The Discovery Channel’s Fast n’ Loud is a show about Gas Monkey Garage proprietor and businessman Richard Rawlings and his crew as they transform bad cars into nice, profitable customs. It’s not all fun on wheels, however. The Gas Monkeys have squabbled among themselves, feuded with other shows, and made some sudden staff changes.
It’s no secret that reality is to reality TV what food is to fast food. Through on-set coaching, weird guidelines for participants, or just straight-up deceptive editing, the stuff that gets to our screens bears about as much resemblance to real life as a burger does to a cow.
That’s probably part of why networks typically use the term “unscripted” now. However, that hardly changes the fact that we’re dealing with a heavily processed product.
Fast n’ Loud isn’t immune to these usual manipulations. Like other programs, it has its share of behind-the-scenes shenanigans that the producers do all they can to keep out of viewers’ living rooms.
It has fewer than other shows, to be fair. Howeverm it does have some things the producers and network would rather viewers not see.
Here are the 15 Secrets You Didn’t Know About Fast N’ Loud.
15. Beef with Jesse James
The early days of Fast n’ Loud included some sparring between Rawlings and fellow customizer and Monster Garage star Jesse James. This is the natural byproduct of manly men when they aren’t doing manly things like working on cars and peeing on cement.
If you can stand listening to a segment from professional gossip vultures TMZ, here’s what Rawlings said about James. If you can’t stand it (and we don’t blame you), his charges include claiming that his rival was “in Texas trying to act like a Texan.”
James responded shortly after, having a dump truck full of horse manure delivered and deposited in Gas Monkey’s driveway.
The Fast n’ Loud cameras captured this for airing because producers probably didn’t catch the metaphorical ramifications of filming and broadcasting literal piles of feces.
14. Rawlings’ public marriage troubles
Marriage and divorce are no huge surprises when we’re talking about celebrities. However, Rawlings’ romantic history is more interesting than most. He’s been married three times, but only two women are involved.
His first, which was to Karen Grames, ended after a year, and he married Suzanne Marie Mergele in 1999. The two split 10 years later, and Rawlings is pretty open about what happened.
“I’m traveling,” he said in a 2015 interview, “I’m gone, and, of course, there are lots of girls out there.”
This happened in the busy time when he was hustling to build Gas Monkey and Fast N’ Loud, and it’s a common enough story. However, in 2015, they worked through their differences and remarried, and they’re still together now. It’s a lot to go through with so many people watching, but hopefully it works out this time.
13. Tom Smith and Jordan Butler’s firing
Smith wasn’t the only “problem” employee at Gas Monkey Garage. Fans of the show might have wondered why both he and fellow mechanic Jordan Butler suddenly disappeared from the air. The short version is that Rawlings fired them both on the same day– and it’s not just because Tom kept having to go outside.
The longer version comes from Smith himself, who claims that he and Butler left over an incident involving one of their boss’ fancy cars. He says that a fan arrived at the garage and wanted a picture next to Rawlings’ Rolls-Royce.
The mechanics agreed, but the manager on duty didn’t.
Reportedly, he asked, loudly, that they “get the f*ck away from the car,” and Smith, in turn, requested that he “chill the f*ck out.”
The fan had cystic fibrosis, but that wasn’t enough to save the guys’ jobs.
12. Gas Monkey Bar & Grill’s counterfeit booze bust
The Gas Monkey Bar & Grill in Dallas showed up in a 2015 report from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission that casts doubt on its business practices.
The “Bottoms Up” sting operation investigated bars in the Dallas and Fort Worth area to make sure that everything they served was delivered as the proprietors had advertised.
Five establishments showed up on the naughty list, and the Gas Monkey was among them. One of their samples of high-end Patrón Tequila that investigators collected tested as fake, but the restaurant denies that it did anything wrong.
“Not only is that unethical, but also because it puts too much at risk — our liquor permit and our reputation are only two examples,” general manager Alex Mendonsa said. “We are too high-profile to take such extreme measures to save a few nickels.”
11. Tom Smith’s special child-like rules
Former Fast N’ Loud cast member Tom Smith was one of the more interesting people in the Gas Monkey crew. By that we mean that he is mostly annoying. It isn’t just us saying that, either. Tom’s coworkers had to establish special rules for when he just got a little too Tommish for their needs and sanity.
