Rusty Coones has lived what could easily be a “Sons of Anarchy” plot line.
A tower of a man with tattooed arms jutting from his sides like turrets, Coones is a longstanding Hells Angel and bike builder who owns Illusion Motorsports in Westminster, Calif., — a custom shop that specializes in burly black bikes that would be right at home on the hit FX show that re-imagines “Hamlet” with a gun-running motorcycle club doling out eye-for-an-eye justice in a small California town.
With recent appearances on “Sons of Anarchy” and bikes he’s built for the show’s creator, Coones blurs the line between reality and fiction. In two episodes leading up to Tuesday’s grisly season finale, Coones played Quinn, president of a Sons of Anarchy Nomads charter, riding one of his own Illusion customs. Coones says he’ll be back on “Sons” next season in the role that has him playing himself, essentially. In real life, he was president of the Angels’ San Fernando Valley and Orange County chapters.
It’s well-known that “Sons of Anarchy” creator and executive producer Kurt Sutter regularly consults with the Hells Angels to ensure the show’s authenticity. Coones first met Sutter when show creator and lead actor Charlie Hunnam came to an open house at the Illusion shop in 2008, after which he was asked to build a custom bike that was featured in the DVD extras for the show’s third season and later auctioned for charity.
Sutter then commissioned an Illusion bike of his own: A Hellrazor that is, like all Illusion customs, black, with chromed parts that appear to have been shot through with bullets.
Sutter’s involvement with Coones didn’t stop there. Sutter featured three songs from Coones’ rock-metal band Attika 7 in the FX show and eventually cast the 6-foot, 5-inch bike builder to appear on screen.
Coones has been in prison twice — first for drugs and guns and later for conspiracy to distribute an illicit chemical used to make methamphetamine. A central California native, he bought Illusion Motorsports in 1999 but was arrested on a drug-conspiracy charge a few months later. While he was in federal prison, his wife Katherine ran the business “so Rusty would come home to a purpose,” she said.
After almost six years of “bad food, bad company and a bad time,” Coones said, he came home to the purpose of his shop, only to ride head on into the worst economy in decades.
“Right when I got back, I had all these high hopes of resurrecting Illusion. I thought we could get a dealer network going. And every step of the way we ran into problems because everything was collapsing as we were trying to come up,” said Coones, who, like his bikes, is clad entirely in black.
“Sons of Anarchy,” it seems, came along at just the right time.
“This whole ‘Sons of Anarchy’ connection is a plus for anybody,” said Coones, who is working on four different bike projects, including an $80,000 Hellrazor bagger that tips the scales at 850 pounds and is distinguished by an enormous 26-inch front wheel. Coones is also in the earliest stages of developing his own reality TV program.
“Any time you’re associated with a show with over 5 million viewers, it will legitimize you — even when you’re somebody like me who’s been in prison several times and happens to be a Hells Angel.”