Out of all the car-centered shows aired in the last two decades, it’s undeniable that “Fast N’ Loud” was one of the most popular and successful ones. Throughout 16 seasons, the staff of Gas Monkey Garage and its owner Richard Rawlings did a good job of not only delivering some of the most amazing car renovations ever shown on TV, but also earning the recognition of auto-lovers all around the world.
While the success of “Fast N’ Loud” could be proven either by its high audience ratings or the premieres of two spin-offs, those achievements weren’t enough to prevent the very-talented main builder Aaron Kaufman from leaving the show and shop altogether in 2016.
Even to this day, Kaufman’s resignation still haunts “Fast N’ Loud” fans to no end, especially given all the rumors surrounding his broken work relationship with Rawlings.
So what happened between Aaron Kaufman and Richard Rawlings and is their friendship in place after all? Stay here to know it all!
Are They Still Friends?
In late 2016 Aaron Kaufman chose to leave Gas Monkey Garage after years of hard work, and countless stunning car builds. That decision didn’t become known by the “Fast N’ Loud” audience until 2017, when Aaron’s in-front-of-cameras resignation in the 10th season marked not only his last appearance in the show, but also the last time we saw him and Richard Rawlings together.
While it’s true that we haven’t seen Aaron and Richard hanging out since said event took place, that doesn’t mean there’s bad blood between them, but that they simply don’t have anything linking each other nowadays. Their professional and personal splitting of ways was most certainly the natural conclusion of a years-long relationship, in which they didn’t always see eye to eye: ‘It’s not that we have an unfriendly rapport. We do. Or did. Do. We just don’t have much of one at all these days,’ were Aaron’s words when asked about it by D Magazine in 2018.
In the same interview but in a different setting, Richard answered the frequent after question about his friendship with Aaron: ‘Everybody thought we were these buddies and everything, and actually (Kaufman) was just my employee from the time he was 20 until two years ago,’ he said, denying once and for all the misconception about him being best friends with Aaron.
How Did Aaron & Richard Meet?
Richard and Aaron worked together for 13 years, but they had known each other for a while before joining forces as a work team. Everything started in the early 2000s, at a time when Aaron had already worked in a handful of bodybuilding and repair shops in his native Fort Worth, Texas.
Richard had commissioned the shop Aaron worked at to fix a car he had recently bought in California. As described by Aaron in an interview with Driving Line, the work was ‘rough’ but was eventually completed. Aaron’s work most likely left an impression on Richard, who contacted him after some time to fix a Mustang Fastback, most likely testing the waters before phoning him again to offer him a spot on the show he was trying to get picked by TV.
To spread the word about the then-newly established Gas Monkey Garage, Aaron and Richard joined car shows and races all over the country while planning the TV show. Unfortunately, the business slowed down at some point and they split ways for the first time in 2009, with Aaron going back to his old car building ways while Richard planned his next big step. Little did they know back then how life would soon be turned upside down.
Starting the Show
Despite the seemingly initial failure of Gas Monkey Garage as a business, Richard Rawlings wasn’t looking for opportunities to have his TV show. The right time came around in 2011 when he came up with the idea of making a sizzle reel, and was quick to invite an unconvinced Aaron to join him for the second time: ‘(I) figured if we were filming for two days, they were gonna buy my lunch for two days. So for two free lunches, I showed up’, as Aaron told Driving Line in early 2016.
Despite having little to no faith in the show, the miracle happened as Discovery’s producer Craig Coffman loved the sizzle reel, and subsequently made it a reality. In June 2012 “Fast N’ Loud” was a reality, but besides the amazing builds done at incredibly high-speed, audiences were attracted by the half-serious half-comedic dynamic between Aaron and Richard, who stuck well together despite their evident differences in personality and style. All of these aspects ensured the show’s renewal for seasons to come.
Why did Aaron Leave “Fast N’ Loud”?
Things at Gas Monkey Garage were going well for quite some time, at least from the viewers’ perception. Not only was “Fast N’ Loud” a highly-rated show, but it also became internationally known, and spawned a couple of spin-offs and collaborations with other big names in the industry, such as “American Chopper” stars.
