American Chopper

Custom Motorcycles at the Progressive International Motorcycle Show

The Progressive International Motorcycle Show was in the Detroit area last weekend, and the fam and I decided to check it out. Because of the icy roads and falling snow, no one was actually riding their motorcycles to get there. But despite the weather, the place was packed - with people and motorcycles. If you’re in the market for a new bike, I highly recommend the show, which is basically a glorified commercial for all of the brands there. And there are a lot. Harley Davidson, BMW, Honda, Triumph, Indian, Yamaha, Ducati, Victory, Kawasaki, Suzuki; pretty much everyone is there with their latest models.

Like last year, the J&P Cycles Ultimate Builder Custom Bike Show was the highlight of the show for me. Here are a few of my favorites from the contest.

Custom 2003 Harley Davidson FLHTSI

 "Fat Ass Bagger" - a Custom 2003 Harley Davidson FLHTSI

Custom motorcycle at the Progressive International Motorcycle Show

"Bastard Deluxe" - A Custom Motorcycle from the Progressive International Motorcycle Show 

Custom 2011 Harley Davidson FLHX 

"Checkmate" -  A custom 2011 Harley Davidson FLHX

Custom Honda GL 1000 Gold Wing Motorcycle

"El Vaquero" - A custom Honda GL 1000 Gold Wing motorcycle 

American Chopper September 4 "The Build is On"

On this episode of American Chopper, Rick ties the knot, Jr. rocks a faux hawk and Sr. drives a dump truck through the wall to make room for his new restaurant. But perhaps the biggest surprise of the episode came before the show even got started. We are no longer watching “American Chopper: Senior vs. Junior” - According to the opening credits and my DVR, it’s just “American Chopper” again. Does this mean we’re still watching Season 4, or is this Season 7 of the old “American Chopper”, or should we just simplify things and call it Season 10?

Whatever season this is, there was plenty going on. It starts out with Sr. still pushing for a joint project between OCC and PJD for charity. Jr. (probably correctly) sees this as a recipe for trouble given that the two are still not able to have a conversation without breaking into an argument. Even though Jr. seems pretty firm about his decision, it’s hard to ignore the dramatic irony in an episode titled “The Build is On.” My guess is we haven’t heard the last on this topic.

Regardless, OCC isn’t waiting around. They are busy building a bike for themselves to promote their new OCC cafe, with plans to open up three such theme cafes. At first the concept seemed a little random. But after some thought, I realized the idea is a riff on the Hard Rock Cafe only they will have choppers on display instead of music memorabilia. Could be fun and definitely better than keeping all their bikes in a warehouse collecting dust.

American Chopper May 21 "Change of Heart Part 1 and 2": Season Finale

On the final two weeks of American Chopper: Senior vs. Junior Season Three, OCC is asked to build an Italian sports car-themed chopper for a mysterious foreigner who wishes to remain anonymous (we’re thinking either Enzo Ferrari’s son, Piero, or maybe one of the Bond villains), and PJD attempts to build a saw-themed bike without using any saw blades.

At OCC we get our first glimpse of the Italian sports car bike in the design phase because Jason finally learned how to provide mechanical drawings with a proper three section view. Rick asks the question we and everyone else has come to expect. He wants to know if this a rideable bike? Is it? It is one of their more ambitious undertakings with extensive sheet metal and body styling, so despite working on the bike for an entire episode there is still a lot to complete.

At PJD, Dave Howard, director of brand management for Skil Power Tools wants an iconic American chopper for an iconic American brand. Apparently iconic is the word of the day, boys and girls. Skilsaw Inc. made a name for themselves in the 1920s when their saws became the standard. The chopper was commissioned to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the 77. The worm drive 77 is a type of drive that moves slowly but can produce a lot of torque.

Originally an iconic American brand, Skil was sold to Bosch in 1996, and their offices are now in Breda, Netherlands.

American Chopper May 7 “Malaysian Adventure”

This week on American Chopper Sr. gets a little too comfortable wearing the local fashions of Malaysia, Jr. stays home and has a serious chat with Mikey and Jason decides that “alligators are punks.”

The episode begins with about five minutes of final assembly on the One Malaysia Bike complete with an air intake shaped like the Petronas Towers of Kuala Lumpur. The white framed chopper that OCC began building last week for the Malaysia Tourism Board is decked out in the yellow, blue and red of the Malaysian flag.

