The Untold Truth Of American Chopper Star Paul Teutul Sr.

The following article includes references to addiction.

Paul Teutul Sr. spent an entire decade in people's homes as the star of Discovery Channel's "American Chopper" reality series, which brought the world of Orange County Choppers to the small screen from 2002 until 2012. When the series concluded, he moved to CMT with a short-lived reboot show called "Orange County Choppers" — and in 2018, after a highly controversial hiatus, he was back on Discovery as part of the "American Chopper" rebooted series.

Originally inspired to enter the biker world by iconic films such as 1969's "Easy Rider" and 1953's "The Wild One," Teutul founded Orange County Choppers in 1999 and rose to fame by designing and building custom motorcycles with his sons, Paul Teutul Jr. and Mikey Teutul. Their father-son relationships were always dramatic, but those family ties seemed to worsen as their fame and fortunes increased. Though the show made Senior a household name, it also landed him in a lot of hot water with the courts, and though he made it back on the air for a time, this chop shop paterfamilias still has a lot on the line.  

From addiction to family feuds and a slew of lawsuits, here's the untold truth of Paul Teutul Sr.

Paul Teutul Sr. 'chose to die' but was saved by a promise

"On January 7, 1985, I decided that I'd either have to sober up, or die. I chose to die." That was the startling confession Paul Teutul Sr. made in his 2009 motivational memoir, "The Ride of a Lifetime: Doing Business the Orange County Choppers Way" (via Today). He was just 35 at the time and after two decades of drinking, his body "was literally falling apart. I was coughing up blood," he wrote. "On the weekends, I would wake up and not know where I was or how I'd gotten there."

Teutul was eventually saved by a promise to his wife to get sober. "I'm a man of my word," he continued. "And my word is my ironclad bond ... and that was what I was going to do." The future "American Chopper" star began attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and continued doing so for nine years, never missing a single session and never picking up a drink again.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

He turned down his son's wedding invitation

Weddings are traditionally an opportunity for family members to put aside their differences and come together to celebrate, but when Paul Teutul Jr. said "I do" to Rachael Biester in August 2010, he and his father simply couldn't come to terms. This may sound shocking until you recall that Paul Teutul Sr. actually sued his son in December 2009 over stock options from their motorcycle business.

When the couple exchanged vows at New Jersey's Bonnet Island Estate, the father of the groom was nowhere to be seen. According to TMZ, the "American Chopper" patriarch was invited to the lavish ceremony, which included a whopping six-tier wedding cake and $28,000 worth of flowers, but chose to hold a grudge instead. "It's always sad when a father doesn't come to his own son's wedding, but I still love him," Junior told TMZ. "The truth of the matter is it was an absolutely perfect day and I wouldn't have changed anything."

Despite their oil-and-water antics, these two became co-stars once more when the Discovery Channel revived the "American Chopper" series in 2018. "I don't wanna to work for my father anymore," Junior said on the show. "But I certainly want more of a relationship and that's what's important to me." Time will tell if these two can weld a stronger bond.

Was Paul Teutul Sr.'s restaurant biz a great big scheme?

As his TV fame grew, Paul Teutul Sr. decided to use the Orange County Choppers' name to get into the restaurant business. According to a May 2010 announcement in Business Wire, the project included opening a "full-service restaurant, bar, microbrewery, gaming, hospitality, retail and entertainment experience" in Newburgh, NY, near Senior's home and garage. That was the vision, but the reality apparently left a bitter taste in some investors' mouths.

Page Six reported that by March 2018, the motorcycle aficionado owed New York state more than $22,000 in tax money for the Orange County Choppers Cafe. Originally unveiled as Orange County Choppers Roadhouse, the venture was reportedly problematic from the get-go. According to a 2016 report by the Miami Herald, more than a dozen businessmen claimed to have invested between $12 and $15 million into the project, which was allegedly hawked simultaneously to multiple groups of investors. Some investors claimed the deal was part of a Ponzi scheme that included issuing "shares in paper companies that had no value at all." The business also changed names multiple types — a move that smelled fishy to some.

