By Tracey “Gypsy” Kohman
When I heard about the unveiling of the Vietnam Memorial Wall bike, I was excited to see it. I didn’t have much information before starting out and wasn’t sure what to expect. I had stopped along the way when I saw a party going on with bikes lining both sides of the road. Since I had a few minutes to spare I thought I would stop and see what was going on. It was winding down so I only stayed for a very short time…then on to East Aurora!
East Aurora is a quaint historic village with locally owned shops up and down Main Street where the event was taking place. There was a very large crowd and they had mostly been gathered in front of the Aurora Theater…even with the crowd gathered I was still able to find a parking spot relatively close to the activity.
I had reached the center of the activity and was able to see the chopper that was the center of this event, an Orange County Choppers original. A one-of-a-kind bike built to raise funds by auctioning it. The funds will be used to purchase one of two traveling replica Vietnam Memorial Walls which will be placed in Knox Farm State Park in East Aurora.
The Vietnam Memorial Wall bike had been unveiled on Discovery Channel’s American Chopper on March 12, 2019. Paul Teutul Sr., the host of the show, was on hand to offer information and was happy to oblige anyone wanting pictures with him or with the bike. He was very eager to answer any questions and it was evident that he was proud of this project, which he said took five weeks for the artwork alone, and the murals on the bike have an “extra special” tie to Western New York.
“The one gentleman who they just happened to use the photo [of] on the gas tank saw his picture when they were talking about it,” said Rep. Chris Collins who was in town for the event, and to celebrate the Memorial Day holiday. “It was on the TV show. He was here today. And another lady was here, I believe it was her father killed, [who] was also part of the mural on it, so this was just a very special day.”
Mr. Teutul added, “What are the chances putting five murals on there and two people watch the show and they’re on there.”
He also shared with fans how he spent his Memorial Day traveling to East Aurora, New York to mark the occasion among veterans. He stated in his post “Today is a day of reflection for sure, I am grateful to all of our military who give us our freedom. All gave some, but some gave all.”
“We brought the Vietnam Memorial Wall bike to western New York for Memorial Day,” he continued. “The man sitting on this bike is the man pictured in the mural on the bike. His reaction was priceless. God bless all of our military. Look closely at the mural. It was an incredible day of reflection.”
Of this custom bike, he posted just days before the unveiling, “Excited about this one, celebrating the hundred year anniversary of Veterans Day. Gas tank is going to be killer.”
Assemblyman David DiPietro, who includes Knox Farm State Park in his district, was in attendance for the unveiling. “When you see it up close, the TV doesn’t do it justice,” he said. “The detail they put into this – they mentioned it on the show– they said this is their most iconic bike.”
Due to several shades of paint, DiPietro said it “appears to change color in different light.” He noted that on the gas tank is an image of the wall.
From a photograph Mr. Paul Teutul Sr and his staff painted the wall, then used a razor blade to etch the names of the fallen soldiers. “It took a day just to etch the names on this little piece,” DiPietro stated.
Funding for the bike was provided by Sahlen’s Packing Company.
It is hoped that they are able to complete and open the memorial during the summer or fall of 2020. DiPietro hopes to host an event in the village of East Aurora including displaying the motorcycle itself, along with showing an episode of American Chopper, at the Aurora Theater.
He also feels that the fundraising for the chopper doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be sold to a private owner.
“There is pushback from some people on raffling the bike to make money and, more or less, looking for someone who will donate money and then donate the bike back, so that we can permanently place it at the park as a museum piece, as an attraction.”
The bike is expected to auction for between $150,000 and $200,000.