Counting Cars is one of the most successful and most popular of the many motoring makeover shows which have made an appearance on our TV screens, thanks mainly to the fantastic automotive works of art that the team create, but also thanks to the larger than life personality of Danny Koker, the undisputed star of the show.
The series was actually a spin-off from another reality TV show, Pawn Stars, which would use Danny’s expertise when a client came in with automotive items that they wanted to pawn. Danny and his team at Count’s Kustoms garage in Las Vegas must have made an impression on the producers of Pawn Stars, as by 2012 they had their own series on the History channel.
Of course, what you actually see in an hour-long episode of Counting Cars is only part of the story, and many of the storylines are manipulated and set-up to create good TV – as is the case with every reality show. The producers have even arranged for celebrity guests to bring their cars to Count’s Kustoms, to add a bit of glamour to a show about grease monkeys!
Even the biggest Counting Cars fans will probably be surprised by some of the strict rules on this list, which the stars of the show and its producers have to stick to when they are making the series.
Danny Koker has a lot of personal rules about what can and can’t be discussed on the show when it comes to his private life. He finds it particularly difficult to talk about his father, also called Danny, with whom he had a very close relationship.
Danny Koker Sr passed away a few years ago and left his collection of vintage cars to his son, as well as passing on his love of all things automotive. However, despite the massive influence that his father has had in his life, Danny never likes to talk about his Dad on the show, as he still finds it very painful to discuss his passing.
His father isn’t the only member of the Koker family that crew at Count’s Kustoms are forbidden to talk about. He also hates to talk about his wife preferring to keep his private life private. His wife, Korie, co-owns one of Danny’s other businesses, Count’s Vamp’d Rock Bar & Grill, but she has little to do with Count’s Kustoms, and has never made an appearance on Counting Cars, and is only ever mentioned in passing by Danny on very rare occasions.
It seems strange that an outgoing and outlandish personality like Koker should want to keep part of his life out of the limelight.
Danny Koker also insists that the team never mention the old manager at Count’s Kustoms, Scott Jones, who was a major part of the first and second seasons of the show, but who has since disappeared.
The stormy relationship between Koker and Jones was part of what made the show entertaining, but Danny obviously had enough of his manager telling him what he could and couldn’t do, and ditched him from the business and from the TV show from the third season onwards.
Celebrity appearances on Counting Cars are a regular occurrence, and there is one celebrity who has appeared in more episodes than any other, Vince Neil, the former singer of rock band Motley Crue. Neil is also something of an automotive aficionado, and would often bring his vintage cars into the shop for repairs and customizations.
While Koker and Neil still remain good friends and business partners, the rocker no longer appears on the show, as the producers felt that his bad boy rock ‘n’ roll image was bad for the show. Neil still brings his cars to the shop, but the crew is banned from mentioning his name while the cameras are rolling.
It’s great for business that Counting Cars has made Danny Koker and the rest of the team at Count’s Kustoms into stars. The show has led to several celebrities bringing their vehicles into the shop for customizations, while even members of the public are willing to pay a premium to have their car worked on by such a talented and creative group of mechanics.
It does have a downside, however, in that when the team approaches people on the street to ask if they want to sell their cars, the owners often try and hold out for a higher price simply because Danny is a famous TV star.
There is one characteristic that defines Danny Koker – and it isn’t just his creative mind when it comes to customizing vehicles. Koker is never seen on screen without his iconic bandanna; in fact, he is never seen anywhere, at any time, without it.
One of the big rules on Counting Cars is that no-one is allowed to try and peek under the bandanna, whether they are members of the public or members of the Count’s Kustoms team. That has, of course, led to intense speculation about what might be under there, with most people guessing that Koker is hiding his baldness!
In many of the best episodes of Counting Cars, Danny Koker and his crew spot a great car while they’re out and about, and make an approach to the owner to see if they want to have it renovated and refurbished at Count’s Kustoms – for a fee, of course! However, there are rules for the cast about who they can approach about their vehicles, and how it should be done.
Following a driver back to their home is a big no-no, as is continuing to hassle the owner after they have said no. And then there are the practical concerns for the repair shop, who don’t want to take on a project that is going to lose them money.
Perhaps the most important rule about involving members of the public is that they have to be happy that they are going to appear on a TV show. There is no point in having someone agree that Danny can customize his car, if they then refuse to appear on the TV show, or even worse, refuse to let the camera crew film the work.
That is why a lot of the supposed spontaneous interactions with members of the public have already been set up by the producers first so that no time is wasted on cars that can’t be used in the series.
Counting Cars is a big hit with serious gearheads, the team at Count’s Kustoms take their work very seriously and have a real appreciation for the vehicles they are working on. While it is great that the show has earned a big following, it does mean that there are lots of fans out there just waiting to pick up on any mistakes made by Danny and the team.
