As newborns, we were given car-shaped teething toys. By the time we were 3, we were pushing around an armada of hazard-yellow plastic trucks, and by 5 we had a collection of die-cast models that would rival any real car collection. But we're older now, and our automotive entertainments have to offer more than just four tiny rubber tires.
Fortunately for us, something new and spectacular has been afoot in a large tent on Reseda Boulevard in Northridge, California. Each week, the lights go dim, smoke billows from state-of-the-art paint booths, and red and blue lights glisten off of chromed-out stroker engines.
It might sound like a car guy's (or gal's) dream, but this is reality.
This is Car Warriors, SPEED's new one-hour weekly series. The show features a hand-picked, eight-person team taking on a real-life shop in a pressure-packed, 72-hour restoration project. Once complete, the resulting creations undergo performance testing and are awarded points for their handling and driveability. If the challenging team wins, it gets to keep both cars.
One of the show's early matchups will feature a pair of automatic C3 Corvettes—one a '76 and the other a '77. Despite the truncated build schedule, the cars represented complete rebuild projects: The brakes didn't work, the engines smoked, the weatherstripping had deteriorated to slivers, the seats were cracked in a million pieces, and the headlights hadn't opened under their own vacuum for years. They didn't just need restorations; they needed resurrections.
We were given complete access to follow the build-ups in real time, talk to the builders, and get the inside track on how they planned to create their own visions of the ultimate C3.
The Challengers for the Corvette episode came from Sacramento's Gearhead Garage and were led by Jason Walroth. The rest of the team comprised Dave Fonts (fabricator), Merton Perkins (mechanic), Jonathan Lucich (mechanic), Derek Carlson (painter), Mike Sparman (fabricator), Shawn Katt (interior), and Brandon Boarman (paint).
The All-Star team consisted of a "who's who" in the car industry, each member with his or her own specialty. Nominal team leader Rich Evans owns his own shop and has built rides for SEMA and various celebrities. Ian Roussel, often referred to as the "Mad Scientist," was the team's metal mastermind. The exterior paint was handled by Ryno, whose name may ring a bell from his many seasons on Trick My Truck. The fourth team member, who went by the nom de auto Itchy, won the 2009 Von Dutch Pinstriping Award. Nicole Lyons has a history with car building and racing in both the NHRA and NASCAR circuits. Tina Sharp was the backbone of the interior team, while Scott Owens was the sound man, holding the world record for the car stereo system with the highest decibel reading. The eighth member was Joel Hoffman of JandH restorations, who has also built cars for SEMA and for a number of pro athletes.
Once the clock hit 72 hours, the build stopped and the judges took over. Leading the lineup was none other than self-proclaimed "King of Kustomizers" George Barris, known for his wild show-circuit creations of the '70s, as well as for such legendary movie and TV cars as the original Batmobile and the Munster Koach. Next up was Jimmy Shine, lead builder at the world famous SO-CAL Speed Shop. Rounding out the lineup was Mad Mike, known as a wiring magician at Galpin Auto Sports and from the TV series Pimp My Ride.
The points breakdown was pretty simple, with a maximum allowable score of 100. The exterior and paint were graded on a total of 25 points, the engine bay and the integration of performance parts a total of 25 points, the interior a total of 25 points, and handling and road performance a total of 25 points.