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Owned by the Master of Metal Mayhem During the Day and Built by the Greats

By KR Ball

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This bike represents an upbeat era when choppers were kings and the Discovery Channel made it so.

We are going to attempt to tell the story of the bike, the shows, and the esteemed owner, Hugh “The Chopper” King, the producer/director.

The magnificent Mr. King.
The magnificent Mr. King.

Hugh actually worked for Easyriders, as the video editor/director, while I watched over the magazines. But he moved on to Original Productions. Motorcycle Mania was the first motorcycle show and I got a call. “Who should I recommend?” Dave Nichols asked. I said Jesse James, and the rest is history.

“Tom Beers, the boss of Original Productions, came to me,” Hugh said. “He asked me if I knew anything about motorcycles, and I said I knew everything about motorcycles, which of course I didn’t.”

“I had worked for one year at Easyriders, "Hugh continued, "doing Easyriders home videos, back when Keith Ball was the editor. These videos really captured the hard core, get down, biker lifestyle. So when Discovery came to us about a custom Harley show, I was all over it.”

The industry started flying and the ratings for these shows went through the roof. During filming at an Easyriders granddaddy bike show in Columbus, the Discovery Channel guys interviewed me and they asked what sorta chopper show I would suggest.

I told them about a bike build-off series that would culminate in a test ride from one wild location to another. Tom Beers and Original Productions suggested the East vs. West aspect to Discovery and they signed off on the notion with a competition between Rodger Bourget and Billy Lane.
“It was East Coast vs. West Coast, Old School vs. more streamlined,” said Hugh, “and it would end at a small out of control event in North Carolina, the Smoke Out by Commander Edge, the magnificent creator and founder of the wildest bike run on the planet.”

“Roger built his beautiful machine in honor of his daughter,” said Hugh, “who was killed on a motorcycle on the previous New Year’s Eve. It was very moving. His bikes are mean, man, and they run. The guys rode like bats out of hell, at over 100 mph a lot of the time, from Florida to North Carolina. At one point, Billy hit a big pothole, and flew so high into the air I thought we were going to lose him. That episode was really well received, which was enough for Discovery to order four more, and then seven after that, and 11 after that. There were a total of 44 Biker Build-offs.”

Hugh and I talked from time to time during the seasons. The flurry of action was high and the drive-by builders to be celebrities flew over the top. I remember riding my 2003 Road King to the Laughlin River Run. Hugh invited me to, I believe, the unveiling of this bike, but as usual, I got lost with a girl in the desert and never made it. While at Hot Bike, I attended with my crew one of the season finales to celebrate the builders and their accomplishment. The King presided over the festivities.

In the next episode, we will cover more of the extreme history of the famous Biker Build-offs and the Chopper King. Then we will cover this creation by most of the major Build-off players including Billy Lane, Arlen Ness, Chica, Eddie Trotta, Kendall Johnson, Mitch Bergeron, Russell Mitchell and Joe Martin. Hang on for the next report.

This chopper may end up on eBay, but if you’re seriously interested reach out to Hugh King at:

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Reader Comments

I Craig Cross wrote Craig Pilgrim the main man at Discovery Channel with an Idea of a motor cycle show. I got a letter back with his name on it saying that wouldn't be a good idea. I still have this and should frame it for the OCC museum in Clearwater, Florida. I got the idea from the 1970s move on any Sunday and watching the tv show Wild about Wheels, that pilgrim produced, that only had four wheel vehicles in it .

I was back from Essen, Germany in 1990 with the Big Daddy Rat tour, 20 custom cycle creations from the yearly Daytona, Florida Rats nest chopper show cool! I had my inverted trike Kaw Z 1 900 with a full one-off fiber glass streamlined body on it.

It was the first year the Rats Hole was in the main hall at Essn, taking pictures of hot German models in and on the bikes--Fun. Flying back over the Atlantic we had to all sit down. We found out from someone after landing that a engine fell off the jet, which I learned is not common. Carl aka Big Daddy rat lost his camera and asked me to send some good shots. We all drove to Charleston to pick up our bikes, I got a speeding ticket going around some slow junk hauler 20 miles before getting there.

I was pissed and told Carl the story. He put $250.00 in my hand and said everyone gets this. I know why he called me trouble. The trip and spending cash was free. Carl is still KING OF THE CHOPPERS.

craig cross
tampa , FL
Sunday, March 13, 2022
Editor Response Great story. I was interviewed at our Columbus show by the Discovery guys. A few years later the cameraman approached me, and told me the Discovery Build-off series was based on that interview. No one ever sent me a letter...
I loved to hear Anything about Hugh "the chopper" King, and the thought of getting to own the bike, or maybe even having Hugh King do the Biker Build-Off thing again!! Yes, it would be an enormous hit!!!! Thank you for this story, and I would like to see a documentary about The chopper king!!! Anything, please!!!! Thank you!!

james r. seabolt
Huntsville, alabama
Sunday, July 2, 2017
Editor Response Hey James: Thanks for the kind words which you wrote to Bikernet about me and Biker Build-Off. I too miss BBO but up till now Discovery Channel hasn't bit. I get stopped often by fans of the show asking me when I'm going to bring the series back and I have to explain it's the Network's decision...for sure not mine. But I think hard core riders miss the sincerity of the show plus seeing how the master fabricator geniuses tackle and solve problems.

With your's and other's encouragement, I'm going to launch a campaign to bring Biker Build-Off back with some changes of course. I think I'm going to purify the builds so that the fabricators have to fashion all the parts (except for the engines, belt drives and transmissions) themselves.

Toward the end of the series too many builders had their parts built and shipped to them by other builders.

Let me ask you this: If BBO came back, what changes would you make?

Take care, brother and stay strong


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