Motor Trend Network’s “Chasing Classic Cars” has been entertaining gearheads since 2008. It was the only automotive-themed reality television show that debuted on cable TV in Discovery Channel that year, and has captured the hearts of car enthusiasts for over a decade. The show’s longevity could be attributed to the ingenuity and charm of its main star, Wayne Carini – the master car restorer had proven in almost 200 episodes that his restoration skills were second to none, and his impeccable reputation opened the doors of the most exclusive garages of popular car collectors to millions of viewers. While the show enjoyed success in the past 16 seasons, it also had some low moments that fans thought could have officially ended its run.
- 1 Wayne Carini, the master car restorer
- 2 How did “Chasing Classic Cars” start?
- 3 Top car restoration moments in “Chasing Classic Cars”
- 4 Incidents that could have officially ended “Chasing Classic Cars”
Wayne Carini, the master car restorer
The man behind the success of “Chasing Classic Cars,” Wayne Carini, has a lifetime of experience in building, restoring, and upgrading cars.
Not all car-related reality-TV shows could claim that their main star has legitimate extensive knowledge and efficiency in classic car restoration. There was no need for TV producers to be creative in showing a padded résumé, just to make their main star incredibly competent in the eyes of the viewers. His experience in tinkering with cars could be traced way back to when he was in grade school, but his grooming on classic car appreciation actually started when he was nine months old.
His first car show
His parents, Rosemary and Bob Carini, told him that they brought him along to his first car show when he wasn’t even a year old. They went to Detroit with a restored Model A on a trailer, as his father was a classic car restorer. After that event, Wayne would be dragged by his parents to the annual events such as the Hershey Antique car show in Pennsylvania organized by the Antique Automobile Club of America.
Wayne said that he didn’t have any choice, since it was his father’s profession, and since Bob was so into the Hershey annual event, their whole year was focused on restoring around two to three cars that they would take there.
Trained by his father, Bob Carini, co-founder of Model A Restorers Car Club of America
Wayne said that he was lucky that his father made sure he had first-hand experience on the ins and outs of the car restoration business, and not just in theory. For instance, back then, he assisted his father as they plotted all the locations of the Ford dealers around an area that they would be visiting, so that they could acquire all the parts that the stores were willing to let go. They did things differently in the 1950s, as most of the dealers just stored brand new parts of a Ford Model A somewhere in the attic or a barnyard, as most of them thought that they were now junk, and eventually forgot about them. When they hit those stores and asked if they still had those parts, the owners were willing to sell them at a very cheap price, as they didn’t know what to do with them. His father was able to sell them for 10 times their original cost, whatever he paid.
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While he was raised in a comfortable lifestyle, Wayne’s father was keen on teaching him the value of hard work when he was in his teens. Instead of playing with friends, he would spend around three to four hours in his father’s auto shop after school, to help clean and sand parts along with watching the mechanics and technicians while they worked.
How he chased cars back then
Wayne learned from the best, and his father’s system in chasing classic cars was, in his eyes, just perfect. Back then, there were no online sites, no social media apps, and no mobile ‘phones to make things easier. It was pure hard work, buying past issues of automotive-related magazines and broadsheets such as Hemmings Motor News and The New York Times respectively. His days would be spent diligently scouring all news or ads on anything about classic cars, and moving on to the right moment to get a bargain price. Most of his life revolved around going to car shows, chasing parts, chasing cars, and then doing the work on classic vehicles.
How did “Chasing Classic Cars” start?
Wayne Carini’s road to stardom wasn’t accidental, unlike most reality-TV stars. When Jim Astrausky, an executive from the production company Essex TV was looking for any automotive-related content that they could present to Discovery Channel, he came upon a July 2006 article about a certain master car restorer from the rural part of Connecticut. Wayne had been featured in the New York Times Sunday edition, covering his fixation on chasing a vintage Hudson Italia. Something about Wayne appealed to Jim and he immediately contacted the restorer.
