American Chopper was one of the first of its kind – a reality TV show about a family business making chopper motorcycles. This family cast, with its drama, funny moments, intense engineering, and awesome rides became a hit for Discovery Channel, helping to launch many of Discovery and TLC’s own reality shows through spinoffs. Despite the show accurately portraying the family and shop dynamics, there is still a lot that went on behind the scenes, such as…
It set the stage for future reality shows
American Chopper was one of the first reality tv shows following various people in their average, day to day lives. However, the show really set the bar due to it’s drama, fighting, terse language, and awesome choppers!
And the most incredible thing about the entire series – everything was real and none of it was scripted! What happened on camera actually affected the company and the family in real life. Other reality shows have tried to emulate this, but few have been as successful as American Chopper.
History of drinking
Paul senior had a fifteen year history of addiction to various substances before finally seeking help and going to rehab at the advice of his wife despite strong personal opposition to the idea.
Before he went however, he decided to have one last party to say goodbye to his destructive ways. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree in this case, as both of his sons also suffered from addiction issues, with Paul Jr. actually going to rehab at the age of 16.
When Paul Sr. Fired his son, it created a whole lot of legal issues for the show. TLC said that because the contract stipulated that BOTH of the men had to be on the show, if one of them left, then the show would be no more.
Paul Sr. initially refused to take his son back, so TLC filed a notice of default and cancelled production. They only re-started filming once Paul Sr. re-hired his son as a contractor.
The new contract allowing Paul Jr. to work as a contractor in his father’s garage had a severe loophole.
Paul Sr. could technically buy out Paul Jr.‘s stake in Orange County Choppers, blocking his son out of both rights to be on the show as well as any money the company made. This would lead to a feud which was to completely set the tone for the next several years.
Sued for $1 million
Paul Sr. tried to exploit this contractual loophole and enact a hostile takeover of his son’s holdings in the company and push Paul Jr. out.
However, his son refused to back back down, and Paul Sr. decided that he would sue his very own son for one million dollars. This infuriated Paul Jr., and rightfully so. In the end, Paul Jr.‘s lawyers were able to win the lawsuit.
With so many control issues, all the father and son’s relationship needed was this $1 million lawsuit. After a lengthy battle, Paul Sr. ended up losing and Paul Jr. was able to keep his stake in the company.
However, the two talked it out and decided mutually that they could no longer work together and keep their family together. The two parted ways as friends.
A tragic accident
Right after Paul Jr. opened up his own shop, the building he was renting had a roof which started leaking.
The building owner then called a repair company to fix the leak, but somehow, the repairman fell through the roof and landed on the hard floor of the garage, dying instantly. Paul Jr. was deeply saddened and perturbed by the incident reaching out to the family of the worker with a heartfelt message of condolence and support.
Dad doesn’t come to the wedding
When Paul Jr. met model Rachael Biester on the set of American Chopper, she was acting as a McCuff girl. The two fell in love and dated for two years before getting married on August 20, 2010.
However, this was also the same time when Paul Jr. and Sr. were involved in a lawsuit over who would get Jr.’s stake in the company. The feud was so bitter, Paul Sr. didn’t even show up to the wedding!
Case of stolen idea
In one of the episodes, the Orange County Choppers crew teamed up with the Christopher and Dana Reeve foundation in 2010 to create a wheelchair accessible chopper so that people with disabilities could also ride.
However, they were sued by a man inflicted with polio named Christ Tavantzis over claims that Christ gave the Orange County Choppers crew the idea when he met them at a trade show in 2008.
Mikey goes rogue
Mikey is the second Teutul son, and was originally hired by his father Paul Sr. to take out the shop’s trash, sweep the floors, and answer the phones.
However, he quickly became a fan favorite for his role as peacemaker during the show, adding levity and wit to the often terse atmosphere at Orange County Choppers. However, sick of being stuck in the middle of every argument between his father and brother, he left the company.
