The Secrets Of History Channel’s ‘American Restorations’
The History Channel series American Restoration debuted in October 2010 and it quickly became a hit among fans thanks to the seemingly superb work completed by Rick Dale and his team at Las Vegas-based Rick’s Restorations. The show scored some big ratings when it debuted thanks to Rick’s ability to take old worn-out objects and restore them to their former glory. In the end, it turned out all wasn’t as it seemed.
From customer complaints to hatred for their own fans, here’s the story of American Restoration like you’ve never heard it before, starting with Rick’s humble reality TV start to his eventual meltdown.
It All Started On Pawn Stars
If you regularly watch Pawn Stars you’re aware that the team behind that incredibly successful series often brings in experts to appraise items outside of their specialties. One of those experts and a series regular was Rick Dale.
Fans enjoyed watching Rick on Pawn Stars and he was soon approached by History Channel to host his own show. Rick agreed and quickly got to work filming what he thought would be a few episodes for a test season.
Rick Thought He’d Only Film A Few Episodes
Rick Dale initially told the show’s producers that he didn’t want to film his own TV series. His team was focused on fixing up old gas pumps and soda machines and he didn’t know how interesting those would be for an entire season.
Rick openly admitted to the Sioux City Journal, “I only knew how to restore like five different pieces, and a show has twenty-six episodes. I figured I’d be done after about five.” It was the show’s producers who convinced Dale that his skillset was good enough to work on other items as well.
Rick Dale Couldn’t Fix A Customer’s Jukebox But He Cashed Their Check
Eighty-five-year-old Angel Delgadillo brought his prized jukebox to Rick’s Restorations and paid $4,000 to have the item restored to its former glory. Dale gladly accepted the check and even cashed it. After two months of work, the jukebox was handed back over to the customer. Unfortunately, the jukebox still didn’t operate as intended.
Delgadillo sent Rick Dale letters and phone calls asking that the work be properly finished. His messages went ignored until media outlets picked up the story. Rick was forced to admit he didn’t have electrical knowledge to fix the jukebox and ended up arranging to have an electronics expert complete the job.
Some Restoration Fans Were Not Happy With Rick’s Go Kart Work
There’s no denying that the products delivered to customers on American Restoration looked brand new. In reality, viewers with a keen eye were quick to point out various fault points with many of the completed pieces delivered by Rick’s Restorations.
Take, for example, the McCulloch Go Gart. Visitors to the Corvette Forum were quick to point out that the tires on the vehicle were mounted crookedly which caused the restoration to wobble as it moved. Other items were found to have chipped paint and additional shoddy work. These were hardly the finished products promised for the exorbitant fees Rick’s Restorations charges.
Hiring Freelancers Became A Necessity
Rick’s Restorations worked quickly to film each upcoming season, typically working on 12 projects at a time. Because Rick’s team members were not experts in every type of restoration and because of time constraints, they would sometimes bring freelance workers for assistance on more complex tasks.
Rick would also purchase some items from pickers that he knew could be quickly fixed up. We can’t blame the guy — it made for good TV. The people pictured were series regularly but not everyone we watched fix up various items was a full-time member of the show.
Learn How The Show Was Staged By Producers
If you watch Rick’s Restorations it appears that everything happens very quickly but that’s simply not the case. Producers for the show staged certain scenes to coincide with their own shooting schedule. Jobs that took hours to complete looked like mere minutes while other longer jobs appeared to be finished in days.
Howie Cohen, a man who restores neon signs, revealed that he was filmed two times by the show’s crew. In July, the crew filmed the neon signs reveal, and in November they filmed a session in which Cohen pretended to talk about the upcoming project that, in reality, was already completed.
Rick Dale Was Nervous Around Celebrity Guests On The Show
Rick Dale was asked to repair an old motorcycle for Billy Joel and a sentimental sign for Jason Mraz which belonged to the singer’s grandmother. Sammy Hagar, David Copperfield, and other celebrity guests also appeared on the show.
Speaking to Fox411, Dale said after talking to Billy Joel, “I am pulling my hair out. I can’t sleep over it…I just pray to God I can finish.” He later added, “I listened to him as a kid and went to his concerts.”
Fame Only Meant Harder Restorations
Rick Dale was known for his gas pumps and soda machines but once American Restoration started airing his new fans thought he was a genius who could fix anything. At one point his team was tasked with fixing a mechanical surfboard, an item far outside of their normal work.
Rick later revealed that items arriving at his shop were increasingly worse shape, making them harder to restore. Rick even quipped, “I think all the good stuff is gone. The stuff people bring in now is testing me.” Dale did add that at least he “learns something new everyday.”
