“Wheeler Dealer” has been one of the most-watched auto-restoration shows for the longest time, since it premiered on 7 October 2003. It initially aired on Discovery Real Time for a British audience, and then on the Discovery Channel beginning in 2011, once it was realized that Edd China and Mike Brewer had gained a huge fan base among car enthusiasts in the United States. Edd’s departure from the series after 13 seasons shocked many of their loyal viewers, more so when it became apparent that there was animosity between the two main stars, and those death threats aimed at Mike and his family. In 2021, with Mike still part of the 17th season of the series while Edd already has his own show, “Workshop Diaries” on YouTube, people are still curious as to what went wrong between the two.
Meet the original cast
Mike’s gift of the gab had led him to become the host of “Wheeler Dealers.”
— Mike Brewer (@mikebrewer) December 14, 2021
It all started back when he was running a snooker hall, and a local car dealer impressed by the way he talked to people, approached him and wanted to hire him. It didn’t take much to convince him as he was interested in cars, having been influenced by his father who was into customizing vehicles. He soon found himself selling cars and making a lot of money in his first week, as he easily sold 15 cars. He believed he’d found his niche, and would be doing this for the rest of his life.
After many years of being successful at his job, he received a ‘phone call from a producer at Channel 4 who talked to him about cars, and then was interested in casting him for a show about them. Being on TV was something he didn’t want or envision, but after six months, the producer finally convinced him to do a screen test for the presenter role. Mike made his TV debut on the British reality series “Deal on Wheels” in 1997, and it was well-received by the viewing public.
After just three weeks on the show, he was invited by a rival network to be on “Top Gear”, so his bosses included him in the show called “Driven,” which did great on the ratings’ game as well.
Edward John China’s expertise as a mechanic led him to assume that role in “Wheeler Dealers.” He grew up fascinated with how everything around him worked, so liked taking things apart to learn their secrets. However, he also learned how to put things back together so as not to earn his mother’s ire. He was good at building or constructing things, beginning with Lego; he never read the instructions, but just looked at the picture and figured out how the pieces went together.
He learned to drive in his mother’s Nissan Bluebird, but his first car was a 1303 yellow VW Beetle, which he bought on a whim. Since he didn’t know anything about cars, he didn’t realize that the beetle had major issues. However, he said that it was what set him on the path of learning to fix VWs, and then all types of vehicles.
With his passion for all things mechanical, and a degree in Engineering Product Design, he soon made a name for himself with his creations that made it into the Guinness Book of World Records. The first was for the fastest sofa with a speed of 140km/h (87mph) in 1998, which he later broke in 2007 at 148km/h (92mph). Casual Lofa, the two-seater, leopard-print sofa with an A-series Mini engine made news, and he was featured in various shows driving this wacky creation. It was something he did just to see if he could build a car that looked nothing like a car, but was still road-legal. He also holds the Guinness’ records for the largest motorized trolley (2005), the fastest office called “Hot Desk” at 140km/h (2006), fastest motorized bathroom called “Bog Standard” at 68km/h (2011), and fastest electric ice cream van at 118km/h (2020).
About the show
How did it start?
When Mike’s contract with Channel 4 expired, he received several offers, but it was the one from Discovery Channel that got him interested, as the network would give him more creative control.
The show was supposed to be entitled “Grand Autos” as the concept was to buy a car and fix it for a grand, and then sell it. At that time, he had a company called Wheeler Dealer Limited, and the network preferred that name for the show.
“Wheeler Dealers” was created by the founders of Attaboy TV, starting as a small production. Mike was in charge of buying and selling cars while Edd was the mechanic, with each of them explaining how they go about their work in detail. After each season, their budget increased but the final cost after restoring the car didn’t include the cost of labor, so the profit or loss wasn’t realistic, even if it was their resident mechanic who was doing the work. Also, at the end credits, they usually had an assistant mechanic listed. Some said that the general idea was for people to do the work themselves, which might be the reason they later included the man-hours that they had put in it. Those who bought cars from the show definitely got the deal of a lifetime.
The biggest ‘profit’ made was around $33,000 (£20,220) with 1964 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray C2 as the previous owner had all the replacement parts, but hadn’t pushed through with the restoration project. Earning this much was quite rare, as they usually only made a small profit, and they also sold cars at a loss, or sometimes donated it for a good cause.
Their most expensive project was the 1916 Cadillac Type 53 Roadster V8, the first of the production V8s. Edd described it as the ‘bucket list car to own and work on,’ so he bought it for $58,000. They had about three months to fix it, as Edd planned to join the Peking to Paris motor rally in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the V8. As crazy as it might sound, they bought a 1918 Cadillac Type 57 for $38,000 to use its parts for the one they were restoring. The final cost was $133,908 and it took 271 man-hours to finish. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to make it rally-ready in time, and they didn’t say if they were able to sell it. Incidentally, this was featured in an episode that marked Edd’s last appearance in the series.
Both realized the extent of their popularity when they were invited by the Discovery Channel to be the hosts of a premier trade show called SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) in Las Vegas. They were overwhelmed by the warm reception of the 10,000 attendees upon seeing them on stage. That was when the bosses of the network realised that they could film the show in the US.
Mike attributed the success of the show to sincerity, as he said, ‘We’ve always kept the show honest, we’ve kept it real. It’s not fake in any way – I really do buy a car, we really do fix it up, I really do sell it.’
What happened between Edd China and Mike Brewer?
On 17 March 2017, the network released a statement: ‘After 13 memorable seasons, Edd China has decided to depart from the Wheeler Dealers series in order to pursue other projects.’ By that time, the show had around ‘several hundred million viewers’ as it was being broadcast in about 220 territories around the world.
After everyone aired their side of the story, the relationship between Edd and Mike deteriorated. The fans were naturally disappointed by this development, and wondered what really happened between the two main stars of the show.