Cody sues OCC
Cody Connelly was the shop hand at American Chopper, almost becoming like a third son to owner Paul Sr. The family was so grateful to him that they secretly built gave him a motorcycle!
But issues arose when the family ended up refusing to give Cody his gift. On top of that, after Cody left the show after a couple of seasons, the American Chopper brand continued to use his likeness. He ended up suing for a quarter million dollars, but settled out of court.
OCC closes its doors?
There have been rumors flying around for years that Orange County Choppers was in financial distress, with some people even speculating that they were going to be closing down shop forever.
Things weren’t helped by the fact that the headquarters and main shop were put up for sale. However, these rumors were dispelled when Paul Sr. made a public pronouncement on live radio that both he and the shop were doing well, and that they were simply moving.
Paul Sr. isn’t dead
For some reason people began believing that Paul. Sr. had died tragically in a motorcycle accident of some kind.
However, it turned out that a fake news site had taken the likeness of a man who died in a motorcycle crash down in Louisiana to make it seem as if it was actually Paul Sr. who had died! The rumor was quickly dispelled when Sr. himself took to Facebook to say that he was, in fact, alive.
Shaq got a chopper made
Basketball great and literal giant Shaquille O’neal had always wanted a motorcycle of his own but was never able to find one which would comfortably fit his massive frame.
So, in 2014, four years after the show ended, American Chopper had a reunion episode and presented Shaq with his very own, massive chopper. Although Paul Jr. didn’t appear in the special alongside his father, Mikey was indeed in attendance, being listed as Vice President of the garage.
TLC really hooked up Paul Jr.
Paul Jr. was getting married to his fiancee Rachel Biester when TLC spotted a great business opportunity – put Paul and his fiancee on two of their hit shows!
The two were spotlighted on both “Say yes to the dress” along with “Cake boss.” While some people may say that TLC basically owns this family and forces them to do what they wish, I don’t know anyone who would refuse help from master wedding dress and cake designers!
Mikey was quite the artist
Mikey was a big dude who provided big comic relief for the family during the shows infamous fight scenes. However, he soon decided that he couldn’t take it anymore and left to pursue other business ideas.
One of the pursuits Mikey decided to get into was art, and he attempted to go into the art world by opening up a gallery. He even sold his own paintings there!
Paul Sr. and Jr. may be making amends
Recent evidence suggests that Paul Jr. may be letting his father Paul Sr. back into his and his family’s life.
Despite not showing up to Jr.’s wedding in 2010, a recent photo has surfaced showing Paul Sr. holding Paul Jr.’s son Hudson in 2015, three weeks after the little guy’s birth. However, there is still no word yet on whether or not Hudson is able to ride motorcycles without his training wheels!
Business is booming for Jr.
Despite the drama Paul Jr. And Paul Sr.’s falling out caused within the family, Paul Jr.’s move to open up his own chopper shop may have been the best business decision he could have made.
After stepping out of his father’s shadow, Jr. is thriving, having recently been contracted by video game empire Blizzard to create a series of custom bikes based off of World of Warcraft. He has also been contracted to build choppers for various big budget films!
Vincent had his own success
Vincent DiMartino had only been working at Orange County Choppers for a month when he was informed that he was to become a reality star on Discovery Channel.
After several seasons on the show, he decided to leave Paul Teutul and start his own garage called V-Force customs. He would occasionally reach out of Paul Jr. for advice, which the latter was always ready to give.
Back to the roots
Despite having a successful bike shop as well as appearing in numerous places such as Throttle Junkies TV, Untamed Sports TV, and Cox Sports Network, Vincent DiMartino decided to join forces with friend and former co-worker Paul Jr. in order to help him in his garage for the show American Chopper: Senior vs. Junior.
However, he never ended his dream of owning his own shop, and continued to run V-Force while working with Paul Jr. at the same time!
Mike the chef
Mikey has been keeping himself even busier by opening up his own gourmet pasta sauce company called FarQueue Products. And when he says home made, he literally means home made!
