Amid the pack of car makeover reality TV shows, Overhaulin’ stood out. The idea of the show was that Chip Foose and his group would be approached by a friend or family member of a car owner. With their help, the crew would boost the car, making the owner believe it had been taken for any number of reasons. Over the course of a week, the crew would restore and remodel the car into the “dream car” the owner had long wanted. They would then show it off in a big ceremony, with the mark happily surprised by the move.
The show ran for five seasons on TLC and then another four on Velocity before ending in 2015. It still has its fans and reruns tend to do pretty well online. Making these builds work out and surprise the customers made this series a fun one to watch.
Like many reality TV shows, the actual “reality” of Overhaulin’ could be debated. It was obvious that several episodes were scripted to amp up the drama and make the builds look more challenging than they were. It’s also questionable just how many of the “marks” were, in fact, unaware about what was happening.
The show did have several rules for its crew members that were taken seriously. They truly were on a clock with the builds and were encouraged to ensure each car was done right. However, there were a lot of rules the show broke, from the kind of parts to use to making sure the customer was always happy with the ride. For all its strengths, the series had drawbacks as shown by the lax enforcement of its self-imposed rules.
20 FOLLOW: Look For Rare Rides
The show’s submission process could be tough at times. They tended to look for people with rough backgrounds who could make for good drama. But the producers also knew that the cars were always the focus. Thus, the rarer the car, the more special the episode would be. They did pick some beauties over the show’s run, from classic muscle cars to some older vehicles like a Model A Ford. Even if the backstory of a mark wasn’t too special, their owning a fantastic car would make them a top candidate. While a better backstory was preferred, it was the chance to work on these machines that dictated who made the cut for Overhaulin’
19 BREAK: No Joyrides
For the most part, the crew was told that the cars were off-limits outside of the work. But when someone overhauls a fantastic vehicle, the temptation to take it for a joyride can be too much to resist. To be fair, the show wouldn’t hide when it happened, as every now and then, while “testing” the overhaul, the crew would take it on a joyride. From huge drives around town to doing donuts in the parking lot, the crew will take the rides out for a spin before returning them to the owner. Sometimes, it could truly be to test the car out but most of the time, it was just for the fun of these rides. One can’t fault the crew for enjoying their work.
18 FOLLOW: Elaborate Scams
Chip Foose openly told the crew to go as wild as they’d want with the setups and they followed that order to a T. Indeed, it seemed that the crazier a con, the more the mark bought into it—so some of the cons could be really wild. One saw a woman convinced the city has towed her car and while she spent a week trying to get it back, a “city official” was asking her out on a date. Other marks were told their cars had been vandalized. They would also make the mark think the car had been boosted and even get them involved in a sting operation. The crew never got tired of following the rule to go all out while scamming the marks.
17 BREAK: No Celebrities
This was a major breaking of the rules that the show’s audiences disliked. The series was always great at picking out common folk, usually with hard-luck backgrounds, and giving them a free overhaul. Doing the same to celebrities did not have the same feel. After all, these people can easily afford to get these overhauls on their own without a TV show's help. This led to episodes that have not aged well, such as a car for now-disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong or Johnny Depp gifting Amber Heard a car (as the duo is now divorced). The fact remains that the celebrity episodes just are not liked by the fans because the viewers prefer the “common driver” a lot more than a huge star.
16 FOLLOW: Clear It With the Cops
This is an underrated rule but one the show had to follow quite a lot. The first reaction of someone when their car was taken—for some reason—would be to call the police. The Overhaulin’ crew knew that getting themselves actually apprehended was not going to help the show. Thus, every single job was cleared with the police first. They knew it was all an act and that the mark’s friends and family were in on it. Thus, they could give a pass for the crew to take the cars and give the runaround when the mark called to complain. Any Overhaulin’ episode had to follow the key rule of making sure the cops didn’t interfere with the job.
