By on April 2, 2014

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

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26 Comments on “Video Review: Lords of the Car Hoards Build Dreams, Jay Leno Drives His...”

  • avatar

    I have had a 1965 Lotus Elan S2 for 10 years, it’s my second. I’m enjoying it until I’m too old, then it should fund a couple years in the old folks home.

  • avatar

    “Here’s the premise, retired professional WWE wrestler Chuck Palumbo”

    OK, you just lost me. Even in the artificial world of “Reality” programs, adding a pro wrestler drops this thru the floor.

  • avatar

    I still believe that most people watch ‘reality shows’ because the participants usually turn out to be such pathetic jacknapes that the viewier, pigging out on his couch, can feel like a Nobel Prize winner by comparison.

    As to the car shows: I’m pretty well fed up with the shows where the builders take a perfectly good, running, stock antique car and mutate it into yet another damned street rod. I can enjoy the one where the donor comes out of a breaker yard. And I love the (rare) shows where the cars are actually restored to original.

    With those kind of motivations, my favorite is Velocity Channel’s “Wheeler Dealers” where the emphasis is on actually restoring the car, not some contrived inter-shop rivalries. I can grit my teeth and get thru “Graveyard Cars”, preferably by watching it every other week. One week is car restoration, followed by the next week’s episode being Mark and Darryl fighting like a couple of children.

    This one could be worth a watch or two. And I don’t necessarily take the presence of a WWE character as a negative.

    • 0 avatar

      I do enjoy Wheeler Dealers, even with the obvious fiction that they’re making a profit, since they completely discount Edd’s time.

      That Gas Monkey show does nothing but set my teeth on edge.

      • 0 avatar

        Wheeler Dealers, Dallas Car Sharks and Counting Cars are in my current DVR rotation. Guess I’ll add this show and see how it pans out. I honestly like these shows more then the Saturday AM Power Block stuff like Gears and All Girls Garage which are nothing more then infomericals. They work on projects I could never afford, with fancy tools and donated goodies.

        Someone should just film the various events going on at the track days I attend with a ticker at the bottom adding up the costs. For example this weekend someone’s Nissan GT-R blew up… ouch! As I told my wife: track days are $300 + and its the “+” that varies. This weekend it was rear brakes for me and tires for my brother’s Golf R.

        • 0 avatar

          The thing that bugs me about Dallas Car Sharks is the prices for some of the work they get done. $2800 for bodywork and a complete repaint with a color change? How many hours is that paint going to look good?

          I kind of like your idea on the track day series, but if enough significant others see it, that will be the end of a lot of guys track day careers.

          • 0 avatar

            The shops on Dallas Car Sharks and Texas Car Wars are just typical auction flipper shops. They do sort-of shoddy work, get the cars ready for the least amount possible and go after buyers that don’t know any better. One of my best friends has been in that business for 20+ yrs now. He can definitely get a complete paint job with color change for $2800, probably less than that. And it will look good for a year or so tops.

            Except for the obviously fake setup on which cars they are going to buy/fix, those shows seem to be fairly accurate and “real” compared to the others.

          • 0 avatar

            “One of my best friends has been in that business for 20+ yrs now. He can definitely get a complete paint job with color change for $2800, probably less than that. And it will look good for a year or so tops.”

            I know some guys who are in that line of work as well and they often do complete repaints for nearly half that amount. No kidding. Nearly 3/4 of the cost is material, so you can imagine the quality of the labor. Yet they’re always busy as bottom end car lots and cab companies are always looking for the lowest bidders.

          • 0 avatar
            Firestorm 500

            Martha got a total repaint on a Crown Vic for $280. Door jambs and everything. Hand sanded down to primer. Body repair and dents pulled included. This was stated on the show when they added up what she had in it.

            That’s when I took Dallas Car Sharks off the DVR record list.

      • 0 avatar

        I’d love to buy one of their restorations at the price they claim to sell it.

        • 0 avatar

          See I disagree about Wheeler Dealers. They seem to take the cheapest possible approach to “restoring” cars, skip over major problem areas, and then barely make any profit anyway. I doubt it would be very difficult to buy a car in the equivalent condition to theirs.

          But I do like how they show the work being done. Ed is the only guy that can make swapping the entire frame of a car look easy.

          • 0 avatar

            WD at least attempts to be realistic. Ed has real and useful knowledge he shares on every episode. I would at least consider buying one of their finished projects. Even if it wasn’t perfect, its probably driveable and safe. The worst work by far has got to be Desert Car Kings. Their reveal at the end of the show reminds me of the $200 Maaco paint job I had done in high school..

    • 0 avatar

      “As to the car shows: I’m pretty well fed up with the shows where the builders take a perfectly good, running, stock antique car and mutate it into yet another … street rod”.

      I pine for a 1967 Camaro with a 250 Powerglide. Red, of course.

  • avatar

    I am at the early stages of resentment toward Jay Leno. The lack of an aluminum block? Get one. The ideas that flash through my mind, only to be discarded on the ashheap of practicality, he is able to realize. Even lightweight jealousy is an ugly thing, no? But, he has earned it by choosing to live by a certain standard – while unattainable by mere mortals – that is at least understandable. I would probably be content with the remains of his parts cars. I certainly hope – probably in vain – that most viewers understand by now that there is precious little “reality” in reality TV.

    • 0 avatar

      Any belief in the ‘reality’ of reality shows was dissuaded by my being a bystander witness when Orange County Choppers built that “Brough Superior Chopper” for Jay Leno. To say those guys don’t do all their own work is to be charitable.

