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Illusion Custom Motorcycles

Rusty And Rod Making It Happen

Photos and text by Bandit
12/3/2009 12:11:14 PM

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This story will curl your toes. It’s basically about a couple of hardworking bikers who own a shop in a small industrial strip in Orange County, California. They aren’t television stars, but they are hardworking tough sonsabitches with tons of talent and dreams. There’s one other steel driving aspect to this story. They both faced life in prison at one time; both were innocent and had to fight for their lives.

skull on wall

To many folks in the straight world the word arrest means guilty. In the justice system often the word Biker means drugs, gangs, murder, mayhem and no good sonsabitches. As you know, nowadays, it ain’t so, and here are too completely separate stories. I’ll make it quick, because this is basically a report on their shop and their efforts in our industry, but this needs to be told. It’s an eye-opener.


Rusty Coones, an 11- year member of the Hells Angels was recently released from prison after a five year case and he was sentenced to 8 years of his life spent in cells in Oregon and Texas. Rusty was scooped up in a drug ring raid and accused of everything from trafficking to organized crime. He didn’t run in those circles, just knew a few folks who did, but because of his club affiliation the boom was dropped severely on his massive frame. The guy’s a monster. Add to that the factor that he wouldn’t roll on anyone, club affiliated or not the indictments grew.

painted cabinet

At one point the DA became aware that Rusty had no Meth connection, so he offered him a 8-year deal and Rusty went away for nothin’ except being a member of the Hells Angels. That’s the short story.

rusty seat

His partner is Rod Reguejo, an Argentinean. “They call me the Gaucho,” Rod said. At one time Rod was a Hells Angel prospect, in his truck on his way home when he became a victim of road rage. “It was two days before Christmas,” Rod said. “There was heavy traffic everywhere.” His truck was in a bumper-to-bumper jam-up on an off ramp, at a dead stop, when two brothers yanked open his doors and pulled him out of the cab. On the pavement they began to kick his ass, while his running truck rolled away.

two toned tank
An Illusion production bike in final stages.

He had no choice but to defend himself and pulled a knife. One of the brothers died and the other ran off injured. Because Rod was a club prospect he was arrested for murder and spent 30 days in jail, during which time the living brother told the authorities several stories about this gang member attacking them. Finally three witnesses came forward. “Must have been 50 people who saw what happened,” Rod told me. “Finally three stepped up to the plate.”

johnny suede tank
Here’s a Big Red Machine in for maintenance.

All the charges were ultimately dropped. Rod is no longer a prospect but a member of the notorious Sinners, a group of Old School bike builders in Southern California. It’s not a club and they don’t have rules or patches.

2 rear wheel bike

Completely wild one-off custom, but it works.

When Rusty was released from prison, by law he had to get his shit together quick or face a parole violations. Ultimately these two got together after Rusty bought the Illusion Motorcycle Name and they moved into this shop on Edinger in Santa Ana, California.

2 rear wheel bike back

Here’s where we leave the dark side to another breed and move into the light glowing above the creative and hard working. Before Rusty went away he was a hard working entrepreneurial Hells Angel who developed a motorcycle manufacturing facility called the Big Red Machine. Before Big Dog and many other manufactures were cemented in this industry, Rusty and his crew cranked out production choppers and they’re still on the road today.

filing metal
This is a slapping file that Rod’s dad made to shape and strengthen sheet metal. As the file striations smack the surface they compress the molecular structure and make it more dense.

Rusty is the businessman. He knows how to take care of day-to-day operations. Rod, on the other hand, came from three generations of metal smiths. His grandfather won four formula 1 championships in Argentina. “He had six brothers and they all worked on the team,” Rod said. “Each one had an assignment. One was the welder, one the engine builder, one the body man and one the butcher.”

guy grinding
Rod grinding on his handmade tank.

They were middleclass working stiffs and needed to raise their own racing funds. “Every Wednesday they threw Penas,” Rod said. “My great uncle cooked and people paid to come hang at the race car shop and eat.”

fab around rear fender
They know how to set up a Softail fender so it looks like a rigid.

