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Jesse James Peterbilt Discovery Channel Monster Garage Truck Trike
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Discovery Channel Monster Garage Episode 34: Peterbilt Semi-Truck into Motorcycle (Trike) Chopper

Jesse's a master bike builder. So it's no surprise to see him conquer the challenge of transforming a semi-truck, of all things, into a diesel-fueled three-wheeled trike.

Check out details on the resulting Semi-Truck Chopper below. For pictures, click here to launch our slide show, and for more background scoop, click here for our interview with team member Randy Grubb.

Wait, did you say you missed this episode? Well, click here for re-air dates and to sign up for a reminder. And don't miss the next premiere episode (featuring designer and fellow Discovery Channel host Christopher Lowell!), Monster Claus Christmas Float, on Dec. 22.


Jesse James, custom-bike builder/designer, West Coast Choppers, Long Beach, Calif.
Randy Grubb, glass artist, engineer and co-owner, Blastolene Brothers, Grant's Pass, Ore.
Michael Leeds, artist and co-owner, Blastolene Brothers, Santa Cruz, Calif.
Bernard Juckli, Jay Leno's chief mechanic and former aircraft mechanic, Los Angeles, Calif
Dan Owens, head machinist, Panavision, Wenatchee, Wash.
Robert Vaughan, maintenance engineer, Vanguard Plastics, Wylie, Texas


Make: Peterbilt
Model: wide nose/small window
Year: 1972

Height: 59.5 inches
Width: 88 inches
Length: 158 inches
Ground Clearance: 3.5 inches
Weight: approximately 4,000 pounds

Artist: Michael Leeds, artist and co-owner, Blastolene Brothers, Santa Cruz, Calif.


Special Welds: Special welds were performed on Jesse's custom-built side pod and the fabricated gas tank.

Body Modifications: A 3,000-pound Peterbilt Motors Company semi served as the trike frame. The semi's air brakes, foot pedals, air horn, five-speed transmission, clutch and steering box were also used.

Biggest Challenges: The team's biggest challenges were adjusting to a change in design (from a two-wheel chopper to a three-wheel trike), creating the trike's front end using the semi's axle, and building the trike frame around the 3,000-pound truck motor.

            December 16, 2003 - INTERVIEW - Randy Grubb, Semi-Truck Chopper

            One day Randy Grubb stopped by West Coast Choppers and showed Jesse 
            a picture of the car he'd built and subsequently sold to Jay Leno: a 
            22.5-foot-long, 8,500-pound, open-wheeled roadster called the 
            Blastolene Special. 
            Who would have guessed that Monster Garage would have a Peterbilt 
            build in mind at the time? But it was only months later that Randy 
            was flying out to Long Beach to shoot Semi-Truck Chopper. 
            Now he tells us about the experience. 
            Q: How did you get on Monster Garage?

            A: I built a very large car, the Blastolene Special, which created 
            quite a stir because of its scale and uniqueness, including its 
            1,800-cubic-inch engine. When I happened to come down to West Coast 
            Choppers, I showed Jesse a poster of the car and introduced myself. 
            At that point, he said that they were thinking of doing a Peterbilt 
            build, and that I'd be perfect for it. 
            A few months later the phone rang with a producer asking me if I'd 
            like to participate in a Monster Garage episode. And that's when I 
            basically proposed the whole Blastolene Brothers build team. Because 
            the brotherhood is about creativity and having fun. 
            Editor's note: Apply to be on the show yourself by clicking here. 
            Q: What have you thought of past Monster challenges?

            A: They've ranged from what's appeared to be technically very 
            challenging to what's appeared to be pretty silly. 
            For example, the Cop Car/Doughnut Shop was definitely good for a 
            laugh, but that wasn't really something I would have been interested 
            in building myself. I like the Zamboni - I didn't know how they were 
            going to pull off that Zamboni. It really made me think when I heard 
            the introduction to that show, and I liked that. 
            Q: What was your initial reaction when you heard about this 

            A: I was really excited, and I guess it was a little unusual because 
            I was on both the design team and the build team. Most of the time a 
            build-team member doesn't know what he's building until he shows up. 
            But I knew in advance. 
            After my very first conversation with the producers about the show, 
            the wheels really started turning in my head about what we could 
            build and how we could build it. This was both an advantage and a 
            disadvantage, because I expended a lot of mental energy toward 
            designs that we didn't execute. 
            It was very interesting and the challenge was obvious. And it was a 
            unique challenge, which is what I love. 
            Q: Did you know any of your teammates before the show?

            A: Yes, two. I got Michael Leeds, the other Blastolene Brother, 
            involved. And I had met Bernard, who is Jay Leno's mechanic, when I 
            sold the Blastolene Special to Jay. I was amazed at Bernard's broad 
            knowledge of mechanics and his willingness to apply them. Jay 
            obviously has a lot of unique vehicles, and Bernard's the one who 
            handles all that. So when Bernard was confirmed for the show, I 
            breathed a sigh of relief because I knew the project would go well. 
            I had also requested a diesel mechanic and machinist for the team, 
            and recommended two people. The producers didn't want a group who 
            had done too much together before, though, so they supplied them. 
            Both were great guys. Bob brought a great Texas flavor to him, and 
            Danno, a machinist from Hollywood, definitely earned his keep. We 
            kept him busy. 
            Q: What was the biggest technical challenge during the transition? 
            Were you ever worried your team would fail its mission?