Kowboy Is Mean In Person, Just Like His Show Persona Suggests
What reality TV show on History Channel is complete without some type of colorful supporting cast? For American Restoration, the most colorful character was a guy who goes by the name “Kowboy.” Rick regularly refers to his metal polisher as “grumpy” and his irritable nature has spilled over to guests.
A customer who visited Rick’s Restorations happened to run into Kowboy and asked to take a photographer with him. Kowboy’s response? “I don’t do photos.” When the customer asked if he was joking Kowboy said, “I’m quite serious” and then he turned and walked away. Ouch.
The Paid Tour Is Awful
If you’re in Las Vegas and you want to visit Rick’s Restorations you might want to reconsider. Fans on various review sites have noted that the $25 version gives you little more than access to the gift shop where a sales rep will try to sell you overpriced memorabilia.
Pay $50 for a tour and you’ll be allowed to take photos, see a few of Rick’s restored items, and for $25 more he’ll send you a picture of yourself with the man himself, an item that is later mailed to your home. Sadly, the experience isn’t much better for Pawn Star fans — maybe it’s a Vegas thing we just don’t understand.
Rick Was Fired And Not Happy About It
When History Channel changed the format of American Restoration they fired Rick Dale and the rest of his crew. The show took a different direction by focusing on a group of other restoration experts. Rick Dale wasn’t happy about the shake-up and he recorded a video message to his fans.
Rick held back tears as he thanked his loyal viewers. Then, he turned his anger to History Channel, telling his supporters to visit the company’s website to voice their anger over his removal from the TV show. Rumors have circulated that Rick Dale was difficult to work with which likely led to the format change.
A Petition Circulated To Bring Back Rick Dale. It Didn’t Go Well
After the program shifted to focus on five different businesses and Rick Dale wasn’t included, there appeared to be some fan outrage, although you wouldn’t know it by the petition that circulated.
An angry fan started a petition which they spread all over social media. The petition asked to bring back the show’s old format with Rick Dale being showcased for all his “loyal fans” to see again. The petition was met with underwhelming support as only sixteen people signed the document.
Rick Was Living In Poverty And Restorations Were His Way Out
When Rick Dale was a child he lived an impoverished life. To earn extra money his dad would look for old discarded items to refurbish. One of those items was an old bike which his dad gave him to restore at the young age of nine.
Rick revealed that he worked on the bike with his dad and when it was refurbished he felt like it was “the coolest bike” he had ever seen. His passion for restorations grew out of poverty and led him to build a successful business.
A Failing Construction Company And A Coke Machine
In the 1980s Rick Dale was running a failing construction company. To make ends meet he remembered the Rose Bowl flea market. Rick picked up an old Coca-Cola machine and got to work restoring the piece of Americana.
Rick visited the flea market and quickly sold the Coke machine for $1,000. After that, he started picking up random restoration work and delivering finished products to people all throughout the United States.
Rick Found Happiness With A New Wife But It Was A Rocky Start
Rick Dale would eventually marry a woman named Kelly and her presence on the show brought a nice family element to the series. Rick’s fans even got to watch as Rick popped the question to Kelly. What fans might not realize is that Kelly wasn’t initially interested in dating him.
Rick told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that Kelly initially first him out and when he arrived at the event it was a party aimed at promoting a singles night. Kelly invited a bunch of single friends and Rick was shocked it wasn’t a date. She eventually invited him to a bar where she showed up alone. The rest, as they say, is history.
Controversy With The Show’s Newest Member
When season seven debuted it was revealed that new cast member Dale Walksler, owner of the Wheels Through Time Museum, also wasn’t afraid of controversy. Walksler allegedly went on a four-hour tirade complete with insults and yelling.
Walksler was angry that there was a permit being discussed to reopen a local bar that was filled with biker gangs and drug users. His screaming and general demeanor during the meeting led him to be reprimanded numerous times by local officials. He refused to listen and the bar was ultimately granted the needed permits and reopened as planned.
Bob Halliday Lost Everything
Bob Halliday was also a new cast member on American Restoration but his personal loss happened before his time on the show. The owner of Bob’s Garage in Marietta, Georgia has a great sense of humor, so much so you wouldn’t realize disaster struck for him during Hurricane Katrina.
After running a successful business in the area for 20 years he lost everything when Katrina struck. Everything Bob owned, including his family home, was swept away in the storm. His home, his business, and all of his personal belongings were gone. Thankfully his family and pets were okay. He packed up his family in his car and they left the area.
