When American Chopper made its first raucous appearance on our television screens in 2003, it probably seemed like it was a TV show aimed at motorcycle fans. And while that was certainly partly true, the anarchic and abrasive personalities of the two stars of the show soon meant that it became more like a soap opera than a motoring program.
Those stars were father and son Paul Teutul Sr and Paul Teutul Jr, often referred to simply as “Senior” and “Junior”. Their company, Orange County Choppers, in Newburgh, New York, certainly created some stunning motorcycles during the nine years the show was screened on the Discovery Channel and TLC. But let’s be honest; most people watched to see the two men argue and yell at each other when things started to go wrong.
In fact, their volatile relationship has become such an iconic part of the program, that the Teutuls have even become one of the most iconic and recognizable memes on the internet! But alas, their hot-tempered professional relationship meant that the father and son team went their separate ways in 2008 – though the program remained on TV until the final episode was screened on 11 December 2012, and is now making a comeback.
Throughout the series, the Teutul boys created some of the sickest motorcycles ever seen on TV. Check out the lists below of some of the best – and worst – motorcycles built on American Chopper.
18 Best: The Anti-Venom
The Anti-Venom motorbike isn’t just one of the coolest creations ever seen on American Chopper; it also marked a seminal moment and a major shift in the relationship between Senior and Junior. The bike was the first created by Paul Teutul Jr after he branched out on his own, and set up his own company. The bike was unveiled in the course of the first series of American Chopper: Senior vs Junior, a spin-off show which was launched after the two men had such a spectacular fall-out, that they refused to carry on working together.
The Anti-Venom bike was the also the first time that Paul Teutul Jr employed the spider’s web motif, which went on to become a major part of his distinctive style.
It was revealed at the Biker's Choice booth at the Sturgis Rally on 13 August 2010, with the episode appearing on our TV screens a few months later. Fans of the Anti-Venom motorcycle had another chance to see this wicked creation when the bike also made an appearance in a later special episode, dedicated to the Teutuls’ favorite creations; Junior picked the Anti-Venom bike as one his own top choices from throughout the whole series.
17 Best: The Cadillac
Also from the American Chopper: Senior vs Junior spin-off, the Cadillac motorbike was another of Paul Teutul Jr’s creations, built as part of a special two-part show in which both he and senior went head to head in a bid to build the best bike. The brief was to create a motorcycle inspired by the classic car maker Cadillac. The Cadillac executives decided that the best way to get the best motorbike possible was to commission both Senior and Junior to design and build their take on the brief, with fans voting to decide which of the motorcycles was the best before the two bikes were auctioned off to raise money for charity Cure Duchenne.
It wasn’t just about raising money for a good cause however; for the two stars of the show, it was also about who was the winner between the competitive father and son duo. By the time the Discovery Channel closed the fans’ vote, it was clear that Junior had well and truly beaten his father, having secured 96% of the more than 200,000 votes which had been cast. Junior’s bike also raised more for the Cure Duchenne charity when the two Cadillac motorcycles were auctioned off – a double win for the son over the father.
16 Best: The Christopher Reeve
American Chopper may have been a huge success because of the blazing rows between the two Teutul boys, but given the number of projects Orange County Choppers carried out for charity, it is also clear that their hearts were in the right place. As well as auctioning off their motorcycle creations for tens of thousands of dollars, they also made some bikes which were designed with some very special riders in mind. Paul Sr made one of these special motorbikes in 2009 when he created a bike for the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.
The Foundation had been set up by the former Superman actor in 1982, and after he was left quadriplegic by a horse-riding accident in 1995, its focus moved onto research into spinal injuries and support for those who had suffered a similar fate to Reeve.
The bike which was built by Paul Sr for the Foundation was designed so that people with spinal injuries could still enjoy riding a motorcycle; instead of a saddle, the Christopher Reeve motorbike had an area where a wheelchair could be strapped in safely. Reeve himself had passed away in 2004, but the American Chopper bike allowed many paralyzed bikers to feel the wind in their hair once again!
15 Best: The Eragon
From an American Chopper creation which was completely rooted in motorcycling traditions, to one which was inspired by pure fantasy and imagination. The Eragon bike made its appearance on the show in season 4, and was inspired by a series of fantasy books and the subsequent movie Eragon, about a young farm boy who hatches a dragon from a stone he finds in the forest.
