American Restoration has been one of the History Channel's most successful shows since its inception. Debuting in October 2010, the program initially focused on Rick's Restorations, a Las Vegas business specializing in repairing vintage items and making them look new. Proprietor Rick Dale, who started off as a contributor to Pawn Stars, was the focus, though his trusted crew and beloved family members also got screen time. Each episode featured his team taking on big projects and giving new life to old or discarded items.
The entire scope of the show changed for its seventh season, however. Rick's Restorations was gone, replaced by five different businesses, each with its own particular specialty. A brand new cast was ushered in. It's extremely rare for a hit program to change courses in such a radical manner, yet that's exactly what happened. This is just one of several dramas and scandals surrounding American Restoration.
We've gathered some surprising facts about the show, its cast members, and the overall production of this popular series. Some of the things you're about to learn will shock you. Others will amuse you. Either way, you'll have a better understanding of the inner workings of a top reality show.
Here are 15 Dark Secrets From American Restoration You Had No Idea About.
If you head out to Rick's Restoration in Las Vegas, you can take a tour of the facility -- but you may not want to. The tour has gotten some bad reviews from visitors.
A common complaint is that there are two editions of it, neither particularly impressive. The five-dollar version only lasts ten minutes and gives you little more than access to the gift shop, where they'll be happy to help you part with your money. There's virtually no chance of seeing anyone from the show. You can peek at the shop through windows, but no pictures are allowed.
The fifty-dollar version doesn't give you much more. Photos are allowed, you get to see some of the items restored, and for an additional $25, you can get a picture of yourself with Rick mailed to your home. At least they give you free shipping!
Nothing hurts a business like screwing over the customers. A website called the Vegas Tourist alleges that Rick Dale acted dishonorably toward someone acquiring his services.
The story goes that 85-year-old Angel Delgadillo agreed to let American Restoration film in his memorabilia shop. He asked Rick to repair an old jukebox that he wanted to use to entertain guests in his store. Rick agreed to do the job at a cost of $4,000.
Two months later, the jukebox was returned. It looked better, but allegedly still didn't function, and the hefty check had been cashed. Mr. Delgadillo's letters and phone calls asking for the job to be done right were reportedly not returned. Only after this story gained traction online did Rick arrange for the jukebox to be restored by someone who specialized in electronics, at his own expense.
Season seven cast member Dale Walksler isn't afraid of a fight. The owner of the Wheels Through Time Museum helped turn what should have been a normal town council meeting in Maggie Valley, North Carolina into a four-hour circus, complete with yelling, name-calling, and insults.
He was the leading voice in a movement to prevent the town from granting a permit for a fellow business owner to reopen his bar. Among Walksler's claims were that when the bar was originally operational, it had a seedy clientele of biker gangs and drug users who wandered into his museum's parking lot, leaving needles and used condoms behind.
Walksler got so out of control during the meeting that he had to be repeatedly reprimanded by the officials in charge, not that he listened to them. Incidentally, the bar was allowed to reopen despite his protests.
When you watch American Restoration, the finished products come out sparkling. It really looks as though Rick and the guys have done a superb job of bringing those old, beat-up objects back to life. Oftentimes, their work really is that good. There's a lot of talent among the crew, for sure.
However, fans on websites like Corvette Forum have griped that the work is actually sometimes on the shoddy side. One commenter pointed to an episode involving a McCulloch Go Kart as an example, citing the fact that the tires had visibly been mounted crookedly, causing them to wobble when it moved. Others have spotted chipped paint in spots of the restorations. Still others level charges that Rick radically overcharges for the work he does, asking exorbitant fees for something that would be much cheaper if done by an "ordinary" person.
What would any good reality show be without a really colorful supporting character? In the case of American Restoration, that role is fulfilled by a man who only goes by the nickname "Kowboy." A metal polisher in the shop, he has been described by Rick and others as "grumpy." In fact, irritability seems to be one of the foremost traits of his personality.
Apparently, this isn't just an act for the cameras. A user on the TripAdvisor website claimed that Kowboy's grumpiness ruined her tour. As she and her fiancee were exiting, they happened to cross paths with Kowboy. They excitedly asked for a picture with him, to which he testily replied, "I don't do photos." They asked if he was joking. "I'm quite serious," he said before walking away.
As a result of this unfriendly encounter, the user claims that she stopped watching the show altogether.
Rick Dale got his start as an occasional guest on Pawn Stars. He was popular enough that the producers thought it might be a good idea to give him a show of his own. His initial response was a firm "no." The reason for that? Because gas pumps and soda machines were his forte, he didn't think he knew how to restore enough different items to carry an entire season.
Dale told 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." The producers eventually convinced him that he was skilled enough to fill a whole season. Rick said he felt "overwhelmed" about six shows in, then started to find his comfort zone. In the end, he went far beyond a single season.
Restoring worn-out items is a very specific, and very unusual, occupation. What makes someone get into this line of work? What makes somebody want to devote their life to fixing up battered, beaten, and rusted items? In Rick's case, his passion for restoration was born out of childhood poverty.
He told Uproxx that he grew up without much money. Consequently, his father would root around for discarded items that could be spruced up. When Rick was nine, his dad pulled a bicycle out of a dumpster and gave it to him. They fixed it up together, and he felt that he had "the coolest bike" in the neighborhood when he rode it around. That instilled in him an understanding that one person's trash is another person's treasure, and that just because something is old doesn't mean that its worth is gone.
