RICHARD Rawlings comes from a pedigree of petrolheads, and the refined fuel courses through the veins of the 46-year-old.
Gas monkey garage was born to make these cars accessible, so everyone can have his own hot rod.
RICHARD Rawlings comes from a pedigree of petrolheads, and the refined fuel courses through the veins of the 46-year-old. Like his father, the inspirational figure in his life, Richard had always worked to realise his passion for cars. By age 14, he popped his car-ownership cherry with a 1974 Mercury Comet. Since then, not only did many vehicles come and go, he also went into the transcontinental Gumball 3000 and Bullrun rallies, and won – twice in each case.
He even holds the world record for covering the 4524km Cannonball Run from New York City to Los Angeles in 31 hours and 59 minutes, at an insane average speed of 141km/h. These days, Richard can be seen on Discovery Channel’s Fast ‘N’ Loud: Demolition Theatre, a reality series that tracks car restoration projects and customised vehicles in his successful Gas Monkey Garage. Ahead of the series’ 2015 season premiere (a few months ago), the outspoken Texas native gave Torque an insight into his shop’s custom builds.
You’ve always worked to feed your passion for cars. What was the turning point that made you decide to start Gas Monkey Garage?
It was when I was watching other TV programmes that showed how garages built cars. I loved them, but they were so far above the common guy. I would never be able to aff ord a US$200,000 to US$300,000 car or bike. Gas Monkey Garage was born to make these cars accessible, so everyone can have his own hot rod.
How “accessible” are the Gas Monkey hot rods?
It really depends on the customer’s budget, and we would match it. Some cars we buy and get them running before we flip them for figures that can be anything from US$2000 to US$10,000. Custom builds can range from US$50,000 to US$100,000.can have his own hot rod.
What makes a Gas Monkey build so unique that customers from more than 40 countries keep coming back for more?
We really sit back and look at what a car is, and what it could be. Everyone could want that Camaro they see in a poster, but we try to take things further, add a little flavour and do things that’ll set the car apart from the hundreds of other Camaros out there.
That does sound like a challenging undertaking.
It’s really about deciding where to focus the time, eff ort and money into the build. We definitely will have to decide on what the budget is going to be and how that will fit in with the vision for the car, so that it works out for all.
Speaking of undertakings, since you can build up almost any car, what would be that dream build you’d love to do?
My favourite build of all time would be the Ferrari F40. It was the most expensive and challenging Gas Monkey project to date. Even Ferrari commented that it had been well done. My dream car, though, would be a 1969 Lamborghini Miura. We can find one, but it’s just that we can’t aff ord to buy it and work on it.
What’s been the most rewarding aspect about what you do?
It’ll have to be how everyone can appreciate it. Seeing not just men, but women and children, too, enjoying it as a family is really awesome. I’ve always hoped for it, but I never dared expect it.
What advice would you give a first-timer attempting a transcontinental rally like the Gumball 3000 and Bullrun?
No matter what, be safe. You can get caught up in the adrenalin and excitement as you go a little faster than normal. Keeping an eye out and being safe will help you enjoy the experience.
Planning on more “rallying” sometime soon?
We’ve been really busy, but we’re racing in sanctioned events like the Pike’s Peak Hill Climb and drag racing. I’ve even got my own monster-truck setup.
If you only had one car to drive for the rest of your life, what would it be?
It would be the green Ford Mustang I have on the show. It’s a 1968 Shelby convertible that really lets me go everywhere!