The Teutuls decided to create a motorbike inspired by dragons, using the sweeping lines of the handlebars, saddle and even the exhaust to represent the body of a dragon. Add to that the fact that Senior and Junior decided to use an eye-catching electric blue color for the bodywork, and the result is a pretty sick motorcycle. Certainly the closest most of us will ever get to riding on the back of a dragon! Things didn’t quite go according to plan – when do they ever on American Chopper? – and the Orange County Chopper team seemed to be in real danger of missing a deadline. It didn’t help that fellow team member, and Paul Sr’s youngest son, Mikey, decided he was going to follow the knights and dragons theme of Eragon and organize a jousting tournament of his own…
14 Best: The Jet
The Jet bike is not only one of the coolest motorcycles ever created on American Chopper; it is also the bike which started off the whole show. This was the motorbike the Teutuls created in the pilot of the show, which aired in September 2002. While there were lots of things about the pilot episode which would be familiar to fans of American Chopper – blazing rows between father and son, Paul Jr slacking off work to have fun – the two pilots were the only episodes which had a narrator.
After the pilots, the makers of the show decided that the best way to proceed was to simply let the Teutul boys tell their own story.
The Jet bike which featured in the pilot episode was a military-inspired creation which was due to be unveiled at the Laconia Bike Week event. As well as featuring paintwork which copied the look of a military jet, the bike also featured a tail fin on the rear wheel and stretched-out gas tank to extend its lines and create a real sense of forward movement. Given that this was for the pilot episode of the show, the idea had always been to create a beautiful bike that would even appeal to viewers who had never ridden a motorcycle.
13 Best: The Gears of War
From a bike that was a real thing of beauty, to one that really pushed the boundaries of what a can be considered a motorcycle. The Gears of War bike was built to mark the launch of the Gears of War 3 computer game at San Diego’s hugely popular Comic-Con International event. Gears of War is a violent fantasy video game, in which gamers battle the reptilian Locust Horde in post-apocalyptic wasteland, and Paul Jr had the difficult task of creating a motorcycle that would fit into this theme.
What he created didn’t look much like a conventional bike – for a start, he made the choice to create a three-wheeled trike rather than the more conventional style American Chopper is known for - but it definitely fit the brief he had been given by the game’s designers, Cliff Bleszinski and Rod Fergusson of Epic Games. The trike would not have looked out of place in the background of a Mad Max movie, and it was tricked out with all kinds of features and style touches which would be very familiar to anyone who had played Gears of War. The motorbike went down a storm at Comic-Con International when it was unveiled in front of a crowd of hard core Gears of War gamers.
12 Best: The Geico
When Paul Jr had finally had enough of the constant rows and disagreements with his father, he decided enough was enough, and quit Orange County Choppers in order to set up his own motorcycle design company, Paul Jr Designs – or PJD for short. It was a big risk for Paul Jr, as he was leaving a very well-known and well-established business, and he really had no idea whether any of the high-profile clients who had used Orange County Choppers for their projects would take a risk and give any work to his new venture.
In the end, it was insurance company Geico which was the first big name to give PJD some work, using the company’s Geico gecko as inspiration, including the addition of a very cool “tail” curling around from the rear of the bike and across the rear wheel.
This lush green bike, decorated to represent the colors of Geico’s popular lizard mascot, was a big success, both for PJD and for Geico, and was the beginning of a very successful business relationship for Paul Jr. He also went on to create an Armed Forces bike for Geico, which was unveiled to cheering crowds at the USO Patriotic Festival at Virginia Beach.
11 Best: The Make-A-Wish
Some of the bikes are on this list because of their mechanical genius; others have earned their place because of the amazing creativity which has gone into their design. The Make-A-Wish bike, however, is one of the coolest American Chopper creations not only because it was certainly a beautiful motorcycle, but also because it was also one of the few projects on the show where the Teutul boys managed to put aside their differences in order to create something really special for a very well-deserving charity.
The bike featured in an American Chopper special, and came after the guys from Orange County Choppers won one on of the prestigious “Favorite Wish Maker” awards from the charity, which arranges special vacations and activities for children with terminal illnesses. It definitely shows the usually combative Teutul family in a different light, as they welcomed some of the Make-A-Wish kids to the workshop, so that they could add their handprints to the bike’s bodywork design. This made the Make-A-Wish motorcycle a truly unique creation, and also meant that the special episode dedicated to the bike was one of the most emotional ever – it definitely showed a very different side to the Teutuls’ personalities.
10 Best: The Yankees
OK, so if you’re a Mets fan, the American Chopper Yankees bike is not going to be your favorite motorcycle for obvious reasons – although you probably have a secret, grudging respect for this fantastic piece of machinery. The Yankees bike created by Orange County Choppers in season 2 of the show was a labour of love for Paul Jr, whose mother was a big fan of the Yankees – a bit of added pressure to make sure the team did a good job! Not only did the American Chopper team give the bike an exhaust which was shaped and styled to look like a baseball bat, but they also got the Yankees team to sign the bodywork, which had been designed to look like their uniforms.
