In the world of motorbikes and bike enthusiasts, one name remains prominent today. This is none other than Jesse James, the ultimate customizer, artist and one-of-a-kind television personality.
When James turned seven, his father got his very first dirt bike. He practically used it all the time. And when he wasn’t riding, his father recalled that young Jesse liked to tinker with stuff. Nonetheless, James’ journey towards motorcycle customization glory wasn’t exactly straightforward. In fact, there was a time when James pursued another passion: football. However, James ended up getting injured and sidelined while playing college football. And that essentially shut his NFL dreams down for good.
After his athletic dreams were dashed, James found work as a bodyguard for rock bands like Soundgarden and Slayer. And when he wasn’t working, he checked out custom motorcycles and wasn’t impressed. And so, when he had to be sidelined from his bodyguard gig due to an injury, James decided it was time to build motorcycles himself.
After undergoing an apprenticeship, James opened the famous West Coast Choppers. In addition, he also shot to fame when he starred in a reality series involving his shop. Unfortunately, James also ran into some trouble, personally and professionally. James also had to close down his beloved shop.
Despite this, it’s safe to say that James’ own motorcycle collection remains remarkable. Here’s what we know about it so far:
When James was growing up, he didn’t exactly have a lot of money. Nonetheless, this did not stop him from driving some of the coolest bikes that anyone has ever seen. How was this possible? Well, it turns out he has been customizing bikes for quite some time now and in fact, he custom-built some of his very own bikes in the past.
During an interview with USA Today, James explained, “I never had money, and I always wanted expensive bikes. So I learned how to do it myself. I would build everything. I'd paint everything, build my own motor, and show up with a cool bike, and people couldn't believe it. They were like, 'Yeah—you bought that.'”
When it comes to bikes, master customizer James has always been passionate. Hence, he always likes to take his sweet time when working on any custom bike. This is to make sure that he would always get everything perfect. And he also wants his customers to really ride it.
During his interview with Cycle World, James explained, “People sometimes forget that these are motorcycles we’re making here, so I try to stress that fact. My philosophy is, ride it. If it breaks, fix it or get it fixed. The whole time I’m spending 200 hours on a gas tank or a fender or frame or something like that, I’m wondering how it’s going to feel to ride it.”
As it turns out, James and his former shop, West Coast Choppers, had a special arrangement with wheel specialist, "American Wheel." This much, he revealed during one interview with Cycle World.
At that time, he was talking about a bike that he had done for one of his customers. During this interview, he remarked, “On a chopper, you can do pretty much anything, and it’s accepted. For instance, you can stick your hand through this bike’s wheel, which "American Wheel" makes exclusively for us. I like that kind of stuff.” Well, with a special partnership like this, it’s no wonder that James managed to put out some fascinating motorbikes over the years. He most likely used special wheels on his own bikes too.
As you can see, some of James motorcycles feature insane art designs. There are bikes that have got some big flames. And then there are bikes with other eye-catching types of illustrations.
And while some of his bikes feature crazy designs, James believes that this is not always a good thing. In fact, he once told Cycle World, “A lot of people think crazy paint is like an extra ingredient, but I believe most bikes don’t need it. If a bike has good lines and you put a radical paint job on it, the paint kind of cancels everything out; all you notice is the paint instead of all the metal work.”
If you go over photos of James riding his bikes, you’ll find that a lot of his rides feature low seats. Perhaps, it’s because of this the way he likes to ride. The lower your seat is, the more you get to experience the ride. Not to mention, the more you get to feel the speed. At the same time, it doesn’t hurt that a low rider simply just looks good.
In fact, one of his motorbikes with low seats is a hot 1990 Harley Davidson that featured high handlebars. Aside from these, James also has a whole lot of other low-riding motorbikes in his garage.
As you may know, James is no stranger to risk. And sometimes, he can even be a bit of a daredevil. This may explain why he also sometimes drives around in a super cool nitro bike.