Rod’s dad came to the States and went to work for Metal Crafters, who built Chrysler concept cars. He also worked for Boyd Cottington building custom cars. Rod learned the trade, the tools and fell in love with the craft. He has an entire tool cabinet full of his father’s and grandfather’s body working hammers. Even has one of his grandfather’s handmade hammers tattooed on the back of his hand.

hand holding hammer

bare metal frame neck
Shovelhead frame modified to fit Evo motor.

So what’s Illusions all about? They build bikes, manufacture two Illusion models, a chopper and a pro street, and designed a motor configuration that is EPA certified and can be bumped from 97 cubic inches to 139 overnight.

blk n white bike outside
Rod’s everyday rider.

Shortly we’ll bring you more about the Illusion models. “We developed an engine that begins with a massive skin and 1- inch taller cylinders,” Rod said. “We’re not trying to squeeze excessive power out of a smaller engine configuration. We began with the biggest then toned it down for more reliability. They run dual sparkplug STD heads, with STD barrels and cases. With JIMS internals and Spyke electrics there boxed motors are delivered with EPA certification at 97 inches. “For just about $500 we can bump them to 139 inches (5-inch pistons and 4.25 stroke), and 200 hp,” Rod told me.

tank w scallop indent

But building bikes is flowing through Rod’s veins 24/7. He was making a shapely gas tank while I roamed the shop. Not just any tank, but an art piece that flowed like a Ferrari’s fender. He builds frames or modifies them. He’s developing Illusion oil tanks and components.

teardrop oil bag

That’s the story and we’re stickin’ with it. It’s not the end, though. We’ll bring you a feature on an Illusion model as soon as we can straddle one. We’ll bring you a feature of the bike Jesse James built in Rusty’s honor, with Rusty’s wife KO, just before he got out of the joint. And we’ll bring you the full story of Rusty’s life before and during his club years. Hang on.

wcc tank

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Reader Comments

I have a 96 Illusion motorsport bike... It's a bit of a frankenharley, half softail, half Dyna but it sounds like King Kong when you fire it up.

It was my uncles bike. He was a master mechanic who managed a fleet for a long haul logistics company out in Riverside. He was obsessed with everything around internal combustion engines. He raced off road in the Baja 500, built a few custom cars, drove a C4 corvette most of his life and had a custom motorcycle. He passed away a few years back.... His bike got passed around like a hot potato until I took it on. I got it running again but I wouldn't call it road worthy just yet. Still needs some work on carbs, desperately needs lighter wheels. Like everything worth doing, just needs more money and time invested.

I am short on both, but it's worth the effort. I'll see it through.

Brian Werner
Long Beach , CA
Tuesday, July 19, 2022
Editor Response We are glad. Did you know the original Illusion Motorcycles were the first production choppers ever built. You may have a piece of Chopper World history on your hands.
I think I have ended up with 96 Illusions 106 chopper according to title search except for last know owner liking for help find last know owner.

Charles Richard Shook
Houston, TX
Friday, March 4, 2022
Editor Response I sent your info over to Rusty at Illusions Cycles. I'm sure he will get back to you.
Working on an illusion chop for a brother and replacing the drive belt. Having hell getting the swingarm pivot allen bolt to break free. Are they two sided allen nuts or a one sided with one end to keep from spinning? Which side would it be? Thanks and hope for a response.

Duke Ludwig
Las Cruces, NM
Sunday, September 16, 2018
Editor Response Rusty responded: "If I could see a picture of the swingarm it would help a bit, because I know they used an FXR style swingarms. But they also had that weird Softail style rubbermount frame that they used for a year or two, which was kind of hokey."

Rusty also told me about reopening Illusions Cycles in Gardena in the very near future. Watch for news about that. You can still go to his web site and reach out to Rusty direct.
Hard working sonsabitches don't let nobody hold them down....Nice bikes bros.....I dont know how old this story is, but a friend of mine just bought an Illusion bike out of pawn for another friend, who found himself in a pickle. Beautiful bike, he said the company is no longer, is this true?

bob mcbrier
little rock, AR
Sunday, June 18, 2017
Editor Response I want to thank the reader for the compliments on Illusion motorcycles. Please pass this message on to him.

It's true, I have closed the shop and am busy with other endeavors at this time. I still have all my equipment at Adler Motors and will build limited bikes in the near future.--Rusty
--from Bandit
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