At 8 p.m. Central on Monday and Tuesday (Dec. 10-11), Discovery will air its second American Chopper Live competition special, featuring American Chopper's always drama-stricken Paul Teutul Jr. and Paul Teutul Sr. In the first competition, which aired in 2011, the younger Teutul won a three-way bike build-off competition, beating his father and Outlaw Garage star Jesse James, no stranger to drama himself.
All three of 2011's participants are back for this year's bike build-off, which is titled Chopper Live: The Revenge and throws a wild card into the mix -- or two cards, in the persons of Richard Rawlings and Aaron Kaufman of Dalllas' Gas Monkey Garage, which is the focus of Discovery's new hit series Fast N' Loud. The show has done so well in the ratings that Kaufman and Rawlings, working as a team, were invited to enter their own self-made bike.
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The loquacious Rawlings, never one to mince words, knows that his team is entering this competition, which is voted on by viewers (the bikes have been built, but because the special airs live, the teams' creations haven't been revealed yet). But Rawlings isn't about to act like an underdog.
Contestants get six weeks to build a motorcycle to show off onstage. Rawlings said the Gas Monkey team had no problem hitting the deadline. "We're kind of a working man's shop, and that's what you do," he says. "We punch our clock and get our check on Fridays. These guys that we're up against, they've got more money than God, they've got every piece of machinery known to man, they've got 200 employees. A couple of 'em didn't finish on time."
Kaufman (who wasn't on this interview) rode the Gas Monkey bike from Dallas to Vegas (they detail their journey -- including stops at Twin Peaks and Hooters restaurants along the way -- here), which is where Rawlings was when he called in late last week.
"The bike's here," said Rawlings, who called in just after his plane landed in Vegas. "We rode out last week. We left the bike here; we had to do it that way so that they could have enough time to do the edit proper. We rode it with a film crew last week, and I'm fixin' to send my guys to go get the bike from storage."
The ride had more ups and downs than simple stops at breastaurants might indicate.
"One, you're in a competition, and you're taking the pride and joy you just built 1,200 miles across the desert," Rawlings says. "Anything can happen. So you've got that fear that you'll wreck it, break it, blow it up, whatever. Me and Aaron made a deal that no matter what happened, whatever bucket of bolts or beautiful motorcycle we had left when we got to Vegas, that's what we were going to put on stage."
Rawlings says that to the Gas Monkey guys, the bike build-off has become more of a high-school art project than something that's about the bikes themselves -- it's sort of like a decorating a cake without caring what the cake tastes like. He and Kaufman wanted to bring it back to basics.
"A lot of motorcycles that have been built in recent years can't even be ridden," he says. "They don't ride 'em. They trailer 'em everywhere."
The Gas Monkey's approach, Rawlings says, began with asking "What is a chopper all about?" "A chopper's about, back in the '60s, they started taking ugly motorcycles and pulling off all the [b.s.] and making them cool," Rawlings says. "So that's exactly what we did. We started with an actual '67 Harley-Davidson shovelhead and chopped it, if you will. Took off all the bullshit and all the crap, and made it into a hot-rod chopper and delivered it to Vegas."
Rawlings says he, Kaufman and the Gas Monkey crew have been building motorcylces since they were teen-agers. "We've done some world-class motorcycles," Rawlings says. "Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day has one of our motorcycles."
Adding another dimension to the Gas Monkey crew's being in the special: not long ago, Rawlings mouthed off to TMZ about James, taking digs at the Austin-based James' acting like he's from Texas when he's not (Rawlings is a Fort Worth native; Kaufman grew up in Crowley), and at James' now-defunct marriage to Sandra Bullock. (Warning: extremely annoying narration.)
"That was kind of taken out of context," Rawlings says. "I don't really care about it, though. But who cares? We try to keep the personal stuff out of it, and I made a bad joke." Still, Rawlings said at the time of the interview that James had yet to finish his bike. "Jesse James is a talented guy," Rawlings adds. "But all Jesse James cares about is Jesse James." Here's a little more context, via the Gas Monkey site: