Paul Teutul on Harleys, Hotels, and the Heart of the Custom Bike
It's a Friday, and Paul Teutul, Sr. barely knows what day it is; that's how tight a schedule he's on. Established in 1999, his brainchild, Orange County Choppers is the place to go when, for some reason, you've got the cash to spare for a custom motorcycle. Never are there two of a kind; each one is tailored to just about whatever the client wants.
Sitting between his partner, author and fellow chopper enthusiast Joannie Kay; and his son Michael, Teutul seems to be making most of the opportunity to just be sitting down. And with his year-end to-do list just crossed out, and the lineup he's got for 2018, nobody can blame him. Discovery Channel is rebooting his reality series, American Chopper, which revolves around his life and creative process as a custom bike maker—artist, really. They're currently shooting the first few episodes, which is centered on the collaboration with Okada Manila. “It's a glimpse into what everybody's up to—you know, kind of ‘where are they now’, and it brings people who loved it back to that space,” says Joannie.
His two custom bikes for Okada and for Cove, Okada's indoor beach and nightclub, are the first of Teutul's work to hit our shore, taking about three weeks of 'round-the-clock work to complete—where a normal project takes about five weeks total of back-and-forth with a client, sketching, doing the math, making the digital 3D model, metalwork, some outsourcing, and assembly. As you may imagine, tensions ran high in their team of about a dozen. At least it'll make for excellent TV.
The bikes—which, he laughingly confirms, should cost upwards of six figures in US dollars—are going to be raffled off to Okada's Lucky Circle cardholders in June 2018. “When we were working on one of them a lot of us at the shop were going, ‘I don't know about this, I'm not sure this will work’... but when it was done, it started to grow on me. On [all of us].”
What you can look forward to are the Okada Chopper, which stays true to the plum color scheme and seven-circle design of the hotel's logo, while evoking the atmosphere of the vast casino grounds on the metalwork chassis. The chrome details echo the exterior of the hotel itself. On the other hand, the Cove Chopper's wheels are inspired by the dome that covers the indoor beach, and the bike's form runs long and low, giving off the relaxed vibe of a tropical beach vacation.
The process making these pieces, he says, wasn't too different from what they normally do in the shop and on the show, save for the new time constraints and the client. What you can count on, seeing as it's OCC, is that each of them is the only one of their kind.