Building with Mr. Wilcox
by Walter Brown
8 months ago
Sometime in mid-February 2021 I received a call from a number I didn't recognize. After a quick intro the gentleman on the other end of the line said, "You're up. When can you bring your bike down?". My jaw dropped. In part because the guy on the other end of the line was Evan Wilcox - master craftsman in the art of metal shaping, designer and Instagram phenom.
Why was my jaw on the floor? I was talking to Evan Wilcox (I revere this man's work); he was calling to let me know that my two year wait for him to start my custom project had arrived; and, my two year wait had arrived... And I was nowhere near ready.
After clearing my throat and mustering up the strength to ask the difficult question, I responded with, "can you give me a few weeks?". He responded graciously with a "yes", and that he'd simply move me down the list a few slots. So I set focus on completing my design, frame modifications and the model that was intended to guide him to my vision for the project.
Let me take a step back and mention that this mysterious project, up until this point lived entirely on and in paper. Meaning, I worked through some great concepts with my good friend Julian DePuma and over the course of a year started and restarted a full scale model multiple times. It still wasn't complete, nor was it really the incarnation of what I wanted to build. So, I started again.
I worked feverishly for what seemed like years to distill my design into a physical foamcore and cardstock model, carefully stitch together with sewing pins, hot glue, masking tape and anything else that would bind this tight assembly of materials. THREE MONTHS and a whole lot of cat juggling later I'd finally completed my the model it was time to high tail it to California with the Z1 design mule.
Upon arriving in LA, after an epic journey with my crazy cousin Bill, I made my way up to Big Bear Lake... an epic journey in itself. I pulled up the steep driveway to Evan's house and sent him a quick text letting him know that that I'd arrived. A few moments later the door to his shop slowly rolled up and there stood Evan. After brief run of the mill hello "how are ya", slowed the trains and said "tell me about yourself". At this point all of my expectations as to how this part of the exchange would go went completely out the door. We spent at least an hour talking about our lives, our love of design and motorcycles... and eventually what we were going to do with this cobbled together piece of machinery. I felt like I'd known this guy for years within a few hours.
During the lengthy conversation that afternoon we did finally dive into discussing and tweaking the design I'd envisioned for the Z1. Evan was careful not to impose his ideas, but was gracious in offering up numerous ways to enhance what I'd sculpted. I couldn't have been happier.
Driving away after a few hours I realized I'd just had the experience of a lifetime. Not only did I get a brief master class with a true artisan ,but I had an even more meaningful outcome of getting to know a bit about a phenomenal human being who just happens to love motorcycles as much as I do.
During that short time I learned Evan was a graduate of the ArtCenter design school in Pasadena, a background that made complete and utter sense based on what I'd seen and heard from him online. I also learned that he had lived a colorful life, was a strong Christian, proud parent and grandfather who approaches his work, and the people he meets, with humility and authenticity. Just the kind of guy you want to live next door to and BBQ with.
Fast forward 6 to 8 weeks and I get another exciting message from Evan. The works done and includes not only the tank but the tail section I'd thrown in at the last minute as an unexpected surprise. I picked everything up in early August 2021, enjoyed another and engaging afternoon with the man and made my way home with my bounty.
I won't even attempt to describe the final products. Evan's work - the the metal and the process - speak for themselves. You can check out both on his Instagram feed. https://www.instagram.com/p/CQunVubBgUC/
As for me, I can honestly say that I have never been personally associated with such beautifully crafted work. That being said, the greatest pleasure was the journey getting to enjoy all the participants along the way. The culmination of that represented by Evan.
Did I say I revere this man's work? I also revere the man!