By K. Randall Ball with photos by Markus Cuff
This story is about two young upstarts in the motorcycle industry, Andrew Ursich & Imogen. They didn’t stumble into each other until the Bikernet.com website tossed them together for a photo shoot in the Port of Los Angeles ghetto for 5-Ball Leathers.
Actually, Imogen, who runs the Great Frog wild skull jewelry outlet on Melrose in Hollywood, was first discovered by the 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 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.
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 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 is Ursich’s shop. It’s one of four in a line behind a tall locked metal gate wrapped with black sheet metal.
Andrew grew up in San Pedro, California. He took a class at Wyotech, then a seminar in metal shaping by Gene Winfield (famous custom car builder) 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 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.
No sooner did tall and clean-shaven Andrew move into his shop than the sliding door next to his shop, McQuiston’s Custom Cycles, creaked open on squeaky metal wheels and a passel of wild ape hanger maniacs screamed and snorted out the door…
It’s like the gypsy woman’s spell over an unsuspecting street urchin, turning his life suddenly upside down. Within a week Andrew went next door and purchased a basket case Sporty off the cracked and stained McQuiston concrete deck. He also grabbed a modified stock Paughco tail sectioned frame from his rusty iron shelves on his way out the door.
Andrew 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 parts.
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.
Owner: Andrew Ursich
Builder: Andrew Ursich
Year/model: 1980 Harley-Davidson Sportster XLH
Time to build: 6 months
Chromer: South Bay Chrome
Polisher: Antique Metal Finishing
Powder coater: Precision Powder Coating
Painter: Danny D
Color: Root Beer
Engine, year/model: 1980 Ironhead
Builder: Ryan McQuiston
Flywheels (make & stroke): H-D stock
Connecting rods: H-D
Cylinders (make & bore): Cast H-D, stock bore
Pistons (make & comp. ratio): H-D 9:1
Cam (make & lift): Andrews
Valves: Biker’s Choice
Push rods: S&S
Carb: Kiehn CV
Air cleaner: V-Twin Manufacturing
Exhaust: Drag pipe with added up sweep
Wires: Magnum Braided
Charging system: Stock
Regulator: V-Twin Manufacturing
Oil pump: Stock
Cam cover: H-D with Andrew point cover
Primary cover: Stock with Andrew inspection cover
Transmission, year/model: 1980
Mods: Brass accents
Primary drive: Stock chain
Final drive: Chain
Kick starter: Nope
Frame (year, make): 1980 H-D Sportster XLH
Front forks: DNA Springer 2 Over
Mods: Paughco Hardtail installed by McQuiston’s
Front wheel (size and make): 21-inch
Rear wheel (size and make): 16-inch
Front brake (make and style): nope, spool hub
Rear brake (make and style): Harley drum
Front tire (size and make): 3.00-21-inche Avon Speedmaster
Rear tire (size and make): 5.00-16-inch Avon MK11
Front fender: None
Rear fender: Custom made with ribbing by Andrew
Fender struts: Custom made from flat bar stock by Andrew