What’s red, white and blue and pays homage to the American Welder? The 75th Anniversary Miller Bike, built and designed by the Orange County Choppers. The bike features a Miller Big Window Elite™ helmet morphing out of the gas tank, a Diamondback™ TIG torch mounted in the frame, a Roughneck® MIG gun that forms a mirror and a tow-behind XMT® 304 multiprocess inverter ready to strike an arc.
When making these choppers for their Discovery Channel show, American Chopper, OCC uses Miller products from start to finish. These products include two Millermatic® 251 all-in-one MIG welders, two Dynasty™ 200 DX AC/DC, TIG/Stick inverters, a Spectrum® 375 plasma cutter and several Big Window Elite auto-darkening welding helmets in the patriotic Stars & Stripes design.
OCC chief designer and fabricator Paul Teutul Jr. notes that, “I started welding with a Millermatic 130. We owned a steel business, so my father and I just started practicing and I picked it up pretty quick. I’m 29 years old, so I’ve been welding for 15, maybe 16 years now.
Because OCC already used Miller products, they were an obvious choice in helping celebrate Miller’s 75th anniversary by designing a commemorative auto-darkening helmet. Because of both companies mutual respect for each other and the American welder, the idea quickly grew beyond a helmet and into a fully functional American welding themed chopper.
|Paul Sr. stands behind the quality of his Millermatic 251.
Building the Bike
Paulie began design work by incorporating the Miller helmet into his chopper design. “The welding helmet is a real signature part of this company, so I decided the best way to use it was to make it the central feature on the gas tank. In order to look as if the helmet were morphing out of the gas tank, Paulie cut out pieces of a Miller helmet, traced those pieces into sheet metal, cut each traced piece out and welded the pieces onto the gas tank.
“The auto-darkening helmet that I wear is definitely convenient for TIG welding because you need both of your hands, says Paulie. An auto-darkening helmet lets you “throw your shield down, get your location and start welding as opposed to trying to position your hands, throw your mask down and then try to relocate if you’ve moved a bit. It definitely makes it a lot faster. Besides that, you don’t have to flip your helmet up as many times, which definitely keeps you more in rhythm. Also, it’s a lightweight helmet, and that’s really important if you’re welding all day long.
Next, the crew began mock-up on the bike, beginning with the rear fender. To create a balanced look, they designed the rear fender as two separate shield-shaped pieces and connected them with round bar, a signature feature in OCC custom bikes. From the round bar they fabricated a bumper that held a ball hitch. The OCC crew created a special feature for the Miller bike, a tow behind, ready-to-use XMT inverter with a mounting bracket on top to hold a Big Window Elite helmet. Although fabricating a trailer may look like an easy task, Paulie and fellow fabricator and childhood friend, Vinnie, had to not only make the trailer look good, but they also had to allow for functionality and safety.
Next, Paulie created the front fender, which emulated the rear fender. It also consisted of two shield-shaped sections held together by round bar. He then created a design for the exhaust pipes that OCC had never used before on a chopper: the exhaust pipes wrap around the oil tank, through the frame, to the other side of the bike. OCC prides itself on using innovative designs like the exhaust pipe, while also sticking to designs that have worked in the past, such as the round bars.
| Like father, like son. Paulie has been welding with Miller equipment since his teenage years.
OCC chose the innovative route with the Miller Bike’s custom created handlebars, TIG welding them with the Dynasty 200.
“On something that is a high exposure item like handle bars, or for real fine welds, we TIG weld it, says Paulie. “It’s a nicer, cleaner weld. When you lay down nice beads, it’s always awesome. I think welding is satisfying because you know you are joining two pieces of steel together and it enables you to create something different.
Once completed, Paulie and Vinnie then dismantled the bike and sent it up the road to JB Graphix, who handled all of the painting and molding. With a patriotic American welder theme, the obvious color choices for the bike were red, white and blue. To prevent flatness, JB Graphix used shading to create a three-dimensional look with depth and detail. The rear fender featured a mural of Miller’s Welding America banner, which hung on OCC’s wall, while the rest of the bike is wrapped in red, white, and blue striping.
|Paul Sr. looks patriotic with his Miller Big Window Elite auto-darkening helmet in the Stars and Stripes design.
Also adding to the patriotic theme were the tires, which were a favorite of Vinnie’s. “I think one of the coolest things about this bike is that the spokes are powder coated in an American flag pattern, he says. “This bike definitely screams made in America.
Once the painting was completed, OCC put the bike back together again, wired it and added all of the little details that make an OCC chopper distinctive, such as mounting the Diamondback TIG torch in front of the engine and crafting the left-hand side mirror from a Roughneck MIG gun. The final step was to hit the open road and the OCC did just that, straight to Appleton, Wisconsin to the manufacturing operations of Miller Electric, where thousands of Miller employees and their families gathered to view the bike’s unveiling.
“It was really cool to watch my father drive the bike in. He started in the business 30 years ago and he’s come such a long way since then. And you know, it’s cool for him to do something for a company whose equipment helped him out so much throughout the years, Paulie stated. Paul Sr. couldn’t have agreed more, “In a way you can say that they made me what I am today. I think it’s great OCC is getting the opportunity to pay tribute to that.
| Vinnie takes charge of the precision TIG welding for the Miller Bike.
The Future of Welding in America
Thanks to shows such as American Chopper and the state-of-the-art technology of Miller products, the popularity of welding is escalating like never before. American Chopper is the #3 ranked ad-supported program on cable among persons 25 to 54 years old (tied with TNT’s NBA playoffs). The total audience for the 2004 season premiere was reported at 3.5 million viewers and hundreds of thousands of fans visit the show’s web site each week.
American Chopper makes metal fabrication look easy and fun and appeals to a young audience. “Practice a little bit and you’ll be able to pretty much do whatever you want to do, says Paulie. “Building a chopper is not really rocket science if you have any skill level at all and practice with your tools. When I first started building bikes, for the first year and a half, I built everything with a grinder, a welder and a cutting wheel.
Young kids look at Paulie Jr. and consider welding as not only a hobby, but also as a feasible career path. They’re watching American Chopper and thinking, “Well if they can do this and have fun doing it, so can I.
And they’re right.
Miller Bike Specs
- Fabricators: OCC
- Build Time: 3 Weeks
- Weight: 700 lbs
- Engine: 145 Horse Power; 131 cubic inches H&L
- Total Length: 14 Feet with Trailer
- Case, Ply Wheel, Rods, Pistons, Cylinders: S&S
- Hedge Cam Carburetor: Davinci
- Ignition: Crane Hi-4
- Pipes: OCC
- Clutch: Barnett
- Primary Drive: HiTech
- Rake: 50 Degrees
- Stretch: 6 Inches out
- Swing Arm: Rigid
- Forks, Triple Tree: Pierce
- Wheels: Hallcraft
- Tires: Metzeler
- Brakes: HHI
- Bars, Riser, Headlight, Front and Rear Fender, Fender Structure: OCC
- Pegs, Foot Control: Accutronix
- Handle Controls: OMP
- Taillight: Maltese Cross
- Fuel Tank: Modified Pat Kennedy
- Oil Tank: Spun
- Painting, Molding: JB Graphix (Justin)
- Colors: Red, White, Blue
- Graphics: Miller Electric
- Chrome Plating & Polish: Chrome Master