With creations like the “Undertaker” and “666 El Diablo,” Jesse James and his West Coast Choppers team have become TV stars and automotive icons by turning average motorcycles into pimped-up machines.
But California air regulators announced Friday a $271,250 fine against James, the co-producer and host of “Monster Garage” and “Motorcycle Mania,” saying that 50 of his custom-built choppers ran afoul of California’s clean-air rules.
California Air Resources Board officials said their inspectors found that the monster bikes sold between 1998 and 2005 did not have state certified emissions equipment on their exhaust and fuel systems.
As a result, bikes were spewing hydrocarbons at up to 10 times the state limits, said Paul Jacobs, chief of the board’s Mobile Sources Enforcement branch.
The market for custom-built motorcycles has taken off in recent years as celebrities, athletes and other gilded age luminaries plunk down $50,000 -- and far more -- for signature rides.
James, who is married to actress Sandra Bullock, could not be reached for comment. Nobody who answered the phone at his Long Beach-based West Coast Choppers would discuss the state action.
Regulators said James’ celebrity status was not the reason he was targeted. Souping up motorcycles has become a huge industry, and the state has cited, sued or settled air pollution cases with more than 20 motorcycle customizers, Jacobs said.
In addition, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has fined other auto customizers -- including the similarly named but unrelated West Coast Customs, which was then affiliated with the MTV show “Pimp My Ride” -- for allegedly replacing steering wheel air bags with TV monitors.
Despite James’ maverick image, his hamburger joint next to the bike shop is promoted as environmentally friendly, including using solar energy.
Cisco Burgers’ website says: “We use biodegradable paper products, natural, no preservative meats, organic dairy and produce.”