Jesse James


The heart of "Monster Garage" is the gearhead team leader, Jesse James. James, who runs the Long Beach, California, bike shop West Coast Choppers, is one of the most successful bike builders in the United States. At $60,000 to $150,000 a pop, his distinctive bikes are not for the casual, budget-conscious biker, but they sure get widespread attention. The shop tends to attract clients with either a large disposable income or a real passion for bikes. James and his crew have built custom choppers for Shaquille O'Neal, Keanu Reeves and Kid Rock, among others.

James, who is related to the infamous Western outlaw of the same name, was born in 1969 and grew up in Long Beach. From an early age, he was fascinated by motorcycles and anything else related to engine mechanics. As luck would have it, his father's antique shop shared a warehouse with an aftermarket motorcycle parts manufacturer, which saw a steady stream of Harley Davidsons and high-end sport bikes.

At age seven, James got his first minibike (a Kawasaki 50cc), and by age 10, he was spending a lot of his free time working on motors and other projects in his mom's garage. While he never lost his love of motorcycles, James devoted much of his time in high school to football, and after graduation, he enrolled in the University of California at Riverside on an athletic scholarship. After a sports injury abruptly ended his football career, James trained as a bodyguard and went to work for various rock bands, including Soundgarden, Slayer and Danzig.

Another injury, from an incident at a concert, led James to give up the bodyguard business and get back into motorcycles. In 1992, after an apprenticeship of sorts with the legendary hot-rod builder Boyd Coddington, James started up his own shop, working out of a friend's garage. Today, James has more than 18,000 square feet (1,670 square meters) of work and showroom space, complete with all manner of high-end tools and even a shark tank, and more than 50 employees to keep his business going.

James first got involved with the Discovery Channel in 2001, when Thom Beers, the president of Original Productions, approached him for a Discovery special on motorcycles and motorcycle culture. Discovery had commissioned Beers for the special after checking out his "History of Harley" special on TBS. Beers asked some of his contacts at Easy Riders Magazine who might make an interesting subject for a documentary, and they recommended Jesse James. James' big biker personality and loud, vibrant garage was exactly what Beers was looking for, so he brought in a camera crew and documented James' daily life. The result was "Motorcycle Mania," an hour-long special that turned out to be a big hit with the Discovery Channel audience.

Discovery followed up with another special, "Motorcycle Mania 2," which tracked James as he built and designed a custom chopper and then took it on a 1,400-mile (2,250-km) road trip to the annual biker gathering in Sturgis, South Dakota.

Beers enjoyed James so much that he decided to develop a new show centered around life in the garage. The concept, a coupling of an educational look at the craft of customization and a challenge show along the lines of "Junkyard Wars," appealed to both James and Discovery Channel immediately, and "Monster Garage" was born. Beers, James and Discovery worked out the details, decided on a logical timeline and budget for the projects, and shot four episodes for the initial run. The original series was a big hit, so Discovery requested more episodes. The fourth season of Monster Garage will air later this year.



For more information please read:

Biographies of Prominent Carriage Draftsmen - Carriage Monthly, April 1904

Marian Suman-Hreblay - Dictionary of World Coachbuilders and Car Stylists

Daniel D. Hutchins - Wheels Across America: Carriage Art & Craftsmanship

Marian Suman-Hreblay - Dictionary of World Coachbuilders and Car Stylists

Michael Lamm and Dave Holls - A Century of Automotive Style: 100 Years of American Car Design

Nick Georgano - The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile: Coachbuilding

George Arthur Oliver - A History of Coachbuilding

George Arthur Oliver - Cars and Coachbuilding: One Hundred Years of Road Vehicle Development

Hugo Pfau - The Custom Body Era

Beverly Rae Kimes - The Classic Car

Beverly Rae Kimes - The Classic Era

Richard Burns Carson - The Olympian Cars

Brooks T. Brierley - Auburn, Reo, Franklin and Pierce-Arrow Versus Cadillac, Chrysler, Lincoln and Packard

Brooks T. Brierley - Magic Motors 1930

James J. Schild - Fleetwood: the Company and the Coachcraft

John R. Velliky - Dodge Brothers/Budd Co. Historical Photo Album

Stephen Newbury -  Car Design Yearbook 1

Stephen Newbury -  Car Design Yearbook 2

Stephen Newbury -  Car Design Yearbook 3

Dennis Adler - The Art of the Sports Car: The Greatest Designs of the 20th Century

C. Edson Armi - The Art of American Car Design: The Profession and Personalities

C. Edson Armi - American Car Design Now

Penny Sparke - A Century of Car Design

John Tipler - The World's Great Automobile Stylists

Ivan Margolius - Automobiles by Architects

Jonathan Bell - Concept Car Design

Erminie Shaeffer Hafer - A century of vehicle craftsmanship

Ronald Barker & Anthony Harding - Automobile Design: Twelve Great Designers and Their Work

John McLelland - Bodies beautiful: A history of car styling and craftsmanship

Frederic A. Sharf - Future Retro: Drawings From The Great Age Of American Automobiles

Paul Carroll Wilson - Chrome Dreams: Automobile Styling Since 1893

David Gartman - Auto Opium: A Social History of American Automobile Design

Nick Georgano - Art of the American Automobile: The Greatest Stylists and Their Work

Matt Delorenzo - Modern Chrysler Concept Cars: The Designs That Saved the Company

Thom Taylor - How to Draw Cars Like a Pro

Tony Lewin & Ryan Borroff - How To Design Cars Like a Pro

Frederick E. Hoadley - Automobile Design Techniques and Design Modeling: the Men, the Methods, the Materials

Doug DuBosque - Draw Cars

Jonathan Wood - Concept Cars

D. Nesbitt - 50 Years Of American Auto Design

David Gartman - Auto Opium: A Social History of American Automobile Design

Lennart W. Haajanen & Karl Ludvigsen - Illustrated Dictionary of Automobile Body Styles

L. J. K Setright - The designers: Great automobiles and the men who made them

Goro Tamai - The Leading Edge: Aerodynamic Design of Ultra-Streamlined Land Vehicles

Brian Peacock & Waldemar Karwowski - Automotive Ergonomics

Bob Thomas - Confessions of an Automotive Stylist

Brooke Hodge & C. Edson Armi - Retrofuturism: The Car Design of J Mays

Gordon M. Buehrig - Rolling sculpture: A designer and his work

Henry L. Dominguez - Edsel Ford and E.T. Gregorie: The Remarkable Design Team...

Stephen Bayley - Harley Earl (Design Heroes Series)

Stephen Bayley - Harley Earl and the Dream Machine

Serge Bellu - 500 Fantastic Cars: A Century of the World Concept Cars

Raymond Loewy - Industrial Design

Raymond Loewy - Never Leave Well Enough Alone

Philippe Tretiack - Raymond Loewy and Streamlined Design

Angela Schoenberger - Raymond Loewy: Pioneer of American Industrial Design

Laura Cordin - Raymond Loewy


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