This bike was featured on an episode of “Jesse James Is A Dead Man.” On this show, James willfully executes some of the most dangerous stunts you had ever seen. And of course, he always prepares well for it. For the very first episode, James decided to take a sweet ride on a crazy nitro bike. Not only that, but he also took flight in an F-15 and set himself on fire.
Over the years, James has been spotted riding Dominator motorbikes. One of the more popular ones is a copper bike known as the Penny Saved Dominator, which he rode while filming “Motorcycle Mania III” with artist Kid Rock. According to the Bad Ass Helmet Store, some fans also refer to this bike as the Panamericana because of the text painted on the bike’s gas tank.
Furthermore, it explained, “The bike is Mexican themed with Spanish text for “two cylinders” of the heads and more. The real standout feature has to be the copper tank and fender. Not sure if these are solid copper or copper plated or if the tank is actually riveted together or if that is just for effect but it sure looks striking.”
On IG, James talked about letting go of this precious bike. Back in March 2016, he explained, “Well pretty Sad I let go of my Louisiana Highway Patrol Dyna Defender. I had that sucker since it was New in 2004. It went to a very good home in Japan to @sin_takizawa I can't wait for him to take a rip on it!”
Meanwhile, he also announced that he’s working on another Defender saying, “Now I'm building a New Improved Defender. I'm using a faring kit from @bigbearchoppers and Old School 714 Riverside Homie @zeakmcpeak is handling the paint and bodywork... Of course [sic] it will have a custom cut @bakerdrivetrain and I got some Sneaky Shit in the works for the motor.”
Yes, you heard it right. At one point, James also owned a bike known as the Vanilla Gorilla. It also happened to be one of his favorites. However, he eventually decided to part ways with this sweet ride. Vanilla Gorilla also happens to be one of James’ nicknames. And so, you know just how personal the bike has been for him.
According to a report from TMZ, this bike is described as “crazy fast.” It’s no wonder James kept the bike around for several years and drove it himself. The bike was put on sale on eBay for a price of $125,000. It’s unclear who ended up buying it.
Another bike that James had always had a fondness for is the 2009 Hellrazor Chopper, which also came to be known a West Coast Choppers signature series motorbike. This one also ended up getting sold but for charity this time around. In fact, it went into auction with the proceeds benefiting the City of Hope.
Moreover, according to Auction Cause president Eric Gazin, “This chopper is a dream for motorcycle enthusiasts and collectors alike. The fact it is street legal with all its power still intact is a testament to Jesse James and all the guys at Illusion Motorsports and West Coast Choppers.”
As it turns out, James also has a fondness for vintage bikes. In fact, his collection once featured a 1937 Elgin Skylark Bluebird.
This rare pre-war bike was produced from 1935 to 1937. According to Gary’s Restoration, “This is the first bike to have a built-in Stewart Warner speedometer and Alemite fittings on the hubs, headset, and cranks. That was a big deal in 1936. The electric horn and light are mounted on the fender rather than the handlebars. Because of its unique frame design, art deco chain guard and skirt guards, it is considered the most collectible pre-war lady’s bike. When people see the bike they always say that it is the “coolest girls bike” they have ever seen.”
Aside from the 1937 Elgin Skylark Bluebird, James also used to have a 1941 Firestone Super Cruiser as part of his collection. For many, this particular pre-war bike still evokes nostalgia.
According to the website, Dave’s Vintage Bicycles, “It was manufactured by the Colson company. The “Super Cruiser” was equipped with a spring fork (the Colson Cushioner) and a tail light in the rear carrier. The standard “Cruiser” had no tail light and had a rigid fork and truss rods. The headlight on this bike is a Delta Roadlighter.” A report from RadarOnline revealed that James had auctioned off this bike on eBay, along with the Elgin Skylark. One of the bikes reached a bidding price of $800.
If you follow James on social media, then you would know how crazy he is about his 48 Panhead. After all, this bike has always been his childhood dream.
