Motor City Cribs

Jul 23, 2008 at 12:00 am

Ron Finch is one of the greatest all-time custom motorcycle and chopper builders. Kid you not. The 69-year-old's metal works are a wildly imaginative clash of precision machining and fabrication, and his vivid custom paint jobs must be seen to be believed — no camera can do one of his bikes justice.

What makes his work rise far above the average is that he's completely self-taught. (To learn how to pinstripe his bikes, the young artist began practicing on his parents' refrigerator.) Growing up as a cash-strapped kid in Royal Oak drag racing on Woodward Avenue, Finch had to figure out how to customize bikes.

"I learned that if you want to win you gotta work on your own stuff," Finch says. Since Finch sold his old shop on Joslyn Road to Home Depot six years ago, he has been focusing on his eye-popping metal sculptures of flowers, creatures and flying eyeballs. Like his bikes, these sculptures feature killer metal work and custom paint. For materials, he uses cast-off objects such as old silverware, spark plugs, scrap metal and even frying baskets from McDonald's. "For me sculpture is like therapy," Finch says. "With a bike everything has to be dead on; with sculpture you have more freedom."

Like his art and bikes, Finch's Auburn Hills studio must be seen to be believed. Tucked behind the home he shares with his wife, Ruth, and backed up against wetlands, his workspace overflows inside and out with art and bikes. It's a beehive of activity with a roomful of scrap material for his sculptures, welding and painting areas, and a refrigerator that's perpetually filled with beer for friends and co-workers.

The most visually mind-blowing part of Finch's space is the two-story tower made completely from a cast of blue glass slag — from an Ohio factory — which gives off an otherworldly glow at night.

The artist's son-in-law, Brad Collier, sums Finch's scene up nicely: "People look at all this stuff and say he's got too much time on his hands — but he doesn't — he works his ass off. This is non-retirement."

You can see Ron's work at Chopper Show Detroit Saturday, Aug. 9, at the Corktown Tavern, 1716 Michigan Ave., Detroit. Go to for more information. For more info about Finch, go to his website at