Doane Yawger: A renaissance of vintage car shows

October 6, 2012 

Doane Yawger, Sun-Star reporter

MERCED SUN-STAR

For people who like television programs about old cars, it just gets better and better.

Imagine my surprise Monday night when I discovered one of my all-time favorite TV programs, "Overhaulin'," was back on the air after a long hiatus.

That show, which featured famed auto designer-builder Chip Foose, ran for several seasons and then was discontinued a couple of years ago. The new episode this week still has Chris Jacobs as the co-host alongside Foose and his young son.

The theme of the show remains the same: A group of mechanics rebuild an old car for a deserving but unsuspecting person and then present it to him or her at the end of the program.

The new show featured an Iraq war veteran who had to sell his 1965 Chevy to help with expenses for his new baby. The show's producers bought the car back from the guy who purchased it and spent a week completely rebuilding the vehicle for our unsung hero.

Foose is a super-talented designer who has fashioned eye-catching rides worth more than a million dollars.

Usually there's some prank or chicanery involved in the building of the project car, and more exposure to the ins and outs of vintage vehicle parts and construction than auto enthusiasts deserve. I can't wait for more episodes to air on the Discovery Channel. It's heartwarming and emotional at times.

Another surprise from a month or so ago is called "Texas Car Wars." It involves teams of car builders who buy derelict vehicles at auctions in vast Texas junkyards. The show then follows these people as they try to rebuild and restore the bedraggled car or truck, with the winning shop determined by which one sells its project for the biggest profit.

In at least one case, it turned out the original 1965 Ford Mustang being considered had been stolen at some point and had an altered vehicle identification number. It was seized by law enforcement and the bidders were out more than a thousand bucks.

In most cases, however, the shops had success. They brought back to life an early 1950s Packard four-door sedan, a 1963 Ford pickup truck, a vintage Jeep and other vintage gems. For an old car buff, it's great entertainment as cameras pan these massive automotive dismantling centers.

Of course, there's the obligatory drama and sometimes strife as the auto builders interact with each other, confront various challenges and then try to sell their new pride and joy for the most profit.

I'm still enamored with two other old car TV programs: "Fast N' Loud" and "Counting Cars," where antique and collectible vehicles are located, purchased, rebuilt and sometimes sold. They are shows that can be watched over and over, and I'm glad to oblige.

Old car fanciers should treasure this particular time. Interest in hot rods, custom and vintage vehicles is a niche hobby, not a mainstream interest, so I'm grateful for all the recent network attention.

I can't remember any other time with so many captivating programs to watch.

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

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