It was a shock to everyone when the History Channel changed the format of American Restoration. Rick was fired from the show, along with everyone else in the cast.
When the program returned for its seventh season, the basic premise still involved restoring things, but there were multiple businesses where the action took place, as opposed to just one. Rumors abounded about the reasons for the shake-up, ranging from declining ratings to accusations that Rick Dale had become difficult.
Whatever the reason, Rick was none too happy about it. He recorded a video, which was posted online, in which he visibly choked back tears as he thanked fans for watching. There was also a subtle touch of revenge in his message. He asked those same fans to visit American Restoration's website (owned and maintained by the History Channel) to sound off about their displeasure.
One of the dirty little secrets of any reality TV show is that much of what you see isn't entirely real. Plotlines are often created in advance, events are staged, and the process of filming can make something that happened over the course of hours look like it spanned mere minutes.
American Restoration is no different than other reality shows about stretching the truth of reality. The website NYUp.com details the case of high school health teacher Howie Cohen, who creates and restores neon signs in his spare time. He was approached about appearing on an episode of the show in its post-Rick Dale season. Cohen revealed that he was filmed twice, first in July, then again in November. The hitch here is that the July segment was the "reveal" of the repaired sign, while the November session was talking about the project, as though it hadn't been completed.
Bob Halliday joined American Restoration in its seventh season, when the focus shifted away from Rick's Restorations. He is the owner of Bob's Garage in Marietta, Georgia. Like his predecessor, Bob specializes in Coke machines and gas pumps. He's also known for a hearty sense of humor. His jovial outlook belies a serious tragedy from his past.
Bob ran a successful business for almost twenty years in New Orleans, Louisiana. As part of it, he purchased an antiquated gas station, which he restored for the city's historic district. Then Hurricane Katrina hit, and everything Bob and his family owned was gone -- the house, the business, and all their belongings. He told the Marietta Daily Journal that only the clothes they were wearing, their pets, a laptop, and the car they used to leave the city escaped destruction.
Because of his reputation, celebrities often come to Rick Dale looking for help with their possessions. Rock-and-roll legend Billy Joel appeared on one episode, seeking to have an old motorcycle fixed up. Pop singer Jason Mraz came with a sign that belonged to his beloved grandfather. Sammy Hagar and magician David Copperfield have also made appearances on the program.
Despite the impressive clientele, working for celebrities makes Rick a little nervous. In discussing the Mraz sign, he told FOX411's Pop Tarts column that he was worried about disappointing the singer. "I am pulling my hair out," he said. "I can't sleep over it...I just pray to God I can finish." He also copped to not wanting to let Joel down because, "I listened to him as a kid and went to his concerts."
American Restoration may be about fixing up old items, but there's also a hint of romance on the show. The relationship between Rick Dale and his now-wife Kelly has given the program a nice extra human touch. Viewers even got to see Rick pop the question.
Although we now know they have a happy marriage, Rick initially didn't think his attraction to Kelly was going to lead anywhere. He told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that she invited him to a party she was attending. He thought it was date, only to arrive and discover that she was promoting a singles night event at a friend's restaurant and had invited a lot of people, not just him. It was a classic case of mixed signals.
Some time later, she invited him to a bar, this time showing up alone. That's when things started to develop between them.
Rick Dale got his start fixing things like vintage soda machines and gas pumps. From there, he graduated to other items, including bumper cars and, in one memorable episode of American Restoration, a motorized surfboard. He's learned to expand far beyond his initial limited repertoire.
Being part of a successful television show has created a unique problem. People have seen his work and now want him to apply his skills to a wide variety of things, some of which admittedly confound him. Also. the things they bring him are in increasingly worse shape.
Rick told the website The Spruce, "I think all the good stuff is gone. The stuff people bring in now is testing me." Although that may sound like a complaint, he's quick to add, "after 30 years in this business, I learn something new every day."
With so many various kinds of items restored, you might think there'd be nothing on Rick Dale's "bucket list" that he'd like to work on. You'd be wrong. He has a fantasy project that has not yet come to fruition, although he hopes someday it will.
A lover of vintage Americana, he has said that his dream would be to completely restore an entire 1940s-era street that has fallen into decay. Anyone familiar with American Restoration knows about the facade of Rick's Restorations, which is a miniature version of just such a street.
That facade was a way to complete a variation of his dream. Rick hopes to someday be afforded the chance to restore a full-sized main street location -- buildings, gas stations, movie palaces, a corner drug store, and all.
When American Restoration switched formats after six seasons, some fans were extremely put off by the shift. Rick's Renovations was gone, as were all the show's cast members. Suddenly, the focus wasn't on one business, it was on five rotating businesses. The entire essence of the show had abruptly changed.
One irate fan decided to take action, creating a petition on the popular activism website Change.org to demand that the History Channel revert the program back to its original premise. The creator claimed that "fans who have been loyal to the show since the beginning are outraged" and demanded that Rick's Restorations either be "a part of the reboot" or resume being the sole focus of the series.
To say that the petition was unsuccessful would be an understatement. Only sixteen people signed it. Perhaps it's needless to say that the network wasn't swayed into reversing its decision.
What do you think about the switch on American Restoration? Do you prefer the original seasons, or are you okay with the new format? Tell us what you're thinking in the comments.