Add to that the innovative wheels, which included the iconic NY logo and a baseball petrol cap, and you have a bike that would be a dream come true for any New York Yankees fan. The Yankees bike wasn’t actually created with the fans in mind, however; it was actually built for the team’s star catcher Jorge Posada, and was eventually auctioned off to raise funds for the foundation set up in his name.
9 Worst: The Peavey
Even many of the so-called worst bikes from American Chopper are still pretty cool pieces of kit. They just have a little something that doesn’t quite work, or their production was so chaotic that some elements of the design ended up being rushed, simply so that the motorbike could be delivered on time. That sort of thing happened a lot on American Chopper, as the difficult working relationship between Teutul Sr and Teutul Jr threatened to affect the success of the business.
While the guitar-themed motorbike which Orange County Choppers made for Peavey Electronics certainly had its charms, particularly the cool speaker-style alloys, some of the features ended up looking as though they had been tacked on as an afterthought, such as the rather cheap-looking fret board on the tank. Hardly surprising the Peavey bike ended up looking a bit rushed, given that Paul Sr had taken on another major project while the Orange County Choppers team were supposed to be focused on the Peavey project. I’ll leave it up to your imagination to figure out what Paul Jr made of that move.
8 Worst: The NHL
Sports bikes always proved to be a popular theme on American Chopper; we have already seen how good the results can be when the Teutuls managed to work together in the shape of the Yankees bike from the best motorcycles list. However, for every great sports-themed motorcycle Orange County Choppers managed to produce, there was always one which just didn’t quite make the grade.
The NHL bike episode has also gone down in American Chopper history, thanks to one of the most ferocious rows between the father and son team. If you have seen the iconic meme which features photos of Paul Sr and Paul Jr having a blazing row, this is the episode those images were taken from!
While American Chopper viewers became used to these arguments, and the fact that despite their differences the Teutuls always seemed to pull through at the end, things did genuinely seem to fall apart on the NHL bike project, which led to the end result being more than a little disappointing. The Orange County Choppers' normally spot on sense of style was missing from this bike, and the crossed hockey sticks motif on the rear ended up being a completely impractical styling touch.
7 Worst: The Race Car
What better vehicle could there be than a classic American motorcycle inspired by a race car? In theory, this particular motorcycle had the potential to be one of the all-time great American Chopper creations, but as usual, the Teutul family seemed to bite off a lot more than they could chew, leaving the project running over-time, over-budget and under-quality. The client on this project, a now defunct dietary supplement company called TrimSpa, wanted the boys to build them a $150,000 motorbike on a race car theme.
I guess it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why TrimSpa went bust, if they had that kind of cash to blow on vanity projects! The high value of the project only seemed to add to the pressure on Paul Jr, who had taken the lead on this bike, making him even angrier than usual – which of course rubbed his father up the wrong way. Sometimes the tempestuous atmosphere in the Orange County Choppers workshop really got the creative juices flowing. This was not one of those occasions. The final race car motorbike was simply a smart-looking ride, with none of the typical unusual and outlandish American Chopper touches which made their bikes so iconic.
6 Worst: The Chesapeake Energy
The team at American Chopper weren’t really noted for their green credentials. After all, the guys spend their days designing and building powerful motorcycles which guzzle a ton of gas, while belching out a lot of exhaust fumes. The more powerful the machine, the better – but not for Mother Earth. The fact is, however, that building these noisy, dirty machines is what Orange County Choppers do best, and when they try to move away from their tried and tested formula is when things can usually go very badly wrong with their bikes.
In Season 6, the Teutul boys were asked by Chesapeake Energy to try and build the first motorbike powered by natural gas. This, of course, presented its own challenges to the team, who had to factor in the new mechanics when coming up with an eye-catching design. While the end result was certainly eye-catching, with very stylish bodywork in electric blue, the oversized tank needed for the unusual fuel meant that the shape of the motorbike ended up looking a little awkward, and potentially rather difficult and uncomfortable to ride. Rather a difficult flaw to deal with when you’re trying to sell the idea of a new type of motorbike!
5 Worst: The Abu Dhabi Police
The Orange County Choppers team have probably faced a fair bit of profiling in their time. Let’s face it; they are all big, tough-looking guys, covered in tattoos, and riding powerful motorbikes. The chances are that they have had more than their fair share of run-ins with the local cops! Which is what made their assignment in season 6 to build a bike inspired by the Abu Dhabi police force a rather unusual project for the Teutuls to take on.
