American Chopper was the first reality cable show of its time when it premiered in 2003. Viewers were instantly hooked on the successes, failures, and drama surrounding a father and son team running an Orange County motorcycle shop.
The show captured a ton of drama but there was even more happening when the cameras turned off. Behind the glitz and the celebrity guests, this is the untold truth about American Chopper you didn’t get to see.
Paul Sr. Attempted A Hostile Takeover Of The Family Business
Paul Sr. might not have looked a businessman, but he was intent to get his son off the show and out of his shop, so he hit the books. Eventually, he found several loopholes in his contract with TLC that would allow him to get Paul Jr. off the show.
Not only did Paul Sr. realize he could kick Paul Jr. off American Chopper, but he also figured out a way to buy out his son’s stake in Orange County Choppers.
He Sued Paul Jr. For One Million Dollars
To get his son out of his life, Paul Sr. sued Paul Jr. for one million dollars. He figured his son would back down and let him have the family business…but Paul Jr. wasn’t going to go down without a fight.
Paul Jr. was infuriated and hired his own legal team to fight back against his dad. At the end of the day, Paul Sr. lost the lawsuit and nearly lost his son.
The Feud Meant Paul Sr. Missed His Son’s Wedding
In 2010, Paul Jr. married Rachael Biester, his girlfriend of two years. The pair met while American Chopper was filming and fell in love instantly. Unfortunately, the wedding took place at the same time Paul Sr. was battling Paul Jr. in court.
Because of the timing of the wedding and emotions of the feud, Paul Sr. chose not to attend his son’s wedding. Looking back on it, he probably regrets the decision, but there’s nothing he can do about it now.
Another Contract Clause Further Strained The Father-Son Feud
After losing the lawsuit, the feud between Paul Sr. and Paul Jr. grew so toxic that the father fired his son. TLC threatened to end the show if Paul Jr. wasn’t re-hired. According to the network, their contracts called for both men to participate in the show.
When Paul Sr. refused, TLC filed a notice of default. It looked like a silly family feud was going to bring an end to American Chopper as the fans knew it.
Ending Their Working Relationship Saved Their Father/Son Relationship
To find peace with each other, Paul Sr. and Paul Jr. mutually agreed to part ways as business partners. The lawsuit was the straw that broke the camel’s back. In order to keep the family together, Paul Jr. left the business and started his own design firm.
Surprisingly, the two worked this agreement out together. TLC agreed that Paul Jr. could leave the show’s main cast so long as he appeared as an independent consultant for his father.
An On-Set Death Put Paul Jr.’s Own Show On Hold
Paul Junior has arguably become more successful than his father since being fired in 2008. He didn’t prosper right away though. A non-compete clause in his OCC contract made it impossible for him to start a competing business for one year.
Tragically, right before Paul was set to finally open his new shop, one of the workers fell through the roof and died. The incident affected Paul Junior deeply, “This was a tragic accident and, although I’ve never met this man, my deepest condolences and prayers go out to his family and friends.”
Paul Jr.’s Business Is Thriving
Leaving his dad behind might have been the best decision Paul Jr. ever made. His new custom chopper shop found instant success when he opened it. One of his current clients is video game giant Blizzard, who contracted him to design several World of Warcraft-themed bikes.
He’s also been hired to work on big-budget films in need of motorcycle expertise. Stepping out of the shadow of his father and into the spotlight has paid dividends for the Southern California native.
Paul Senior Passed His Addiction Habits Onto His Sons
No one on American Chopper had a bigger personality than Paul Sr. Unfortunately, he also had a problem with addiction and spent 15 years addicted to alcohol before going to rehab. In true Paul fashion, he hated the idea of rehab but went to save his marriage.
Before going, Paul threw himself one last rager. By the time Paul cleaned himself up, he had passed his bad habits onto his sons. Paul Jr. entered rehab at 16-years-old.
Paul Sr. And Paul Jr. Are Almost A Happy Family Again
Paul Jr. and Paul Sr. may have parted ways on amicable terms, but their relationship wasn’t magically fixed. Paul Jr. found it difficult to let his over-powering father back into his life. When Paul Jr. had his first child in 2015, though, a picture surfaced online of Paul Sr. meeting his grandchild.
Paul Jr. and Rachael named their baby boy Hudson, but have not said how young he will be when he rides his first motorcycle. Choppers run in the family’s blood, so it will probably happen sooner rather than later.
Rumors Arise Of Orange County Choppers’ Demise
After all the drama, the show finally came to an end in 2012. Country Music Television aired a spinoff of the show, but it wasn’t a hit. Rumors began to circulate that Orange County Choppers was losing money and the shop was getting ready to close for good.