To date, Teutul has remained mum about the whole debacle.

The courtroom became the American Chopper star's second home

Paul Teutul Sr. just couldn't seem to stay away from the courtroom. He took his son to court in late 2009 over that aforementioned business scuffle. Then, in December 2016, his restaurant project was accused of being part of an alleged Ponzi scheme, and in 2018, and he was back in court contending with a fraud lawsuit.

According to Page Six, Teutul Sr. had allegedly cost business partner Thomas Derbyshire millions by essentially reneging a TV project deal. Thomas Derbyshire said he agreed to a $3 million investment for a stake in a spin-off TV series called "Orange County Choppers: American Made" but claimed Senior delayed filming to go fishing, accepted sponsorships without consulting him, and paid his son, Michael Teutul, a salary with a portion of the investment money.

Senior fired back at the allegations via his rep, who told Page Six that Derbyshire's "interpretation of said events is without merit." At the time of this report, that case appears to be ongoing.

Paul Teutul Sr. has owed a wild amount of money

After filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in February 2018, the surprising truth about this reality star's finances was revealed. In court documents (via Page Six), Paul Teutul Sr. claimed he owed roughly 50 creditors a total of nearly $1,071,000; plus $1.8 million worth of "fee interest" on his home; plus another $151,000 and change in taxes to Crawford, NY.

According to Page Six, Senior also claimed in legal papers that he'd earned about $16,531 per month but had to spend at least $20,129 monthly just to keep his debts at bay. His business and personal credit card debt totaled roughly $70,000, and he owed some $22,365 in taxes for his restaurant. In addition, Teutul was contending with Hudson Valley Merchandising's $32,000 judgment and JTM Motorsports Inc.'s claim of $51,841.01, the tab reported. At the time of the bankruptcy filing, he was supposedly dealing with no less than eight ongoing lawsuits. Yikes.

After reaching a $30,000 settlement with JTM Motorsports Inc. in January 2019, the company sued Teutul again for alleging failing to pay the sum, per The Blast.

His foreclosed home was placed up for grabs

In March 2018, the Times Herald-Record reported that Paul Teutul Sr.'s $1.8 million Montgomery, NY mansion was facing foreclosure. Less than two months later, it was reportedly on the market. "The foreclosure filing, which was not executed, was an action taken to give options for an ongoing tax assessment request," Paris D'Jon of HYPE Projects Agency explained to Page Six at the time. "Mr. Teutul cares for numerous animals on his property and under the laws of NY State is eligible for an agricultural assessment to provide property tax relief to the property owner."

According to, the three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath casa is the "perfect place to relax, recharge and entertain." The log-cabin style home clocks in at 3,448 square feet and was built in 2004 on some 38 acres of land. There's also a large stone fireplace reaching the ceiling, a volleyball court, and in-ground pool that boasts a pool house and even waterfalls. There's even a koi pond, a barn and, get this, a two-story garage complete with two guest apartments.

The house sold for $1.5 million in 2019.

The American Chopper father and son reunion bombed

Despite the animosity between Paul Teutul Sr. and Jr., hope sprang eternal that the two would patch up their differences and share some scenery in front of the cameras. In 2020, that opportunity presented itself with "The Last Ride," a special episode of "American Chopper," in which the premise would see the twosome work together on a bike build in their old New York building, slated for demolition at the time. It would be their first collaboration in 12 years, something the younger Teutul eagerly anticipated. "I was pushing for this for a long time," Paul Jr. said to the New York Post. "My father wasn't really interested for his own reasons, but nobody is getting any younger. It's been over 10 years and I just thought I would like to build a bike with my father again, if we could."

The episode started auspiciously enough, with father and son visiting their old facility and rekindling memories, but when Paul Jr. suggested creating a new bike together, Pops was reticent. From that point, the experience ignited their old feud once again as the two haggled over the design of the custom bike, commissioned by roofing and siding manufacturer ABC Supply Company. 

"I really didn't want to do the build, because I was afraid, again, that it was gonna affect our relationship," said Paul Sr. to Yahoo! Entertainment. "And I do believe, you know, it didn't help our relationship."