Rick Dale Wants His Very Own Block
We’re not talking about a street named after Rick Dale. No way, this guy actually wants to buy up an entire street and renovate it with a 1940s theme. If you’re a fan of the show you know that his own business already features a miniature street facade but Rick is thinking much bigger.
Rick says he would love to find a “main street” location and fix it up with building restorations, old-school gas stations, a classic movie theater, a 1940s drug store, and much more. That’s a TV show we would definitely be willing to watch.
Despite Customer Complaints, The Show Was Good For Rick Dale’s Finances
Several net worth tracking companies have estimated that Rick Dale has skyrocketed his assets to $2.5 million thanks in large part to his History Channel salary and then to the added work sent his way thanks to his new fame.
Despite customer complaints about shoddy finished products being delivered, recent accounts suggest that Rick’s Restorations continues to bring in new business thanks to the show’s success. We just probably wouldn’t bring him a jukebox.
Today, It’s A Family Affair
Rick Dale and his wife Kelly may no longer be headlining a hit History Channel show but they continue to work together. In fact, Rick’s Restorations is truly a family affair with various jobs being handled by his immediate family members.
Kelly handles business operations for Rick’s Restorations while their son Brettly is a picker and salesman. The couple’s daughter Ally is the front of store manager and their son Tyler runs shop for the company.
The Correct Parts Are Always On Hand
Having rare and custom parts on-site is a trick for many car shows, including Counting Cars. This means Count’s Kustoms doesn’t actually have all of the parts on hand. The fact is, the series tends to use rare parts that might take days or weeks to track down.
So, having them in the shop during filming isn’t exactly plausible. But viewers can’t wait around for weeks while Danny and his crew to get the parts, so the process is edited together, making it seem like everything is right there in the shop.
There Is A Strict Budget
Known for arguing over prices with potential sellers and walking away from cars, Danny Koker’s employees see him as a stickler with money. However, he’s also known for putting a dent in the company’s wallet with his wild and complex restorations.
So, is money important or not? The answer: not. While it might seem like Koker is on a budget, he’s not. The show is willing to pay whatever the cost for those rare cars and their restorations.
There Are Only A Few Guys Working In The Shop
A common stunt that car shows pull is making it look like only a dozen or so guys work in the shop, and Counting Cars is no different. During restoration projects, the series has only a few men working on the cars.
And they make it look as though only a handful of others are walking around the shop. In truth, there is a huge support staff that is never seen on camera, including other men who work in the shop.
Going To See Random Car Owners
One of the main elements of Counting Cars is Koker riding around, spotting cars, and making deals pretty much on the spot with random people. The truth of the matter is that it isn’t necessarily what happens.
The scouting process takes some time, and Koker and his team make sure to do their research before approaching a potential customer. They want cars that will make for great remodels and people who have a good “tough luck” story.
“Surprise” Enhancements Without The Customer’s Knowledge
Like many car enthusiasts, Koker and his team enjoy restoring the cars that come into the shop and adding on special enhancements. They’ll add some fancy rims or a new paint job, all at no cost and without the customer’s knowledge.
The thing is, these “surprises” aren’t surprises at all. Koker and his team discuss the enhancements at length before doing anything to a car, having the customer sign off before any changes are made. Their surprised face is all for show.
Danny’s Humble Beginnings Aren’t So Humble
Throughout the series, Danny Koker characterizes himself as a down-to-earth car guy who comes from humble beginnings. Well, that’s not exactly true. While he might be a laid-back guy, Koker’s childhood was anything but humble.
Growing up, his father, Danny Sr., played the piano for some of the greats, including Pat Boone and Johnny Cash. The money he made performing was enough to indulge in his car fascination, an expensive hobby he passed on to his son.
The Garage Isn’t Always Running Low On Funds
One thing fans of Counting Cars might notice is how Danny and his employees are constantly talking about how they need to flip cars to make money ASAP. They make it sound like the garage is about to go under when that couldn’t be further from the truth.
In reality, Count’s Kustoms is very far in the green, making a nice paycheck from the show’s success as well as its supplemental income from Danny’s restaurant and tattoo parlor. Basically, their cash crisis is an act.
Danny Acting Like He Doesn’t Own Pretty Much Everything
Oddly enough, Danny doesn’t act or look like he’s the boss at Count’s Kustoms during Counting Cars. Instead, the series makes the shop manager, Kevin Mack, look like he’s running the show, laying out budgets, and discussing various projects with Danny.
And while Danny acts as though he has little input, the truth is he owns then place and is a producer on the show. So, he’s pretty much calling all the shots even if it doesn’t look like it.