You can go online and buy any one of his pasta sauces, all of which are made by him in his own kitchen! With names like The Sunday Gravy, and The Devil’s Brother Fra Diavolo Sauce, each jar comes packed with flavor and a whole lot of attitude.
Sr. didn’t know his real name
Paul Teutul Sr. must have had an interesting childhood as he did not even know his full name for the entire time he was growing up.
Born in Yonkers, NY and growing up in Pearl River, NY, he never knew his middle name until he was over 30 years of age. Additionally, he learned that he has the same name as his father. So, even though he goes by the name Paul Sr., He should actually be the one called Paul Jr.!
Paul Sr. was featured on a whole bunch of shows
American Choppers is not Paul Sr.’s only foray into television. He has had roles on everything from My Name is Earl (Paul actually had a bike stolen in the episode) to voice acting on King of the Hill in the episode titled Hank Fixes Everything (season 10 episode 10).
He was even featured on the TV show Long Way Round, as well as being shown no Nickelback’s hit single Rock Star.
Building all over the world
Due to the international popularity of the show American Chopper, Paul and his crew have gotten the chance to travel around the world not only seeing sites but also building and customizing sweet rides for a whole bunch of different people – up to and including heads of state.
In fact, the crew built a custom, all white chopper for the then Prime Minister of Brazil, Luíz Inácio Lula da Silva.
The ultimate biker build off
Paul Jr. Designs (PJD), Orange County Choppers (OCC) and bike building legend Jesse James had a bike building competition which set out to make a bike using the inspiration of one of the most famous planes flown in World War II – the T-51 Mustang.
Over the course of the two hour special the three garages raced to build a sleek looking machine. Based on viewer votes, PJD won the competition, with OCC coming in last place.
The ultimate biker build off 2.0
In an impressive rematch pitting Paul Junior Designs up against Jesse James and newcomers Gas Monkey Garage from the show Fast N’ Loud, the three garages had to create a chopper drawing inspiration from classic muscle cars.
The show got into heated arguments over the fact that Jesse James kept needing extensions to finish their bike. In the end Paul Junior Designs won (again), fielding a bike with the actual grill from a 1939 Chevy.
Paul Jr. does philanthropy work
When Paul Jr. is outside of the shop it is not all fun and games for this bike building master. He is also known for his various community and outreach projects.
One of these projects was building a giant dog park in Montgomery, NY. Paul Jr. himself owns two dogs, and Paul Sr. is known to be quite the dog lover himself. The shop poured over $50,000 into the project.
Paul Jr. is known to be quite the businessman and entrepreneur. His company Paul Junior Designs, while of course known primarily for designing choppers, has also grown a studio designs branch.
The new branch, titled Paul Junior Studios, mainly deals with designing logos while providing branding and marketing services to its clients, providing everything from FX work to animation. And to think the entire venture started from a tiny little room in his bike shop.
Paul Teutul Sr.’s net worth
Paul Teutul Sr. may have grown up in a rough area of New York state, but he certainly is not living like that any more. Through hard work and determination, this bull of a man has created a net worth which would make any gear head’s head spin.
The man is worth a grand total of $15 million. For someone who bought an iron works company with the dream and intent to turn it into a bike shop, Paul Teutul Sr. is certainly happy with his fortune.
Paul Teutul Jr. net worth
Due to the fact that Paul Teutul Jr. is one of the co-founders of Orange County Choppers as well as being the owner and general manager of his own company called Orange County Iron Works, he is worth a whopping $17 million.
He also makes money off of royalties from the TV show American Choppers, as well as from opening up his own design firm called Paul Jr. Designs.
Rachael opened a store
Paul Teutul is not the only one in his family with a strong drive and entrepreneurial spirit. His wife Rachael, to whom he has been married for six years, also started her own boutique women’s clothing and accessories store.
The store opened in the Spring of 2014, and anyone can go there. However, they will need to travel all the way up to Montgomery, New York to get there.
Paul Teutul Jr. business advice
Paul Teutul Jr. has some very erudite and astute business advice for people who want to start out on their own – start small. He that the best way to start is small, and to work your way up slowly but surely.
