‘Fast N’ Loud’ Building Cool Cars, Rabid Following
By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
FORT WORTH, Texas – Fans of Discovery Channel’s “Fast N’ Loud” reality series dealing with an acute case of repeat episode withdrawal need to stay the course. Plenty of new shows are in the pipeline, beginning on June 10.
Co-stars Richard Rawlings, Aaron Kaufman and the crew at Gas Monkey Garage in Dallas are on midseason break, the fate of the extensively wrecked, blood red Ferrari F40 purchased for a staggering $400,000 in the latest new episode purposely hanging in the balance.
“We’re building it. We’re finishing it right now,” Rawlings said during an interview outside of Texas Motor Speedway during the spring NASCAR weekend. “That’s why Aaron’s not here. I think it’s going to surprise a lot of people, the twists that lead into it – and we’ve got to put our spin on it. And it’s going to do well.”
Swap meets at TMS have served as the backdrop – and fertile trading ground – for many of the project vehicles Rawlings and Kaufman have trailered back to their “world headquarters” for either a quick flip or extensive hot rod makeover. Rawlings and Kaufman have traveled throughout Texas and across state lines in search of the holy grail “barn-find.” But they’ve also located derelict cars inside estate sale garages, rusting away in open fields and amid the weeds in private collector junkyards.
“I do most of the events at Texas Motor Speedway,” said Rawlings, taking a break from signing autographs for a line of fans checking out the Gas Monkey Garage display. “It’s my backyard. Why not? I’m not as probably an avid (NASCAR) fan as these guys (in line) but I do pay a little bit of attention. And it’s cool. I mean, anything that goes fast and makes that much noise, I’m down.”
In-between the one-liners, Gas Monkey Garage needs to be a money-making operation. So, the best of the project
cars are shipped off post-haste to an auction somewhere in Texas, where the guys more often than not make a profit, press plenty of flesh and down a few cold brews.
Repeats of recent “Fast N’ Loud” episodes have been running on Monday afternoons and evenings, mixed-in between assorted airings of “Texas Car Wars” and Chip Foose’s popular “Overhaulin” series.
“We’re still constantly building (episodes and cars),” said Rawlings, a 44-year-old native of Fort Worth. “They took a break from showing shows – they’re calling it a midseason break. I don’t control that. I really don’t know what that means. But we’re finishing the Ferrari right now.”
The series, which made its debut on June 6, 2012, steadily has built its audience in the Monday primetime slot previously dominated by “American Chopper,” the reality series featuring the motorcycle-building adventures of Paul Teutul Sr. and Paul Jr., Mikey Teutul and their ever-evolving family issues.
Rawlings said he’s not sure what defines a “full-season” of TV shows at Gas Monkey Garage. “Discovery figures that out,” Rawlings said. “I know that we just signed another 27 episodes, so we’re going to be filming all the way through this time next year.
“We haven’t even been on a year. They’ve aired, I think, 20 episodes or so and we’re building episodes 27-28 right now. And then we take a quick break and then we’re off to the races on the other stuff.”
As owner of Gas Monkey Garage, Rawlings is the show’s wheeler/dealer – scouring the internet for classics, tapping into his network of car-guy contacts for unique vehicles and/or occasionally freelancing the countryside in his Ford pickup with trailer in-tow.
It’s a system that has seen the guys find-and-buy a 1959 Rambler station wagon located in a field, a rare 1950s Bruco fire truck, a faded and badly rusted red Shelby Mustang, a Willys coupe set up for (what else?) drag racing, former Dallas Cowboys star running back Emmett Smith’s Mercedes coupe (and American Express gold credit card!), a number of classic Cadillacs usually pedaled to a broker who sends them to Sweden and a couple of mid-1960s, big-block/high-horsepower Corvette Sting Ray fastbacks that would leave any Bowtie guy weak in the knees.
“You wait to you see what’s coming up,” Rawlings said. “But I’ve been doing it for a long time. I always find that stuff. I mean, it’s not set-up. That’s what I do all day long, I look for those cars and there’s still a lot of that stuff (worth chasing).” Rawlings then was anticipating a trip to New York to buy 1967 Pontiac Firebirds bearing Serial Nos. 1 and 2. “That stuff is still out there,” he said. “You just got to look for it.”