Casual Celebrity Drop-Ins
During select Counting Cars episodes, casual celebrity drop-ins occur. So, Koker might work on the cars of famous people such as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, and once he even had country rockstar Andy Ross come by for enhancements.
Obviously, these are anything but casual stop-ins. As it turns out, the series openly invites celebrities to come on, usually for some promotional deal. It’s even rumored they get a tiny fee for making an appearance, so it’s a win-win.
The Crazy Crew Members
Reality TV is known for producing some crazy characters, and Counting Cars is no different. Koker’s garage is full of nutty people, like Mike Henry, aka Horny Mike, an airbrush artist who wears intricate horns attached to his bandanas.
People who have visited the shop on a non-filming day have said that the characters shown on TV are just that, characters. The guys who work in the shop aren’t nearly as crazy as they appear on the show.
The Time It Takes To Restore A Car
One aspect of reality TV viewers can rely on is drama. When it comes to Counting Cars, it’s not necessarily day-to-day drama between people, but more so what happens to employees when they’re given a ridiculous time limit on car restorations.
The fact of the matter is, the time limits presented on the show are only there to build up tension since it’s impossible to make a car restoration in the matter of one or two afternoons — they take much longer than that.
Danny Having Trouble Selling Cars
To viewers, it’s obvious how attached Koker is to some of his rare cars, whether it’s because of how he wound up owning the car, its historical significance, or how much work he put into its restoration. Yet, Counting Cars make it seem as though he has a hard time selling them off.
Considering how rare Koker’s assortment of cars is, plus his celebrity status, finding a collector to buy the car isn’t nearly as hard as the series makes it out to be.
Koker’s Anti-Environmentalist Statements
Like a lot of gearheads, Koker isn’t too fond of all of the regulations and environmental rules on cars. A common theme in Counting Cars is Koker complaining about having to switch out a classic part for something that meets the modern regulations.
He’s known to go on rants about environmentalism being a game played by politicians, something that shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Well, he might be embellishing his stance a bit while on camera to gain more motorhead viewers.
Scott Jones’ Dramatic Departure From The Show
From season one through three, Scott Jones was a common face around Counting Cars. He was the shop’s money manager, and therefore had an important part to play in pretty much everything. Then the third season happened, and Jones left on a strange note.
Rumors began floating around that he was embezzling money when in truth, he left to open his own garage. Apparently, Koker wanted to use the more dramatic narrative because it makes for better TV.
Knowing The Origins Of Every Car
When Koker and his team work on a car, they typically go into the vehicle’s backstory. And while they sound knowledgeable, their stories aren’t always accurate or the truth. During one episode, they talked about how a horrible-looking Chevy was found abandoned.
After the episode aired, fans went to the internet, learning the truth about the car’s actual origins, which were pretty cool! Unfortunately, Counting Cars tweaks origin stories more often than not to make it sound more interesting.
Shop Conversations Are Scripted
Koker and his team have worked together for years, so it would make sense that their conversations would be easy, friendly, and unscripted. As it turns out, that is not the case. A majority of the conversations between castmates are scripted, including jokes and arguments.
Unfortunately, the editing of scripted bits makes the conversation way too clean, the cast insincere sounding, and the drama seemingly fake because it’s been pieced together. Pretty much, little is ad-libbed.
Multiple Projects At Once
Counting Cars typically shows Koker and his team working on multiple projects at once, going into detail about each of the cars and giving them the same amount of care. For something that is portrayed as a one-day job, it’s hard to believe.
Well, that’s because it’s fake. Each restoration project takes at least a week to complete, meaning the footage is edited together to give the illusion that each of the cars was completed in a day.
Koker Is A Know-All Car Expert
Since he’s the star in a reality show about cars, one would think Koker would know a thing or two about the series’ main aspect. And even though he portrays himself as this know-it-all car expert, the truth is, he isn’t.
While Koker is obviously very passionate about cars and knows more than the average person, it doesn’t mean he knows everything. Fans have caught him stating more than one inaccurate fact on the show, for which he never corrects himself.
Customer Satisfaction Guaranteed
In the show Counting Cars, customers are seen wearing smiles, laughing, and always enjoying their time in the shop. And the workers are always shown as professionals who get the job done in a timely manner. Well, don’t believe everything on TV!
As it turns out, reviews have other things to say. A lot of customers have ranted about the poor service they experienced at the shop because their car wasn’t featured on the show and they feel they were charged unfairly.
