Big Apple bon vivant and savvy self-promotor Andy Warhol once said, "In the age of television, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes." After a dozen years of building Spider-Man gas tanks for other shops, Jason Wilson at Sacred Steel in East LA finally got his day in the kleig lights.
The year was 2009, and the project was the P-51-inspired theme bike Jason built for Hugh King's "Chopper Wars" on The History Channel. Like every other made-for-TV melodrama, Jason's tale of woe has a backstory…
In 1999, TV producer Hugh King made Sandra Bullock's soon-to-be-ex husband a household name with his "Chopper Mania" documentary about the brooding metal crafter. Mr. King parlayed that success into his "Biker Buildoff" series on Discovery Channel from 2002 to 2007. Two years after Discovery jerked the reigns on "Chopper King's" one-trick pony, the silver-haired sycophant returned to his bone-dry well once again, this time for the History Channel.
If you think a TV show that pits man against man in an acetylene-fueled bike-building battle royale is a stretch, you aren't alone. The paper-thin ruse of building motorcycles that take their stylistic inspiration from WWII fighter planes did little to kickstart King's concept, and even less to line the coffers of the TV pilot's featured combatants. According to Jason, neither Hugh King nor the History Channel donated a nickel to either builder's cause. "We got some free shit in exchange for banner space around the shop, but every dime for these bikes came out of our own pockets. I've done stuff in the chopper TV thing for years, so I know none of this shit makes anyone rich. I'm just saying if we had to build a motorcycle that looked like a fuckin' airplane, someone could have at least chipped in for paint."
Hugh King's "Chopper Wars" aired with little fanfare in 2009. So far, the History Channel has yet to pick up the series. That doesn't surprise Jason Wilson. Unlike so many of the telegenic master builders who came before him, Jason and the Douche La Rouche crew smelled a dud from the get-go. "One day the director told us the hardest part about putting together a show was logging the footage. The next day, every word out of our mouths was about logging: Lincoln logs, dumping logs, lumberjacks, log cabins, log flumes, you name it. We acted like dumbasses just for a laugh—we knew the show was gonna suck, so we had fun while it lasted. When it was over, we went back to building motorcycles."
For Best Attitude in an Original Clusterfuck, the Emmy goes to…
"Chopper Wars" pilot, part 1:
Bike name: Cripes A'Mighty
Builders: The Douche Crew
Shop name: Sacred Steel
Bike owner: Jason Wilson
Motor size, year/model and mods: 1946 FL knucklehead, 4-speed trans, foot clutch, tank shift, magneto
Frame style, year/model and mods: I ordered a set of stock axle dropout castings from V-Twin and went to see Paul C. at Spitfire in Riverside country to make a custom frame. I wanted it like the Sportster frame we made, but taller and without as much rake. Paul C's got a sick crew over there and it's always an adventure. We started from scratch and pieced it in as we went. After a couple tries we got the look I had in my head
Fork: modifed Kiwi Indian
Front wheel description: 19-inch star hub,no brake; Firestone rubber
Rear wheel description: 19-inch star hub, drum brake; Firestone rubber
Contributors: hand made stainless-steel seat from Riff Raff Leather. Hand-formed alumiun gas and oil tank with sweet pop-up petcocks machined by Paul. Chris from LA speed shop was there every day during the two-week build to make sure the bike. We had some late nights while Matt the Monk rebuilt the rebuilt tranny
Special thanks to: Biltwell, DicE magazine, Joe Hunt magnetos, Tre' Noir, Spitfire, LA Speed Shop, Wayne and Sweet Baby for paint, Cary the carrot for holdin' it down, and special thanks to the Douche La Rouche MC for being there every day