The reality-television show “Iron Resurrection,” gave Shorty Ponce a platform to show his skills as a mechanic and a painter. The weekly TV show which premiered in April 2016 was part of the automotive series offered by Discovery Channel’s Motor Trend TV network. For three seasons, viewers watched him and the Martin Bros Customs team bring back to life dilapidated, near-death vehicles of all sizes and types. The show went on a one-year hiatus in 2019, and when it was back on TV for a fourth season in 2020, fans were surprised that Shorty was no longer included in the cast.
- 1 Shorty Ponce before “Iron Resurrection”
- 2 “Iron Resurrection,” the reality-TV show
- 3 A background on Martin Bros Customs
- 4 His three-year journey with “Iron Resurrection”
- 5 The real reason Shorty quit “Iron Resurrection”
- 6 Where is Shorty and what was he busy with after “Iron Resurrection”
Shorty Ponce before “Iron Resurrection”
There weren’t many specific details about Shorty’s growing-up years as he rarely talked about them. He was born Javier Ponce on 26 July 1964 in Mexico, and his family migrated to the US when he was four years old, seeking the American dream.
Almost didn’t finish high school
He quit school when he was in seventh grade, because he found a job – his parents didn’t have a problem with that and were quite happy for him, as it was an achievement back in Mexico that a young kid would know more about responsibility early in life. The parish priest, who was close to the family because Shorty spent many years as an altar boy, came for a visit, and the young Shorty was quite excited to inform him about his good news. However, the priest was annoyed, and talked to his parents, telling them that they were no longer in Mexico, and needed to change their mindset.
The next day Shorty was back in school, but feeling bad about it until the school celebrated Career Week. He saw a brochure about an automotive school with a photo of a young kid looking under the hood of a car; he inquired about it and was told that high school graduates could have the opportunity to study in the automotive program; this was the main reason he finished high school, saying that the priest and the brochure changed his life.
Quit a good-paying job to open his own shop
He worked for a huge corporation for several years, and when he was 30 years old promised himself that he would start his own business by the time he was 33. Over the time he spent working for a company, he saw other skilled and loyal colleagues being replaced in their jobs when the younger generation went gunning for their positions. Shorty didn’t want to be in a situation like that, so made concrete plans to achieve a more solid future.
In 1997, a year after he left a well-paying job, he was struggling to make ends meet, especially since his wife was still in school at that time. While he was able to accumulate tools when he was still working for other people, it was still quite hard for him to pay the bills along with the expense of building his own business from scratch. He opened a company called Elite Autoworks Inc. while doing business as DBA Shorty Custom Paint. For a year or so, there were times when he questioned his decision because he was under a lot of stress, but at the same time felt good about the idea of not working for anybody else.
To make new clients come to him, he slashed his service fee almost in half, which was harder in those days because business practice was that a quote would be given for the whole job, and many times it would turn out to be tedious and lengthy; now everything’s easier, as work would be billed by the hour.
Fortunately, there were some guys from a huge dealership Shorty previously worked for who approached him with an offer he couldn’t refuse. They sent him most of the work he did when he was still with them, and that was between 40 to 50 cars in a month, saying later that it was what basically helped him to pay for his shop and upgrade his standard of living. He also made sure to accept lengthy jobs on the side, such as restoration projects that would last six months to a year, depending on the client’s payment scheme, just to remain competitive and on top of the game.
In 2013, he slowly started to veer away from doing collision work, and focused more on customization.
Shorty's paint jobs are off the charts. 📈 pic.twitter.com/mnMuq7Y4Nl
— MotorTrend TV (@MotorTrendTV) October 14, 2018
By the time he was approached by Martin Bros Customs to do the TV show with them, he was more than ready for it, although he needed to talk to some of his clients first, since he could no longer work on the restoration projects as much as he used to. However, his clients assured him that they would wait for him to finish the job, even if it took longer than they initially agreed upon.