Edd’s side of the story
The events on the last day of filming for season 13 should have clued Edd on what was about to happen to his future on the show, but he didn’t pay much attention to it. He recalled that Mike was driving a red 1973 Chevy Camaro, and after he pulled over, he turned to Edd and said, ‘This is the last Wheeler De…’ only to correct himself and continued with, ‘This could be the last Wheeler Dealers episode we film together.’ It was an odd turn of phrase, but then he observed that Mike had been in a strange mood that day. For whatever reason, Edd didn’t ask Mike what the latter meant. He also learned from a friend that the production company had been screen testing a guy named Ant, but thought nothing of it.
However, when he heard nothing about filming for the next season, he requested a meeting.
He and his wife Imogen, had a conference call with the new production company’s boss Bob Scanlon, the production management, and their lawyer. They informed him about the changes they wanted to make, such as reducing the number of episodes per year by half as the show was ‘too difficult to make at the current level.’ Ultimately, what this meant was that they would halve his yearly fee. Edd was naturally at a loss for words and then it dawned on him that it would render his contract null and void. When he pointed it out, they said he would just have to sign a new contract with them, but if he didn’t agree to it, they already had a potential replacement in mind. He didn’t hesitate, and took this opportunity to be free from his contract.
Edd addressed several issues that came out regarding his exit from the show through a video he posted online. He apologized for leaving “Wheeler Dealers”, explaining that he was uncomfortable with the direction that the new producers, Velocity, wanted to take the show, such as limiting the detailed coverage of the repair or restoration process of the car.
Edd also said that being asked to cut corners would compromise the quality of his work. ‘Leaving the show at the height of its success has been a really tough decision to make, but I believe the time is right for me to spread my wings,’ he admitted.
Many wondered if the relationship between Mike and Edd was beyond repair. In 2017, Edd was positive that they were going to continue to be friends in the future but said, ‘Is he my favorite person right now? Probably not, and I know for sure that I’m not his, but that’s okay,’ and added, ‘We’re both adults. We’ll get over ourselves. We’ll get past this and then we’ll be fine.’
Mike’s side of the story
Mike’s initial statement revealed how upset he was that Edd left the show, saying that they had formed a close bond but that he respected his co-star’s decision to move on to other things, and even admired him for that. However, after Edd’s video statement was released, some fans directed their anger at Mike via social media, and he and his family even received death threats.
For Edd’s part, he addressed this issue and said. ‘That really is not cool. We’ve just had a slight disagreement on how the show should be made. Nobody needs to die over this.’ He added that part of the reason why the show was a success was due to their on-screen chemistry. Having very different backgrounds and different ways of doing things created tension, but it worked well for the show.
Mike couldn’t help himself as he answered some of the fans’ accusations as he tweeted. ‘Edd left, didn’t say, just abandoned the show and then trashed it after 13 years…who’s the traitor?’ but deleted it afterward. He countered Edd’s claims and said that no one including Discovery Channel had ever suggested reducing the filming of the workshop aspect of the series. He also didn’t know that Edd would be leaving, as the latter never told him, and it was five months later when Ant did a screen test.
In a later interview, Mike described working with Edd through the years as ‘bouncing along quite happily’ but that it all changed during the final season he had with his co-star.
He observed that during the filming of the 13th season, Edd had become angrier and more frustrated with how the show was being produced, and would take it out on the crew. He said that Edd was a brilliant mechanic but that what the latter wanted was to work less; it didn’t help that they were filming in California, and the temptation to spend more time at the beach rather than in the workshop had been strong. However, “Wheeler Dealers” required working long hours, six days a week.
He revealed that ‘There was no arguing, we never shouted, we never rowed, he wasn’t sacked, he wasn’t pushed, he wasn’t tricked, he wasn’t cheated – none of that stuff.’ It was just a case of Edd having had enough of the show. Years passed and Mike still found social media to be a toxic environment, as some fans hadn’t moved on and continued to post disgusting and rude comments directed at him – seemingly they wanted him to leave the show as well.
What became of Edd and Mike?
Edd joined YouTube back in 2010 but he would post sporadically as he was busy with “Wheeler Dealers” at that time. He did an “Ask Edd” series in 2017, and then “Edd China’s Garage Revival” the following year, but it didn’t get past the pilot episode. In April 2021, he launched “Edd China’s Workshop Diaries”, featuring himself and his team of mechanics as they worked on various cars at his workshop in Buckinghamshire. ‘I’m really excited to finally be able to bring this project to our fans, as it’s something they repeatedly have been asking for,’ he said. He has nearly 880,000 subscribers, and his videos accumulated more than 38 million views. Edd has also become an author, with his autobiography, “Grease Junkie: A Book of Moving Parts,” originally published in May 2019.
Wheeler Dealers Mike Brewer and Edd China wrap a fun day's filming, after giving this VW Corado a good thrashing round our MK circuit!
Mike starred in the 2013 spin-off series, “Wheeler Dealers – Trading Up,” as he traveled across the globe buying and selling cars with the ultimate goal of being the owner of a supercar. In another spin-off series called “Wheeler Dealers: Dream Car,” which premiered in January 2020, he and an ex-Formula One mechanic named Marc “Elvis” Priestly teamed up to help people get their dream car with a maximum of five car trades.
He continued to be the presenter of the original show, with Ant Anstead as the mechanic. When the show moved back to the UK, Ant decided to stay in the US, and the producers cast Marc to be his replacement starting in season 17, which finished airing in November 2021.
In his Instagram post, Mike wrote, ‘I am very proud of Wheeler Dealers and how far we’ve come. 18 years continuous programming is a real milestone,’ and added, ‘Full respect to those who came before, but utter respect to those that came after.’