      • 0 avatar

        After seeing their bikes up close I was not impressed. Granted I’m no fabricator, heck I can barely heat shrink electrical connections, but the welds looked terrible (to me). The paint was also sub-par but that might be from transporting them across the country multiple times for various promotional events. You could clearly see damage from straps and tie downs. I’m not a bike guy, but OCC rides seem so over-sized that only a NBA player could ride one. That show jumped the shark at light speed.

    • 0 avatar

      Every serious car guy who has met Leno and spoken about it (including myself) seems to say the same thing: he’s a regular guy, very knowledgeable about cars and gracious about sharing his collection with others.

      One of the first things that I wrote for TTAC, back in the days of yore, when Farago was in charge, was about a guy named Barry Zekelman suing Bugatti because they wouldn’t deliver his car as ordered. People online were calling the guy (who along with his brothers has given away at least 8 figures in philanthropic donations in the Detroit area alone and underwrites the Special Olympics in Canada) a douchebag. I told them he’s just a guy who has enough money to buy a dream garage, just like they would if they had that opportunity.

      I stopped being jealous of car collections a long time ago. I can only think of a couple of people in the hobby with whom I’ve had any kind of bad experience.

      I’ve spoken with other collectors that can afford the kinds of cars that Leno and Zekleman own, and most of them are pretty gracious and regard themselves more as caretakers than owners. Sure, there are men and women in the hobby who are acquisitive and possessive, but they seem to be in the minority and most understand that they’re just part of the history of the object, part of its story, and when they’re dead someone else will take their own place in that story.

      • 0 avatar

        Love J, but damn! Could he at least pronounce Porsche correctly. He handles Peugeot okay, and Countach and Murcielago. Whats the deal with Porsche?

    • 0 avatar
      Firestorm 500

      It amuses me that some seem to think that TV is reality in the first place.

  • avatar

    The producers, writers and directors of today’s ‘reality’ shows quickly learned from the early days of ‘reality’ television (1990’s) that viewer interest is proportional to the absurd. Today, everything you see is choreographed.

    For automotive accuracy, you can’t beat GYC – Mark knows his stuff, and I’m not even a big Mopar fan. What kills the show for me is the fake antagonistic relationship the producers have built into every episode. CCC isn’t too bad – it’s probably the most ‘adult’ of these shows – Wayne is mono-tone, but for the most part, automotively accurate.

    For the closest ‘reality’ experience in step by step restoration – Wheeler Dealers at least attempts it with only a hint of friendly antagonism between the fat guy and the tall guy.

  • avatar

    I am not naive, I know full well that “reality” shows are not exactly real. But what really annoys me is how they always end up being more fake and contrived the second or at best the 3rd season in. And then ratings fall off and they get cancelled, every time.

    Gas Monkey was good and fun when it was just Richard and Aaron fixing up old cars. Now it’s so fake they even make fun of themselves for being so fake. I don’t even bother recording it anymore.

    It’s not just car shows, all of them get stupid eventually. Duck Dynasty started out fun, now it’s just contrived. Storage Wars has populated themselves with clearly fake people just there for shock value. The house flipping shows are all so stupid and fake, and have the added failing of possibly causing people to think they can make money the same way and then lose everything.

    I think the most “real” car show is Chasing Classic Cars. But it is also the most boring, and I really don’t like Wayne very much. But at least he seems honest.

    • 0 avatar

      For me Chasing Classic Cars is the only “reality” show I truly like. Is it boring? Yes. Is it more about the cars than personal dynamics? Yes. That is why I like CCC,more time devoted to the cars,less to the people.

  • avatar

    Funny . When I first saw the previews for the show … I thought ” Oh ____ ! Another overly scripted Old Yeller/Little Yeller [ American Chopper ] not so reality TV show to be avoided like the plague . But after watching a couple of episodes .. well …. yeah … its still pretty d*mn scripted … and some of the emotions are more than a bit contrived . But dang it . Rick Dores designs are mighty fine . The cars come out great looking in the end [ anyone that can make a 55 Pontiac Chieftan look That Good is the nines in my book ] .. the scripting …though sometimes annoying isn’t like most others OTT and feeble attempts at portraying ” Reality ” . So heck …. not a bad use of 60 minutes of my time what so ever .

    Now lets just hope the producers don’t screw it up to try and up the ratings

  • avatar
    Ron B.

    Lotus Elan.. I have wanted one since the days when I perved at the loveliness of Emma Peel as she drove up in one…Then I see Leno squashed into one.
    I wish someone would tell the producers of these V shows that we have volume control on our TV’s lap tops etc so the actors don’t need to shout …we can hear them perfectly well.

  • avatar

    Uh, that show is totally contrived as real as a mcnugget is chicken.

  • avatar

    As chatted about on many car boards, car hoarding is a major issue. In some cases, local gov’t gets involved and declares the hoard an ‘environmental hazard’ and takes all the parts cars to crusher.

    The latest episode with the Pontiac was a good example. Lots of unfinished ‘some day I will get around to it’ project rotting away. One car was not even worth saving, a ’77 orange Buick Skylark. When they asked about a Firebird parts car, hoarder said ‘I can’t cut up for parts’. But there is demand for them!

    Good that he finally let them sell off most of the mess. Before a ‘green’ govt does.

    This show should help inform novice car fans that letting cars sit piled up is not ‘preserving’ them.

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