Doane Yawger: New television shows focus on vintage vehicles

September 1, 2012 

Doane Yawger, Sun-Star reporter

MERCED SUN-STAR

Television shows for car enthusiasts seem to ebb and flow, but now's a very good time to soak up the sights on the electronic baby-sitter.

At least seven current TV shows have liberal footage of vintage vehicles; for me, it's so much better than mindless sitcoms or shoot'em-up crime dramas.

One of the newest and the best, I feel, is "Counting Cars," which airs on the History Channel. Danny "The Count" Koker of Las Vegas buys and fixes up old cars and trucks for resale. His tastes are wide-ranging, from 1960s muscle cars to dune buggies, vintage Camaros, hot rods and showroom stock vehicles.

While he's all about making money, Koker also will add a car to his own collection if the whim strikes. Such was the case with a rundown 1967 Pontiac GTO convertible that the Count's Kustoms crew transformed into a fetching boulevard cruiser. Koker bought a rusted-out 1961 Falcon Ranchero at an auction; the guys turned it into the wildest pool table you've ever seen.

"Fast N' Loud" has been on the Discovery channel for a couple of months. Set in Texas, Gas Monkey garage owner Richard Rawlings and master

mechanic-partner Aaron Kaufmann buy up old cars and trucks.

Some are in pretty good condition and are quickly "flipped" for a profit at auto auctions; others need a complete rebuild and perhaps a transformation from a dull stocker to a dragster or street custom.

They've gone through a number of vintage vehicles, including a 1950 Oldsmobile coupe, 1960 Cadillac four-door sedan, 1952 Ford Mainline drag car, 1932 Pontiac five-window coupe, Model A Ford sedan, 1964 Ford Galaxie and a host of others. Some are done very tastefully while others look more radical.

The "Auction Kings" program from Atlanta's Gallery 63 airs on the Discovery channel. They have auctioned off a number of Corvettes, as well as a Model T, Rolls Royce, 1967 Chevrolet pickup truck and Pontiac Trans-Am, along with more conventional antiques.

The "Auction Hunters" duo of Allen Haff and Ton Jones from Spike TV occasionally will stumble upon some four-wheeled delicacy as they buy abandoned storage lockers. They have found a 1967 GMC pickup, a 1960s muscle car and a vintage land-speed record racer.

Another personal favorite is "American Pickers" airing on the History Channel. Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz wade through barns full of vehicles, including a number of classic cars -- some finished and others still barn-fresh. On previous shows, they bought a 1940 Plymouth and 1968 Fairlane, along with a vintage Airstream trailer and other rolling treasures.

"Pawn Stars" on the History Channel has would-be auto sellers frequently offering the stars some automotive temptation. That's where we first met Danny Koker, who restored a 1957 Chevrolet two-door sedan for the pawn shop patriarch and recently finished a 1968 Ford Mustang fastback like the one Steve McQueen drove in "Bullit."

With all of these shows, one is never sure what will turn up next.

Sometimes the glimpse of an old car or truck is fleeting, but "Counting Cars" and "Fast N'Loud" give you a longer look at the featured subject. These are enough to keep me cemented to the couch for at least a couple evenings during the week.

I still miss the shows involving Desert Valley Auto Parts in Arizona and "Overhaulin'," which ran a couple of years ago, but the current crop of programs is more than I could hope for.

Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or dyawger@mercedsunstar.com.

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