Recently I got an advanced copy of a new Discovery channel show which will debut in a week called “Rods N Wheels“. The show follows a hot rod and muscle car shop in Simi Valley, California (30 miles from Los Angeles) called Da Rod Shop and the cracked team of guys that run and work there. Da Rod Shop specializes in the restoration and preservation of hot rods and muscle cars which are mostly pre-1970's cars. In this write-up of the show I will explain the cast and characters, what happens in the first episode, and my overall thoughts about the new Discovery channel TV show.
Rods N Wheels Cast and Characters
The first episode you get to meet the shop owner, Billy Derian, who is the frontman of the show. Derian has been a host and presenter for several other TV shows and thinks of himself as “Hollywood.” In the first episode he mentions he feels the other guys in the shop do not contrast well with his good looks and they are somewhat scary looking. (If Billy wants to be scared he should come to Baltimore.) He also views himself as the businessman of the shop. Billy's son, Billy Derian Jr, also works at the shop along with his father as an apprentice mechanic but his dad doesn't let him work on cars much. Billy Jr. mainly cleans and sweeps the floor.
Derian operates Da Rod Shop with his friend and business partner, Steve Reck. While Derian is the businessman of the hot rod operation Reck is the mechanic and fabricator behind getting a lot of the cars finished and out the door. Steve's son, Shane Reck, also works at the shop and is a bit OCD when it comes to getting his hands dirty. Other guys in the shop see this as a bad trait but I don't if you work on collector cars. When it comes to winning awards the tiniest details matter and most of the people that are successful are obsessive.
Other characters in the show include Mike “The Professor” who is the chief mechanic and knows everything there is about fixing a car. He his willing to help people when needed and can fine tune carburetors without using special tools. Jeff is known as a great mechanic but is a bit of a pretty boy and Billy nicknamed his Chevy Bel Air wagon “Weiner wagon” since from what he's seen no chicks have ever been in the car. Jeff contends it is “Shagging Waggin” though. There is also Art who is the suspension master of Da Rod Shop. Art measures in at just 3’ 5” but his size is advantageous when working on suspension systems it seems. Art tries to pursue acting when he isn't fixing and working on cars.
Rods N Wheels First Episode
In the first episode Billy gets a call from Bill Springer who is a friend he has known since the 10th grade when they met in math class. (I hate math!) He asks Billy to come over so he can show him something special, an original steel body 1932 Ford 3-Window coupe. Springer's goal is to have Da Rod Shop turn the '32 Ford coupe into a homage to “American Graffiti.” The caveat is that he needs it in a few weeks to take to Bob's Big Boy classic car night competition. In addition he has $40,000-$42,000 for the car when Billy and Steve both think they need $100,000 to do the car properly. The way the Da Rod Shop guys feel they are not just fixing up cars but preserving pieces of American history.
The side plot to the first episode is that Steve and Billy want to prove to their dad's they can handle the family business and one day take over the shop. Something that Billy Derian wants but neither son feels that have gotten respect and both of them want to prove their skills. They buy a 1968 Camaro from a shop customer who does not want to deal with the car anymore and plan to fix up and flip the muscle car for a profit. Both their dads are not so sure and they can make it happen though. They make a bet that once completed if they can sell the Camaro for over $30,000+ they keep 80% of the profit and their dads keep 20%. If not, Steve and Billy keep 80% of the profit and their sons only get 20%.
What I Liked & Didn't Like in Rods N Wheels
Since I am fan of hot rods and muscle cars I enjoyed watching Rods N Wheels (and Rods and Wheels) and the Da Rod Shop crew. It is always fun to see restorations of cars come to life as it takes a lot of work, time, effort, and skill. Something that most people are not aware of.
However, the show does not document enough of the restoration process for me to seriously keep my interest in the show on a long term basis. The producers seem more concerned with building contrived plots and wacky characters than actually showing the restoration and mechanical work being done on the cars. This is the wrong attitude since gearheads will make the same complaint and regular people will get tired of watching it unless there are better explanations of the skilled techniques they use to restore and maintain cars. Da Rod Shop clearly takes great care and puts a lot of love into restoring these classic cars which should be showcased more.
When Billy Jr. and Shane completed the 1968 Camaro they basically just jump to the Camaro being completed and having a graphics specialist come in and install racing stripes on the car. For some reason they thought it would be more interesting to showcase the pair selling the muscle car for $27,000 at a local Camaro owners meetup than what it took for them to fix the Camaro up. (They spent $9,500 to buy the Camaro and $13,500 in parts and labor, so it was a $4,000 profit.) It's more fun to watch a car come to life than watch it get sold.
What made shows like American Chopper fun to watch is that they showed you how the custom motorcycles were getting built and put together. While this wasn't always interesting it felt more real. I always found it fun to watch how a chassis or chroming process was done and there was something there for people that were not interested in motorcycles or choppers. Also what made American Chopper a good show is that it didn't feel “Hollywood.” For the first 2 seasons it really just seemed like they were following around a family in upstate New York that built customer choppers. (Not sure who kept watching American Chopper after season 3 since that's when it they started adding all the drama.)
While nowadays I guess you can't expect a “reality show” to be realistic and people to not put on characters, there should be an attempt to make the show feel less contrived and more real. Still I had fun watching the Rods n Wheels (and Rods and Wheels) and would probably watch it again if Discovery channel kept sending me advanced episodes online. Unsure if they will but it would be nice.
If you are interested in watching Billy and his Da Rod Shop team, Rods N Wheels premieres next Monday on January 27th, 2014 at 10pm on the Discovery channel.
If you've landed on this summary and review of the show because you've already watched the show and Googled for information about it, please leave a comment and let me know what you thought. Do you agree or disagree with my assessment of Rods N Wheels?
Note: In exchange for getting an advanced viewing of the 1st episode of Rods n Wheels before it aired I was asked to do write a review about the show by Discovery channel. However I have not received monetary compensation for this review and do not have any special affiliation or relationship with Discovery channel, Intuitive Entertainment (the production company behind Rods n Wheels), or Da Rod Shop. However it would be nice if I did. 🙂