Counting Cars started as a spinoff of Pawn Stars, then went on to become a sensation all its own. The History Channel program, which consistently earns high ratings, focuses on Count's Kustoms, a Las Vegas shop that deals with the restoration and customization of classic automobiles.
The owner is the charismatic and passionate Danny Koker. He has assembled a crew of talented guys, each of whom has his own particular specialty -- and his own distinct personality. Every episode features these automotive artists working on cars and motorcycles, producing amazing results as they give each one an amazing new life. Sometimes famous guest stars like Elvira and members of Judas Priest stop by, too.
It's a fundamental truth that reality TV shows only give you some of the reality. There are always behind-the-scenes dramas, crises, and tidbits of interesting information that never make it to the airwaves. That's where this list comes in. We've done some digging to see what goes on when the cameras stop rolling. You'll learn more about the Counting Cars crew, as well as a few of the distinct challenges that go into making this program.
Here are 15 Dark Secrets From Counting Cars You Had No Idea About.
Because of his love for cars, motorcycles, and just about anything with an engine of some sort, Danny likes to stay busy. A solid work ethic, combined with the high quality of the output at Count's Kustoms, means that there's a great demand for the talents of his crew.
About 45 people work in the various departments of the business, and a minimum of fifteen projects are going on at any given time. So much happening all at once means that the Counting Cars camera crew has to be focused on a lot of activity simultaneously, which can become very chaotic.
In a recent interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Danny 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.” It's a difficult challenge for the crew to make sure they're capturing everything of note in a typical day's activity.
Any business can have a disgruntled former employee. When your business is part of a nationally televised cable program, though, such a thing can become part of the news cycle.
In March of 2016, Count's Kustoms accused a former staffer named Joseph Frontiera of taking $75,000 from the company. They alleged that he used the stolen cash to purchase airplane tickets, as well as to make a down payment on a snazzy new Range Roger. Adding insult to injury, they also alleged that Frontiera failed to pay their income taxes in a timely manner, leading to the IRS administering $18,000 in fines.
A Delaware company called Randstad Professionals referred Frontiera for the job, so Count's Kustoms sued them, claiming they knew he had prior embezzlement charges against him. Randstad counter-sued, saying their agreement with the car shop prohibited it from putting Frontiera in a position where he handled money.
Roli Szabo is one of the more popular supporting players on Counting Cars. He's the shop's detailer, whose duties are to clean and polish the vehicles that come through the company's doors. He's exceptionally good at the job, which has earned him the notice of viewers – and one particular group of thieves.
A specially-designed trailer containing a large portion of his detailing equipment was stolen in early 2017. It was in the parking lot of a Las Vegas establishment called Mango's Beach Bar at the time. A surveillance video showed several perpetrators -- who identified the trailer as belonging to a reality TV star because his name and face were on the side -- unhooking the trailer and making off with it.
Szabo was obviously unhappy, given that it resulted in the loss of thousands of dollars of equipment. Were he not recognizable, the theft might never have occurred.
During the first and second seasons of Counting Cars, Scott Jones was a key figure, serving as a manager and bookkeeper at Count's Kustoms. Then he left, receiving only a brief mention during the show's third season. A firm reason for his departure was never given on the show, leading fans to wonder what happened.
Some of those theories were pretty wild. One was that Danny Koker fired him for embezzlement. A crime such as that would certainly account for an abrupt exit that no one wanted to talk about. A second theory suggested that he got sick of being on camera and no longer wanted to participate in the production.
There's no concrete evidence for either of those theories. The more mundane, and happier, evidence suggests that he moved down South and opened up a garage where he could be his own boss.
Joseph “Doc” Duggan is the tech guy. He's the one who installs all kinds of high-tech gadgets into the cars that Count's Kustoms works on. His modern sensibility sometimes clashes with the more traditional vibe of his coworkers.
If there's a downside to being a techie on a popular TV show, it's that people assume you're loaded. In fact, Duggan found his house robbed in 2015. After returning from a Thanksgiving trip, he came home to find the door unlocked and the place empty. Only a few piles of clothes and some dishes remained. Strangely, though, the robbers ran those dishes through the dishwasher before leaving. There was also evidence that they used his bathroom.
As a result of this theft, Duggan made the decision to beef up security, adding cameras, stronger locks, and other security measures to the place. Fortunately, he knows a thing or two about gadgetry.
Companies all over the country and the world are making great strides to go green. With scientific evidence showing the devastating effects of climate change, there's a concerted effort to be more environmentally friendly. That's especially true with cars, whose emissions are one of the biggest sources of trouble. Of course, not everyone is on board that train, including Danny Koker.
During an interview with a Canadian program called The Morning Show, he unequivocally asserted that he has “no use for” greener cars like the Toyota Prius because they don't have the power in a car that he craves. Koker went on to say that, “if it gets four miles to the gallon and has 800 horsepower, I’m thrilled. We’ve got more oil than we can shake a stick at.”
He concluded with a suggestion that environmental concerns are “a game” staged by politicians.
Danny Koker has a lot of famous friends, many of whom have made appearances on the show. Ziggy Marley, Rob Zombie, and Elvira are some of the celebrities who have stopped by. One of his other good friends is Vince Neil, lead singer of the hard rock band Motley Crue, but he's not well-liked by some of the other guys at Count's Kustoms.
Neil was arrested in 2003 for assaulting a Nevada prostitute and charged with domestic violence against his ex-girlfriend in 2011. Interviewed on the Vegas radio show On Air with Robert & CC a few years ago, Kevin Mack, Scott Jones, and “Horny Mike” Henry expressed a belief that their boss's association with Neil was potentially detrimental to the business's image.
