American Chopper Hits End Of The Road

After ten years of bike building, family battles, and the threat of a mortgage foreclosure American Chopper is coming to an end.

This is a program which was radically different from anything previously seen on television: a decade-long look at an American workplace where the centerpiece of the action did not involve cops, doctors or politicians. Instead there was an opportunity to see how steel was bent, ideas went from sketches to reality and motors were installed and tuned.

And there was more. As much as the program was about motorcycles it was about a deeply-troubled family where father and son, Paul Sr. and Paul Jr., battled for psychological turf and territory in a way never before seen on television.

The idea of inter-generational combat does not seem especially unusual. But in this instance the honest and open nature of the battles was addicting. This was not a dispute quietly handled behind closed doors; instead it was a full-blown family war with real casualties and plain consequences.

For Paul Sr. the unfolding drama must have been entirely unexpected. He had grown up under tough circumstances and in great poverty. Surely his son would be grateful for the many advantages he had been given, the product of his father’s initiative, labor and luck.

But for Paul Jr., a talented builder and designer, there was something missing. It was great that his Dad had started with nothing and built a successful business, but there had to be more. Not “more” in a financial sense, but “more” in terms of personal growth, fulfillment, acceptance, respect and family relationships.

After ten years what emerged was a family truce of sorts, some mutual admiration, minimal words of respect and an unbridgeable gap between father and son. In the end financial success was never enough.

On the show people like Vinnie and Rick got it right. They understood that the Pauls would be better off if they could come together, but an effort to jointly develop a bike at the end of the series failed when it was converted from a Teutel family project between Senior and Junior to the start of a new business. It was just not workable.

Real Estate & Foreclosures

One of the very interesting aspects of the show was that homes got bigger, workshops grew and then — as with many small businesses — there was the threat of foreclosure from a mortgage lender. The bigger homes were signs of success while the foreclosure action was an event that had become too familiar as a result of the mortgage meltdown, toxic financing and economic contraction. For a lot of viewers it was very real.

Bike Build-Off

The second annual bike build off was won by Junior and Paul Jr Designs, winners of the 2011 contest as well. Richard Rawlings and Aaron Kaufman from Fast N’ Loud and the Gas Monkey Garage were second. Paul Sr. had a vastly better entry than last year, but still Orange County Choppers trailed the two leaders along with Texas bike-builder Jesse James.

Who Really Won

The real build-off winners were Rawlings and Kaufman. They were second in the build-off but looking toward the future in a TV sense, Paul Sr. and OCC seem done, Paul Jr. likely wants more privacy, and Jesse James didn’t have enough fan traction to do better in the build-off voting.

That means Fast N’ Loud is likely to be featured next year by Discovery, a result with pros and cons.

On the con side there is no wrenching personal drama, no feuds like the Teutels. Can Fast N’ Loud be a successful TV offering if it sticks to building, restoring and selling?

On the plus side,  Rawlings and Kaufman have a very logical approach to car and bike building — they do not produce theme (PR) bikes or cars for companies nor do they pull pranks to get cars from owners for restoration. Instead they harvest old vehicles from yards and online sales for restoration and take their chances at auctions. Viewers see the purchases, the work and the results. Sometimes in the end there is a profit and sometimes not. A lot of viewers can identify with what Gas Monkey Garage is doing, trying to make a buck in the marketplace.

No less important, in Aaron Kaufman there is someone who can explain the logic of what’s being done and why in plain language. It’s a major part of Fast N’ Loud, arguably a big reason for the show’s success — to say nothing of Kaufman’s beard, something which reminds viewers of ZZ Top.

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2 Comments on "American Chopper Hits End Of The Road"

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  1. ChopperFan says:

    I think Senior’s bike was the best personally. Junior needs to realize the whole “theme bike” idea is stale. The corporate turn the show took, where they basically build advertisements that are never meant to be ridden, is what killed American Chopper. Bring in some bad dudes that build custom bikes for the average joe, and people will watch.

  2. Phill says:

    The lack of drama on Fast N’ Loud is like a breath of fresh clean air. Instead we see stories about their craft of making deals and bending metal. It’s a level of professionalism that is to be admired, rather than the family drama from the Teutels (though I wish them the best).

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