“Iron Resurrection,” the reality-TV show
The automotive-themed reality-TV series, “Iron Resurrection,” chronicled the significant transactions in the auto restoration and customization shop called Martin Bros Customs. They specialized in taking in those vehicles which seemed to be beyond repair, and turned them into something that could run again in the streets. The owner of the shop, Joe Martin, was also a master fabricator and mechanic; his wife Amanda along with Jayson “Shag” Arrington hunted all the barnyards and garages for the right vehicles to work on, and for those rare parts to complete a project.
The other main crew members were welder and mechanic Michael “Mike” Zabonic, and fabricator and paint specialist Shorty or Short Dawg.
Initially, some viewers thought that the premise of the show was similar to MTV’s “Pimp My Ride,” but after watching some episodes, they realized that it was far superior to that other show. The big difference was that in “Iron Resurrection,” the Martin Bros crew focused on working not only on the exterior of each car, but also spent the same amount of time under the hood, ensuring that the vehicle not only looked great, but its engine, brakes, suspension and all-important parts were in excellent working condition. It made its television debut in April 2016. and became one of the favorite TV shows aired on the Motor Trend streaming network.
A background on Martin Bros Customs
The automotive restoration and customization shop called Martin Bros Customs, located in the Texas Hill Country, was created when Joe Martin along with his brother Jason started working on motorcycles. It didn’t take long for them to hire extra people, as there were more jobs to take on as motorcycles were numerous.
Then in the fall of 2008, the US economy tanked with borrowers defaulting on mortgages that eventually caused havoc in financial markets, leading to the global great financial crisis, and recession. The shop downsized and a lot of employees were let go. Some of his friends came to lend a hand, and gave their services for free just so they could stay afloat until the economy stablised.
His three-year journey with “Iron Resurrection”
Joe Martin and his crew’s mantra each episode was that ‘they hunt the rusted wrecks, knock out the ugly, put in the cool, and turn those buckets of rust into street art.’
Shorty’s first episode with the show’s first build
Shorty’s appeared on the show from the first episode, entitled “Texas Two-Step”, featuring a restoration project on a 1962 Chevrolet C10 Shortbox Fleetside. The pickup truck was fully disassembled up to its naked frame, as it needed a lot of work to make it run again and look good at the same time. The cab was given a new 350 4bbl V8 paired with a fresh TH350 3-speed automatic transmission, tilt steering column, and power front disc brakes with custom air ride, along with a stunning interior including well-crafted custom seats.
Following a sketch design drawn by Joe Martin, Shorty did his magic by sandblasting it meticulously, and then sprayed it efficiently with a two-tone House of Kolor paint from front to back.
The 1970 Chevy truck perfect black paint job
During the “Grim Reaper” episode in the second season of “Iron Resurrection,” Shorty was given the daunting task of painting black the cab of a 1970 Chevy truck. Shorty said that painting a vehicle in black especially the large panels was even more difficult, as every flaw in the bodywork would show, such as imperfect filler, dents, or waviness. He couldn’t stress it enough that when one chose the color black, one had to do whatever it takes to make it perfect, because it could make or break a painter’s reputation. The time and effort spent would be doubled as compared to a regular color paint job, as everything had to be done meticulously. However, Joe wasn’t worried because Shorty had tons of experience, and he did an impressive black paint job on the truck cab; the client was delighted with the result.
Never had a problem with the owner or any other crew member
Other automotive-themed reality-TV shows relied on scripted drama or staged scenarios with all the swearing, punching and yelling matches to gain higher TV ratings, but “Iron Resurrection” was quite different. The show became a favorite of gearheads, without having to resort to any gimmickry. Shorty said that he was lucky to be included in a show with good-natured people who possessed a great sense of humor, along with a calm and talented boss. They didn’t always have a perfect working day in the shop, but never experienced people shouting angrily at each other when a problem occurred. They butted heads when their opinions about how to go about rebuilding the vehicle clashed, but they always agreed to disagree. The viewers and TV insiders noticed how different the culture inside the Martin Bros Customs shop was compared to garages featured in other shows. Joe said that he always tried his best to keep his cool, even when he was frustrated, and it was a conscious effort on his part never to show any major negative reaction if things went wrong in the show. He was pretty much aware that the TV crew would automatically be on him, and he didn’t want the focus to veer away from the rebuilding process.