Jones said the singer should “stop hitting girls” and “come down to the shop if you have a problem with anything I'm saying.”
The undeniable truth is that we live in a very politically-charged time. No matter which side of the aisle you're on, there can be repercussions for openly expressing your views. Danny Koker isn't concerned about that. During the 2016 presidential election, he decided to be open about his political preference, even if it meant potentially hurting his business or driving down the ratings for Counting Cars.
In a race where both candidates were extremely controversial, albeit for different reasons, Koker openly supported Donald Trump, citing a belief that he would lower taxes on businesses like Count's Kustoms and roll back regulations that negatively impacted them.
Koker wasn't the least bit worried that Trump-opposing Americans would stop tuning into his show, despite the fact that his good friend, Pawn Stars' Rick Harrison, saw his own business take a major hit after publicly supporting a different Republican candidate, Marco Rubio.
One of the most influential people in Danny's life was his father, whom he has described as both a best friend and a business partner. When his dad died, it naturally hit him incredibly hard. “When I lost Dad, I kind of lost my mind,” he told Las Vegas Weekly. “I had to get busy...If I sit idle, I'll go to bad places in my brain.”
That said, one thing he couldn't quite bring himself to do was work on the cars his father collected. The pain was simply too raw. Danny revealed to the Las Vegas Review-Journal in October that 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.”
He added that he really hopes to share these cars with his fans in the near future.
Counting Cars is built around the idea that Danny Koker is a full-fledged expert on the subject of automobiles. It's literally his business to know what he's talking about, so the show relies on his expertise. He often offers detailed information about the cars that make their way into his shop. And sometimes he's dead wrong about them.
Fellow car enthusiasts like to go online and point out the inaccuracies Danny makes on occasion. One such commenter noted that Danny claimed 1954 was the year Chevy began making the Corvette, and that it was a failure, with just 600 produced. It was actually first made in model year 1953. Three hundred were made that year, with several thousand the following year. Hardly a failure.
That's just one example. Dig through the comments section of any car-related website and you're likely to find other folks taking the show to task for factual errors.
Everyone with at least a passing interest in automobiles certainly has a "dream car"; the one that they'd love to own if money and opportunity were not obstacles. Danny Koker is no different, although it may surprise you that a man whose life's work revolves around rare cars -- and who, by all accounts, is financially secure enough to buy whatever he wants -- lost the chance to buy his own dream car.
He told the American Profile website that it has long been his dream to own and restore a 1972 Lamborghini Miura SV. One time, he came pretty close. "Somewhere between 15 and 20 years ago, I almost had a deal on one and then it fell through," he explained. The dream remains alive, as he continues to be on the lookout for this particular make and model, despite the fact that they grow more rarer and more expensive with each passing year.
When you watch Counting Cars, you see the great work the guys do. Customers are almost always ecstatic with the end results. Everything looks like a top-notch operation. Without a doubt, many viewers fantasize about taking their own cars there for restoration or modification.
As is often the case with television, what you see on screen can be vastly different from what you get in real life. If you take a gander at TripAdvisor, the popular website that provides user reviews of businesses and attractions around the country, you'll see that Count's Kustoms gets some less-than-stellar ratings.
One disappointed tourist noted that the shop was in a scary part of town and much smaller than it appears on TV. Other complaints are that the souvenir merchandise for sale is overpriced, the staff is rude, and that the show's stars are rarely out where visitors can see them.
Drama on Counting Cars is periodically generated when Danny wants to purchase a car, but the owner is attached to it and can't decide whether or not to sell. Such moments really capture how connected people can become to their cars. Even as he tries to persuade these folks to part with their beloved possessions, Danny understands completely how they feel.
He told Las Vegas Weekly that he has a very hard time selling his own cars. It's rare for him to do so, but every once in a while, something will change his mind. Danny related a story in which a couple fell madly in love with a car from his personal collection, so he reluctantly sold it to them, even though the act of letting it go made him "verklempt." He added that, "I feel like I put a piece of me in it," as he does with all the automobiles in his collection.
Before he was a TV star, Danny Koker was...a TV star. He just used a different name and had a radically different personality.
A local Nevada television station, KFBT, used to air a late night B-movie program called Saturday Fright at the Movies. A different cheesy horror flick would run each week. Koker was the host, under the moniker "Count Cool Rider." He typically dressed in a black jacket and sunglasses. The opening credits sequence showed him, naturally, riding a motorcycle.
The set consisted of a coffin surrounded by candles. Koker, using a faux Transylvanian accent, would introduce the evening's feature, then transition into and out of commercial breaks. The whole thing was designed to be goofy and tongue-in-cheek. Its star liked his alter ego so much that he eventually named his shop Count's Kustoms as a nod to it.
A key part of Counting Cars involves Danny bidding on automobiles he'd like to own. An avid collector, he has a hard time passing up sweet rides that come his way. The process often involves negotiation with the owners. What television fame has taught Danny is that it's a lot harder to make those deals when everyone knows you.
In a 2013 interview, he confessed that people now know how successful his business is, and they also know he gets paid handsomely for the show, so the act of haggling suddenly becomes more complicated than it used to be. “Nine times out of ten, the person recognizes you,” he said. “They know that this guy is from TV and they try to hold onto their prices a little bit tougher.”
It's an unusual irony. The show has made his business more successful, while also making it harder to do some of the things that are vital to keeping it running.
What's your favorite part of Counting Cars? Who's your favorite cast member? Tell us your preferences in the comments.