Aviation and car mechanic Roger Barr enjoyed popularity in the automobile reality-television genre when he joined the TV show, “Chasing Classic Cars.” He wasn’t the main star of the show, but his expertise and amazing personality made him a fan favorite. While he could fix almost any bugs on any type of classic car, it was the sports cars from the 1960’s and 1970’s that were his specialization. Over the years, he developed a reputation for being one of the best out there, and gained a fan base during his stay on the TV show. Most of his fans wondered why he wasn’t seen again on it after appearing for the past 14 seasons.
Roger’s life before Chasing Classic Cars
Early Life and Education
Roger Barr is an American, born on 16 February 1936, in New Dorp, Staten Island, New York. It was there as a young kid that he started his love affair with automobiles. He would often stare at the exotic cars that went to the island, including Packards, Cords, Dusenbergs, and Auburns – he liked the sounds of the engines going around him.
His mother would be frustrated each time he came home covered in oil and grease, as he loved to hang out at the local neighborhood garage. Roger was fascinated with the owner of the auto shop named Joe, whom he said would place a glass of water on top of a Packard V-12 engine just to see if there were ripples.
At around six years old, Roger discovered that he had a disorder called dyslexia when his father told him to read the books in the house – he bugged his father with never-ending questions and so his father told him to discover the answers from the books. He learned how to read, but had a hard time writing the words correctly.
When Roger told his parents that he wanted to become an aviation mechanic, his father was supportive and moved the family to New Jersey so that Roger could be near Paterson Tech. However, his father told him that he had to be responsible for the $450 tuition fee, so he did odd jobs to save money – his favorite one was babysitting, which at that time paid 75 cents an hour.
During his senior year, a teacher encouraged him to get an Airframe and Power Plant (A&P) license given by the Federal Aviation Administration – the teacher made sure that Roger spent five hours each working day in Teetorboro Airport to qualify for the license, and his hard work paid off as in 1953 he graduated with an A&P license (it was formerly called A&E).
After graduation Roger served in the military. and could have been just a regular soldier during the Korean War, but with his A&P license the military had him working as a mechanic in the US Air Force, and he was stationed in several parts of the world, including England, France, Korea and Libya. He was promoted to jet engine mechanic crew chief, and finally flight chief.
There was a time when he was asked where he’d like to be assigned, and he chose Bitburg Air Base, Germany. It was there that he was exposed to foreign automobiles, which further enhanced his skills as a mechanic, making him more knowledgeable in fixing a wide variety of car problems.
His interest in cars wasn’t limited to their mechanism, as he also became a car racing enthusiast. During his time off from his duty as an aviation mechanic, Roger joined the Porsche factory sports car team, and was assigned as a back-up driver. He was given the opportunity to race with them due to his reputation of racing MG sports cars competitively against the much faster Porsches. It was there that his skills as a race car driver developed – he would often say that it’s the driver who won races, not the cars.
After Roger left the Air Force, he worked for Pratt & Whitney, an American aerospace manufacturer located in East Hartford, Connecticut. Roger spent years helping other aviation mechanics look for an engineering solution to jet engine problems, including how to survive bird strikes. He said their methods then would anger animal lovers today, but were deemed necessary in those days.
He started fixing automobiles because his friends and neighbors had asked him to look into their broken down car engines. Roger then opened his own car shop in 1965 called Foreign Car Shop, which of course specialized in fixing foreign vehicles but he never worked on all imported cars, as there was a sign hanging in the window that said “No French Cars.” He started to make a name for himself in the Connecticut area, where he met another auto enthusiast, Bob Carini.
Bob owned and operated another auto shop, Continental Auto, in their town. They supported each other’s businesses by referring clients to each other’s shops, depending on the needs of the client. Bob would send foreign car mechanical troubles to Roger, and if bodywork was needed on the car, Roger would quickly send it to Bob’s shop. They were never really close, but they had mutual respect for each other’s skills.
Aside from fixing foreign cars he also started building racing cars, and joined several racing competitions around the US. He eventually won national racing championships for competitions such as Formula Vee and Formula B.
Roger shared that when he started to lose money, he eventually sold the business to Gene Langan Volkswagen dealership. He then started a career in teaching engineering, and served as one of the faculty members at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, from 1994 to 2004. He then taught for another five years at the University of Hartford.
How did Roger end up in “Chasing Classic Cars?”
When Bob Carini died, his son Wayne took over the business, and offered Roger a job. Roger had already closed his own business and was actually at retirement age, but still at 65 years old, started working for Wayne’s automobile restoration shops called F40 Motorsports and Carini Carozzeria.
They had met when Wayne was 10 years old, and the reality TV star would distinctly remember that Roger would let him sit in his collection of racing cars, and watch the mechanic working on great Italian cars including Ferrari and Maserati.
When Wayne was invited to join the reality-TV show, “Chasing Classic Cars,” Roger was automatically included in the package. Initially, Wayne was hesitant to do the show since he didn’t have any idea how reality-TV worked, but he was reassured by the chief executive producer of Essex Television Group Inc. that the TV crew would only follow his daily activities, as he worked on his usual car restorations. The TV show targeted vintage auto restorations enthusiasts, and Roger’s presence added a certain level of credibility and authenticity.
