We don’t typically do a lot of television coverage around here. You’ll have to go to some other car enthusiast site to find out the latest thing that Jeremy Clarkson has said to ensure that folks spell his name correctly. Still, I’m willing to bet that most of our readers do watch television and if they do they are likely to gravitate to programs that have some automotive content. There’s a new car build show, that you might want to check out. Now, to begin with, I’m not naive about the nature of “unscripted” “reality” shows on tv. I’ve personally witnessed producers of Hardcore Pawn feed lines to folks in Les Gold’s parking lot. Still, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in this game it’s that people are more interested in people than they are about cars. Would Shelby cars be as interesting without the personality of that overall wearing chicken farmer from Texas? People watch reality shows because the people are real people, not professional actors, even if the premise and settings are a bit staged.
Lords of the Car Hoards is a mashup of many reality tv show themes: treasure hunters, bargain hunters, wheeler dealers, car builds, hoarders, makeovers, and a few more that you’ll spot if you watch it. The tv industry is even more faddish than car design. You can connect the dots between Extreme Makeovers, Pimp My Ride, Tatoo Nightmares, and Bar Rescue just as you can between shows like American Pickers and Corky Coker’s Backroads Gold. LOTCH manages to hit notes common with so many popular subgenres of reality shows that I can almost imagine the “elevator pitch” the producers gave the network.
Here’s the premise, retired professional WWE wrestler Chuck Palumbo and custom car builder Rick Dore have started a new business building custom cars, called Slam. Dore has had an accomplished career as a custom builder, winning awards and building cars for rock stars. He’s not adverse to publicity himself and his co-star is just transitioning into a different part of the entertainment business, so there are some egos involved. Their supposed business model is that they identify hoarders whose “collections” are automotive in nature. They go through the hoard, assessing the contents for their value as either potential projects to be flipped for a quick profit or to be parted out to make more revenue. They then present the hoarder with a business proposition. In exchange for hauling away the salable cars and the debris, and keeping any profit, Palumbo and Dore will make the hoarder the car of their dreams.
Now drama is a major reason why people watch television in the first place and there’s ample opportunity for that. Will there be any cars worth salvaging? Will the hoarder let them clean it up (from personal experience trying to clean a hoarder’s home I can tell that’s a big question)? Will the two partners agree on the deal and on the build? Will they turn a profit or will they (spoiler alert) do a surprise build of a second car for the hoarder’s girlfriend who persuaded him to clean up the mess?
To car guys, the show has some appeal. Enthusiasts have a love hate relationship with car hoarders. On on hand, they’ve saved some restoreable cars from the crusher but their reluctance to part with their possessions can be frustrating as we watch those possessions deteriorate, exposed to the elements. So it’s nice to see hoarded cars put into the hands of people who will do something with them beyond piling them in a yard. The build part of the show is also not a waste of time for an enthusiast. Let’s face it, there’s a lot of BS on many car build shows, but Dore is, as mentioned, an award winning builder, and I haven’t noticed any egregious bovine excrement yet. As with Extreme Makeovers, there’s a change-someone’s-life angle to LOTCH. That people thing I mentioned a few paragraphs back. There’s also a little bit of amateur psychology involved. The builders asked one hoarder what was behind his obsession and it turned out that he had experienced both the tragedy of his first wife and child being killed in a car accident and a son from his second marriage paralyzed in another incident. To seal that deal, Dore and Palumbo offered to not only build up the Deuce Coupe of dad’s dreams, they restored the son’s ’59 Chevy Impala, fitting it with special controls so he could drive again.
Yeah, like most reality shows on cable tv, it’s a bit cheesy, with Palumbo and Dore’s tv personas being a little contrived. Still, it’s entertaining, as mentioned there’s not too much automotive BS, and it manages to mix all those known ingredients into an original cocktail. Now, if I could only find a tv show that’ll restore my Elan.
Speaking of restoring Lotus Elans and tv shows, someone who definitely has a collection, not a hoard, of cars, Jay Leno, has finally finished his restomodded Lotus 26R factory lightweight Elan. McLaren F1 designer Gordon Murray encouraged Leno to get an Elan and he ended up buying two, a very nice 1969 model and an earlier 1966 factory lightweight 26R. The R stands for racing. The aluminum Lotus Twin Cam head may have been designed by Jaguar engine designer Harry Mundy, but the block had more plebeian origins, being pretty much standard production cast iron Ford “Kent” blocks, as you’d find in a 1600cc Cortina or Escort. For his 26R Leno had an aluminum block cast, and behind the engine mounted a Quaife sequential six-speed (“that goes bing, bing, bing”, according to Leno). Master fabricator Jim Hall made many other upgrades, including reinforcing the backbone frame and fabbing the dry sump system for the engine. Leno’s so happy with the results that he’s compared the car to his Bugattis. I had the opportunity to speak with Leno about the Elan project and you could hear his excitement over the telephone. Now that the project is done and the car has been driven a bit and fettled, Jay’s released a long form video on the project. You can watch the funnyman grin as the shifter goes bing bing bing. The 18 month build was documented in a series of videos here.
Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS