In the world of car TV shows, Counting Cars has been one of the biggest hits. Danny Koker broke out as a face on Pawn Stars, where he would talk issues of cars and do some good restoration jobs. This led to his own spin-off, which has been a huge success on History Channel. Koker’s Count's Kustoms in Las Vegas has become a hot spot for people wanting some serious high-end restoration jobs.
Koker also searches for rare cars he can buy, restore, and flip for a profit. The show is loved for its great selection of vehicles and the entertaining personalities of the crew. Koker boasts of how “it’s all for real” and he fights to make it authentic. The reality, however, is that there’s a lot that's fake on this show.
The brutal truth is that every “reality” TV show has a lot of fake elements. Counting Cars is no exception and it’s obvious how many events are staged. That includes the seemingly random and on-the-spot car buys are pretty much all staged, while many “surprise” jobs are planned out in advance and done with full approval of the owners.
The personas of the crew are played up for the cameras and many of the jobs are far more complex than the series showcases. There’s also how Koker isn’t quite the “expert” he pretends to be. While the show can be good, it should not be considered any more authentic than any other reality show out there. Here are 20 strange ways Counting Cars is totally fake.
20 The Budgets Being Strict
A famous story among employees of the garage and those on the show is about how Koker can be rather tight with his wallet. He has been known to walk away from deals he feels ask too much for a car and often gets in arguments over a price. On the flip side, manager Kevin Mack will often chastise Danny for spending too much on a job. The truth is that there really are no set budgets for any job. The series has no problem going way overboard on a restoration or cutting corners where they can. It’s been noted how some jobs cost either more or less than they should for another garage.
19 Any Equipment is Right There
Here’s a very common trick used on scores of “car rehab” shows. How often has someone gone for a simple repair and been told the right part has to be ordered from somewhere else? Count’s Kustoms will often use very rare parts that can be hard to track down. Yet when watching the show, one would think that just about every car part imaginable is right there in Count's Kustoms for easy use. They may order out now and then but it looks as if they can find, say, the right rim for a 1957 Corvette or the exhaust for a 1979 Dodge Dreamer right off the shelf.
18 The Time Limits
Obviously, reality TV shows enhance the drama quite a lot. Car remodel shows have found that one of the best ways to ratchet up the tension is to institute a time limit on builds. Counting Cars will have the team given a day or two to put together a huge restoration. Aside from the obvious created pressure, there’s also the fact these limits are never met. A real restoration job can often take the better part of a few days while the series makes it appear as if it can be done in an afternoon. Like many other car shows, Counting Cars appears to push the crew to make these times as short as they can.
17 Danny Supposedly Comes From Humble Beginnings
Danny Koker puts out the idea of being a pretty humble and down-to-Earth guy. He’s a car buff, a mechanic, and even a rocker. He enjoys presenting himself as coming from pretty humble roots and building the business from the ground up. But his background contradicts this. His father, Danny Sr., was part of several singing groups while playing the piano for the likes of Johnny Cash, Pat Boone, and numerous other stars. That gave him the money to get into cars, which he passed onto his sons. Koker also had a stint as a late-night horror TV host to get more money to start his gig on Pawn Stars.
16 They’re Constantly Low on Funds
Counting Cars is much the same as Fast N' Loud in that the idea is to flip cars quickly to make a profit. Just like Fast N' Loud, Counting Cars does seem to push how the garage is constantly low on funds and needs to make money quick to survive. But just like Fast N' Loud, that is completely untrue. The show is a bonafide hit that’s led to huge success for the garage, with plenty of work to spare. That’s not to mention that Koker runs a restaurant and a tattoo parlor to help bring in more cash. The series keeps presenting the idea of Count's Kustoms barely breaking even when they’re very far in the green.
15 Danny Is Not the Boss
It’s odd but quite often, Danny will act like he’s not the real boss of Count’s Kustoms. The series makes manager Kevin Mack (taking over from Scott Jones) ought to be more in charge, as he talks to Danny a lot on the costs of these jobs and laying out budgets. Danny also boasts of how “the customer calls the shots” and how he has little input. Obviously, Koker owns the entire place and is a producer on the show, which means he’s in charge of most everything. It seems Koker wants to present himself as “just a common guy” to help his image. The reality is, everyone else answers to Koker, no matter what.
14 “Surprise” Enhancements
Like many a gearhead, Koker and his crew love to touch up cars in unique ways. It’s not enough for merely restore a car good as new. They feel the need to put in special enhancements and additions to make them sparkle. Often, a car owner will come in and ask for a simple restoration. Koker will go ahead and put in some new stuff like fancier wheels or additional options, all at no charge. Obviously, no car owner is going to be okay with any changes made without their approval. Koker and the producers carefully talk over what can be added and the owners have to sign off at the end. Thus, a lot of surprised reactions to these fixes are faked for drama.
13 Celebrity “Drop-Ins”
Every now and then, the show will attract some famous names. Cassandra Peterson, aka Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, wanted them to remodel a car she used in a movie. There’s also been country rocker Andy Ross, a few MLB and NFL stars, the crew from World Series of Poker, and even a retired four-star general. The show makes it appear as if these people just picked Koker at random and dropped by with no warning. It should come as no surprise that the show openly courts the celebrities and often works with them in promotional deals. They get as much out of an appearance as the show itself and even a rumored fee for appearing.
12 The Crew Antics
Reality TV shows love their characters. More than a few guys on reality shows break out and get their own series. Koker himself started off on Pawn Stars and became so popular that he landed Counting Cars. Thus, many of the crew of Koker’s garage have broken out as nutty characters. That includes Mike, who received a nickname for his horn cap and nutty behavior. There’s also Harry Rome Sr, aka Grandpa, the elderly man who’s seen wandering around with his head in the clouds. Most who visit the garage have confirmed that a lot of the personalities are exaggerated for the show and the real guys are nowhere near as wacky.