15 BREAK: Using Their Own Parts
The crew love to boast about how they go all-out to make these cars look great. That gives the idea that they always use the best parts available. The reality is that to shave production costs, the producers would make deals with suppliers where they would trade parts in exchange for some free advertising. This involved such classic bits as focusing on the brand name of a tool during a job and other tricks. This worked out well to get the production going at a lower cost. While the crew may boast of being able to pull these rides off, it wasn’t always by using the best tools available.
14 FOLLOW: Never Judge The Customer
This may be broken now and then but for the most part, the crew held to the idea that they should never try to judge the customer on a job. It can sometimes be easy to mock what kind of a car they own or the one they want but doing so is rather rude. It’s also pretty easy to take issue when the customer is dissatisfied with the overhaul and the crew may want to slam them for it. However, they knew that everyone had their own different likes and dislikes when it comes to cars and judging them for it isn’t really fair. Even if a customer’s car tastes could be questionable, the crew ensured they didn’t try to cast judgment on them.
13 BREAK: Getting Along Well With People
Reality TV is packed with a lot of major egos. Even the more laid-back types can still get pretty upset if they feel a spot is being threatened. The Overhaulin’ crew is no different and they have certainly clashed with others. The battle of Chip Foose and Boyd Coddington is still legendary, as the two had a major falling out with some bad attitudes. There have also been conflicts with other reality TV shows. More common was how some of the car owners didn’t take how the jobs were done nicely and would often criticize the crew. While getting along well with others is smart, the Overhaulin’ crew often got on the bad side of a lot of people.
12 FOLLOW: Work Through the Night
While a few things about the show may be fake, a very true thing of Overhaulin’ is that they have just eight days to complete a job. This means the crew often had to do overtime to get builds completed. The series actually downplays how the crews would often need to work through the night, with little to no sleep, in order to get the overhauls done on time. Unlike other reality TV shows, Overhaulin’ didn’t pretend a huge makeover can be done in a single afternoon. It goes in depth to show hard it is getting the parts and making these transformations work on a tight schedule. The show may amp up some of the drama but the round-the-clock work is for real.
11 BREAK: Making Some Bad Deals
Like many car TV shows, the Overhaulin’ crew often did work with other garages and companies. Usually, it worked out pretty well, as they got support and sponsorship which helped the jobs out. Yet sometimes, they could make a deal that backfired badly. One of the biggest would be their short-lived partnership with Gas Monkey Garage. Never known for a small ego, Richard Rawlings demanded a lot of promotion for an episode he appeared in. This led to a marketer spamming forums over the episode and producing a very poorly received promotional video. Foose and Rawlings had a raging argument that’s become legendary among reality TV circles. This has terminated the partnership, which was the worst attempt by Overhaulin' to deal with another show.
10 FOLLOW: Chip’s Vision
Chip Foose can be a complex person. His hosting of the show was fun yet his energy could also come off rather annoying. There’s also how he seemed to leave the majority of the real work to others. However, Foose is known as a great car designer who does enjoy working out new versions of great cars. His passion led the show as he really wanted to make these overhauls something exciting that the owners could love. He guided the show and made the crew realize it’s always about the customer first. However the builds may go, the crew always followed their leader’s mantra of ensuring that an overhaul is a work of art.
9 BREAK: Always Please the Customer
“The customer is always right” may be a great mantra for a mechanic shop. However, it doesn’t always work for car makeover shows. True, the majority of the marks were happy to see these dream cars coming out. Yet the show also had many occasions when the owner was not happy with the transformation. It turned out they had been pretty happy with their car the way it was and were not pleased it got an overhaul for no reason. There’s also the fact that these changes affected the value of the car and could saddle the owners with unneeded debts. The show had more success than it did failures yet not everyone was happy with their overhauls.
8 FOLLOW: Amp Up the Drama
It’s well known how “reality” TV is very heavily scripted. Overhaulin’ was no exception. The early episodes did play it straight, with the marks taken for the ride and the makeovers straightforward. However, as time went by, it became more and more obvious just how many situations were amped up for the drama of the show. The scams on the marks got more elaborate and unrealistic, while the conflicts of the crew were clearly being staged. It also led to the idea that, in later years, the marks were totally in on the whole thing and faked their surprise. It’s pretty much a given that any auto makeover show is going to alter reality so it’s no shock Overhaulin’ follows that rule of the genre.
