Photo courtesy Discovery

Photo courtesy Discovery

By:  Stephen A. Lawrence

Expensive vintage cars, father/son teams and a little bit of history sounds like a winning combination for a new TV show, but is it enough to compete for that valuable, and ever-diminishing space on your DVR? Rods N’ Wheels, a new reality series that focuses on classic car restoration, premiers on Discovery on Monday, January 27 at 10 p.m.

So what makes Rods N’ Wheels different from the other car shows already on the air? AutoAcademics chatted with Billy Derian and Steve Reck, the stars of Rods N’ Wheels, to find out. Their answer wasn’t as direct as we expected.

Derian and Reck believe that restoring vintage cars that could have ended up in a junkyard is like saving a piece of American history.

“A car can’t be replaced,” Reck said. “I love taking something ugly and turning it into something that puts a smile on your face when you go out.”

“I think of the stories of the people who owned it,” Derian added. “When I see a ’49 [Ford] Woody, I see a drive thru movie, a first kiss, a family. Cars are the backdrop of all of that.”

The first episode of Rods N’ Wheels meets that objective. The cameras follow Derian and Reck, their sons and a few other amusing characters as they work on classic cars at Da Rod Shop in Simi Valley, CA. But what Derian and Reck seemed just as enthusiastic about was the sense of camaraderie the guys in the shop shared. Reck says he and

Photo courtesy Discovery

Photo courtesy Discovery

Derian have known each other for 20 years and all of the guys working in the shop have been friends for a long time, as well.

“We want to show the interactions between fathers, sons and friends,” Derian said. “How cars can bring us all together, it’s not much different than food and culture.”

Derian genuinely sounded excited about the opportunity to work – and star in a television show – with his son, Billy Jr. as he elaborated on what he hopes the show will accomplish.

“There aren’t enough dads mentoring sons,” Derian said. “We want to show the importance of teaching work ethic. If you can take your kid under your wing in his 20s and bring him along, it means a lot.”

Billy Jr. (whose guns apparently scared the sleeves off of his Rod Shop shirt) and Reck’s son Shane (who Derian says could be a great mechanic if his OCD didn’t force him to wear rubber gloves) do a lot of the grunt work, but are trying to prove their worth so they can one day take over the shop. Some of the other players like Mike “The Professor” and the 3’5″ Arty “The Party” are intriguing and could use more time on camera, while others felt like they were – quite literally – along for the ride.

This hour-long premier is not lacking for content, but two layers in the multi-tiered show seemed to stand out for me. First, I wanted to see the transformation of the 1932 Ford 3-Window and the 1968 Camaro, which were the featured vehicles in this episode. Both came into the shop in less-than-desirable condition and they left looking like they belonged on a showroom floor. I just wish the producers could have brought us along for more of that journey from point-A to point-B.

The other aspect that drew me in was Billy Jr. and Shane’s quest to impress their fathers by restoring and selling a beat-up Camaro. My mind was inexplicably torn between rooting for their success and laughing at some of their ill-advised decisions. The feeling that they didn’t really know what they were doing added a dimension that was missing from the more experienced fathers’ half of the episode.

Even with parallel plots, a handful of key players and a restoration process for two separate cars, Rods N’ Wheels squeezed in a few short segments to remind viewers that it’s OK to learn something while they’re watching reality TV. A brief history lesson on each of the featured vehicles emphasized their respective importance to American automotive lore. And a trivia question called “Professor’s Corner” will keep know-it-alls from changing the channel during a commercial break while they wait for the answer.

The guys at Da Rod Shop are likeable and set a strong foundation for the series. Hopefully Rods N’ Wheels will find that perfect balance of content and interesting characters that could make this one of the more memorable TV car shows.

EXTRA CREDIT

Before we let Derian and Reck off the hook, we asked them for a quick tip on buying cars.

“The biggest criteria,” Reck said, “is to make sure of what you’re buying. Check twice. Buying what people say isn’t always what you are getting.”

Check out some teaser clips from the show below.