11 Danny Selling Cars
One thing that is true is that Koker hates to part with the cars in his collection. It’s understandable that he loves these cars he’s put so much work into. Many are personal to him either for how he bought them or background stuff and it makes sense he’d hate to let them go. Yet the show makes it out to be really hard for Koker to be able to sell some of these off. Given that some of these are terrific rides that have been well maintained, finding a collector to nab them shouldn’t be an issue. More importantly, Koker’s celebrity status should ensure that any car he sells is a must-get.
10 The Car Owners Aren’t Random
This ties in to how many of the “on the spot” purchases the show features aren’t just sudden but are carefully set up in advance. It appears as if Danny literally just drives around spotting cars by chance to make a sudden deal. The truth is that the show scouts these owners out, looking carefully for those who own cars that would make great featured remodels. They also look for people with “tough luck” stories that can play well on TV (such as the guy in a wheelchair who Danny builds a special ride for). They also check with these people before they contact them for a sale.
9 Environmentalism is Made Up
Koker is well known for some rather…unique opinions. Like a lot of gearheads, he does feel there are way too many environmental rules and regulations on cars. A common bit on the show is Danny complaining over having to change a classic car for modern requirements. Koker goes the extra length in interviews as he openly broadcasts his idea that environmentalism is a game staged by politicians. That was seen as controversial yet some speculate that Koker is really just putting on a show and that he’s taking such a wild stance to get more attention and win over more gearheads.
8 The Scott Jones Accusations
Scott Jones was a popular face on the show for some time. The money manager for the garage, he and Danny often clashed when Scott wanted to focus on the bottom line more than some of the fancy cars. Still, he was a good presence to ground the series more. The third season had Scott leaving under a cloud. Some claim he was fired for embezzlement, which has become almost accepted as fact. The truth appears to be Jones just wanted to open his own garage up. A theory at some holds is that Koker actually encourages the more dramatic narrative to make the departure sound more intense.
7 There’s a Lot more Workers Than on TV
This is a common bit on a lot of car shows. It looks as if the garage has a relatively small staff of only about a dozen guys or so, with three or four on each car. In reality, there’s a massive support staff that never shows up on camera. Indeed, many of the cars have some work done off-camera by a support staff that doesn’t get the limelight. And that's not to mention the scores of camera and sound men, among many others, who put the show together. A common complaint of real customers is that the staff is nowhere near as effective as on TV, which makes sense given there’s a lot more of them for the show’s car jobs.
6 Lying About Car Origins
This doesn’t go noticed on the show too much but it has been talked of on fan forums. Quite often, the series will present a terrific backstory about how they found a car. One Chevy was discovered supposedly abandoned and was in horrible shape. After the episode aired, fans delved deeper to discover it had been bought and had a pretty good history, unlike the one the show presented. It’s happened a few other times when the show even seems to film the “discovery” of a car that was obviously planted. It mars the show’s sense of realism that they openly lie about just where these cars come from and make their backgrounds sound more exotic.
5 Scripted Conversations
It’s pretty obvious that a lot of the in-garage dynamics on the show are scripted bits. From arguments to some of the jokes, a lot of the show’s interpersonal aspects are the work of writers. And that includes some of the contrived drama. Ironically, the scripts cut out a lot of stuff (you never get talk of politics) and it’s surprisingly clean. Which just makes it look more fake, though, because it’s obvious how many times a situation is crafted to enhance the drama. It’s a shame because the workers clearly love what they do and have good chemistry going.
4 Multiple Builds At Once
The show makes it appear as if each episode has the garage working on at least three cars at the same time. It goes in depth about each one getting the same amount of care and basically all of them being done in roughly the same time. Any real mechanic can tell you it’s pretty hard to pull that off—even for just a simple tune-up job. The show clearly speeds up the timeline of building the cars via editing and makes it seem as if they're a one-day job. The truth is that each car takes the better part of a week and it’s tricky handling them alongside the shop’s usual work from non-TV customers.
3 Wrong Car Facts
If you’re hosting a car show, it only makes sense that you know something about cars. For the most part, Koker comes off as pretty smart and he clearly has a passion for these vehicles. However, every now and then, he’ll make an incredibly inaccurate statement about a car’s history. The most famous was his claim that Chevy began making Corvettes in 1954 and there were only 600 examples, so it was a failure. In reality, there were 300 built in 1953 and thousands more made afterward. There are far more examples and Koker almost never apologizes for his mistakes. It’s pretty hard to take the show seriously when the main “car expert” can be so astoundingly wrong on some basic automotive history.
2 Great Customer Satisfaction
Watching the show gives the indication that Count’s Kustoms is doing great. Customers are always shown smiling and friendly, the staff is professional, and the buyers are always happy when a job is done. Look up the reviews online and one gets a completely different story. The garage has been slammed with terrible customer feedback, many noting its poor location in a seedy part of Las Vegas that’s dangerous to get to. There are also comments about the poor service, not to mention being charged for food and drink while you wait. Another common complaint is that if you’re not featured on the show, the mechanics just don’t care too much about your car.
1 Buying Cars Off the Street
This is the most blatant of all the fake things on the show. The series makes it appear as if Danny just spots a car on the street, goes up the owner, and, after a few minutes of haggling, a sale is made. Obviously, these “random” meets are planned in advance, with the deal already worked through. There may some last-minute talk on the price but Koker wouldn’t be wasting his time if he didn’t know he was getting the car. And that's not to mention how a random person wouldn’t be thrilled having a camera crew show up on their doorstep to buy a used car. While the deals themselves are for real, the “sudden buys” are completely staged.
Sources: Wikipedia, Apex Automotive Magazine, and IMDb.