When cars started being built on TV shows—Overhaulin’ and Pimp My Ride to name two—it created unrealistic expectations that unintentionally harmed us all. The notion that you can somehow build something really special in just a few days isn’t credible, despite the hype. To television’s credit, the attention has exposed the hobby to thousands of people who were previously disengaged—but even the value of that is questionable; how many non-hobbyists are going to suddenly run out and start building a hot rod based on seeing a teary-eyed grandmother have her El Camino pimped out with a plasma TV built into the tailgate?
Anybody with half a chest of tools can look at TV car shows and know the difference between what’s being shown and the reality of building a car. Legit car guys know better, but with their silence comes tacit agreement. Next thing you know, idiots are showing up at hot rod shops everywhere, checkbooks in hand, demanding a Foose-designed machine in seven days. “Hey, they did it on TV, why can’t you?”
Having spent time with TV producers, I can tell you unequivocally that the meat of the issue is mass entertainment value, sponsorship, and ratings. Accuracy and informational value are secondary, if they’re even on the radar. People who make these TV shows just assume you’d be bored; why explain scrub radius when you can tape the show’s characters arguing or playing jokes? That said, not all hot rod TV shows go down that path; a show like Power Block’s MuscleCar has projects coming together realistically over months, with detailed, usable information. But these shows are few and far between.
I bring this up because we had quite a time deciding how to spin this month’s 48 Hour RideTech Camaro. It’s obvious from the project’s name that Brett Voelkel and the RideTech crew have shrewdly capitalized on the popularity of sensationalistic shows like Overhaulin’ and Car Warriors, where certified psychos try to beat some insane clock. But unlike those TV shows, there’s real substance in the 48 Hour Camaro. For three days in the middle of May, RideTech webcast live and unedited (with help from BangShift.com’s Chad Reynolds) the entire buildup from beginning to end. No TV show would ever think of doing that for fear of losing viewers and revenue, yet here’s the interesting thing: even at 2 a.m., guys were still tuning in and posting stuff on the RideTech site. Who knew?! Car guys aren’t the attention-deficit morons who TV producers thought.
Those who tuned in to the build saw every bump in the road, every solution as it unfolded, and the huge amount of team play and advance preparation that went into the planning. In terms of groundwork, the 48 Hour Camaro was about as well organized as lung transplant surgery at the Mayo Clinic, which completely belies the project’s almost cavalier name. In the real world, the average guy could no more build a Camaro like this in 48 hours than he could resurrect Oldsmobile from the dead, but the point it makes is illustrative.
We live in a world where you can build a car like the 48 Hour Camaro completely out of bolt-on parts. And not just any car, but one with world-class handling, power, style, comfort, and safety. We’re not arguing the point that folks ought to build cars completely from blister-packed parts, but rather that the parts are so well engineered that they can come together from a myriad of vendors and work together without copious fabrication or mad skills. If you haven’t figured it out by now, building a car in 48 hours isn’t being held up as an example of the time frame in which it should be done, but as proof of the overarching compatibility of the parts themselves.
In the end, hot rodding isn’t really about the cars or the parts, but the camaraderie of friends. Watching the 48 Hour Camaro being built online was fun for me because I got to watch friends come together to make something special that they (just two days later) would blaze around the Nashville Goodguys autocross with. You could see how much they enjoyed it, and nobody more so than Todd Gartshore of Baer Brakes. The 48 Hour Camaro was the last major project Todd worked on before he passed away a few weeks later. Todd was a true friend, and I’m going to miss him badly. Watching the 48 Hour Camaro webcast was almost like being there, and as fate would have it, RideTech gave me that one last chance to hang out with Todd. Thanks for that, guys.
“Who knew?! Car guys aren’t the attention-deficit morons who TV producers thought.”