Rust Valley Restorers will run on personality, horsepower, storytelling and nostalgia.
The car restoration documentary series' executive producers, Matt Shewchuk and Tyson Hepburn of Mayhem Entertainment, are about to find out how much gas it has in the tank, with the History Channel program — set in Tappen, about an hour east of Kamloops — set to debut at 7 p.m. this Thursday.
Vancouver-based Mayhem saw an opportunity when Mike Hall put Rust Brothers Restorations and about 400 classic cars up for sale.
“It hit the Internet and kind of went nutso,” said Mike, a dreadlocked 62-year-old and self-proclaimed wingnut. “I had people from Switzerland come out and I thought they were actually going to buy the place. In the end, it was just a bunch of people blowing smoke up my you know what.
“These guys from Mayhem actually came and did some filming and they got funding to do a show. I thought they were crazy.”
Hepburn and Shewchuk must have detected a touch of crazy in Mike, a maniacal-but-friendly edge that would play well on TV.
“After seeing Mike and all the colourful people in the valley, it made us think there are definitely enough assets there to make a series,” said Shewchuk, who has been a mainstay on series such as Highway Thru Hell and Heavy Rescue: 401.
Further exploration into Mike’s life revealed a level-headed son, Connor Hall of Kamloops, and a charismatic, Ron-Jeremy-lookalike friend, Avery Shoaf, both of whom pull wrenches on the lot.
“Avery, he’s the muscle-car MacGyver,” Mike quipped. “He’s pretty short-tempered and doesn’t have much patience, but the guy is very mechanically adept. And he’s hilarious.”
Added Connor: “Usually the parents are the voice of reason behind the kids. Here, it’s kind of the other way around. But my dad’s got a heart of gold. He’s loud and obnoxious, but he’d give anyone the shirt off his back.”
Hepburn, creator of Discovery Channel's Coldwater Cowboys, said Mike and Connor’s bond should touch a chord with viewers.
“There’s a layered, interesting relationship there,” said Hepburn, noting the show’s trailer is performing well on history.ca. “Connor is so diametrically opposed to Mike, which makes them great. They’re a fun-loving father-son combo, where sometimes the son is kind of more the voice of reason.”
Together, the Halls and Shoaf form the engine that will drive the documentary series for the casual viewer. For gearheads, the characters might take a back seat to the cars.
“If you’re a car junkie, there’s lots of stuff there,” Mike said. “When they do the drone shots of the field of dreams, I know damn well people are going to be freeze-framing it and trying to pick out which cars are there.”
Mike and Connor listed a few of the vehicles that may feature in Season 1: 1941 Dodge Power Wagon, 1939 International truck, 1966 Chevrolet Nova, 1964 Ford Patina, 1966 Ford Mustang and 1970 Dodge Dart Swinger.
“Most of my money is basically tied up in my obsession with cars,” Mike said. “Metallic hallucinations. I look at a piece of crap in a field and I see it running and driving down the road. It’s a bad sickness to have.”
They race against time to restore cars for customers, all the while grappling with each other (almost literally, at times) and budgetary limitations.
“My dad’s a hoarder,” Connor, whose inheritance is tied up on the lot, said in an episode released to media. “We’re supposed to be selling stuff, not buying stuff. This place isn’t going to survive.”
The cameras took some getting used to, but the Halls assured KTW they felt little need to ham it up on filming days.
“I’m basically the same loudmouth SOB I am all the time,” Mike said.
Heartfelt moments come during grand reveals.
Mike Poulton, who was hurt in a skiing accident and left disabled, puts his trust in Mike to restore his dream car — a 1966 Lincoln Continental with suicide doors.
“I can’t even begin to explain how happy I am,” Poulton says after seeing the finished product.
“That was emotional,” Mike said. “It’s cool to be able to help people realize their dreams.”
Neither the Halls nor Mayhem would comment on whether the show’s stars receive financial compensation, but publicity certainly stands to benefit Rust Brothers.
“I’ve got 400 cars. I’m 62 years old. I’ve got to get rid of them,” Mike said. “What better way to do it than have a TV show that might end up being aired in 100 countries?”
Word is out in Tappen and Kamloops — and razzing has begun.
“Everywhere I go, people say, “Hey, how does it feel to be a superstar?’” Mike said. “I say, ‘I don’t even own a TV.’ I tell them I just tend to ignore the cameras because I’m focused on what I’m doing.”
Interjected Connor: “Well, as focused as a guy with ADD can get.”
Mike fired back: “I sign your paycheques, don’t I?”
The first season of Rust Valley Restorers features eight, one-hour episodes. Another season can be green-lighted if the first does well.
There is a lot on the line for Hepburn and Shewchuk.
“Corus Entertainment went out of its way to support a young new, company,” Hepburn said. “It’s our first opportunity to run the whole thing. Doors were shut in other places. We’ve both invested a lot. We 100 per cent want another season. We hope it’s a big hit.”
The Halls are hosting a viewing party at Boston Pizza in Salmon Arm at 7 p.m. on Thursday.
“Say hi to all our friends in Kamloops,” Mike said. “I grew up there. I hope everybody tunes in and watches the show.”