Sr. rubs it in to the employees’ who won’t be joining him on the OCC trip to Malaysia to deliver the bike to the Malaysian Prime Minister. He then hops on the completed bike for the standard pre-delivery test ride. Sr. has to reach for the handle bars, which makes me doubt they took into account that the Malaysian Prime Minister is only about 5’2’’.

Meanwhile Mikey visits Paul Jr. to discuss the news he dropped on last week’s episode. He’s decided that he’s maybe, possibly, considering, thinking about quitting the show. Though his plans are always qualified by “If I do”’s and “I’m thinking about”’s, he still seems convinced that his life would be better out of the spotlight. His main rationale being that the cameras are coming between his and his father’s reconciliation. I don’t know, but I think the text Mikey sent saying “You lie, stay away from me” a few weeks ago is more of an obstacle than the show. But what do I know.

American Chopper April 23 "No Cameras"

This week on American Chopper Jr. builds a bike for a ballplayer and Sr. finishes a bike for a pillow maker with a '70s 'stache.

Two time World Series winner Aaron Rowand (#33) wants a custom motorcycle and is a big fan of Jr.'s Black Widow bike. At the time of filming he was signed with the Miami Marlins, but on March 29, 2012, he was released. So now he has a lot more time to ride.

Aaron drops by the shop to check in on the build and gets measured for his custom motorcycle. I'm sure everybody including Jr. was thinking of decorating the bike with baseball diamonds, and I really liked the idea of leather baseball stitching in the tank. Aaron, however, wanted a much more subtle baseball theme than a mascot clown bike. While he's there he signs a few autographs for the kids and wins the World Series of wiffle ball.

OCC is still building the My Pillow Bike, which will be an era correct 1970s themed chopper.

Sr. tells Rick, "As long as we're on the same page, you get to do your own thing." Rick and Rob decide to paint the bike retro blue to match Rick's sports drink and then immediately paint the bike black. By the time I start thinking, "Hey, what happened to the blue?" Sr. is spraying the bike with silver flake because apparently you can't screw that up. Next comes the candy blue, and it starts to look like sea shells. Then Rob actually starts painting on fish scales. Now the 12 foot long bass boat is complete.

Drop in a Panhead motor from S&S, and once Sr. figures out which way the wheel goes on, the bike is ready for a test ride. When is the last time you saw an actual, real chopper with a 40 over front end complete with Z bars riding down the road? Radical. But how do you turn?

American Chopper April 16 "A Meeting Is Set"

This week on American Chopper Sr. builds an era correct chopper out of the '70s and Jr. digs for gold.

Lisa and Mike from My Pillow, Inc. drop by OCC for a custom pillow bike. They show off a cool new pillow that will hold its shape even with a 12 pound head. Unfortunately Jr.'s head is more like 18 lbs. I'm thinking Jason will make the pillow bike cloud like, but it turns out Michael Lindell wants something straight out of the '70s. Sr. should just sell him one of his classic bikes he's got laying around his garage museum. The company requests a 1970s bike with a long, long springer front end, and at 12.5 feet long it's twice as long as my bike! It's even longer then my boat. According to Sr. for the geometry to work on the '70s bike, it needs wide handle bars for something that radical.

At PJD work on the Newmont Mining bike continues. The engine cover was born out of solid 2 inch thick billet aluminum and mined out on the CNC machine to give it a terraced look to match the features of an open pit mine. But why is Paul Jr.'s logo in the middle of the engine cover? Jr. wants gold, gold, silver, and more gold. I'm wondering how this will compare to the Gold Donald Trump bike.

Meanwhile, Vinnie and Rick meet up for lunch and hope that it won't be long before they're building bikes together again.

American Chopper March 26 "Muscle Car"

This week on American Chopper Jr. goes with four wheels instead of two and, as I’m expecting, moves closer to having his own spinoff show potentially called "American Hot Rod" or "Jr.'s Garage".

Jr. is being secretive at his shop, but Mickey and the team want answers! It turns out that all Jr. could think about during the build-off bike was how cool polished and riveted aluminum would look on a car. Jr. cut his teeth building motorcycles but wants to take his company to the next level and design a car. Maybe he's trying to get hired by GM as a designer. I happen to work for an automaker myself, and all the designers I know are experts at CAD. It takes years to go from a sketch to even a prototype, but Jr.'s going to have it done in time for Daytona Bike Week. Vinnie seems pretty excited and states, "I'll be perfectly honest, I love cars more than bikes." Me too, Vinnie, and that's one more reason why he's my favorite character on the show.

American Chopper March 16 "Drastic Step"

This week on American Chopper Jr. finishes the bike for babies, Sr. builds two twin biodiesel bikes, and Mikey fills a diaper for charity.