The Count’s Kustoms boys have to make sure that they get their facts right all the time, especially when it comes to facts and figures about which year a car was made, or what size engine it has.
It goes without saying that the team on Counting Cars have to be vigilant for any lawbreakers who are trying to get stolen cars customized at the shop. Koker also has to keep an eye on his own employees, as one was accused of embezzling funds from the business to pay for his own car.
Not only does the team have a responsibility to report any suspicious individuals to the authorities, but they also need to make sure that any vehicles they send out into the road meet don’t break any laws regarding lifted suspensions, tinted windows or neon lights under the body of the car.
As with anybody who operates a business, the team at Count’s Kustoms have to remember the old maxim that “the customer is always right”. Reality TV shows thrive on tensions and conflict, but in the case of Counting Cars, those tensions are usually between the crew at the garage rather than between Danny and his clients.
Even when the customer wants a beautiful car transformed into something bad looking, then the guys at the repair shop have to follow their brief, no matter how much they hate the idea, and no matter how much they disagree with the customer’s plans, they have to go along with it if they want to get paid!
It isn’t just bad ideas that Count’s Kustoms have to go along with. Sometimes, the team follows the brief to the letter, and yet the customer ends up hating the end result, or perhaps they keep making changes to the brief while the job is already underway.
This is obviously frustrating for the team, but luckily Danny and the guys tend to take their frustrations out on each, rather than on their clients! No matter how obnoxious the customer, or how unreasonable their demands, the mechanics just have to bite their tongues and do what the client is asking for.
The only way that Counting Cars can be a success is if each episode has a few different projects on the go; that way it stays entertaining for the viewers, rather than focusing on just one vehicle at a time. It’s vital, therefore, that Count’s Kustoms always have few cars in the shop to make for interesting episodes, even if they can sometimes end up with too many cars!
Danny was often criticized by other members of the team for buying too many cars on impulse, leaving the garage cluttered with so many old vehicles that it made working there difficult.
And it isn’t just about the cars that they are working on. Another rule that the Counting Cars team have to follow is to always make sure that they have future projects lined up, so the repair shop is always going to be busy – and the program makers are always going to have something to film!
That is why so much of the show actually takes place outside the garage, following Danny and the team as they search the streets of Las Vegas for potential projects, and track down their owners to see if they want their car modified and customized.
While the team at Count’s Kustoms get to enjoy some of the best free advertising ever, thanks to the Counting Cars show, the garage is still a business that has to make money and pay the bills. While clients are willing to pay a significant amount of money to get their vehicle customized by someone as famous as Danny Koker, the garage crew has to make sure that they don’t go over budget when it comes to spending on a project.
The client is only going to pay what they were quoted for the job, so if the team over-spends, it has to come out of their own pockets.
One of the reasons that Count’s Kustoms was chosen for its own reality TV series was the fact that they are such a respected repair shop when it comes to modifications and customizations, producing works of automotive art for clients all over Las Vegas.
And one of the reasons that their work is of such high quality is that the team take their time to make sure that every job is completed to the best of their ability – no matter what else is going on in the garage, and no matter what problems the team is having behind the scenes.
Part of why the team produces such good work is that they never cut corners. In fact, taking short-cuts to get the job done is definitely against the rules on Counting Cars. Aside from the fact that cutting corners is only going to produce shoddy work, the team also have to ensure that the vehicles they are sending out into the road are safe to drive and that the new owners aren’t going to get pulled over by the cops for driving a vehicle that isn’t roadworthy!
Standards have to be maintained at Count’s Kustoms, even if that means spending more time and money on a project.
Lots of reality TV shows include sections where cast members address the camera and the viewer directly, but the producers of Counting Cars have gone for a different approach. The show uses fly-on-the-wall cameras to capture all the action, with the suggestion that Koker and his team are acting as they would even if the cameras weren’t there – although that is highly unlikely!
No-one is allowed to address the camera directly during the filming of Counting Cars, but instead, have to act as though the crew isn’t there at all. Watch the shows back and you will notice that the cast studiously avoid looking at the camera.
In TV, the golden rule is to never work with children or animals because of their unpredictable nature, but the same could easily be said of any members of the public.
Although most of the public interactions on Counting Cars have been set-up in advance by the production team, there is no telling what might be said when Danny and his crew approach the owners of cars they want to buy. All it takes is for a belligerent member of the public to make Danny angry, and he or one of his team could easily say something they would regret.
Regardless of who the team at Count’s Kustoms are talking to, there are several topics that they have to avoid, as they are just too controversial. The team and any of their guests are banned from talking about strong opinions in the form of bumper stickers or customizations which express support for any candidate or party.
There are other subjects which are to be avoided on the show, including religion and even environmental issues – it is an entertainment show about cars, after all, and viewers don’t want to be lectured on serious matters by a bunch of mechanics.
Sources - Count Kustoms, Daily Motion, YouTube, Speed Society