Those rumors were greatly exaggerated. During a radio interview, Paul Sr. announced the shop wasn’t closing, just moving to a new location. It was later announced that American Chopper was coming out with new episodes in 2018.
The Reboot Almost Didn’t Happen
When a revival of American Chopper was revealed, fans couldn’t have been more excited. Little did they know the reboot almost didn’t get off the ground. The family was on good terms with everyone except the producer.
Craig Piligian had issues with the Teutuls in the past and was not happy about helping run the show, ” It wasn’t very much fun, and a lot of bad blood was spilled at the beginning of it all. And now everything’s great.”
Paul Sr Was Sued For Fraud In 2018
The show might be over, the Paul Teutul’s legal woes won’t go away. In 2018, he was sued for fraud. The report alleged the Thomas Derbyshire, “Teutul tried to change their 51/49 percent ownership deal (benefiting Derbyshire) to a 50/50 deal. Derbyshire had agreed to fund the project up to $3 million at that time.”
Paul’s legal team responded, “Mr. Derbyshire’s interpretation of said events is without merit and with the timing of Orange County Choppers much-anticipated return to television tomorrow night the timing is very suspect of once again untrue allegations.”
Paul Went Bankrupt In 2018
One month after being sued for fraud, Paul Teutul filed for bankruptcy. He owed millions of dollars, including one million left on his mortgage. While filing, Teutel stated that he earns $15,070 a month and spends nearly all of it.
Teutul reportedly did a terrible job organizing his finances, which ended up hurting him in the long run, “Teutul filed paperwork claiming that he owes close to 50 creditors $1,070,893.44 and that he was only worth $1,801,729.”
Paul Senior Was The Victim Of A Death Hoax
Paul Sr. knew he was famous when rumors about his tragic death from a motorcycle accident hit the news circuit. The eldest Teutul took to Facebook to send his fans a message that he was alive and well. That’s not where this story ends, though.
It turns out a fake news site used the death of an actual motorcyclist who bore a resemblance to Paul Sr. to start the rumor. The news video that was posted to YouTube was removed when the truth about the crash was discovered.
Another Day, Another Lawsuit
If you haven’t caught onto it yet, the American Chopper team got sued a lot. Cody Connelly sued them a few seasons into the show after he quit, but the company and producers continued to use his likeness to sell their product.
Like so many lawsuits before this one, Cody didn’t win. It’s not easy to win a quarter million dollars in court. But Cody didn’t lose either. He settled with the show’s producers out of court for an undisclosed amount of money.
Not All Of Their Chopper Ideas Were Original
When Orange County Chopper team up with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation to create a wheelchair accessible chopper, it seemed like a match made in heaven. That is until they were sued by Chris Tavantzsis.
Tavantzis, who suffered from polio, claimed he gave the American Chopper crew the same idea two years before. He said he pitched the idea at a trade show in 2008. The episode aired in 2010. In 2014, the lawsuit was thrown out of court.
Mikey Left The Company For A “Top Secret Project”
Let’s talk about Mikey, Paul Sr.’s other son who was featured on the show. Mikey was hired by his dad to do maintenance work around the shop, but also found himself playing peacemaker a fair amount of the time. He quickly became a fan favorite as the heart of the show.
After so many years of playing the middleman, Mikey got fed up and left the company, leaving a hole that proved impossible for the producers to fill. He has since patched up his broken relationship with his family and is working on a “top-secret” project.
Shaq Got A Custom Chopper Made
Shaquille O’Neal got into the American Chopper business in 2014. The show came back for a one-night special event where they built the NBA legend his own custom chopper. The hardest part about making the chopper was making it big enough to support Shaq’s massive frame.
Shaq was happy with his new toy, claiming he’d always wanted a motorcycle but never found a big enough one. Paul Jr. was not apart of the special, but Mikey returned for the episode and was even listed as Vice President of the garage.
TLC Took Advantage Of Paul Jr.’s Wedding
Seeing a chance to make more money off of American Chopper, TLC used Paul Jr.’s wedding to Rachael Beister to their advantage. Leading up to the nuptials, they featured the couple on Say Yes To The Dress and Cake Boss.
The over-exposure has led to criticism that TLC “owned” the Teutul family. Others understand it’s hard to say no to free things. Having TLC pay for a large portion of the wedding made things easier for the happy couple.
Mikey’s Second Passion Is Art
When Mikey got fed up with his family and left American Chopper, he was able to pursue art. He had always had a passion for art and knew how to run a business from his experience and Orange County Choppers and decided to open an art gallery.