Shorty created magic in an 82-year relic, a 1935 Chevy Master
In 2017, when a client dropped a 1935 Chevrolet Master with Suicide Doors in the shop, all crew members including Shorty were excited and impressed, saying that he rarely had the chance to work on cars that were made of wood and metal. Even Joe was transfixed with the rare beauty, since it was the first time that his shop had worked on that type of car – they called it the mafia-like gangster car. Shorty was fascinated that the doors were made with a system very similar to today’s screen doors; it posed a challenge for him, but he didn’t back down from it, saying that it was a learning experience for him. When it was time to paint the vintage car, Shorty got the right mix of color, that was quite close to the hue from a photo that the client provided. He initially sprayed the car in black so that they would use less paint of the final color, and would help to make the shiny root beer color pop out. When it was finished, Shorty said that if he had a tail, it would be wagging as the finished product looked phenomenal.
The real reason Shorty quit “Iron Resurrection”
Everything was going great for the TV show, and so when the fourth season came out, many fans were disappointed that Shorty didn’t make a single appearance. At first there was no official explanation as to why, so there was a lot of speculations, as nothing seemed out of place during the airing of the third season, and even during their interviews at several car conventions and tradeshows that the crew attended in 2018, such as the annual Specialty Equipment Market Association or SEMA. “Iron Resurrection” had a high reputation for not having any personal drama, so people continued to wonder what happened between Shorty and the Martin Bros Customs owner.
Both Shorty and the producers of the TV show eventually addressed the many speculations about it, when fans kept on asking through several social media platforms. Apparently, Shorty felt he that needed to set his priorities right, most especially since he became a new grandfather at that time. His home along with his own shop was located in Austin, about a three-hour ride from the Martin Bros Customs headquarters where they filmed the episodes for the show.
He had to choose whatever was best for his family, and while he was heartbroken that he couldn’t continue to work with Joe and the rest of the crew, as he treated them as family, he said that it was time to be with his immediate family. For those fans who had been asking if he’s still friends with Joe as they had a good relationship onscreen, they wouldn’t be disappointed, as they continued to communicate. Joe perfectly understood Shorty’s situation and wished him luck.
Where is Shorty and what was he busy with after “Iron Resurrection”
Shorty opened his own shop once again, and started to accept clients; fans had been shocked that he closed down his business when he joined the TV show in 2016. His wife revealed that he was hands-on with everything that had to do with the shop, so if he wasn’t around, the shop would be closed. Shorty said he would be beside himself if he didn’t know what was happening, how the workers were faring without his supervision, because he was wired that way, but he could only work on his long-term car restoration projects during the months he wasn’t filming.
A year after he left “Iron Resurrection,” he was seen attending car trade shows, including the 2019 SEMA where a 1959 Chevrolet Impala was on display, a car rebuilt in his own shop,. It was painted in a seafoam green color, but Shorty tweaked it and called it Matte Green Shorty Special.
He’s now busy with his thriving auto shop, and can be seen participating in several car shows in the country, but mostly around Texas, and fans can access his merchandise from his website. Shorty never thought that he’d acquire a following when he became part of the reality-TV show, and has been overwhelmed by the continued support and love he received, even if he was no longer part of it.
Wanting to give back to the community that made him successful, he would now and then donate things that he worked on at his shop to be auctioned off so that the proceeds can help people in need of assistance, particularly during this pandemic. Then, fans will know that that’s Shorty!