Paul Teutul Sr., the man behind Orange County Choppers, and son and fellow bike builder Mikey, says truckers and bikers are both “part of the American image.”
Not all truckers want to enjoy the great outdoors miles away from everything, surrounded by the serenity of woods and streams, matching wits with big game or trophy fish.
Some love the road and road machinery so much they yearn to spend what free time they can find out on the road on motorcycles, free of the cab and its constraints, listening to the rush of the wind and the roar of a wide-open motor.
Buying a motorcycle is easy. But so is building one. Maybe not quite so easy, but it’s something most truckers with their knowledge of engines and suspensions, electrics and electronics, and their love of tinkering with machinery can do. It won’t look like a Harley or a Honda, but as you roll down the interstate, truckers will notice you because what you build will be one of a kind.
And you can do it. Just ask the best.
Paul Teutul Sr., 57, the man behind Orange County Choppers,* famously seen on the Discovery Channel since 2003 in the show American Chopper, says bikers and truckers have something in common: “They’re both part of the American image. There’s a crossover there.” Teutul says a trucker who loves to work in his shop or with engines can make a chopper, anything from a basic machine to something every bit as fancy as the ones his shop turns out.
“You need to have some mechanical ability but not a whole lot of expertise. I suppose welding would be the hardest thing you’d have to know how to do. Anybody can do it,” says Teutul. How long you take to do it is your decision. “It can take six months or three weeks, it’s up to you. There are a lot of things you can do that are time consuming but you don’t have to,” says Teutul. “But me, I don’t tell anybody to take their time.”
You can try and build something along the lines of an OCC chopper or something simpler. “You can buy bolt-together bikes today, and they’re a lot of fun to build. Or you can build something extra special,” says Teutul. “You can build a budget bike or go out and run up the cost.
“Motivation is the biggest challenge. If someone is building one of these, they have to be enthusiastic, and if someone is helping you build it, they have to have that enthusiasm, too. They have to be on board with the idea that this is something you get excited about and stay excited about.”
Exactly what your chopper will look like, or perform like, is also up to you, says Teutul.
“You can change them around or add something or take something off and change it as you build. But once they’re finished, we don’t touch them; ours pretty much stay the way we build them. If you want something different, you’re better off to start over. These machines are like pieces of art; they’re more than just a bike. They give a person like me, or anyone who builds them, a way to express themselves. To tear it down or change it would be like destroying a piece of art.”
If you build a bike, says Teutul, the main tool you will use is your imagination.
“It takes more than one part. When we’re finished, I’m most proud of the whole outcome – not just one part of the bike. You start with nothing, and it comes out like this,” he says, pointing to OCC’s Speedco Chopper. “When you’re finished, you stand back and look at it, and there’s this wow factor.”
If you have the right job, either as an owner-operator or as company driver for the right outfit, you might even be able to take the chopper along on a run. But at some point, ideally before you start building, you need to find out if what you have in mind will be street legal. “That’s a problem sometimes,” says Teutul, “because each state is going to have different regulations. But you can meet them and go riding legally; it’s not hard.”
Before he began building choppers, Teutul built a business, Orange County Ironworks, a steel fabricator. But he had loved bikes from the time he was a kid. So, he says, when he looked to do something a little different, he put bikes and steel fabrication together and the result was OCC. The company is so busy it built 100 choppers last year and plan to build 120 more than that this year.