Mikey didn’t just run his own art gallery, however. He also contributed and sold his own art! In 2014, he closed his gallery, choosing to simplify his life further. He also wanted to work on repairing his relationship with his family. Around the corner, a father and son begin to repair their relationship.
Vincent DiMartino Found His Own Success After The Show Ended
Vincent DiMartino had been working at Orange County Choppers for one month when he found out the garage was being turned into a reality show. After becoming a minor celebrity, Vincent left the garage to start one of his own called V-Force Customs.
He may have left the shop, but he never forgot his roots. During the final seasons of the show, Vincent would appear to ask Paul Jr. for advice. Paul Jr. was always willing to tell his good friend anything.
Vincent Eventually Found His Way Back To American Chopper
Running a successful garage was a dream come true for Vincent, but he never forgot where he came from. When American Chopper: Senior vs. Junior premiered, Vincent came back to help Paul Jr. in his garage. The new show ran for two seasons before Discovery Channel was forced to cancel it.
Helping Paul Jr. out didn’t stop DiMartino from continuing to run V-Force Customs, which had turned into a successful operation. Who needs sleep? Definitely not Vincent DiMartino!
The Show Wasn’t Supposed To Focus On Orange County Choppers
When Discovery Channel was coming up with American Chopper, they had no interest in focusing the show on Teutel family and their shop. According to the show’s producer, the decision to focus on a motorcycle shop was made the night before shooting.
The decision was so last minute, Discovery Channel had no idea until it was too late, ” I changed all the tickets, changed the crew, and on Thursday we were shooting the pilot for American Chopper. We didn’t initially tell Discovery about the switch. It was just a gut feeling.”
The Teutuls Tried To Crowdsource A TV Show
When American Chopper went off the air, the Teutul family still felt like they had unfinished business. Not having enough money to produce a new show, the family turn to Patreon to try and crowdsource a new TV show.
They claimed they were having financial hardships and would offers fans the chance to be interviewed on the show. They also said making their own show would give them more creative freedom to make something more in line with what they’re really like.
A Death In The Workshop
As Paul Jr. set out on his own for the first real time, the worst possible thing happened. The roof of his shop sprung a leak so his landlord called in help. The repairman fell through the roof and hit the floor. He died instantly.
Paul Jr. was crushed by the tragedy and reached out to the worker’s family. He offered them his sincere condolences and any support they needed. His shop was eventually repaired, and Paul Jr. was able to return to work as a more humble man.
The Teutuls Love Animals
In 2009, Paul Teutul revealed an adorable secret. He absolutely loves animals. Speaking with People Magazine, he revealed he has, “two dogs, Marty and Gus … plus, 5 miniature horses, 2 miniature donkeys, 2 alpacas, 2 baby doll sheep, 5 goats, and 2 highlander cows.”
Teutul knows how to spread the love too, opening his home to neighborhood kids so they can play with the fluff monsters, “They love the animals. We all do.” He’s not wrong, folks.
Social Media Is A Mystery To Paul Sr
Paul Sr. doesn’t understand social media. When an old scene of a fight between Paul Sr. and Paul Junior become a popular meme, the elder Teutul was introduced to the internet age.
He says at the time he had no idea what a meme was. Although now he does, “I’m not real savvy with much on a telephone, but it’s kind of funny because somebody mentioned that twice, and it went over my head, and I never even came back to ask what it was, because I’m not so savvy with social media.”
It Created A New Genre Of Reality Television
Before American Chopper debuted, few reality shows followed the day-to-day lives of average people. The concept helped the show stand out from its competition. The amount of drama, rough language, and fighting that happened became must-see TV.
And for how much the family seemed to disagree, none of it was scripted. Everything that was happening to the family on film was happening to them in real life. Countless networks have tried to mimic American Chopper since, but none have been able to catch the same magic.
Paul Junior Has Thank His Dad For Firing Him
When Paul Junior was fired from Orange County Choppers it gave him the chance to start his own business. According to the reality TV star, it ended up being one of the best things that could ever to him.
Paul was understandably angry when the firing happened. He even sued his dad and won. Looking back now he says, “And that turned out to be one of the best things that could have happened to me at the time. It just took a while to realize that.”
The Show Inspired One Of 2018’s Most Popular Memes
Paul Junior was fired on air from Orange County Choppers in 2008. Ten years a later, an image of him throwing a chair at his father has become one of America’s hottest memes. It’s good we can all laugh at the incident today, but when it originally happened it was funny at all.