The series delivered boffo ratings to Discovery in March among male viewers. “Fast N’ Loud” was the No. 1-rated cable program among men 25-54 – including the coveted male 18-49 demographic (excluding sports) – on Monday, March 18th. A total of 2.15-million viewers tuned-in that evening.
The March 25th episode saw “Fast N’ Loud” attract a record 2.24-million total viewers as the top-rated primetime program on cable for a second consecutive week. The episode – in which Gas Monkey Garage secretary Christie nervously bought a pristine 1965 Ford Thunderbird for $6,000 without Richard’s approval – outperformed the previous episode by 93,000 viewers.
“The ratings seem to be going real well,” Rawlings said. “Maybe they just like Aaron’s beard – I don’t know, man. I think they like the humor, I think they like the history and hopefully they like the cars. I fought for this show for about 10 years. You know, Jesse James and Orange County did great with motorcycles, and I thought there was kind of a gap there for cars.
“It takes a little while to get out there and get an audience. I’m very happy and blessed to be where we’re at. Hope it gets bigger. We’d love to have a 10-year run (like “American Chopper.”) I look up to those guys. Junior and Senior are both awesome cats and yeah, I’d love to have a run like that.”
Rawlings acknowledged that the show’s success has complicated the buying process, but not enough to take the fun out of it. “The prices, when they see me, go up a little bit so that’s not so good,” Rawlings said with a laugh. “And then I get inundated with calls that people want to sell me cars that aren’t so desirable. I mean, it’s pretty hard to find a home for a four-door (Chevrolet) Biscayne.”
Unlike Rawlings, Kaufman, 31, is hands-on once a vehicle gets to the floor of the relocated and expanded Gas Monkey Garage.
“Aaron grew up in Crowley,” said Rawlings, referring to the small community located 15 miles south of downtown Cowtown. “He lives in his truck, wherever that is. Aaron and I met a long time ago when he was doing work on my cars, working for another shop, and I didn’t have a hot rod shop yet. So when I decided to open one it was really out of kind of impatience. I’m an instant gratification guy and I couldn’t get what I wanted done fast enough so I decided to open Gas Monkey Garage.”
Kaufman’s design cues run the gamut from clear coat over “patina” bodywork (rat-infested ’38 Ford sedan), oversized wheels coupled with air-ride suspension (’59 Ford Fairlane 500) to the complete restoration and makeover of a 1967 Ford Mustang convertible. Kaufman’s designs typically meet with instant approval from Rawlings, although the two have argued over budget needed to make the car GMG cool. But that squabbling is nowhere near the meltdown decibel level made famous by the three Teutuls.
“Yeah, we won’t do the drama. I just won’t do it,” Rawlings said. “I mean, sure me and Aaron get in pissing matches and we fight a bit about this or that but there’s no reason to show that stuff. I think it got a little bit carried away (on “Chopper”), and I think we’ve got a little better recipe.
“What we’re really most proud of is that we get to show a little bit of the history of the cars (mostly via period promos and manufacturer TV commercials) and what they’re all about and why Chevy developed that car or Ford did or what-have-you. We get to show the advances in technology. Even back in the 1950s, what was coming out was cutting-edge.”
The current season began with the guys purchasing a faded baby blue and worn-out ‘67 Mustang convertible that was transformed into a triple-black beauty. Before it could be put up for sale, however, the Mustang was involved in a traffic accident with the driver of a pickup truck near the old shop, leaving Rawlings visibly distraught. So, was the episode staged?
“It was 100 percent real, and they did wreck it,” Rawlings said. “We ended up fixing the car and sold it – with full-disclosure, obviously. We showed the wreck on TV. Being that it was a one-owner car, sold new here in Dallas and had never been in a wreck is kind of what crushed me more than anything.”
Rawlings – a onetime firefighter/paramedic in nearby Coppell – continues to amaze at the show’s ardent fan base and the celebrity being heaped upon himself and Kaufman.
“I’m rolling with it. It’s a little weird,” Rawlings said. “I’ve always kind of had a pretty big personality so I don’t have a problem with a crowd, but it’s definitely different. Time demands are different. I want to hang out and talk to every single body here but time doesn’t dictate that. I hate being short with people or having to rush through talking to ‘em, but it’s a little different now when there’s hundreds of people standing in line.
“It’s a great thing. I’m glad they like the show. I try to get as much feedback from the crowd as I can. Anything I can do to adapt the show and make it better I always try to do.”
– John Sturbin can be reached at email@example.com Comments