Wayne was then featured in two of Discovery Channel’s car-related documentaries, “Monterey Week”, and “The World’s Most Expensive Cars.” He was such an authority on classic car restorations, that he was able to give the producers a peek into the world of prestigious car shows and extraordinary car collections. His collaboration was well-appreciated by car enthusiasts, and so it gave Essex TV an idea that Wayne could be the ideal main star of a new automotive reality-TV show they were creating at that time.
He didn’t immediately say yes to the proposal, because he didn’t have any idea of what doing a weekly show entailed, as he wasn’t an actor or equipped to be an effective host. Jim assured Wayne that he didn’t expect him to follow any script, as they wanted the TV show to be as natural as possible.
The premise of the TV series was that they would just follow Wayne in hunting for a classic car, as it was what he normally did in a regular working day, and then in the restoration process with his lead mechanic, Roger Barr, as well as in how he flipped it when it was finished to earn a profit. When it was presented to him that way, he inked a TV deal with them, and “Chasing Classic Cars” made its television debut on 3 June 2008 on Discovery Channel’s Velocity, which was later on rebranded as Motor Trend Network.
Top car restoration moments in “Chasing Classic Cars”
Success didn’t come easy for the TV show, as it took years to get the high TV ratings that they aimed for.
While it wasn’t an instant hit, the slow climb ensured them the longevity that other shows were not able to achieve. They gained loyal viewers over the years, and the appreciation level from these fans increased that by the time social media became common in 2012, an online community of gearheads was constantly talking about them. Here are two examples of how he earned significant profit in “Chasing Classic Cars”:
Herb Chambers long-lost Ferrari Daytona Spyder
Wayne called up his billionaire friend Herb Chambers after he saw a few Polaroids of a 1972 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona Spyder, and compared the chassis number with the paperwork from his database he had of Herb’s long-lost Ferrari – it was a match. He knew Herb would be ecstatic as he found that his first Ferrari had been sitting in a garage for the past 30 years, and was up for sale. They both went to the garage to take a look, and Wayne knew that his friend was hooked the moment they saw the car and its condition.
He still did his work as it was the reason he was there, inspecting it thoroughly, and eventually agreeing to buy it for $1 million. It took Wayne over a year to restore it, as he didn’t want to take any shortcuts, but he never revealed how much he charged his friend for it; fans believed it was quite hefty. The Herb Chambers episode was aired during the first season of the show.
A rare find, a 1921 unrestored Stutz Series K Bearcat
The master car restorer was extremely excited when he learned that there was a rare 1921 unrestored Stutz Series K Bearcat in a Georgia barn, and immediately had it brought to his auto shop for the price of $30.000. To efficiently restore it to its pristine condition, he consulted with Evan Ide, a known Stutz expert. They were able to have it ready for the 2015 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, and even won an award back then. He flipped it for $600,000 at a Bonhams auction.
Incidents that could have officially ended “Chasing Classic Cars”
After the end of every season of “Chasing Classic Cars,” loyal fans experienced a few months of apprehension as they wondered whether it would be back the following year, most especially if there wasn’t any official announcement of the date of its new season premiere. It took time for some network executives to decide, as they still had to make an assessment as to whether a show would be renewed or not; there were times when fans were left grief-stricken as they were kept in the dark as to why their favorite TV show was canceled. Not all TV executives would offer an official explanation as they probably didn’t want to be the bearer of bad news, or they wanted to spare the main cast from the embarrassment of going through the details as to why they decided to end it.
However, most of the time TV fans turned into sleuth hounds, and would investigate the story behind any issue, whether rumored or legitimate, that a TV show encountered to warrant a cancelation. “Chasing Classic Cars” was no different from any of them as cancelation rumors would often surface online. Following are some of the reasons given.