In an intro video, office manager Christie Brimberry shares the staff’s special methods for handling the talented but unruly mechanic. A fan asks, “How do you cope with Tom?” and the response does not sound like Brimberry is describing a grown man.
“I have to remind Tom that he is inside, otherwise if I don’t he gets really loud and obnoxious — like a really bad hyper-active kid,” she says.
“So, we have to kick him out. Those are the only two options. It’s either shut up or go outside.”
10. The Foxwoods restaurant that hasn’t opened yet
Rawlings is, before all else, a businessman. When he’s not making Fast N’ Loud, he’s looking for other ways to expand his personal brand. Like many entrepreneurs, he’s taken a shot at the food industry.
One of his eateries was supposed to be at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut. We don’t know that it’ll never happen, but it has had some trouble– and by that, we mean that a bunch of companies are suing each other over the place.
The reality show star isn’t involved in any of this; it’s all disagreements between contractors, the construction company, and the casino itself that have stalled the project.
Foxwoods still has a “Coming Soon” placeholder page for the restaurant, which is called Richard Rawlings’ Garage. It’s just as well because that name doesn’t really say “come eat here” to us.
9. Rawlings’ restaurant has some bad associations
The Foxwoods fiasco wasn’t Rawlings’ only shot at opening a restaurant. A fully functioning Richard Rawlings’ Garage is up and running in Harker Heights, Texas, and the building it occupies has some bleak associations.
It originally housed a Twin Peaks restaurant, but that’s not even the saddest thing that’s happened to it. The franchiser ordered the company that owned and operated the restaurant to shut it down in September 2015.
Five months earlier, the sister location in Waco (operating under the same franchisee) was the site of a massive gunfight between rival biker gangs in which nine people died and 20 suffered injuries.
This doesn’t directly reflect on the building that the Garage currently resides in, but it seems like it wouldn’t have been available without the shootout.
Now it is home to Rawlings and his Gas Monkey gang.
8. Enough fired employees to cast a spin-off
Losing their gigs at Gas Monkey wasn’t the end for Smith and Butler or even their TV careers. The went on to appear on the Fast N’ Loud spinoff Misfit Garage, which has the same basic car-flipping premise but with way less Richard Rawlings. He still appears from time to time because he’s a producer and the new garage’s landlord.
It’s basically the same show with a much lighter tone. That works because it’s not always that interesting to just watch a bunch of dudes geek out about the biggest engine they’ve ever seen before they effortlessly drop it into whatever they’re building.
This is still a weird premise. It’s like if Fox made a show in which the first five contestants who chef Gordon Ramsay kicked off of any season of Hell’s Kitchen opened a restaurant. However, if we’re honest, it makes for some good TV.
7. Rawlings and a CGI monkey made the worst ads of all time
It’s a pretty big claim to declare that the “Dodge Law” ad campaign is one of the worst we’ve ever seen. Have you seen most commercials? They’re all pretty awful, but we’re confident here because the central premise is all kids of terrible.
The idea is that Richard Rawlings and his computer-generated monkey pal are partners enforcing “Dodge Law,” which states that not only is the entire brand exclusively for men, but it’s also for real men.
So the ads show the “officers” dragging guys out of their cars and placing them under arrest for eating croissants, doing yoga, or wearing bronzer.
This is because Dodge is a macho brand that makes masculine cars for men’s men.
We assume if the campaign had continued, Rawlings and his primate pal would publicly shame dudes for crying in public or asking for a woman’s input.
6. Producers underplayed the Shart Cat’s transmission trouble
Another of Fast n’ Loud’s most notable rivalries took place between the Gas Monkeys and the hosts of the YouTube channel Roadkill. The hosts of the internet show challenged the garage crew to an eighth-mile drag race between the two creations. The mechanics’ suped-up Dodge Dart, the “Shart Cat,” and won, but it wasn’t easy…
Two episodes cover this race from initial trash-talking to finish, and the Gas Monkey team spends a lot of it trying to get their vehicle to even start. The show depicts some of the issues, but it was actually way worse than what we saw.