Paul Teutul Sr. abandoned his New York headquarters for Florida

In 2020, Paul Teutul Sr. announced he was moving his biking operation from Newburgh, NY to the Sunshine State, citing lifestyle change as a major motive. "I think I have more of a fan base down there in Florida and the riding season is nine months maybe even ten. In New York you have a short season, maybe only three months or so," he said on Alabama-based TV station WKRG. ".. There's more of a sense of freedom down there than in New York, that's for sure." By freedom, Paul Sr. specifically meant taxes that the government from the Empire State was extracting from his finances. That quest for economic liberty also meant leaving behind the 61,000 square-foot headquarters they built in 2008 for $13 million, which housed the bike-building workspace, merch shop, and eatery. 

Facing financial hardship in 2011, the Teutuls surrendered the property to its creditor — GE Commercial Finance Business Corp. — but continued to work in the facility for another nine years. GE subsequently unloaded the building to Dallas-based BRE East Mixed Asset Owner LLC, and it was then sold via an online auction for nearly $2.3 million in 2016. While scuttlebutt percolated about repurposing the building into everything from a convention center to a brewery, the building has remained abandoned, as of 2023, and isn't aging well. Pictures of the complex reveal that the brick Orange County Choppers logo on the front sidewalk has almost crumbled beyond recognition, while the building's interior has lost much of its luster. 

He opened a road house and museum

Once Paul Teutul Sr. moved what was left of his assets to Florida, he put the pedal to the metal getting back into the biker game. In 2021, Paul Sr. opened his OCC Road House and Museum, a massive complex worth $7 million sitting on 9.5 acres of land, situated next to Bert's Barracuda Harley-Davidson retailer in Clearwater, near St. Petersburgh. While the restaurant offers its unique take on pub grub, from beer cheese soup to "homewrecker" chili dogs, inside a massive pavilion that houses two stages for live entertainment, the real draw has been the museum. Inside that section of the complex, patrons get a chance to check out the paraphernalia that's been collected from TV shows Paul Sr. hosted, as well as a slew of the unique bikes he has designed and built over the years in what has been described as a "chronology of chrome." 

"I really like the fact that this is like a final resting place [for his bikes]," said Paul Sr. to Fox 13 Tampa Bay shortly before the OCC attraction opened. "People will get to see this and they'll get to enjoy it, more so than when ... I had a big garage, and I had a lot of it in there. Thousands and thousands of people will come here, and they'll get to appreciate it." He wasn't kidding. During opening weekend that May, roughly 1,500 fans showed up to check out the new digs.

Paul Teutul Sr. started an invitational bike show

With Paul Teutul Sr.'s OCC Road House and Museum rumbling along quite nicely since its opening weekend in 2021, the business owner shifted his sights to creating live events in collaboration with his neighbor, Bert's Barracuda Harley-Davidson. Since setting up shop, the OCC and Harley-Davidson establishments had already teamed up to present the St. Pete BikeFest that would annually showcase over 200 chrome wonders. 

In May 2023, the two establishments teamed up for an even bigger venture: a three-day exhibition encouraging fellow two-wheeler hobbyists to take part in its first Orange County Chopper Invitational Bike Show and Biker Build-off competition. Besides creating an opportunity for Paul Sr. to show off some of his own creations from the FDNY 9/11 fire bike to the NASA chopper, participants worldwide succumbed to the urge to showcase their own hog wares. Outrageous-looking entries included a stretched sports bike and a Honda Rainbow Chopper. More than 40 bikers in stock and modified categories competed for thousands of dollars in cash prizes. Hundreds of other grabbed spots to show off their favorite rides.

Although attendance figures weren't available, Paul Sr. predicted a subsequent 2024 event would attract more patrons. "I think next year, it'll probably be double," he said on the "CycleDrag" streamer. "I think everybody here appreciated everything, [with] such great builders." For someone who was on the financial ropes only a couple of years earlier, the "American Chopper" star has made the most of kicking his fortunes into top gear.