Reality show not that real, couple finds
Reality TV shows featuring old vehicles get a lot of attention these days: Graveyard Carz, Fast n’ Loud, Counting Cars, Overhaulin’ and Vegas Rat Rods to name just a few.
So it’s little surprise Surrey residents Nate and Desiree Bestward were excited when the producers of Discovery Channel’s Carspotting showed interest in featuring a makeover of their 1957 GMC pickup.
Nate, who has been buying and selling vintage pickups and parts since he was 14, bought the “restomod” truck just across the line in Lynden, Washington a few years before. Desiree had been driving it to work as a day program co-ordinator at the Delta Community Living Society.
But the truck was a victim of a hit-and-run while the couple had dinner in White Rock and then an engine wiring fire sidelined it. So the thought of a complete rebuild done by a reality show that would split the cost was appealing.
The New York-based production company, Leftfield Pictures, saw Nate’s ads for old pickup trucks and parts online and contacted him. Over a period of months, they narrowed their choice to Nate and Desiree’s 1957 GMC. After a series of Skype interviews, the deal was struck with the truck set to be featured in Carspotting Episode 2 titled Diamond in the Rust.
The truck, as viewed on the episode, was purchased by Nate and Desiree for $60,000 … at least according to what was aired. However, the vehicle was already owned by them and the real cost was much less. Nate and the production company had an agreed value that would be paid upon completion of the vehicle, which was not the value presented during the episode.
In the segment, old car buyer Carlos and his team of builders would do the makeover. The shop would be an old Ford dealership rented in Lynden, Washington — which by sheer coincidence is the town where Nate and Desiree first purchased the truck. The production company bought and installed all the equipment for the shop including vehicle lifts, welders and a paint booth.
Nate was pumped, as he wanted to give the completed truck to Desiree as a wedding present. But the promised reality would turn into fiction almost immediately.
The show stars wouldn’t be doing any of the work. The work that was supposed to be completed and supervised by a skilled craftsman from a Bellingham hot rod shop was contracted out to others, with only the occasional involvement of the well-known hot rod builder. As a result, hardly anything of the build was shown in the television segment.
Although they were supposedly doing a makeover of Nate and Desiree’s 1957 GMC pickup, it wasn’t their truck at all that viewers were shown at the start. The build really started with a rusted out Chevrolet pickup.
“They got called out on that because the Chevy has a V-shaped instrument cluster and the GMC has a round gauge cluster,” Nate says of the visual deception, adding the producers changed the story so many times it got further away from what really happened every time. “I guess real drama doesn’t work unless it’s scripted.”
As the story evolved, Carlos buys a beat up pickup and sells it to Nate and the two come to an agreement on the build. The truck was to be completed in one month to add tension.
The build really took 18 months. The truck Nate supposedly bought for the build was a Chevy, not his 1957 GMC pickup. And the work was completed by a shop crew hastily cobbled together to complete the reality show builds.
All this led to the big reveal, where Nate and Desiree were to see the completed truck for the first time. But the truth is Nate frequently visited the shop in Lynden to check on the build and he already saw the completed truck before the reveal date.
The location for the “reveal” was Birch Bay, Washington, an hour south of Vancouver. The OMG moment was shot over and over by the production crew.
“We were to stand there and the truck would be driven towards us,” Nate recalls. “The big moment happened about 10 times during a four-hour period of filming, yet we were only seen at the very end of the episode for approximately 15 seconds.
“They never showed the footage that we filmed in the shop, doing the negotiations and discussing the build concept. That discussion was dubbed into the episode at the end.”
The production company took so long to complete the segment that Nate got Desiree’s wedding present back on the eve of their wedding on Aug. 19. Disappointment would cast a dark cloud over the blessed event. The truck that was to be the focal point of the celebration broke down and wouldn’t start.
Despite numerous efforts to diagnose the issue just hours before the ceremony, the truck remained an immobile showpiece and was unfortunately not used for Desiree’s entrance to the ceremony. Luckily, they had a close friend’s muscle car to drive the bride into the ceremony, and the wedding photos were taken in the driveway of Nate’s home with the fantasy-built GMC pickup. Nate concedes he benefited from the build that took 1,200 hours and would have cost up to $90,000 based on shop time and parts costs. Although the work on the truck was good and results are spectacular, Nate was left to sort out numerous deficiencies and problems.
Would he commit a vehicle to a reality show again? No.
“I was misled about who was going to build the truck and was left to sort out a lot of issues,” he says. “I would have much rather done the work on the truck myself.
“We fell into this opportunity and it seemed like it would be a fun experience at the time. The biggest downfall to these reality shows is that people believe it’s all true. Unfortunately, the perceived monetary value and work negatively impacts the hobby we love so much. Live and learn.”
Desiree and Nate Bestward display their 1957 GMC pickup that was rebuilt by the reality TV show Carspotting.