As you learned from the slide, however, the firing worked out best for everyone. Paul Junior was able to start his own successful business and Paul Sr finally learned what a meme is!
Paul Junior Worked On A Ninja Turtles Movie
One of the biggest projects Paul Junior got to work on after being fired was the movie Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. Michael Bay, the producer, hired Junior to design one bike. He was so impressed with the work he ended up asking for a second bike.
What’s most impressive about the story is that Paul Junior waited until the last minute to design the bikes. He didn’t come up with a single design until he started working. It was the first time Michael Bay let an artist work without a concept already designed.
Paul Sr. Had An Epic Bender Before Going To Rehab
Knowing he was changing his life for the better in 1985 when Paul Teutul entered rehab, he made the decision to have one last bender. In his book, Teutul gets into the details of the epic last stand, ” I drank a half-gallon of wine, a pint of brandy, and I took six Valiums.”
Paul Teutul has been clean and sober ever since, even if his bad habits spread to his children. We never said he was an angel. He has learned some hard lessons from life that have softened his edges in his later years.
The Show Never Made Up Drama
These days it’s nearly impossible to watch a reality television show and know what drama is real and what drama is fake. American Chopper was full of drama and it was all real. The family didn’t get along and didn’t care about fighting and abusing each other while the cameras were rolling.
If you still don’t believe that none of the drama was made up, just look at all the lawsuits that the Teutuls have filed against each other. Few reality TV have had such easy jobs as the ones on American Chopper.
Paul Turned To God To Save His Relationship
You would never think Paul Teutul Junior is a religious man after watching an episode of American Chopper. It turns out he is, and it probably saved his relationship. When his relationship with his future wife went sour early on, Paul Junior gave himself to God and made a vow to be celibate until marriage.
During this time, Rachael became a believer in religion too and made the same vow. After nine months without having relations, Paul Jr proposed and the rest is history. They are still together raising their child.
Comedy Central Made A Parody Series
Comedy Central tried to get in the American Chopper business with their parody series American Body Shop. The show was created by Sam Greene and looked poised to be the network’s next big hit. Nick Offerman was even in it!
Fans didn’t tune in, though, and Comedy Central canceled the show after one year. It still must have been pretty uplifting for the Teutul family to have their lived parodied. It is considered the most sincere form of flattery.
The Teutel’s Tried To Open A Restaurant
Around 2011, Paul Sr had the brilliant idea to get into the restaurant industry. Along with his business partner, Carlos Urbaneja, Paul pitched his idea to several investors. Only one restaurant opened and it’s still in business today despite a 2.7 star Google rating.
One of the most scathing reviews says, “Place is a joke, needs new management clearly. Just seems like they are not concerned with making money or customer appreciation what’s so ever. Food is basic and unappetizing, beer lines are dirty, everything just needs an update.”
Steroids Became A Problem In 2011
In 2011, dentist James D’Amico pleaded guilty to providing clients with steroids. One of the names his listed was Paul Teutul Sr. The report provided evidence that Teutul had ordered $51,000 worth of steroids from the dentist.
When asked for a statement, Teutul tried to deny the claims, “Honestly, really, I couldn’t do this even if it was about chewing bubble gum. Everything has procedure.” It’s hard to believe him, however. When new episodes began airing after the scandal, Teutul looked smaller than he had in previous seasons.
The Show Aired 223 Episodes
During its original run, American Chopper was a huge success. Over the course of its ten-year run, 223 episodes aired. At its peak, it pulled in nearly four million viewers weekly. In comparison, most shows on Discovery Channel struggle to pull in more than one million.
One critical component to the shows sustained success was the endless drama of the Teutul family. At the end of every drama-filled episode, there would be a teaser for the next one, making sure drama junkies would come back for more.
The Series Had Its Own Video Game
You know you’re popular with the youth when your show gets a video game adaptation. In the early 2000s, Activision released American Chopper on all the major gaming platforms. Later, a second game was released called Americ Chopper 2: Full Throttle.
We don’t know how many copies the games sold, or what the plot of the video games was, but it’s impressive they were made nonetheless. Maybe a third entry in the series will be released with the show’s revival!
Paul Senior Is Selling His Farm
Paul Teutul Sr is having a really rough 2018. He’s been sued for fraud, filed for bankruptcy, had a home foreclosed on, and is now selling his 70-acre farm. Hopefully, the reboot of the show will relieve some of the pressure he’s faced in recent months.
The attempted sale of the farm should help with his financial burden. He originally listed it for $2.89 million, although recently had to drop the price to $2.49 million. Let’s hope the price doesn’t go any lower!