and drilled all the lightening holes. Then he made the handlebars the coil cover and the kickstand. Heating and tacking solid 3/8-inch bar on his tank and rear fender edges, he created a unique design touch to his sheet metal.

He switched out the Sportster rocker boxes for 1959 jobs. “They are not as squared off,” Andrew said, “and the cast aluminum was not so porous so it took the chrome without pits.” As a final detail touch he brass plated the license plate frame then painted it black. While the paint was wet he wiped off the numbers.

“I’m fully into bike building now,” Andrew said and I noticed a fiery glint in his eyes. “I need to out-do myself with the next one, maybe a Pan or a Knuckle.” We are fortunate to bring you a couple of teaser shots from his next build, which will soon be featured in Cycle Source Magazine.

I started to back towards the door. The offshore wind kicked up and his steel roll-up door rattled a wild rhythmic call for the road.

I wanted to ask about the Brass Monkey name. Markus, our photographer mentioned a 1980s song by the Beastie Boys, and a redhead whispered something about a cocktail made with dark rum, vodka and orange juice. I needed to find that redhead.



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