Motor mastermind Richard Rawlings once worked in advertising, but always knew that his true passion was cars. Almost a decade ago, he opened Gas Monkey Garage and began scouring the country for cars to flip. After years of building a solid reputation and with his mechanical prodigy Aaron Kaufmann at his side, he became one of the businesses best known names.
Now, his adventures turning diamonds in the rough into sparkling auto treasures will be documented in Discovery Channel’s new show “Fast N’ Loud.” Fox411 caught up with Richard to discuss the show, his adventures with his garage team and why America can’t get enough of classic cars.
Fox411: How did the show come about?
Richard Rawlings: Since I started Gas Monkey Garage, I thought in the back of my mind that there might be a market in television for the world of flipping cars. So I was always asking how I got started and networking. Finally it came together, and now we are going to be on Discovery.
Fox411: You previously ran a printing and advertising company, then sold it to open Gas Monkey Garage. Can you tell us about that process? Did you envision this type of success?
RR: I’ve always been a big dreamer. When I made the decision to own my own shop, I always knew I was going to keep aiming for the top and being the best I could be. But it was a process. I started with building world renowned cars and that got us the attention of developers. But it’s been a long roll – eight and a half years, but we knew it would happen. You always have to aim for the top and keep aiming for the top in the things you do. I’ve always been that kind of person.
Fox411: Many people are familiar with flipping houses, but maybe not as much with flipping cars. How do you find the cars, and is it all that different?
RR: It’s a tricky process. No one person can know everything about cars, but you absolutely have to do your research and have a strong knowledge of cars. You have to know about the market. And equally important, you have to have the guts to take the bet and gamble. There are a lot of guys out there that do this and if you hesitate for a second, you can lose out on a big opportunity.
So you have to make a decision. If you make a good one, great, you can make a great profit. If not, you have to know when to cut your losses and free up your space and your budget quickly. Obviously, you hope for more wins than losses.
Fox411: Where do you find the cars?
RR: My day is filled with trying to find a few cars. We always have at least one big build project at the garage, which is how we make our money.
But my typical day starts at 530 a.m. I comb through websites, typing in dates of cars, looking at everything I haven’t seen before. I do that for a few hours in the morning, then again in afternoon. But as I developed a good reputation, I’ve had a lot of people call me .
There are a lot of people who want to be in the hobby, but they don’t have ability to buy or the skills to revamp it, so in cases like that I will give them a small finder’s fee.
Fox411: What’s the negotiation process like?
RR: There are three different kinds of people who are selling: People need to get off the car, people who know what they have and want a retail price for it, and then people that have something great but they don’t care and don’t want to sell. You have to gauge their mindset and go from there. And another challenge is that with TV and the internet, a lot of ppl think they have something more valuable than it actually is. But I always try to be as fair and honest as possible.
Fox411: What’s the biggest challenge when fixing up one of these cars?
RR: Rust can really hurt the process – it is just too time consuming to fix. The biggest challenge is finding a car in a timely enough manner to still be able to turn it over and make a profit.
Fox411: Who’s your biggest customer?
RR: It varies. On our big cars, which we build from ground up, there’s often an emotional attachment -- a car their grandpa had, or one that the high school jock had and they couldn’t afford it then but now they can. Every car has a following and so there is always a customer waiting for each car.
Fox411: Can the average person maybe buy one of these class cars and use it as their everyday vehicle?
RR: It takes a bit of mechanical inclination, but absolutely. But I hope the show helps in the larger scheme of the hobby of restoring cars. We don’t have a 2 million dollar building. It’s a little shop with three guys. I want that guy laying on his couch to see what we do and say, ‘hey, I’m gonna go work on that TransAm. ‘ I want people to see it’s not above their heads.
Fox411: If someone wants to buy their classic dream car, what’s the most important thing to do and where should they look?
RR: They should call me, first of all. But if you are doing a negotiation on a car and your gut instinct is that it’s something shady, move on. It’s not going to be the only one out there. Don’t get emotional on it and make a bad business decision as a result. I’ve seen a lot of people get hurt doing that. You have to do your research.
We love hearing those calls and helping people out, so they can definitely call us!
Fox411: Why do you think there is such a love for classic cars?
RR: I really believe that America was centralized when the car came along. It allowed Americans to go anywhere and so a car is a symbol of the ultimate freedom. You can just get in your car and go. I think a lot of it is the freedom of being able to go and do, it’s liberating.
“Fast N’ Loud” premieres Wednesday night at 10 p.m. on Discovery.