Father Paul Teutul and sons Mikey and Paul Jr. formed Orange County Choppers, arguably one of the best known motorcycle shops in the world thanks to American Chopper.
Orange County Choppers
Thanks to a popular TV show the boys at Orange County Choppers are perhaps the most popular custom builders in motorcycle history.
Orange County Choppers (OCC), a small custom motorcycle manufacturing company out of Orange County, New York, became one of the most recognized motorcycle shops in the country thanks to the Discovery Channel’s American Chopper. The show debuted when other motorcycle-related TV programs were gaining in popularity. Good timing, hard work and luck all fared in OCC’s fortunes as Paul Teutul Senior, Paul Junior and Mikey soon became household names. On the surface, the show featured a custom bike building shop who carved out its niche in making theme bikes for corporate or celebrity customers. But at a deeper level the attraction was the dysfunctional family dynamics centered on a domineering father, Paul Sr., a defiant son, Paulie and a comedic sidekick in the form the shaggy-haired son, Mikey.
As OCC’s popularity grew their work space also needed to grow. They began construction of their new HQ just down the road from where they got their start.
Celebrity clients like singer/songwriter Billy Joel and illusionist Criss Angel helped OCC gain national attention. At the peak of their popularity, a one-off Orange County Chopper sold in the six-figure range. The Air Force commissioned OCC to create a bike based on the F-22 to use as a public outreach tool. But one of the most memorable custom bikes to roll out of the OCC shop is the Fire Bike. It was designed by Paul Jr. to commemorate the New York firefighters who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001. The bike is modeled after a fire truck and includes a steel rivet from the Twin Towers on the gas tank. Paul Jr. said the bike was themed “343” after the number of New York firefighters who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty on 9/11.
In 2007, Orange County Choppers reached an apex after TLC picked up the series for broadcast throughout the United States and Canada. Not long after, OCC would open up its 92,000 sq. ft. World Headquarters in Newburgh, New York, just down the road from the original shop. The mega-complex features a humongous retail store and a museum-type display where OCC has several of its most memorable motorcycles on display. It all has a huge garage where both
The explosive arguments often seen on the
show finally took their toll when Paul Jr. was
fired from OCC and a very public legal battle
between father and sons ensued.
one-off customs and OCC production bikes are built, as the company released a limited edition production line consisting of the Web Bike, T-Rex Softail, Splitback and Greenie in 2008.
The often explosive relationship between Paul Senior and Junior reached a low point when Paulie was fired by his father late in 2008. The rift between father and son would become greater when Senior took his son to court in a dispute over Junior’s 20% share in OCC. A valuation of OCC dictating the amount Paulie’s shares are worth is still pending and the issue has yet to be resolved.
Since then, Paul Jr. has started his own design company, Paul Jr. Designs. One of his first clients was Coleman, the popular camping gear company, who Junior designed a camping stove for. After waiting out a one year non-compete clause, Paulie opened up his own motorcycle shop in April 2010. After canceling the show in February of 2010, TLC then brought it back for a seventh season. The new program, entitled American Chopper: Senior vs. Junior, features both OCC and Paul Jr.’s shops as competitors.
Paul Teutul, Sr., has seen his share of
adversity but has persevered and now is one
of the most recognizable faces in the
Before building the OCC empire, Paul Sr. learned the ropes the old fashioned way. After finishing his stint in the Merchant Marines, he began working as a welder and fabricator. Not long after, he started up his own company, Orange County Iron Works, and staked out a reputation for himself in the iron working trade.
Meanwhile, Senior would also pursue his hobby of tinkering with bikes in his basement as a pastime. This pastime would soon become more than a hobby when he converted his 1974 Superglide into the Sunshine bike. This would be followed by True Blue, the first original chopper Senior made, which garnered plenty of attention when it debuted at Daytona Beach’s Biketoberfest and Laconia. The bike’s success helped Senior found the world famous enterprise that came to be known as Orange County Choppers. Faithful members of the OCC crew like Mike Ammirati, Rick Petco, Christian Welter and Jim Quinn continue to work for Senior producing custom motorcycles at the World Headquarters in Newburgh.