The abrupt disappearance of lead mechanic Roger Barr
Fans loved the chemistry between Wayne and his lead mechanic Roger Barr. They met when Wayne was 10 years old, at a time his father and Roger would support each other’s businesses by referring clients to each other’s shops. All those who had mechanical problems with foreign cars went to Roger’s shop, and those who needed bodywork on their cars went to Bob’s shop. The two had mutual respect, even if they weren’t exactly close friends. Wayne was aware of Roger’s skills, and hired him even though the mechanic was already 65 years old.
When “Chasing Classic Cars” started filming, Roger was automatically included in the package since he was working at Wayne’s shop. The premise of the show was to follow Wayne’s transactions as a car restorer, and Roger would always be consulted on each car project that was tackled in every episode, until one day when he was never seen on the show again. Fans were quite puzzled as to what happened to him, since there was never any indication of trouble in the last few episodes he had appeared in.
Initially, many thought that Roger had medical issues, and so could no longer perform his duties. It was rumored that he suffered an infection acquired while working in the shop. It was the most plausible explanation, and the fans believed it.
However, it seemed that having health issues wasn’t the only reason why Roger left the show. He cleared many misconceptions surrounding him on a Facebook page that his wife and son managed. Basically, he posted an explanation that gave a clear indication of what had happened: ‘I have not retired. I kept asking to come back to work and was told no work.’ Also, ‘In the mail, I received a notice that I was involuntarily terminated.’ -no one from the TV show personally informed him that he was fired. People were shocked that the producers were so incredibly insensitive, to think that he had been part of “Chasing Classic Cars” since its first season.
He further revealed that he was never paid any appearance fee in the show, but only received a regular salary from being Wayne’s employee.
Fans were extremely appalled by it, knowing that the show might not have been successful at the start, but at some point it became a huge hit for Discovery Channel. He also cleared some of the misconceptions that were thrown online about his accumulated net worth, saying it came from someone’s imagination to so misinform the viewers. He didn’t have a net worth of $1.3 million, and needed to work hard to make ends meet. The GoFundMe page organized by a fan became not only his lifesaver, but also a home saver.
Some fans were quite upset about the whole episode, and left comments supporting him on his social media accounts. It could have presented a huge problem for the TV show, as negative comments about any topic could easily be spread these days due to the popularity of social media. However, Roger was not a vengeful person, and didn’t want to dwell on the past. He was not the type to hold a grudge against anyone, but he’d like to have the power tools that he left in Wayne’s auto shop returned. He believed that he might need a lawyer’s assistance to acquire them, so everything would be settled without a hitch.
Fewer episodes aired in a season
The first four seasons of “Chasing Classic Cars” had 13 episodes, and although it increased up to 26 episodes in the seasons that followed, there were some with only 10 episodes or less after that. Each time the number of episodes decreased for a season, fans would automatically wonder if something went wrong, and started dread the possibility of a cancelation. The fewest episodes (only four) that were shown in a season were at the time when Roger Barr was no longer part of the series, but it could also be due to the movement restrictions and quarantine regulations because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Low TV viewership ratings
People often forget that companies in the entertainment industry only survive if they’re doing well financially. The fastest way for a TV show to be canceled was for financial reasons.
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To arrive at that unfortunate decision, network executives would have seen a constant drop in its viewership ratings and it would mean low subscription revenue or advertising profit. “Chasing Classic Cars” was lucky in the sense that its network executives let it slide when it wasn’t an instant hit. Other new shows were axed after a season of two of low TV ratings. Fans never realized that it took Wayne and the TV show years before it reach a 58%-TV rating on its specific timeslot.
The Essex production company had a deal of a lifetime with Wayne Carini when the TV show started. There were reports back then that Wayne’s initial contract with the network indicated that he wouldn’t receive any compensation for hosting the show, as the exposure of his brand would be beneficial enough to bring huge profits to his businesses; this lessened the production cost immensely. It wasn’t clear whether his contract changed when the TV show became successful, but as a result, the TV show lasted longer than the other car-themed reality-TV series except for “Wheelers Dealers.” The ratings might sometimes dip into uncomfortable numbers but they always bounced back. It has become one of the flagship shows in the Motor Trend network.