That way, you will not accrue so much debt that you can not sleep at night. Instead start doing the work for a fair price, and as you get more customers, you will grow out your business. After having started several businesses, we believe him.
Paul Jr.’s mini series
When making the choppers for video game company Blizzard based on the various clans from Blizzard’s World of Warcraft, the gaming company decided to do something special for its fans.
Blizzard actually made a mini-series about the way the specialized choppers would be made, and called it Azeroth Choppers. Paul Jr. was given complete artistic control, and gamers were able to buy the bike with in game gold. Oh yea, they also made an in-game version of the bike.
The pilgrims came to Paul
Several years after Paul Sr. was seen with his first bike True Blue at the Daytona Beach Biketober event, Discovery channel affiliated production company Pilgrim Studios found him and Orange County Choppers and offered Paul the deal of a lifetime – to have a reality show made about him and his chopper garage.
Paul Sr., sensing the chance of a lifetime, immediately said yes.
Father Vs. Son
Beginning after American Choppers ended in 2010, TLC decided to fan the flames a bit on the family by introducing a show titled American Chopper: Senior vs. Junior.
The show, which ran for four successful seasons, portrayed the immense competition between father Paul Sr. and son Paul Jr. in the two’s respective companies. The show ended in a heartwarming series finale with Paul Sr., Paul Jr., and Mikey posing in front of the chopper they all built together as a family.
The man of steel
Paul Sr. was not always a bike maker. Starting in 1973, Sr. opened and worked in a steel shop, fabricating steel for customers all over northern New York State.
The shop was opened in Rock Tavern, New York, and specialized in both iron work fabrication alongside steel. Incredibly, the metalworks shop is still open to this day, servicing the steelwork and ironwork needs of the surrounding area.
Mikey hated his old job
Before the show started, Mikey was working as an ironworker and fabricator in his father’s iron and metalworks shop. And he hated every second of it.
However, when he saw that his father was getting his own television show, he knew that this was his time to get out of the industry and move on to a better, and for him, more enjoyable profession – working on bikes. He also enjoyed all the perks that came with being on a world famous show.
Paul Sr. hated pictures
One of the things that Paul Sr. used to absolutely despise was getting his picture taken. In fact, it is somewhat difficult to find pictures of him as a young man.
Therefore, when the Discovery Channel came in to start filming American Chopper, it was a major adjustment for Senior. However, he eventually got used to the cameras, and his picture has been taken a whole lot ever since.
The Mikey doesn’t watch the show
In a recent interview with Mikey, the interviewer asked if he ever watches the show. It turns out, he in fact, does not. Mikey claims that it is “a trip” and super weird watching himself on television, and does not really enjoy watching himself.
He says that there are plenty of other things for him to watch on TV, and he does not have to watch him play out his life especially since he already experienced it.
Dirtnecks to rockstars
The nearly overnight success of American Chopper took the Teutul family by surprise. They were used to being just normal, everyday people (who just happened to know metalworking and how to build bikes) to national superstars with hundreds of thousands of adoring fans.
There would be exhibitions where people from all over the world would come up to them, and the Teutul family would be signing autographs for 12 hours straight.
Senior didn’t want to compete with his son
After the enormous falling out between Paul Teutul Sr. and Paul Teutul Jr., a falling out which nearly destroyed the whole family, Paul Teutul Jr. branched out and opened up his own bike shop.
When the network executives went to Paul Sr. to pitch him the idea of a bike build off between him and his son, he originally did not want to do it, and even fought hard against the execs against doing the build off challenge.
As it turned out, Paul Teutul Sr.’s shop was not doing very well financially when the network executives came to him in order to pitch the idea of having a show with a bike build off with his son.
Additionally, his own show was simply not on the air. However, after his entire staff urged him to participate in the network sponsored build off – especially once they talked to him about all the money they would get – did Senior finally agree to do the show.