            A: The front end - the steering and mounting of the front wheel. 
            There were a lot of design changes and a lot of thoughts about the 
            design. A lot of mental effort was expended on that front end. And 
            the final solution was great because it really utilized the truck 
            parts, including a piece of the front axle and the steering box. 
            Failure is an impossibility to a Blastolene Brother. It was merely 
            what design would be executed - that was the only challenge. We had 
            three or four different options for the front end; we just had to 
            choose one. 
            Q: Anything else remarkable about the shoot?

            A: Just how fun it was and how smoothly it went. The team was a 
            cohesive team; we had no dissension among the troops. Everyone got 
            along very well and worked effectively together, which is generally 
            not the case in a Monster Garage build from what I've seen. 
            Generally there seems to be conflict or someone not pulling their 
            weight, which puts a strain on the group as a whole. 
            For us, on Monday we had a big mountain to climb. But by Friday it 
            seemed like we were over the top pretty easily. 
            Q: What was your biggest frustration during the build? 

            A: The biggest frustration was getting parts from Alex and dealing 
            with some of the supply issues. If it hadn't been for Michael 
            stepping up and taking the reins as far as supply goes, we would 
            have been in trouble. Michael got on the phone and got the wheels 
            and tires, the most exciting crucial elements. 
            Alex was little to no help. Sorry, Alex. 
            Q: What was your biggest triumph during the build?

            A: I would say the biggest triumph was probably getting Jesse on the 
            same page that it had to be a three-wheeler. He was originally 
            wanting a two-wheeler, and the weight of the motor and transmission 
            really made that an impracticality. 
            Q: Did you drive the monster? 

            A: Yeah, Jesse let me drive it! It was a lot funner than I ever 
            thought. In fact, the Blastolene Brothers were deeply influenced by 
            this whole experience - diesel trucks are in the workshop as we 
            Q: What are the Blastolene Brothers?

            A: Michael and I, the Blastolene Brothers, are individual artists 
            who historically have worked with glass and more recently have 
            applied our art to the automobile. The result are V-12-powered 
            monster hot rods featuring 1,000-cubic-inch-plus V-12 motors and 
            semi-truck parts as drive train. The Blastolene Special and 
            Michael's Big Bertha have created a new category of hot rods. 
            Basically we're both dyed-in-the-wool motorheads. For example, my 
            dad brought home a Model A when I was 8, and taught me to weld when 
            I was 10. I started building my own car when I was 12. 
            And so I've built many hot rods in the past. What I'm doing now is 
            building super hot rods, with bodies that are totally coach-built. 
            We're not chopping anything up - we take a blank piece of paper, 
            design what we want, then build it from scratch. We take an artistic 
            approach to creative car design. 
            What's unique is that Michael and I are both artists, so we bring an 
            artist's sensitivity to hot-rod building. What we build we view as 
            rolling sculpture - pieces of art. And that's what we tried to do 
            for Jesse: create a rolling sculpture. 
            Q: Tell us about the Blastolene Special.

            A: It's a 22.5-foot-long, 8,500-pound, open-wheeled roadster, very 
            reminiscent of the Bonneville cars that ran the dry lakes in the 
            mid-1930s. It features a 1,800-cubic-inch, gas-burning V-12 out of 
            an M-47 Patton tank. It rides on a 190-inch wheel base and features 
            a hand-formed aluminum body. 
            I designed and virtually hand-built the Blastolene Special in 365 
            days. Blastolene II is currently under construction, and I have 
            aspirations to build about 10 very unique cars over the next 20 
            I did sell the car to Jay Leno. He had come knocking on my door - 
            nothing like it had ever been built or seen before. Jay likes really 
            powerful cars, and this has one of the most powerful engines (7 
            feet, 2,500 pounds) ever in a car. The idea of putting it in an 
            automobile seemed to most people to be totally absurd. 
            Actually, the Blastolene Special won the Chip Foose 
            excellence-in-design award at the 2003 Grand National Roadster Show. 
            I thank Michael Leeds for helping with the great design. 
            Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

            A: In my free time I ride motorcycles through the hills of Oregon. I 
            like to water-ski, and I'm an avid hot rodder. I have a beautiful 
            '49 Cadillac sedanette (a two-door fastback) that has seen many 
            cross-country trips with hot-rod caravans like Ameri-Cruise. And I 
            have a beautifully supportive wife, Jeannette, who really supports 
            my creative lifestyle. 
            Q: What do you drive?

            A: I have the '49 Cadillac and a flat-fendered Willy's Pickup with a 
            671 blown small-block Chevy - approximately 500 horsepower - 
            sticking through the hood. My new car is a '72 two-wheel-drive 
            And then I have a semi truck for hauling my hot rods, because 
            Blastolene hot rods are big and heavy.

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