However, things were different when cameras were off, and Aaron himself can well attest to that. His leave from the show and Richard’s business altogether was a combination of his desire to take an independent route, and his unconformity with the tight work schedules demanded by the TV show. The build featured in the episode “Hot Off the Pantera” was the last straw for him: ‘That was the rub, the crossroads there, I wanted to build cars that were that big or bigger, and then TV needed cars that were much smaller than that’ he admitted in an interview with Art of Gears in 2017, in which he also mentioned ‘personal issues and professional differences of opinions’ in the workplace encouraged him to leave.
Whether those issues were directly or indirectly related to Richard was left to the imagination, but certainly Aaron was feeling out of place in Gas Monkey Garage.
What Happened To The Show After Aaron’s Exit?
Given how important Aaron was for “Fast N’ Loud”, there could have been a variety of negative outcomes for the show following his exit. However, Richard Rawlings is a man who doesn’t let difficulties get in the way of his goals, and that wasn’t going to change even in the midst of his main builder and second star leaving.
Even though Aaron’s absence most likely discouraged his most loyal fans from still watching the show, that didn’t mean the end of “Fast N’ Loud”, as another six seasons premiered after his leaving. Likewise, fans of the show observed the change in dynamics and incorporation of new cast members, but the focus remained on Richard, his drive for success, and cool cars.
Watch Fast N' Loud featuring Richard Rawlings and Aaron Kaufman as they search for tired and run-down cars, and restore them for profit. Thurs-Fri, 9PM. pic.twitter.com/6A5Hp8fzWn
— Discovery Channel India (@DiscoveryIN) November 16, 2017
As he admitted in a 2018 interview with D Magazine, the business and himself were in a good place, despite it all: ‘we’re building better cars than we’ve ever built before, and my shop floor is the most sane, awesome place that I’ve ever seen, and life is a million times better,’ he said.
Regardless of the success of “Fast N’ Loud”, it came to an end in 2020, with Richard saying that he’d achieved everything he’d wanted with the show back then.
Aaron’s New Show & Business
Given all the issues Aaron had during his time in “Fast N’ Loud”, it’s unsurprising that he was quite reluctant to star in other TV shows. As he opened up during an Art Of Gears interview in 2017, the possibility of returning to reality TV hadn’t been dismissed yet, it wasn’t a certainty either: ‘If we go back to building cars on TV, it will be based on the premise fun with cars,’ he said, affirming he wanted to build cars ‘out of imagination’ for people who wanted to drive them, not for business.
Aaron’s next step in the game was founding Arclight Fabrication, his Fort Worth-based auto shop focused on F-150 parts and builds. The business eventually expanded to other niches as well, but retained its focus on trucks.
As well, Aaron’s wish of having a show fitting to his work standards and taste became a reality, with “Shifting Gears With Aaron Kaufman”, his show which premiered in 2018, and ran for two seasons on air. His second show – “Aaron Needs A Job” – premiered in 2019, and centered on his trips exploring the auto-trade industry around the country.
Where Are Aaron and Richard Now?
Despite the end of “Fast N’ Loud” in 2020, Richard Rawlings kept his business up and running just fine. Besides joining a wide variety of automotive events such as races, auctions, and exhibitions, Richard and his current staff at Gas Monkey Garage are now in the content-creation industry. Their online content goes from short videos to contests and pics detailing the process of their builds on Facebook, to a detailed long-video series on YouTube.
For his part, Aaron has been away from Arclight Fabrication for quite some time, to focus on other projects. While it’s unclear if the business still exists, and its social media profiles have been inactive for a couple of years, in February 2023 he confirmed on Instagram to having moved out of his native Texas to Colorado, where he’s pursuing a career in motorsports.
All in all, it’s clear that Aaron and Richard not only weren’t as close as people assumed, but have most likely lost any type of contact with each other. While their fans could still reminisce on their good old times on TV, it’s certain that their separation was for the best, coming at a time when both needed the change.