It’s no secret that nothing is quite what it seems on TV. Reality TV shows, especially, may seem like they’re completely true and off-the-cuff but that’s not the case. Almost all of them are scripted and the popular car show Overhaulin’ is no different. The show ran from 2004 to 2008 and then again from 2012 to 2015. It was immensely popular and was a “pet project” of Chip Foose, one of the most popular and famous car engineers in the business.
The premise of the show was taking a mark's (the owner of a car) clunker—usually through some form of deception or scripted drama—and then rebuilding it into a modern masterpiece. Most of the cars on the show were once vintage and awesome but have been relegated to the dump.
What makes the transformations on the show so sweet is the end product—the before-and-after reveal is always stunning—and the fact that Foose gives his guys only eight days to finish the build. The result is a race against the clock, which truly made Overhaulin’ more exciting than most reality TV car shows.
The problem is that the builds didn’t always end spectacularly. There are times when the team messed up, though they were rare. More common was that the aftermath of a car was not what it seemed—parts were loose, not finished completely, and yet, they were given to the marks anyway, since Foose’s eight days on the build were finished.
There were also rules and issues with the show that turned people off of it, which is probably why it went on a four-year hiatus after the first run and then only ran for three more years once it came back. Here are 20 times that Overhaulin’ messed up.
20 This Oldsmobile 442
On one of the episodes of the second season of Overhaulin’, an Oldsmobile 442 was being prepared for restoration. But after it was finished, the crew had a different idea than giving it back to the owner right away. They took it to a parking lot and did donuts in the car, then took it onto the freeway, which caused the car to overheat. From there, they power-washed the engine, allowed for water to get into the oiling system, and then fried all the electronics in the distributor when they tried to start the car. After that, the car was returned to the owner, who noticed all these problems and many more faulty installations in the car, making it one of the worst mess ups Overhaulin’ had ever been a part of.
19 This 1971 Dodge Challenger Build
Chip Foose is a legendary figure in the automotive world and he was the host and car engineer on Overhaulin’. He was an incredible mechanic on the show and had the capability to display some amazing work—but not always. With this 1971 Dodge Challenger build, the car was already in bad shape when it came into the shop. When Foose got his hands on it, the stubborn nature of the mechanic rubbed off on the build and convinced him to continue working on it. The overall product was a total letdown and the build-up toward the restoration of this car was much bigger than the actual build itself.
18 Scripted Drama
Reality TV shows like Overhaulin’ are never what they appear to be. There’s always scripting involved, no matter how off-the-cuff it may seem to viewers. For instance, all the drama on the show was completely fabricated. That’s because reality TV thrives on drama, and car shows generally have none. So, story arcs were scripted into Overhaulin’ to foment conflict between cast members. The show is essentially a passion project for Foose and most of the people who worked on the show had zero bad things to say about him. But that looks much different on the show itself, where people argue with him and get over-dramatic. Much of that drama comes from their eight-day deadline, which is stressful, to say the least.
17 Relying On Free Or Low-Cost Parts
One of the problems with Overhaulin’ that quite a few people have commented on is that the cars aren’t totally completed during the eight days they’re worked on. The nuts and bolts aren’t screwed on tight enough, things fall off, and so on. That’s generally because the show relied on low-cost parts to function. The production costs for a show are the biggest concern for a network and the work of top-level designers and mechanics does not come cheap. To keep overhead as low as possible, Overhaulin’ relied heavily on companies that donated parts or provided them at low costs. The benefit was exposure for those companies; the negative was weaker build quality.
16 The Marks Had To Pay The Taxes
One question that came up time and time again for viewers of Overhaulin’ was wondering if the owners who were given their prized builds had to pay taxes on those restorations. The short answer is yes. The cost of creating a car was figured into the show’s budget beforehand and the value of a finished product is always very high. The mark doesn’t have to pay the same taxes as an average car buyer but they’re still looking at a minimum of a $50,000 value on their new car. Many are even higher than that. Participants are informed during the interview process that they are liable for all federal, state, and local taxes. Applicants of these shows have to have thousands of dollars lying around before their build is accepted.
