Before shooting Monster Garage and Jesse James is a Dead Man, James started a business called West Coast Choppers (WCC) out of his mother's garage in 1992. James also used to be a bodyguard for bands such as Slayer, Danzig, and Soundgarden, but his passion was building customized motorbikes. West Coast Choppers started as a business that sold printed T-shirts and stickers before veering into motorbike manufacturing. After James established West Coast Choppers, sixty percent of the company's revenue generated from WCC-branded market tie-ins such as clothing, tools, and beverages.
Although James lost money with the sales of the motorbikes, he used the affiliation with celebrities such as Shaquille O'Neal and Kid Rock to build the brand. James closed the WCC headquarters in Long Beach, California in 2010 but re-opened it in Austin, Texas in 2013. Hosting Monster Garage helped James to garner more attention for the WCC brand. The business built numerous choppers for celebrities and regular customers.
Some of the choppers were phenomenal, and others could've turned out better. We wanted to see the types of choppers that James built from the WCC workshop, so we peeked into the collection. We discovered choppers that were a sight for sore eyes and some that should've received more attention.
20 Would Touch: Cisco
Besides loving cars and motorbikes, James has an affinity for pit bulls. One of the pit bulls that he had was called Cisco. Unfortunately for James, Cisco passed away, but his memory remained. To commemorate the dog, James opened a restaurant and called it Cisco Burger. If that wasn't enough to pay tribute to the dog, James also made a custom bike and named it Cisco.
The bike looks amazing and is part of James' collection. James must've selected the light brown paint to match Cisco's look. Although Cisco isn't around, his name lives on through James.
19 Would Touch: El Diablo Hardtail
Matching colors to make a chopper flamboyant is what James and his team at WCC do best. That is what they did with the production of the El Diablo Hardtail. James opted for a green bike with black wheels. The color green might not suit most bikes, but it suits this chopper from WCC.
The engine design, wheels and the shade of green that the WCC team used made it a sight for sore eyes. I'm not surprised that James made it a part of his collection. Everything is for sale for the right price. This bike is another great creation from the crew, and James has us green with envy.
18 Would Touch: Gold Digger
Besides infusing bright colors to attract attention to his motorbikes, James also uses odd names for his creations. He dubbed the pictured chopper Gold Digger. According to Paul Funk Design, James built Gold Digger for the History of the Chopper movie. James hosted and narrated the two-hour special. He profiled pioneers of the chopper movement who inspired him to build choppers.
James restored a 1969 motorbike that he bought 15 years before shooting the film. James and the WCC team restored the bike to its original 1969 condition.
17 Would Touch: Shaquille O'Neal's El Diablo
The strategy of involving celebrities to promote brands succeeds most of the time. It worked for James. His shop gained more popularity after producing choppers for Keanu Reeves and Shaquille O'Neal. James built the bike in 2001 and ensured that it was suitable for Shaq's 23 shoe size. Discovery Channel documented the building process of Shaq's bike for the Motorcycle Mania II documentary.
It seems that James told Shaq he would build him a bike if Shaq delivered an NBA Championship to Los Angeles. When Shaq delivered the Championship, James delivered the motorbike.
16 Would Touch: Kid Rock's El Diablo II
Having established friendships with celebrities, James was the go-to man when a rockstar such as Kid Rock needed a ride. James was delighted to manufacturer a chopper for the singer and actor. He knew that the affiliation to Kid Rock would garner more publicity for the WCC brand.
James built Kid Rock an El Diablo II, which the rockstar rode in Motorcycle Mania III. WCC fitted a Chromed El Diablo frame and a flame paint job on orange to make the bike easy to spot from a distance. The tank's rounded bottom sets the bike apart from the rest.
15 Would Touch: Coors Dominator
One of the most famous motorbikes that emerged from the WCC workshop is the Coors Dominator. The Coors Dominator is one of the few corporate themed bikes to emerge from the WCC shop. The hardtail 280 tire chopper has a gold frame paired with a patina look (tank and tins). To make the chopper more alluring, James ensured that he topped it off with the Coors badging on the tank.
The gold and brown colors make the Coors Dominator look elegant. Considering the bike is a stunner, I'm not surprised that it's one of the most famous bikes that WCC has made.
14 Would Touch: Penny Saved Dominator Panamericana
Just when I thought that James couldn't build better choppers than the Cisco and the Gold Digger, I stumbled upon the Penny Save Dominator Panamericana. James rode the bike during the filming of Motorcycle Mania III with Kid Rock. He, sometimes, refers to the bike as the Panamericana because of the text on top of the copper tank.
The bike is Mexican themed and contains Spanish text for 'two cylinders.' The best features of the bike are the copper tank and fenders. The copper makes the bike striking and a dream bike for many WCC fans.
13 Would Touch: Honda VTX
When the designers at Honda were tossing around ideas of what to do with the 2002 VTX 1800 V-Twin engine, one of them suggested that James might be the right person to build the bike. Honda executives provided James with an engine, as well as money, and told him to build a bike. James got to work and built the VTX Cafe Racer, according to The Knee Slider.
The bike's unveiling happened at the Cycle World show at Long Beach, California. The motorbike has airbag rear suspension, hand-built frame and bodywork, as well as an inboard rear disc brake.
12 Would Touch: Undertaker Dominator
James worked hard to build up the WCC brand. He explored numerous marketing strategies, but it was the celebrity attention the shop got that helped it to get into the mainstream. Several celebrities such as Shaquille O'Neal, Bill Goldberg, Kid Rock and Keanu Reeves ordered choppers from WCC.
WWE's superstar The Undertaker bought the chopper from WCC. The Dominator isn't the only motorbike that The Undertaker bought from WCC, as he has two from James' shop. The artwork looks amazing.