Buying Cars With Little To No Negotiation
Counting Cars shows Koker driving out of the shop, down the road, and stumbling across a car on the side of the road. He’s then seen in negotiations with the owner, throwing out an incredibly low bid that is somehow accepted.
All of this is done with little to no negotiation, and it’s all staged. The car and its owner were scouted prior to filming, and they’ve already made a deal on the car. Usually, the buying price is much higher than what is shown on TV.
Roli Szabo’s Trailer Getting Stolen
When working around a shop full of rare cars and parts, it’s best to take extra caution when closing up for the night. But sometimes it’s not that easy, as shop detailer Roli Szabo can attest.
In early 2017, the detailer had his custom painted trailer stolen. Inside the trailer was thousands of dollars worth of high-end detailing equipment he used for his day-to-day projects as well as those on the Counting Cars.
Joseph Frontiera Used Company Money For A Range Rover
In 2016, former Counting Cars star and Count’s Kustoms employee Joseph Frontiera was accused of using company funds for non-shop related expenses. Using a nice sum of money, Frontiera put a down payment on a Range Rover and bought a few personal airline tickets.
On top of those two purchases, he was also accused of not paying the shop’s income taxes on time, something he was in charge of doing. Count’s Kustoms was hit with a major fine.
They’re Followed With Cameras At All Times
Filming a reality show is no easy matter; it takes time and a whole lot of footage. That means, for the staff at Count’s Kustoms, their entire life is pretty much caught on tape; even though everything is edited, only a fraction of what’s taped is aired.
During an interview, Koker said, “As far as production is concerned, they’ve gotta keep rolling on all this stuff, or they’re going to miss something vital on an episode.”
Joseph “Doc” Duggan Had A Strange House Robbery
In 2015, Joseph “Doc” Duggan, the tech genius at Count’s Kustoms, returned home from a party to find his door unlocked and his place virtually empty. He’d been completely robbed out of his belongings, aside from a pile of clothing and some dishes.
Oddly enough, the robbers decided to run the dishes through the dishwasher before they left. There was even evidence that they’d used his bathroom! Talk about a strange robbery with a lot of potential DNA samples.
Shop Tours Are Hyped Up
When it comes to custom and rare cars, fanatics will jump at the opportunity to see them up close and personal. And if they just so happen to be located in a famous TV shop, all the better! The only problem is the tours of Count’s Kustoms aren’t all they’re hyped up to be.
According to reviews, people who went to tour the shop were surprised by the poor customer service, pricey coffee, and the bad neighborhood the garage is located in.
It’s Getting Difficult For Koker To Make Deals
With the success of Counting Cars, Koker’s shop’s business has been booming. It seems like fame and notoriety pay off! Or does it? According to Koker, now that people know his shop is successful and gets a nice payday from the reality show, it’s becoming more difficult to negotiate with people.
Before, he was able to drive up to prospective clients and negotiate solid prices for cars. Now, people try to get every cent they can out of the celebrity, and it’s making his job a bit more difficult.
Danny Got His Nickname In A Strange Way
Before becoming the owner of Count’s Kustoms and a reality television star, Danny Koker used to dress up as a vampire and host a cheesy horror show called Saturday Fright at the Movies.
His name on the show was “Count Cool Rider,” and he would come on stage, wearing a cape and talking in an awful Transylvanian accent, introducing the movie for the evening. It looks like the name stuck since it’s partially the name of the shop.
It’s Difficult For Danny To Sell His Personal Cars
It’s no secret Danny Koker is a huge car lover, spending most of his life around a garage with his father and now as the owner of his own shop. So, it makes sense that he has a hard time selling some of his more prized cars from his personal collection.
During an interview, Koker relayed why it was hard for him, saying, “I feel like I put a piece of me in it.”
Koker Almost Had A Chance To Buy His Dream Car
A lot of people have a “dream car” that they wouldn’t hesitate to buy if money wasn’t a factor. Well, as it turns out, Counting Cars star Danny Koker is no different, even though he spends his life around cool and rare cars.
His dream car: a 1972 Lamborghini Miura SV. Around 15 to 20 years ago, the shop owner almost saw his dream come true, too, but the deal eventually fell through. He’s still on the lookout, though!
Koker Has A Hard Time Working On His Late Father’s Cars
One of the biggest influences in Danny Koker’s life was his father. When he passed away, it became hard for Koker to look at his father’s personal collection of cars, let alone work on them.
During an interview, Koker told the Las Vegas Review-Journal he’s “just now starting to dig out a couple of the very personal vehicles that were my father’s that now belong to me, that I haven’t been able to think about, or look at, or touch for a long time.”