Too much spending
One of the main reasons for the financial difficulties which Paul Teutul Sr. and Orange County Choppers were facing before the biker build off was because everyone was simply spending way too much money.
They were used to the money they were receiving while the show was going on, but when that money stopped coming in, they kept spending it as if it still was.
Did money change them?
During the show, Orange County Choppers was able to expand to have approximately 100 workers. The expansion happened so quickly that almost none of the family were ready to handle what was to come.
Mikey was getting paid maybe $10 an hour with overtime, while Paul Teutul Sr. was making approximately $80,000 in a good year. With their near overnight rock star status, the family needed to make sure they were using the money wisely, and not just blowing it.
Entitlement drove Jr. and Sr. apart
According to an interview, Paul Teutul Sr. says that the main reason that he and his son fought and eventually split from each other was due to each side’s conflicting sense of entitlement.
Senior says that due to the fact that him and Junior are more alike than different that it was as if they were fighting against the same person. It is very telling that Senior accidentally called Junior “his brother” in the interview.
Mikey in the middle
Mikey was always in the middle of the fighting between his dad and his brother, and he felt that he always needed to be the peacemaker between the two.
It was his job to be the mediator between the family in childhood, and that role in the family carried over into adulthood. He said that growing up he would feel guilty when he was unable to make the two sides come to an agreement, feeling that he had failed in his mission.
Throwing in the towel
By the time the last season of American Chopper rolled around, Mikey had had enough of trying to be the peacemaker in the family.
He realized that his father and his brother were grown up adults, and that they would have to deal with their problems on their own. That is why Mikey walked out early at the end of the last season of the show – he simply did not want to be involved in the fighting anymore.
Does he regret it?
Mickey was making a pretty good chunk of change from American Chopper when he decided to leave due to how much his brother and his father were fighting with each other, even despite the fact that he was making so much money.
Years later however, Mickey laughs about it and cynically says that he wishes he could have just stuck it out a little bit longer in order to make a bit more cash.
Producers lit the fire
As with any reality television show, the producers on American Chopper absolutely loved the fact that Paul Jr. and Paul Sr. were always fighting and screaming at each other.
This is because they knew that this fighting and screaming would lead to better ratings. Additionally, as Paul Sr. claims, the producers would cut scenes to make him look like the perpetual bad guy. While he does admit that he did wrong some of the time, not all was as it seemed.
Father son team up?
While Paul Teutul Sr. says that he is slowly but surely re-building his broken relationship with his son, the one thing he says he will never do is work with Paul Teutul Jr. ever again.
He says that it does not matter how much money he will get paid or how hard anyone tries to get them to work together, the relationship is too important for him to break ever again.
Amends are happening
Paul Teutul Jr. has a young, two year old son. Due to his young age, the little Teutul is not yet able to ride around on any of the choppers his father and grandfather make.
Therefore, for Christmas in 2016, Paul Teutul Sr. gave his grandson a die cast model of the famous Statue of Liberty chopper which Senior built in one of the episodes of American Chopper. In fact, it was a bike which Paul Jr. built.
The American Choppers brand was so well received during its first several seasons that the show was spun off into not one but two video games!
One game, created by Activision, was titled American Chopper, and was released on Xbox, Playstation 2, and even had a PC version. The second game, created by video game company Creat, was titled , American Chopper 2: Full Throttle, and was released on Xbox, Gamecube, and Playstation 2 as well.
Financial distress – again
While we may have gotten used to seeing these amazing, beautiful, one of a kind original bikes rolling off the floor of American Chopper, those bikes – many of which cost between $100,000 to a quarter of a million dollars – were typically bought by corporations to promote something or to simply be as a sort of advertisement for the company on American Chopper.
However, the garage does not do many of those any more, and is looking for any jobs they can.
Orange County Choppers is no longer doing only luxury choppers, and is now in the market for all different kinds of motor vehicles. They will customize quad bikes, snowmobiles, and at this point, even cars.