What we saw was that the Cat had some issues getting up to speed. However, what didn’t make it to the episode t was that the guys built at least two transmissions and several torque converters from scratch before it worked– and that wasn’t the only trouble.
5. They needed a lot more help with the computer than you thought
The Shart Cat’s other major trouble was with the computer system on the engine. In short, the team stripped out a lot of systems that weren’t necessary to drive an eighth of a mile in a straight line, and the computer wouldn’t let the car start while those connections were missing.
We see them bring in a guy from diagnostic company HP Tuners, and then a group from automotive electronics company Diablosport shows up.
The impression is that after only one late night, everything suddenly works.
However, that’s too simple.
To get the engine to start, Diablosport had to dismantle the computer, modify it, and write new code to trick it into ignoring the missing modules. Their efforts cover about two minutes of screen time, but they put in hours to do something that nobody had ever achieved before. However, that apparently isn’t exciting enough for TV.
4. Aaron Kaufman’s creative frustration
While Rawlings provides the money and plus-sized personality behind Fast N’ Loud, costar Aaron Kaufman was more of the creative force whose ideas transformed the show’s junkers into prestigious, sellable rides.
Fans were surprised when he left the show a year ago, but they were less shocked when he cited some personal and professional differences as part of his reasoning.’
He had other reasons, however, and it was because he felt that the TV format was stifling his creativity. Kaufman uses the show’s relatively extensive Ford Pantera mod from season 8 as a baseline for what he wanted to do.
“I wanted to build cars that were that big or bigger,” Kaufman said in an interview, “and then TV needed cars that were much smaller than that.”
Nobody really leaves Gas Monkey, however– they just get their own shows. His new project, Shifting Gears, premiers on Discovery in March.
3. Those ‘prototype’ Firebirds (that probably weren’t)
A fourth-season episode of Fast N’ Loud had the team stumbling across a truly amazing find: two original Pontiac Firebirds. The show claimed that these were prototypes valued at $325,000, proofs of concept that the motor company used to decide whether they wanted to jump to mass production.
Most amazingly, they discovered these cars in a barn.
That’s a great story for TV, but remember what we said about burgers and cows.
Serious car fans immediately called bull on this. The truth is that these weren’t prototypes at all but standard, consumer-model vehicles. They were the first two off of the line, but that’s not as impressive enough for TV.
The autosleuths also discovered that the cars had sold on eBay for $30,000. They also hadn’t come from a barn. Other than all of this, however, everything on Fast N’ Loud was true… maybe.
2. The promotional image you can’t unsee
It isn’t hard to find the full version of the image above online, but we wouldn’t recommend it. It went out in August 2006 as part of a marketing blast in the Hotrodders Forum to promote a car giveaway at the annual Specialty Equipment Market Association car show.
Apparently the people handling that account thought that the best way to raise some buzz was to include a picture of Rawlings and Gas Monkey shop manager and later Fast n’ Loud costar Aaron Kaufman wearing nothing but bad-boy sunglasses and women’s thongs with “Spank my monkey” printed on them. This campaign went as well as you’d expect.
About a half hour after the original post, a moderator asked that the picture come down, saying, “While [it’s not] technically not against our guidelines, I think that it’s disturbing and weird.” We can’t argue.
1. Richard Rawlings said he was the anti-christ
The post with the offending photo also included a promotional video that further made the giveaway and charity cover story seem like just that. As several forum members suggest in the nearly 300 replies to the original message, the whole thing feels more like a cynical plug for Rawlings’ company and brand than an actual call for help and good-doing.
Beyond that, the video introducing Rawlings and his crew is just embarrassing.
It contains super-edgy content like guys welding without proper protection, peeing in public, and wearing sunglasses indoors. However, one line in particular grabbed more heat than anything else.
“I’m Richard Rawlings, this is my hot rod shop Gas Money [sic] Garage,” he says at the start of the video. “I’m quickly establishing myself as the Antichrist of the hot rod world.”
After the community outrage, SEMA dropped its support and the giveaway was off.
Can you think of any other dark secrets behind Fast N’ Loud? Let us know in the comments!