7 BREAK: Follow Every Submission
The process of how to get on the show was always pretty tough. The producers were specifically looking for emotional backstories that could make for great television. That included a lot of “hard luck” people with rough lives who could use a break. Scores of videos were sent in from family members of car owners that usually were just them wanting to play a prank involving the car. That just wasn’t seen as interesting enough for the show to use. It’s obvious how many stories were picked just for the drama of the marks and how much they needed a new car. Indeed, it appears that perhaps only one out of ten submission videos for the series were picked to show how seriously they took the story.
6 FOLLOW: Cars in Running Condition
Now, there have been cases of complaints of some of the marks that a few of the cars did require further maintenance work after they were re-acquired from the show. That is, sadly, a recurring fact of an overhaul, as some bugs always remain. However, the crew prided themselves on ensuring that every car was in great working condition when they were done with it. They went out of their way to see to it that the cars not only looked great but ran well too. They would overhaul the engines and brakes as much as the exterior and do their best to make sure the cars did well. While there could be the odd issues here and there, the crew prided themselves on always making sure a car ran right.
5 BREAK: Freak out the Marks
The key of the show was always the scam on the marks. The team would go through various tricks, from claiming the car had been repossessed for non-payment to even making it look like it was involved in something dubious. In the early seasons, it was clearly for real and the marks often freaked out over what happened. However, the later years made it rather clear that the marks were, in fact, in on the scam. It just seemed too much for some marks to accept that this was happening and go along with it. This was combined with the scripted drama to ensure that many of “marks” were willing participants, clearly breaking the rule of keeping them in the dark.
4 FOLLOW: The Mark Pays Taxes
It’s an ugly secret of car makeover shows that the producers never want to admit but these changes can be so great that they also affect a car’s overall value in a big way. That involves the car owner being forced to report these changes to the authorities, especially when it comes to the taxes. To be fair, the crew always did walk the owner through the process for how they needed to report the new status and handle the move to a higher value for their car. Sadly, the show didn’t have to pay any of the cost themselves, despite how they were the cause of it. While the renovations were free, the costs could hit the pocketbook hard.
3 BREAK: Auctioning Off Rides
One would assume that the rides were always loved by the owners and accepted. The reality would be a bit different. Too often, the cost of keeping these cars with all the new modifications was too much for the owners to take. There was also how some owners realized that a newly renovated car with so many fresh modifications could be a great item to sell. Once the car was out of the show’s hands, they had no say in what could be done with it. Therefore, an owner could easily break a rule of keeping the car and instead auction it off. But while the crew probably wasn’t happy with it, they couldn’t argue.
2 FOLLOW: Only 8 Days to Build a Car
Car makeover shows are infamous for playing around with time. It will often seem like a massive job is done in just a single afternoon or a simpler job taking longer. However, the reality of Overhaulin' was that they gave themselves an eight-day limit to complete each job. In some cases, that wasn’t too bad and the car could be done in half that time. Other jobs were far more complex and pushed the crew to the limit. The time limit was set to challenge the group and enhance the drama of the series. No matter how the show altered it, the eight-day limit was always the same and would often challenge the crew majorly as they worked the jobs out.
1 BREAK: Environmentally Conscious
A lot of TV car makeover shows tend to go for cars that don’t exactly conform to the “environmentally conscious” trend. Overhaulin’ is no exception, as they’ll often tackle muscle cars or other vehicles that are pretty big gas guzzlers. They then add on makeovers like more advanced engines, some nice pipes, and scores of other modifications that can alter the performance. The idea is always to make it into a “dream car” for the mark and quite often, those dreams put the environment in second place. While a few cars may be better suited than others, the fact is that EPA regulations were often ignored when the crew did these makeovers.
Sources: Car and Driver, Wikipedia, and Reddit.