11 Would Touch: El Diablo II
Choosing the right colors for a chopper is essential for making it alluring. Nobody knows that better than James, who decided to infuse blue and white on the El Diablo 2. James got the combination right, as the white flames look amazing on the blue gas tank.
He performed a stellar job on the motorbike. The chrome wheels and handlebars accentuate the infusion of the blue and white. Considering blue is my favorite color, this is one of my favorite bikes that WCC built. James and his team should be proud of this masterpiece. A job that was well done.
10 Wouldn't Touch: CFL 2
Fans of James' work don't have to fork out $150,000 to have a WCC motorbike as the celebrities did. The difference between the cheaper WCC bikes and the ones that the celebrities owned isn't only the price, but also the quality.
An owner of a 2008 WCC CFL had put his bike on the market for $15,000. The bike had a 127 cc engine and 1,500 miles on the clock. The bike is in good condition but doesn't have the flashy design that WCC has worked hard to portray. The bike has the potential to be the standard WCC motorbike after a good modification.
9 Wouldn't Touch: El Borracho
El Borracho is a Spanish word that means the drunkard or the drunk. The good part about the bike is that WCC combined the traditional design of an El Diablo: bright colors, flames and broad frames. The problem with the El Borracho is that WCC used orange flames on purple paint.
Purple doesn't look great on most vehicles. WCC also made the handlebars purple. They deserve credit for being bold with the design, but the El Borracho wasn't the most appealing bike that they designed. The bike has potential and could be a classic if WCC changes the colors.
8 Wouldn't Touch: CFL 8
Motorbikes such as the Cisco and the El Diablo Hardtail that James owns are a good representation of what the WCC brand aimed to achieve with its choppers. The bikes have alluring colors and elegant designs. James' bikes also have a broad frame that makes them look like bad boy bikes.
The pictured CFL 8 that WCC built has a basic design and gas tank and fenders that infuse maroon with orange. Although there's nothing wrong with the bike, WCC could've put more effort into it to make it look like the flashy bikes that James rides around town with.
7 Wouldn't Touch: CFL 11
It seems that the El Diablo motorbikes are better than the CFL ones that WCC produced. The El Diablo choppers contain bright colors, flames, unique designs, and unexposed engines to ensure the rider's safety. The only difference between the CFL 11 from the CFL 2 and CFL 8 are the colors. The design of the three bikes is the same.
All three bikes look more or less the same. Some WCC fans might prefer the CFL designs over the El Diablo's, but I like the flashy colors and designs of the El Diablo's.
6 Wouldn't Touch: Keanu Reeves' El Diablo
Keanu Reeves used to own the El Diablo bike from WCC. The differences between Reeves' El Diablo and Shaq's are the colors and the design. WCC combined colors and flames to make the bike flamboyant. Keanu Reeves' El Diablo has only one color, black. Most of the El Diablo bikes from WCC have a bright color.
Considering Reeves' bike is only black, I wouldn't blame anyone for thinking that WCC used the CFL design. The perk of the bike is that it contains seating for two, but WCC opted for a light brown seat on a black bike.
5 Wouldn't Touch: Radial Hell
Russell Ballentine is the owner of the radial engine powered bike that James built. The bike debuted in the spring of 2006 after the fabrication was complete. Rotec, a manufacturer from Australia, produced the radial engine, completely CNC machined. That made James' modification job easier.
James used a cover plate to cover the hole where the prop shaft was removed. An engine shouldn't be exposed that much on any vehicle to ensure the rider's safety. Although the engine design is unique, it can be a safety hazard.
4 Wouldn't Touch: El Chango Blanco
Unique designs and eccentric colors are what WCC incorporates when they deliver a bike to the client. Chango Blanco translates to a vanilla gorilla, a nickname that James had. WCC based the Chango Blanco on the CFL frame with a Wasp style gas tank and a Patrick Racing engine.
The bike also features a patina fish on the frame and sheet metal that makes the bike look like it's covered in rust. The bike appeared in Motorcycle Mania 3 and has two brass castings by Jeff Decker.
3 Wouldn't Touch: CFL 1
James' team (and Jesse) have built numerous bikes that they should be proud of and many would love to own, but some of the bikes that they built were simple. I guess, not every bike can be flashy and have a unique design.
When WCC and James built the CFL 1 bike, they must've intended for the bike to have a simple design that would blend in with the crowd. The bike has high bars that resemble the bikes from Biker Mice from Mars. The bike doesn't look bad, but we expected a more extravagant bike from WCC.
2 Wouldn't Touch: Camel El Diablo
A key feature in the design of the WCC choppers is incorporating bright colors. That worked on many of the bikes that James made but didn't work great on the Camel El Diablo. According to National MC Museum, R.J. Reynold presented a competition of custom bikes that America's best shops built to promote the Camel brand.
James was one of the builders invited to build for the competition. Although James' bike was the 2000 Road House competition winner, it wasn't the most attractive bike that he has built. The orange and green colors don't go well together.
1 Wouldn't Touch: El Diablo Softail
WCC and James have garnered a reputation for building flamboyant motorbikes by combining bright colors and ensuring that the design is unique. The team opted for a plain maroon motorbike when they designed the El Diablo Softail.
The design of the El Diablo Softail is one of the most simple designs that the WCC team has conjured. Although the bike doesn't look bad and many bikers wouldn't mind owning such a bike, it isn't the usual design that we've come to expect from WCC. Even the design of the handlebars was less intriguing than the team's standard design.
Sources: badasshelmetstore.com, paulfunkdesign.com, thekneeslider.com, nationalmcmuseum.org