Last year Speed TV premiered a show called Car Warriors, a reality show that pitted two teams in a 72 hour custom car build off starting with identical special interest cars. A new team of challengers from a custom/tuning shop was chosen each week to go up against a team of supposed fabrication, mechanical, interior and paint “all stars”. Starting with a challenge where the team that pulls their engine quickest gets the better of two new engines, the teams then make a mad dash to parts crib for trick parts. The crib is well stocked, but it only has one of each item or set, along with an abundant supply of Hankook tires. Do we have to mention who sponsors the show? More on that later. Then the cars were put through performance testing by the judges who then tallied their scorecards and the winning team got to take home their car.
The judges were perhaps chosen by their zeal for self-promotion: customizer George Barris, “Mad Mike” Martin from Pimp My Ride, and So-Cal Speed Shop’s Jimmy Shine. The involvement of Barris, a man who rode the coattails of his brother Sam, a genuine custom car pioneer who popularized “lead sled” Mercurys, and connections in Hollywood into a career making schlocky customs, should give you some indication of how serious the judging (and the show) was. The fact that one of the losing challenger teams ended up suing the producers after they felt that there was some favoritism going on (the lawsuit has since been resolved with an agreement by both parties) should give you a bit more indication of how real reality shows are or aren’t. That episode is the video at the top of this post.
As is the case with many television shows, the producers have rejiggered the show’s format for its second season, which premiered recently. “Mad Mike” and George Barris are gone, Shine is now the sole judge and the host/star of the show. The All-Stars are gone too, now both teams represent shops. Each team has a coach, one of Shine’s lead techs at So-Cal, there to offer advice and suggestions.
Obviously, the changes are meant to eliminate charges of favoritism and Shine has a bit more credibility than the other two judges from last season, holding some Bonneville land speed records in addition to the award winning cars that he’s built. Still, the car picked as a winner in the opening episode leaves me scratching my head. The teams were working with mid’s ’60s Pontiac LeMans/GTO shells. One team decided to lower their car by cutting the front coil springs. When they realized that meant they didn’t have enough room inside the fender for tire clearance, they added some spacer knuckles to the springs, raising the front end enough. Or so they thought. When Shine went to put that car through the slalom test, he had to pull over for safety reasons. When he went to turn left, the front right tire started rubbing so badly that the car pulled to the right. After stopping to inspect the tire, Shine showed how the tire was getting shredded by the fender and was getting fouled by the inner fender.
Now it shouldn’t be surprising that Shine used this as an example of praising the shredded Hankook tires, by brand name, saying, as he pulled strips of rubber off the tire, that it was impressive that it was still holding air. A bit more surprising might be the fact that the car that could not complete all the performance testing due to safety reasons was picked the winner. Yes, that’s right, the car that couldn’t be driven safety won the competition. I don’t care if the other car was otherwise a second place car, it completed the performance tests.
One of the claims of the team that sued the show last year was that the winning car didn’t actually work properly, or safely. Now the producers go ahead and pick a winning car that didn’t work properly or safely. I suppose that after Overhaulin’ “stealing” cars to restore them, and Pimp My Ride putting cars in peoples cars so they can drive while they drive, we shouldn’t expect anything more than entertainment out of “reality” car building shows. Still, if the show’s producers make a point of saying that one car wasn’t safe to drive, the should see that as more than just an opportunity for product placement.