15 Selling Sentimental Cars
One major problem with Overhaulin’ is that once you’re chosen to participate, the audience needs a good story to feed off of. Many of the marks ask for help on their antique cars that are family heirlooms, rare collectibles, and other sentimentally valued cars. After Overhaulin’ works on their cars, the value skyrockets on the market, so the owner is then forced with a dilemma. The sentimental value of a car is still there but there’s also a lot of money to be made. This resulted in with many marks selling their rare cars or putting them up for auction, which many contestants then felt guilty or bad about in the future.
14 Cars Needed To Be Tuned Up After The Overhaul
This is something that happens offscreen, that viewers don’t see, but it’s a big part of the build. Only having eight days to restore and make a masterpiece of something, it should come as no surprise that the cars aren’t perfect right out of the garage. Many of them have to be heavily tuned up after completion. Many of these projects are incredibly challenging and contestants on the show often find minor (or sometimes, major) problems with their cars when they get them back. These can be anything from a loose door handle or a crooked mirror to messed up suspension! The most common problem cited with the finished products were the paint jobs—good quality paint, but with blemishes and scratches.
13 Angering The Marks
Since a show like this thrives on drama, there are definitely times when viewers might feel some secondhand embarrassment at the expense of the marks. And the marks don’t always act cordially—they can get angry. In reality, the show really did try to anger the marks, all to make it interesting. They went out of their way to stage fake stuff and elaborate schemes, like the body shop saying they lost the car or having it towed for fake legal reasons. The authorities on the show were always in on it themselves, so that didn’t help. Even the families and businesses involved were in on it. In the end, the mark was the only person not in on the gag, and that could be frustrating.
12 Cars Losing Value Due To Changes
While most of the cars that are worked on in the show skyrocketed in value after completion, mostly because they were shabby and derelict beforehand, that was not always the case. Many classic, vintage cars are better left alone and working on them or restoring them actually depreciates their value quite heavily. Sometimes, the car is fundamentally changed, which then changes the type of car that it is. The Ship of Theseus law addresses what and how much change can be performed to a vehicle before it is considered a different car. Generally, a car’s identity is tied to its chassis, so while new body parts are okay, changing the chassis will change the car’s identity and potential value.
11 Negative Feedback For Celebrity Overhauls
There have been many celebrities whose cars have been featured on Overhaulin’ but contrary to the network’s wishes, they haven’t always gone off without a hitch. Most of the marks are regular people but when Overhaulin’ needed a ratings boost, they’d throw in a celebrity like Ian Ziering, Jason Priestly, Lance Armstrong, Tony Todd, Johnny Depp, or Amber Heard. The feedback surrounding these celebrity builds was very negative, with many people believing that celebrities didn’t deserve their restorations—they already had enough money to afford these changes. This negative feedback is why the celebrity episodes were limited and pretty rare.
10 Most Submissions Were Deemed Unworthy
This should also come as no surprise: so many people apply to be featured on Overhaulin’ that there was just no way the show could feature all of them. Chip Foose is one of the biggest names in the business, so the show received a lot of submissions. Most audition videos have a story attached to them—such as an enthusiast who lost his passion or a hard-working community organizer with no time—but there’s only room for one selection per show. No one can really help this problem and the producers weren’t always searching only for sad stories. They wanted stories that were relatable and with people that were photogenic. So, even if the mark needed help, if they had no charisma, they were out of luck.
9 Workers Get Little Sleep
Since the cars actually were finished in just eight days, and the restorations were massive projects involving many, many people, the workers on the show got very little sleep. They often complained of sleep deprivation but the money was good enough to keep them working. The show’s gimmick was based on the quick turnaround of these awesome cars, so the workers had to make do with working on tight, stressful schedules with very little sleep. Former guest workers reported working near or above 150 hours for the week and some said they were lucky to get four hours of sleep a night, since they had to work around the clock a lot of the time.
8 The Relationship With Gas Monkey
Many reality TV shows build off one another and feature other reality stars for endorsements. Such was the case with Richard Rawlings’ Gas Monkey Garage, from Fast N’ Loud, which was featured on Overhaulin’. Things soon went bad when a marketer named Stephen Andrews spammed car forums to promote the Gas Monkey episode and later produced a promotional video with Gas Monkey that was received very poorly by the entire hot rod industry. Richard Rawlings and Gas Monkey were accused of tarnishing the Overhaulin’ episode, engaging in crass humor, and their episode was pulled and never aired again. Discovery Communications wouldn’t even confirm or deny that they had contact with Rawlings or Andrews afterward.