At PJD it's assembly day for the March of Dimes bike and Holy Purple! The frame gets delivered, and Jr. nervously wants to know who's seen the tins? Purple. Solid purple. Purple on purple is too much! And those wheels don't look like dimes. A bit unexpectedly the bolt-on purple accented wheels look good and really match the rest of the bike well.

Later, Sr. and the OCC crew visit E-Biofuels headquartered in Middletown, Indiana, where they see row after row of glass ball jars that look like they're storing amber moonshine. They're there to research the world's first "street legal" biodiesel motorcyle for CIMA Green. This stuff could be the next big transportation fuel. Bonus, it smells like french fries.

According to the company's website, the U.S. Department of Energy has found that biodiesel produces 78.5% less CO2 emissions compared to petroleum diesel. Biodiesel is a clean burning alternative fuel produced from vegetable oils or animal fats. It is a renewable, non-toxic, biodegradable, safe fuel made from any plant oil or animal fat that can be used in any diesel engine. Common blends are B20 which is 20% biodiesel.

Katirina Tracy, COO of CIMA Green, takes a page from "Mr. Roger's Neighborhood" and tells us how BioDiesel is made with a tour of the factory. Vegetable oil, animal fats, methanol and sodium methylate. At the end of the tour, Jason drinks soy oil for $50 out of a shot glass and sticks his entire arm into a cylinder of free fatty acids to retrieve the $100 bill at the bottom. Jason, who hunts and guts deer as a hobby, thinks it's a walk in the park and hopes there are more R&D trips like this in the future. Look out, Mike Rowe, because Jason is after your dirty jobs.

American Chopper March 12 “The Call”

This week on American Chopper Sr. finishes two bikes for a trucker and Jr. builds a bike for babies.

The episode starts off when Jr. and family travel to Michigan to visit Lamar Construction Company. According to their website, Lamar Construction Company is a nationwide building contractor offering steel and precast concrete erection (he he). They've been around since 1938 and have had a good couple years recently, so Lamar wants to do a bike to raise money and awareness for March of Dimes. Interestingly March of Dimes was also founded in 1938 and is headquartered in White Plains, NY. Why didn't Jr. use this great co-branding opportunity like Ford and Harley-Davidson (both founded in 1903)? President Franklin D. Roosevelt founded the March of Dimes to combat polio, but the mission has shifted to improve the health of mothers and babies.

To research his bike design, Jr. visits Sparrow hospital in Lansing, Michigan, to learn more about March of Dimes and meet with two parents of babies the organization has helped. Dawson was born 15 weeks premature at less than 2 pounds and a foot long. He's a little bit bigger now and didn't seem to like being on TV. He escaped past Vinnie to run wild around the pediatrics ward.

Back at OCC they're finishing work on the John Christner Trucking bikes. The old school bobber with Mexican style pinstripes is complemented by a "new-school" pro-street style that looks like a stealth bomber. If these bikes will be ridden by truckers, I really hope they include satellite radio, CB radios, air brakes, and running lights.

American Chopper March 5 "Rick's News"

This week on American Chopper OCC builds a bike for someone who will actually ride it, Jr. rebuilds the Black Widow bike from 10 years ago, and Mikey joins the Marines.

Fans of the show might remember the Black Widow bike from Season 1, Episodes 1 and 2, that originally aired Spring 2003. That’s back when Paul Sr. was still wearing sleeves. Wow, has it been 10 years already? Everybody looked so young then. Well, Cody still looks pretty young.

The big change is Jr. wants his new logo on the bike and OCC’s name off. Did anyone else think it was a little silly Nub called the original artist, Shane, before repainting the logo? What was Nub going to do if Shane said no? Sorry, Nub, but it’s Jr.’s bike, and he’s the one paying you. I hope Nub took a picture with his iPhone and sent it to him for posterity. The way this bike seems to have deteriorated, a photo might last longer anyway. I want to know how this bike got so abused sitting in the OCC Museum? Did they ride it hard and put it away wet? Well, anyway the parts they don’t reuse will make great wall decoration.

So, Rick’s big news is he’s getting married, and he wants everyone to come. He even wants everybody all at one big table like the Last Supper. I wonder what Rick’s fiancee thinks about this. News flash, Rick, these people don’t get along and with all the drinking that’s sure to happen things could escalate quickly. It’s important to remember this day isn’t about you. It’s about the girl in the white dress. Just show up on time to where you’re supposed to be and smile for the cameras. I love you honey :-)

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