The TV show made its debut on 3 June 2008, and could be viewed via several media platforms, including Discovery Channel, Motortrend Channel, Amazon Prime, and Hulu. It has now been on cable TV for 16 seasons with around 200 episodes, and was available in more than 40 countries and territories worldwide.
It was one of the most-watched auto restorations shows, not only in the US, but also in Africa, Asia and Europe. If not for the TV show “Wheelers Dealers,” they would have been regarded as the longest auto restoration show on TV.
Roger Barr’s Memorable Moments in Chasing Classic Cars
It wasn’t only his exemplary skills as a mechanic that gained Roger a loyal following, but also his sunny and charming personality, which contrasted perfectly with Wayne Carini’s serious tone and mood in the show. The two didn’t always agree on certain things, but the respect towards each other could be seen during their interactions when handling restoration projects. Here are some of Roger’s memorable moments in the reality-TV show.
When Wayne brought yet another Ferrari Dino to the shop, Roger said that someday he’s going to find one of these, and ‘Gina Lolobrigida is going to be sitting in the front seat with a smile and big bazooms and I will have a stroke.’ The fans loved his commentary, which didn’t always refer to the car itself!
Roger made fixing classic cars seem easy to do. When Wayne gave him two Jaguars to work on, viewers were amazed at how he could explain the problem and how to fix it, in such a way that even those who weren’t into cars could easily understand. He also said that the best way to judge if the engine was fixed properly was to put a glass of wine on top of the motor, and if it shakes, something wasn’t right.
His humor made “Chasing Classic Cars” a bit more interesting than the other auto restoration shows. When Wayne took the Indy car for a test drive on the track, fluid leaked from the motor, but since he couldn’t find any source of water he just continued driving, and it overheated. Back at the shop, Roger examined it and said that the moment Wayne opened one of the valves that were responsible for keeping the air out of the motor, it created air inside it, and contributed to the overheating. Roger shared a trick of the trade which was to fill it with water at a certain angle while pushing the car back and forth with his body to get the air out.
As the movement looked like he was rubbing himself on the car, he explained to the viewers that he wasn’t being obscene, and that made Wayne laugh.
The real reason why Roger left Chasing Classic Cars
After the 14th season, Roger was never seen again in “Chasing Classic Cars.” The producers and even Wayne Carini never gave an official explanation as to why he left the TV show. Naturally, fans were curious and even offered their own theories about what had happened. One theory was that he probably had a falling out with his boss, and Wayne fired him on the spot. However, according to some fans, that seemed petty and unprofessional considering their history together, and the wisdom they gained and imparted over the years. Later on, rumors that Roger suffered medical issues due to an infection he acquired while working in the shop went around social media.
Fans’ curiosity was appeased, and most of them just wished Roger a speedy recovery.
However, when a Facebook page was created just for Roger, mainly run by his wife and son, revelations about what had happened came out. It seemed that there were many half-truths and fake news on social media after his absence from the show. On 17 September 2020, Roger said that he’d like to correct two things. ‘I have not retired. I kept asking to come back to work and was told no work,’ he said. ‘In the mail, I received a notice that I was involuntarily terminated.’ Nobody told him in person, or even through a phone call – he was let go just like that.
Roger also shared another bombshell. Apparently, through all the years he appeared on the TV show, he wasn’t paid a single penny. He shared that someone whom he wouldn’t mention pulled a second big lie and further said, ‘I am not worth 1.3 million. Fact is I have to work to keep a roof over my head and food on the table.
I wasn’t paid anything to appear on camera.’ Roger said that the GoFundMe page that was set up by a super fan of his named Steve Cripps wasn’t only a lifesaver but also a home saver. He also revealed that if he had enough money, then he could have fixed his two broken teeth.
His fans were upset about what happened, and left words of support on his Facebook page. Roger said that he would contact a lawyer so that he could get all his tools back, as most of what they used in the shop were his personal tools, even the huge gas analyzer which cost him big bucks.
Where is Roger Barr now?
Roger’s in his mid-80s, but instead of taking it easy and enjoying his retirement at home, he’s still sharing his expertise. When the auto restoration shop, The Paddocks Classic Cars opened in 2020, the owner, Michael Donnely offered him a job as one of their expert technicians, and Roger readily accepted.
The company were proud that they were able to get his services, and released articles to the media about their acquisition of Roger’s more than 50 years of experience. His current boss praised his skills, calling him ‘the problem solver.’ Michael also lauded that Roger never needed to look at the manual of whatever automobile they were working on; all the information was embedded in his head. Roger was full of praises for his new company, ‘This is heaven working here. People smile, they talk, we get to work on very old cars, and it’s unbelievable.’
The old man’s doing what he’s loved to do all his life, and since there’s so much backlog of work at his new company, the owners couldn’t help but be grateful that Roger’s a member of their crew. When Roger’s son, James was given unsolicited advice from a fan about forgiveness for the person who wronged his father, he replied that his father taught him not to dwell on the past, and not to hold grudges, as Roger always preferred to move forward.
So long live Roger Barr, and long may his services be appreciated.