From working on high end $100,000 bikes in the show, the garage is now willing to go to junkyards to create a custom bike for as little as $12,000. While they do indeed get some corporate clients, they are not selling them like they used to.
One of the big reasons why Orange County Choppers is in such financial distress is due to the fact that they moved to an enormous garage which had huge overhead fees.
The show was big before the financial crash of 2008, but once that hit, a lot of people tried to keep their money close, and customers were simply unwilling to spend close to a million dollars on a chopper anymore.
Mikey the comedian
Despite originally being put to work as what essentially amounted to a janitor with secretary duties, Mikey quickly became a fan favorite.
He was also the main comedic relief, and was therefore typically chosen to represent the show during promotional events on every show from the Late Night with Conan O’Brien, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and the Late Show with David Letterman!
They started from the basement
Paul Sr. has always been into choppers, falling for famous rides such as the ones portrayed in the film Easy Rider, as well as Marlon Brando’s famous bike in the movie The Wild One.
Sr. and his son decided they wanted to go into the chopper business in 1999, debuting their first home made chopper at Daytona Beach’s world famous Biketoberfest with their creation named True Blue. They didn’t even have a garage at this time, putting the bike together in Sr.’s basement!
Going full circle
When Orange County Choppers was first signed on to be produced by Pilgrim Studios (who also produce hit shows such as Wicked Tuna, Fast N’ Loud, and Ghost Hunters), they sold the rights to air the show on Discovery Channel.
A few years later, the show was sold to be aired on Discovery’s sister channel TLC (formerly The Learning Channel), before eventually going on to be broadcast on Country Music Television. However, the final Shaq episode was broadcasted on Discovery.
Winning an Orange County Chopper
Back in the beginning of the show, Discovery Channel sponsored a competition to win custom built chopper from Paul Sr. and crew.
Discovery Channel’s production crew ended up choosing four different people to have bikes made for them and had an episode devoted to each bike. The contest winners were Joseph McClendon whose bike appeared in “Custom Hog,” Jeff Clegg whose bike appeared in the episode Corporal Punishment, Susan Morisset in Female Snake Bike, and Bryan King in Vertebrate Bike.
Solid run time
The show itself had a pretty long run time, with new episodes being pumped into living rooms across the United States and around the world for nearly a decade.
In fact, re-runs of the show are still popular, being viewed by tons of people both online and internationally every single day! The show itself had 165 episodes, and each episode was approximately 45 minutes long.
Mike Rowe narrated the show
Former Dirty Jobs host and working man’s superstar Mike Rowe actually narrated all of the episodes of American Chopper during its first seasons on the Discovery Channel and TLC from 2003 until 2007.
It was around this time that Mike really started to get invested in Dirty Jobs, along with hosting Discovery Channel’s Shark Week. He would later go on to host a show on CNN called “Somebody’s Gotta Do It” between 2014 and 2015.
Paul Sr. was a merchant marine
Paul Tetul Sr. never served in any branch of the United States Armed Forces, but he did indeed play a role in Vietnam. He served as a merchant marine, assisting the United States Navy in its various logistics operations. d
The United States Merchant Marines are trade vessels owned by private operators but which the government can commandeer any time there is a war. So while he wasn’t in the US Navy exactly, he did provide logistical support for them.
As part of his tough guy persona, Paul Sr. is almost addicted to getting tattoos, having tats portraying his Bullmastif dogs Marty and Gus, along with one reading “OCC New York” for Orange County Choppers, New York.
An entire episode of his show was focused on him getting a tattoo, while he has also appeared on episodes of the show Miami Ink. It seems that as long as he has blank space on his body, Paul Sr. will continued to get more and more killer tats.
Bankruptcy and foreclosure
Unfortunately, it seems like at the moment, the reality star owes more than he has. Paul Teutul Sr. has filed for bankruptcy after realizing he was unable to pay off his debts.
He has a substantial loan from the bank that he has not been able to afford. Currently, they are trying to start the process of foreclosing on his home – a mansion in Montgomery, New York. Currently, the process is stalled because of the bankruptcy file.