Chevy High Performance - - Contents -

Shop “re­al­ity” bites, ac­cord­ing to Kevin Tetz

The au­to­mo­tive shops that I ad­mire don’t ex­ist on TV, and that both­ers me big-time. Here are some of the shops I ad­mire: TriWorks Hot Rods in Nashville; Green­ing Auto Com­pany in Cull­man, Alabama; Paint­house in Hous­ton; Ida Au­to­mo­tive in Mor­ganville, New Jersey; and Bay One Cus­toms in Spring­field, Ten­nessee.

At these shops, there’s no weird sales­man that comes in with a mys­te­ri­ous build that he needs done fast with no ques­tions asked, there’s no un­re­al­is­tic dead­lines

(other than SEMA, some­times), and there’s no fake drama, just good work be­ing done and out­stand­ing cars be­ing built. There’s no way on God’s earth that a busi­ness model sim­i­lar to those on some of these “shop-based” re­al­ity shows would sur­vive more than a cou­ple of months at best. There’s money to be made in our in­dus­try and there are people that are will­ing to spend it hav­ing cars re­stored, im­proved, and mod­i­fied; the afore­men­tioned (real) shops prove that. But what cus­tomer in his right mind would toss his check­book over to some of these TV “shops” that thrive on ap­a­thy and wrench toss­ing?

It’s no se­cret why a lot of the new shows on that new net­work are ex­actly the same for­mula, with in­ter­change­able char­ac­ters that get into hi­jinks and shenani­gans on a daily ba­sis while build­ing a project on a ridicu­lous dead­line but still get­ting it fin­ished just in time over and over and over again. Is this real? Hell no! Of course it’s not real. It’s a trans­posed re­al­ity-TV model that was brought over from other gen­res with the hope that it would bring more eye­balls to a niche in­dus­try. Ev­ery­one that works in that in­dus­try un­der­stands that this is pro­duced TV and drummed up drama.

I sup­pose I should apol­o­gize to the people that I will of­fend or hurt with this col­umn that don’t feel like their show is of this type, and to be fair not all cur­rent au­to­mo­tive TV is “fake.” There are some shows that shine a pos­i­tive light on the crafts­man­ship that our in­dus­try pro­duces. My problem is that from 10,000 feet, we all look like clowns to the un­in­formed non-car guys.

Con­sider the ob­server ef­fect, in which a sub­ject al­ters their be­hav­ior be­cause they know they are be­ing watched. So the pro­duc­ers throw a cam­era on some­body and tell him or her to re­act to a given sce­nario, and it’s no won­der you get a ma­nip­u­lated out­come.

Some might say, “Get over it, Kevin. It’s en­ter­tain­ment.” I guess. Some people who have watched me on TV can prob­a­bly bring up ex­am­ples of me buy­ing into a sto­ry­line or a “dead­line” from time to time, but the premise of any of the TV that I have done was not to cre­ate drama but more to solve prob­lems and pass on skills that I’ve picked up in my ca­reer.

It’s ob­vi­ous that gi­ant net­works run away scream­ing from how-to for­mats. How-to TV is bor­ing, and I can live with that. What trou­bles me is that I can turn to a food chan­nel and see tons of home cooks el­e­vated to rock star sta­tus in com­pe­ti­tion shows and we are told con­stantly that theirs is a noble pro­fes­sion. It is. And that there’s a ca­reer ahead of them filled with re­wards, re­spect, and in­tegrity. There is. Then I flip back to a net­work that spe­cial­izes in fake au­to­mo­tive shop sce­nar­ios that make our en­tire in­dus­try look like stooges and id­iots.

Maybe I’m just jeal­ous that I don’t have a Trucks spin-off show that has crazy dead­lines and mega T-shirt sales. Maybe I would feel dif­fer­ent about it if I were ac­tu­ally one of the main char­ac­ters on one of those se­ries. It’s hard to say without hav­ing been in those shoes, but from where I stand the im­pres­sion that is be­ing broad­cast of the au­to­mo­tive af­ter­mar­ket is far from real and it both­ers me.

So how do we show the world that gear­heads and car builders aren’t a bunch of car­toon­ish drama queens that spend more time set­ting up a joke to play on their co-worker than ac­tu­ally do­ing the work? I don’t have the an­swer right now, but maybe some­how over time we can change the per­cep­tion of what a ca­reer in the au­to­mo­tive field looks like. Let’s show that there’s some in­tegrity in our trade, not just a quick flip and a trip to the go-kart track to blow off steam. Let’s spot­light some amaz­ing and re­ward­ing ca­reers that have been earned over time with hard work, not pro­duced on TV.

I know many skilled crafts­men that are amaz­ing at what they do and are suc­cess­ful busi­ness­men as well. Let’s shine a light on that side of the af­ter­mar­ket, as well as be­ing “en­ter­tained.” Are you not en­ter­tained?

I’m not.

Just sayin.’

Photo: Jesse Green­ing

Green­ing Auto Com­pany put to­gether this LT4pow­ered ’70 Nova with no dead­lines or fabri­cated drama.

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