Back in January 2014, James had posted a photo of his 48 Panhead on IG with the caption, “YEE YA!! My 1948 Panhead is Ready for Paint! @dcchoppers Is Wrenching Away on the Motor and Trans. Not So Easy Restoring a Harley Nowadays with All OG Parts. Good to have Friends like @matthewolsen & #MarkWall I'm pretty Damn Excited I have wanted a 48 Pan since Jr High School.” It's safe to say that James won’t ever auction this one off.
James is famous for giving his bikes quite unique names. In fact, among them is a ride known as the Gold Digger.
This low-riding bike was put together by James himself. It reportedly features a five-speed transmission and an engine developed by Accurate Engineering built by Aki at West Coast Choppers. In addition, the bike also features a cool Harman fork. According to Paul Funk Design, James had built this bike of the “History of the Chopper” movie. For the frame, he had used one from the 1970s, which he found at a swap meet. You have to admit, this bike is pretty awesome.
One of the bikes that James likes to ride nowadays is his Pentagon Dyna Defender. In fact, just last month, he went on IG, posting his latest photos of this sweet ride.
He gave his followers an update, saying, “Suns Out, Dyna’s Out! Finally Got my Pentagon Dyna Defender on the Road! Just a few little bugs that Waylon is dialing in. Then she’s good to go. Lots of neat sneaky stuff on this one. Like that monster Carl’s Speed Shop (last one he built) motor with a New @shoguncuts exhaust and #BootyQuake muffler.. other than that it’s totally stock.”
As you may know, James has always been about assembling bikes with his own two hands. Hence, it stands to reason that he had a hand in customizing a lot of the bikes that he rides personally.
For James, combining engineering with art comes quite naturally. That is why he can readily build a powerful bike from scratch and even give it some awesome paint work afterward. We can guarantee that a lot of them were custom built according to what James wants. And if any of these custom bikes get sent to an auction, they will surely fetch a high price.
James may be a master in customizing bikes, but that doesn’t mean that his creations are completely legal on the road. In fact, if you could remember, he once got into trouble because the bikes he created were found to be non-compliant with emissions standards. And there’s a chance some of his personal bikes continue to be non-compliant today.
According to a report from the New York Times, the California Air Resources Board found that West Coast Choppers sold bikes from 1998 to 2005, which did not meet the state’s emission rules. As a result, the board imposed a pretty hefty fine on James.
As you may know, James is undoubtedly a dog person. In fact, when he and his ex-wife Sandra Bullock lost their dog, James even appealed to the public for help in locating their pup. Hence, it comes as no surprise that James would also honor his furry babies by naming a bike after them.
Take the case of Cisco for starters. Cisco is a chocolate brown pit bull that was often seen with James. Unfortunately, according to the website Good Pit Bulls, Cisco passed away in late 2008. To honor him, James created a Cisco Dominator bike and also opened a joint called Cisco Burgers.
James posted a number of photos of this bike on IG. For his caption, his quoted Yasuhiro Hirakawa who once remarked, “Not to sound emotional, but products made by hand possess a certain ‘warmth’ which those made by machines lack.”
In case you’re interested, the 2019 Yamaha VMAX comes with a starting price of $17,999. According to Yamaha, this is one bike that is “born with muscle.” Furthermore, the company referred to the VMAX as “an iconic machine that carries clout with its powerful 1679 cc engine delivering drag racing style and performance.”
Another bike that James showed off from his collection recently is a Kawasaki Ninja H2R. Moreover, it seems that he had taken the photos around Christmas time, which is his favorite time of year to go out and ride. The motorcycle expert explained, “Christmas is the perfect day to ride. The road all to myself...”
In case you’re curious, the 2019 Ninja H2R comes with a starting price of $55,000. It is powered by a supercharged four-cylinder engine that can deliver a maximum torque of 121.5 pound-feet at 12,500 rpm. Unfortunately, Kawasaki says that for this bike, the “order period is now closed.” Perhaps, stay tuned if you’re determined to own one.
Sources - Biography, USA Today, IG & Cycle World