Showing Up with Josh Allison
By Jeff Alexander
Josh Allison proves that a brief moment in time can be powerful enough to help change your life. Hailing from Colorado, Allison received an online message in 2017 from Paul Teutul Sr. complimenting one of his recent builds and inquired if he was interested in meeting and discussing opportunities with Orange County Choppers, the business famously depicted on Discovery Channel’s American Chopper series.
“I had my business Crybaby Cycles and was primarily building classic styled choppers. I was very surprised to receive a message from him because there’s a lot of weird and fake b.s. online so I wasn’t sure if it was really him. I called him and sure enough, it was him. Eventually, he flew me to New York and was very complimentary as I worked on a tank and oil tanks for him. I was stressed because I only knew him from TV so there was a lot of hesitation,” revealed Allison.
No stranger to pressure, Allison was once featured on Wrench Against The Machine and had earned awards at various bike events but the idea of appearing on a running television series as dramatic as American Choppers was something he had to seriously consider.
“Before meeting Paul, I had no idea about his love for old school bikes because a lot of the bikes featured on the show were built for corporations and actors."
"They could build whatever they wanted to represent the company while my builds were more vintage-styled,” said Allison.
After careful consideration, Allison moved his family from the tranquility of Colorado to Orange County, New York after accepting the full-time role at Orange County Choppers. Headquartered in Newburgh, a city sadly known for youth violence and continued economic struggles, Allison reflected on the contrasting communities.
“It was a big change! I had to respect all the New York riders because I first wondered how they were able to ride so easily because I saw a lot of streets in bad shape. Also, the traffic was a lot to handle at first. Learning about the community’s struggles was certainly eye-opening.”
Allison got right to work and his first appearances on American Chopper in 2017-2018 certainly came with a learning curve as he discovered the nuances between building old school choppers for shows and completing choppers for wealthy companies and millions of viewers.
“I came on working independently for Paul and not Discovery Channel so I lucked out there because it would make things easier. We ended up building 10 bikes in one season and shooting took like 8 months. We had a small crew and there’s a lot of pressure but you just have to rock & roll and do your best. Expectations are very high because clients are paying top dollar and a lot of these rides represent their company so they demand the best,” stated Allison.
No stranger to high expectations, Allison had always set lofty goals. Crediting his stepfather for introducing him to motorcycles, Allison began racing dirt bikes and modifying them as well as learning paint techniques to further transform bikes.
Hailing from Cheyenne, Allison would gravitate to the few people around that embraced the styles he fell in love with.
“I always wanted to be an artist but after my neighbor taught me how to weld and my friend introduced me to café racers and other kustom styles, I changed direction. I went to tech school in Wyoming and was insanely driven to be successful. I really opened my eyes and learned about collision work, took business courses, and did advanced street rod work,” reflected Allison.
Upon graduation, Allison earned an opportunity to work at Tin Element in Colorado, known as one of the premier metal fabrication shops. He embraced the world of metal shaping and hot rods but his ‘insane drive’ took him back to motorcycles.
“I really wanted to up my game for the Born Free 8 bike event that was coming around so I built a 1969 BSA Thunderbolt. I got lucky with it because it was stock and ran nicely but of course, I chopped it all up and got a lot of hate for it. I decided I wanted to put my name on it, show myself and others what I could do, so I worked on bare metal techniques, and eventually, that bike earned a lot of recognition and appeared in Chop Cult; they really support people and have been a huge part of my life,” said Allison.
The social media network of bike enthusiasts continued to pay dividends for Allison, ultimately leading to his position with Orange County Choppers. Allison’s hallmark style of raw, bare metal was in marked contrast to the style of American Chopper but Allison stated there was little personal drama surrounding work and commended Paul Sr. for all his support.
Asked to compare and contrast his bike show experiences with American Choppers and their celebrated unveilings, Allison offered a surprising take.
“At bike shows, people always feel they have to give their opinion, no matter how uninformed it is, and that can be very negative. With American Choppers, the unveilings were very intense! There were people present that have never been around motorcycles before so they appreciated being part of it, it impacted them in some way. When we built bikes for charities or veterans their reactions were unlike anything I ever experienced! It’s like we worked to change lives in some way and that is so rewarding to be part of,” he shared.
Additionally, Allison continues crafting his own brand of kustom choppers. His recent build, Malibu Honey certainly warrants attention. Deviating from his hallmark bare metal detailing, Allison sought to craft a painted kustom chopper, but with a heavy focus on attributes, others may overlook.
“All my previous bikes were gnarly, hand detailed metal and patina with hand shifters. I love having my own style but I didn’t want to play it out. Born Free 12 was approaching and I wanted to show a different side to my work. Over the years I’ve seen some crazy choppers but, to me, if you can’t just grab it and ride, it really doesn’t serve a purpose in my opinion. It has to be rideable and handle because if it doesn’t function, there’s no point,” stated Allison.
Malibu Honey challenged Allison as he pushed himself to work out of his realm. Even the final seafoam color had him nervous as he stated he hadn’t completed a painted bike in over 6 years. He credits his wife with the choice of shade.
“I didn’t want any kind of turquoise but my wife was drawn to seafoam. I was stressed while painting it but during final assembly, it came together. I worked to make a super rideable chopper and the tank mounting was inspired by a turquoise ring that caught my eye; the setting of the stone. It took me out of my comfort zone but in the end, you still get the gnarly, kustom chopper but with functionality and that was my goal and it’s a tough balance,” stated Allison.
Josh Allison’s future in kustom work is bright thanks to his tenacity.
"You have to be willing to do the work and put the time in. I know it’s been said before but hard work and dedication can trump talent. If you work at it every day and refine your skills, you can get there but you have to show up and want it,” he concluded.