Caterpillar and Orange County Choppers build custom ‘Cat’ bike

The latest Caterpillar product is big, rugged, loud and yellow. But it’s not a piece of construction equipment – it’s a motorcycle.

The Cat custom chopper, as it’s properly called, was unveiled March 4 to more than 1,200 employees and guests – including U.S. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) – in tandem with the company’s new Clayton, N.C., visitor and training center. The chopper was built by Orange County Choppers of Rock Tavern, N.Y., and will be featured on the Discovery Channel series “American Chopper” April 4 and 11 at 10 p.m. EST.

“It’s definitely the biggest, toughest and most rugged bike we’ve ever done,” said Paul Teutul Jr., OCC’s chief designer and fabricator, who completed the chopper in February.

Teutul said Cat’s reputation of quality, strength and toughness in the construction industry mirrored qualities OCC carries for its products. He said this similar build philosophy made the collaboration an exciting venture.

Paul Teutul Jr. (on bike) was the chief designer and fabricator of the Cat custom chopper. His father, Paul Sr., owns the Rock Tavern, N.Y.-based custom motorcycle business.
Photo by Tom Jackson

The custom chopper designer drew inspiration for the Cat chopper from visiting the company’s East Peoria, Ill., plant and a demonstration facility near Edwards, Ill., with his father Paul Sr. and brother Mikey. The Teutuls were allowed to operate a 124-ton D11R Carrydozer and view other Cat equipment for design cues used in the chopper’s construction.

One glance at the Cat chopper reveals just how similar the bike is to other pieces of the company’s equipment – huge wheels, beaded welds, a smokestack exhaust, an elevated-sprocket design for the transmission belt cover and Cat’s signature yellow paint are present.

“The bike from front to back screams Cat,” said Benjamin Cordani, spokesman for Cat. “This isn’t a sleek, elegant bike. It’s an incredible depiction of the Cat equipment.”

And the bike isn’t cheap.

Michael Burkhouse, head of sales for OCC, said that while the actual cost of the Cat chopper couldn’t be disclosed, a similar bike would cost $400,000 to $500,000.

But even if someone did have the cash, Burkhouse said the bike isn’t for sale, much like OCC’s other theme bikes.

Cat collaborated with OCC on the custom chopper project to better reach potential customers who have an interest in motorcycles.
Photo by Tom Jackson

Cordani said the collaboration between Cat and OCC was something customers, dealers and company employees wanted since the “American Chopper” television show began more than two years ago. He said there had been constant calls pushing for the project.

All it took was a dedicated Cat dealer to get the chopper idea started.

Ryan Foley, owner of Foley Rents in Piscataway, N.J., said he took the idea of a custom Cat chopper to corporate administration in October 2003 as a way of reaching potential customers. He said the “American Chopper” television show prompted him to act.

Cat officials told Foley to create a business proposal, which he said showed how the project was “a rifle shot to the heart of the customer.”

Cat corporate agreed, and in the summer of 2004 the project began.

But this wasn’t the first time Cat products had mixed with motorcycles. Foley said his dealership had sponsored a bike rally in March 2003 that attracted 83 bikes. It was the success of this event that helped show Cat that many potential customers were also motorcycle riders.

Foley’s most recent rally had more than 250 motorcyclists. “It’s a direct connection to customers,” he said. “[Some are] hard to reach.”

In addition to the Discovery Channel program on the Cat chopper’s creation, the bike will also be part of a “Cat Chopper Tour” that will visit more than 30 Cat dealerships across the country beginning May 1. Because of the extensive promotion, OCC actually created two identical choppers for the company.

“It just made sense to double the opportunity in making the chopper,” Cordani said. “At the end of the day, it’s all about connecting to customers.”

Patrick Beeson can be contacted at pbeeson@randallpub.com.