7 Customers Not Happy With Builds
This is bound to happen in any industry because everyone’s tastes are different. For the most part, people were ecstatic about their Chip Foose builds on Overhaulin’ but not everyone was left with a happy taste in their mouth. One particular incident is the Oldsmobile 442 mentioned above, where the crew seriously messed up. There had been other cars where the mechanics used the power-washer sloppily, resulting in damage, or they included an inefficient nitrous system or no backup lights or gear indicator. There’s a host of things that can go wrong when you have just eight days to build an awesome car but you can’t blame the marks for getting angry when their money is invested and their cars are treated recklessly.
6 This 1971 Chevrolet Chevelle
This Chevy Chevelle was an $1,800 car that was first featured on a Mother’s Wax infomercial before it was featured for the pilot episode of Overhaulin’. Owner Jeff Miller quickly okayed the build, hoping to get his faded Chevelle nice and gleaming again. The paint was vintage and it had a cool dark green vinyl interior. Unfortunately, many people believe that Foose destroyed the integrity of the original car when he removed the original dark green interior, sanded away the vintage color, and removed the original engine block. The end result left Jeff happy but many gearheads were not as ecstatic.
5 This 1972 Oldsmobile Cutlass
More people were dismayed by what Foose and his crew did to this rust-free, untarnished 1972 Oldsmobile Cutlass. It was ordered in a bronze color with a white interior and the mark’s wife liked a different color. The mark made drawings and the wife selected, under pressure, one of the three sketches in a similar bronze. When restoring the car, though, Foose changed the plans, painted most of the bottom white with a champagne top and pinstripe division, then he took special wheels and painted them an in-your-face ember-glow color. Many people likened the build to what Pimp My Ride did to cars.
4 This 1964 Chevrolet Corvette
The Chevy Corvette is one of the most classic cars from the US, especially 1960s versions. Most people who like Overhaulin’ like modified cars—extremely modified cars, no less. But many people think that what Chip Foose does is blasphemy: modernizing classics and giving them huge wheels and flames down the sides. They things it's garish and unnecessary. Such is the case with this tan 1964 ‘Vette. Some people just can’t stand the “rags to riches” theme of the show and even though this Corvette is a much tamer build than many, it’s still much more eye-popping than a vintage original, which isn’t always a good thing.
3 This 2014 Chevrolet Impala
Many people consider this 2014 Chevrolet Impala build to be the one that broke the camel’s back—the build that made Overhaulin’ jump the shark, as it were. First, lots of viewers thought that Foose had no business messing with a 2014 Impala in the first place. What’s vintage or special about that car? There are plenty more admirable cars to work on, especially when there are only so few episodes of the show and builds that air. Foose is an amazing talent and he might not have the final say in every car that is worked on (since other producers have a say) but this one should have never made it past the application stage.
2 Lance Armstrong’s 1970 GTO
Now, there’s nothing wrong with this build, per se. It’s actually a beautiful transformation and Foose turned Lance Armstrong’s car into a true beauty. The problem lies in who the build was for: the legendary cyclist who eventually confessed to acts that besmirched his legacy for all time. Of course, the build came before the revelation and before he was stripped of all of his Tour de France titles. But that doesn’t make it any easier to stomach, that out of all the celebrities Foose could have chosen to work with, he picked the one whose reputation was tarnished. To make matters worse, Armstrong sold the GTO—which was given to him by his ex, Sheryl Crow, after a Tour de France win—for $80,000. He must not have liked the car because he surely didn’t need the money at the time!
1 This Nurse’s 2005 Ford Mustang GT
Most people who watched this 2005 Ford Mustang GT episode though the car turned out absolutely sweet. Some people didn’t like the big side stripe but for the most part, people loved it. It was given fresh paint, carbon body parts, a supercharger, wheels, tires, lowering springs, custom seat covers, and an awesome one-of-a-kind stereo system. But when the car was then presented to the nurse, she was only mildly surprised. She showed no excitement and viewers thought the episode was lame because of that. Some thought that Foose’s personal choices were also lame, such as the supercharger and the fact that not much “custom” work was done to the car—almost every part came right off the shelf.
Sources: All Ford Mustangs, Muscle Cars Zone, and The Daily Mail.