Nevertheless, they did their best with the brief, and created a stylish enough bike, using the same bright red color that the Abu Dhabi cops use on their existing vehicles, as well as including the police force’s badge on the motorcycle’s alloy wheels.
The team from Abu Dhabi seemed happy enough with the end result, but it was pretty clear that Senior and Junior had not been as enthused by this brief as many of the others in the show, and that the finished motorcycle was not perhaps their finest work as a result. It just goes to show that everyone does their best work when they find themselves inspired by the brief – and happy to work for the client.
4 Worst: The Davis Love III
Over the years, American Chopper has seen the Teutuls and their team create beautiful bikes for some of the most exciting people and organizations in the US; everything from the military to top sports teams. Not all of their clients have had quite the same exciting billing, however, and the assignment that the team was given in season two didn’t fill them or the viewers with enthusiasm. Davis Love III is a big name in the world of golf, but my guess is that most American Chopper viewers aren’t huge golfing fans. To add insult to injury, Love is well-known on the circuit for his polite conduct on the golf course Hardly a natural fit for the rowdy and unruly guys at Orange County Choppers.
The bike was commissioned by Love’s wife as a surprise birthday gift – who knew the quiet Davis Love II was such a pistonhead under that mild-mannered exterior? However, it was inevitable that the American Chopper were going to be influenced by the personality of their bike’s prospective owner when it came to the design process – with the result that the Davis Love II motorcycle was one of the more restrained creations see on the show.
3 Worst: The Donald T.
When businessman Donald Trump appeared on American Chopper: Senior vs Junior in 2012, he was still a long way off from being the leader of the free world. Who knows whether the Teutuls voted for Trump when it came to the presidential election of 2016, but they certainly managed to sum up his vain, selfish and ludicrously over-the-top personality when they created a motorbike for him in 2012. The custom bike that Paul Sr designed for the entrepreneur was as lavish as you would expect for a man who has a gold lift in his building.
The bike had gold detailing on the tank, handlebars and wheels, with his iconic Trump logo on the pedal – just in case anyone forgot who the motorcycle belonged to.
The Trump bike was gaudy and garish, and quite frankly just looked a bit cheap and tacky when compared to some of the beautiful bikes coming out of Orange County Choppers. Perhaps Paul Sr was simply giving his opinion of the millionaire mogul when he designed such a tacky set of wheels for Mr Trump; perhaps Trump actually likes his possessions to be so showy. Either way, this bike was definitely not one of American Chopper’s finest moments.
2 Worst: The Billy Joel
If the Donald Trump bike was the height of bad taste, the motorcycle that Billy Joel asked the American Chopper team to make had the potential to be one of the greatest and most stylish builds ever seen on the show. In season 3 of the TV series, singer Billy Joel asked the Teutul team to build him an Indian “bobber” bike – bobber being the name given to a special kind of custom motorcycle which involves stripping the excess bodywork from a motorcycle. The front fender of the bike is removed and the rear fender is shortened, or "bobbed" (as in bob-tail).
Such a custom job goes against the American Chopper creed, which is all about adding features in order to make the most creative, colorful and intriguing motorbikes possible. While the end result on the Billy Joel build was indeed a gorgeous stripped-back classic Indian motorcycle, viewers of the show had come to expect much more from the Orange County Choppers team, and some felt underwhelmed with the end result – even if Billy Joel himself was absolutely delighted with the finished product. It seems that less is definitely not more when it comes to American Chopper and their gloriously over the top creations.
1 Worst: The GoDaddy
The commissions on American Chopper came from celebrities and charities, but there were also a lot of jobs which came from private companies, looking to promote their business with an appearance on a hit TV show – with the added bonus that they get a branded motorcycle at the end of the process. Unfortunately for Orange County Choppers, this meant that on many occasions their hands were pretty much tied when it came to designing and developing a custom motorcycle for their corporate clients.
Season four of American Chopper, first screened in 2007, saw the team create a custom bike for the internet company GoDaddy.com, and aside from the usual shenanigans between the Teutuls (which saw Senior forced to take over the project from Junior) the Orange County Choppers workshop was also restrained by the brief they were given by the client.
A brief which insisted the color scheme for the bike follow their lime green and bright orange corporate color scheme. Not a pretty combination on a website, and definitely a bad idea on a motorcycle. The team did their best with this restrictive client brief, but the end result was always going to be a bit of an eyesore.
Sources: orangecountychoppers.com, elitedaily.com, etonline.com, discovery.com,