At its core, Discovery's “Fast'N Loud” is an American version of the BBC's “Wheeler Dealers.” Rawlings and his partner Aaron Kaufman scour the junk heaps and fallow fields of America for class gems such as a pristine 1931 Model-A. Once aquired, they can restore and flip for a chunk of change. BroBible caught up with Rawlings to discuss wheelin' and dealin' hot rods, how he once outran a violent car jacking in his Mustang, and what it was like to drive from the New York to California in 31 hours while breaking the Cannonball record in 2007.
Tell us a little bit about the show…
Well, the shop came first. The shop really came out of frustration. I was in a spot in life where I was able to have some hot rods and have some toys and could never get things done in a timely manner or in the way I really wanted to. I'm kind of a perfectionist. And out of that came Gas Monkey Garage to start facilitating the things I wanted. Of course, I had to make it a business so it would pay for itself. One thing led to another and the show came out of frustration of what was on television. There's a lot of other car shows out there and they do get a lot of ratings — I'm not bashing them — but they do because the public doesn't have a lot of choice. 'This is the only car show on television, so that's the one we're watching.' I really wanted to give everyone a sense of what Gas Monkey is about and what we do and how fast we're doing. We have a sh*t ton of fun while doing it. It's not a job.
What were your original hot rods?
Even since high school I've always had hot rods. I've always been drawn to fast cars and what have you. But back then? I've always been a big early Ford fan. '30 Model As. '32, '33 4-5 Window Coupes. I've had quite a selection of Mustangs and original Shelby's from back in the '67, '68 era.
We really have a love of all things automotive. Until we find that gem, we're not locked into anything. Of course, you can always classify muscle cars and lowriders and early hot rods and street sweepers and all that kind of good stuff. Realistically, me and Aaron just love everything. Whatever pops, whatever catches our eye when we're looking, that's when we decided we can do this and this and this to it to make it that much cooler.
What's the strangest place you've found a diamond in the rough.
It was a few years back, a lady's husband had passed away building a car. She couldn't bring herself to sell it, but everyone would see it in her garage. She actually built a false wall and enclosed it into her house. If you went to her house, you wouldn't know that there was a car behind that wall.
So I heard this story and thought it was B.S., so I chased her down and turns out it was real. She was ready to part with it. So we had to pull the wall down to get it out from behind this wall.
What was the car?
A '44 Ford coupe
I understand you were carjacked once?
It was just the wrong place at the wrong time. I was a police officer and a firefighter earlier in life. By the time I turned 21, I was a police officer, firefighter, and paramedic, which is pretty unheard of. I kind of excelled at that. So when I went out with my buddies to have a good time on weekend nights, I wouldn't carry my gun even though I could. Being that young, it was just kind of a stupid move. So one of my buddies I went out with got lucky that night and met a girl. I was like, “You go ahead” and he took off with her.
On the way home I stopped at a fast food joint to grab a hamburger. The next thing you know I have a couple of guys on top of me with guns. I reach down into my car right where I'd keep my gun. Of course, there wasn't a gun there. So I just kind of threw it into first and took off. I guess I was about half way down the street when I realized I was hitting things like bushes and curves. I had one hand over the shifter and the other arm was gone. It was shot and it kind of fell limp to the side. Once I gained control of the vehicle, I was in the hospital getting the bullet wound taken care of.
It took about six months to recover. I had to be back at 100% to go back to work as a firefighter and what have you. It went it through my shoulder and exited out near my elbow.
Are your rally racing days behind you?
I'm still actively involved. Gumball is going on right now, but I can't do it because of the show. Today they're probably in Oklahoma today. I've done the Gumball three times and I've won it once. I've done the Bullrun six or seven times and I've won it twice. I'm also the Cannonball world record holder. I broke the record in May of 2007, which was five years ago, and that's the first time the record had been broken since '79. In true Cannonball fashion there were a bunch of naysayers, but the truth is you can watch it on YouTube. We ran from 34th Street in Manhattan to the hotel in Redondo Beach, California. To me that's how you're supposed to do it, not just water to water.
That was the hardest damn thing I've ever done. You're so amped up on adrenaline and you're driving so fast. You're worried about cops. You're worried about making a mistake. You're worried about… everything. To do that — 2811 miles in 31 hours and 59 minutes — is insane. Literally. If you have 500 yards infront of you before the next car, you're flooring it. As soon as they're out of the way, you're flooring it. As soon as you're around them, you're flooring it. The computer in the Ferrari showed we topped 200 miles per hour 27 times on that run.
It was pretty nuts. We got lucky. We didn't have any problems, didn't get stopped, and we didn't have any mechanical difficulties. We never cut the car off and we only physically stopped the car four times for gas. We had duel tanks in there so we were getting around 800 miles per run.
Fast'N Loud primeres Wednesday at 10 PM EST. For more info, check out their website.