15 Secrets You Never Knew About Overhaulin'

In the early and mid-2000s there was a wave of automotive reality TV shows, and one of the premier destinations for fans of the genre was Overhaulin’.

Staring famed automobile designer Chip Foose, Overhaulin’ surprised contestants with first class design modifications on their usually classic antique cars, but not before putting them through some stress.The premise of the show was to fool the contestant, or ‘mark’ as they are referred to on the show, into thinking their classic car has been stolen, misplaced, or wrecked.

Over the next 8 days, the mark would be given a run around by host Chris Jacobs by stalling on paperwork or police procedure while Foose and his team of top mechanics secretly worked to completely revamp the car.

The work was demanding and the time restriction brutal, but the mark almost always walked away with a car several times the value of what they used to have.

However, as with every reality TV show, what the audience sees is not everything that happens. The show’s origins and behind the scenes facts would surprise many fans.

Here are the 15 Secrets You Didn't Know About Overhaulin'.

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15 Chip Foose left Boyd Coddington For Financial Reasons

One of the worst kept secrets in the reality automotive world was the real life heat between Chip and his former employer, Boyd Coddington. A famous designer in his own right, Coddington was the star of American Hot Rod, and Foose worked for him from 1990-1998.

However, when Coddington had to file for bankruptcy, Foose was forced to leave and start his own design company. The conflict came from Coddington not just because Foose left, but because several of Coddington’s employees followed suit.

Not only were many of Coddington’s designs made by Chip at that point, but his charisma and likable personality drew workers the same way it drew ratings. Coddington never got over it and sadly passed away in 2008, but his legacy as a top Hot Rod designer lives on.

14 Drama On The Show Was Completely Fabricated

Reality TV thrives on drama. No matter what show or subject matter, editors and producers will find a way to foment conflict between cast members.

Overhaulin’ may be one of the only shows in the whole genre where there is very little if any drama behind the scenes.

The show is essentially a passion project for Foose, and according to him, the designers and mechanics he has as guests are all there for the same reasons he is; to simply do something special for someone.

Many accounts of those who worked on the show share the same sentiments, and you can hardly find anyone to say a bad thing about working for Chip.

The setup of tricking the mark was about as dramatic as things got, and the rest was hard work but a fun, fulfilling 8 days for those lucky enough to participate

13 The Team Really Only Had 8 Days To Build A Car

It’s common knowledge that reality TV is not as real as it’s often made out to be, but Overhaulin’ was true to everything it said it was.

The time limit of eight days to totally revamp a classic car was real and the team had to stick to it. This is an incredible achievement for those who may not realize it.

To put things into perspective, It took a full team of A-level designers and mechanics including Foose himself to accomplish this, all working tirelessly around the clock.

They have to know their way around the shop and not get in each others way, and they still sometimes struggled to get the job done in time.

It’s such an amazing feat that conspiracies persist to this day as to whether or not such quality work is possible in that time frame. 

12 The Show Relied On Free Or Low Cost Parts To Function

The production costs are always the biggest concern for a show, and the work of top level designers and mechanics does not come cheap.

To keep the overhead of the show as low as possible, it relied heavily on companies who participated to either donate the parts or provide them at low cost.

The benefit of this was certainly exposure -- having your company logo on one of the premier automotive reality shows is its own reward, and to have the company name associated with Chip has the potential to offset any loss in parts.

These sponsors were essentially the lifeblood of Overhaulin’ because without them, the production costs of each episode would have been many times what they already were.

It was apparently a successful strategy, as the show had a strong run and companies were happy to provide their products in exchange for fame.

11 One Of The Show’s Charity Projects Sold For Over $1 Million

In a partnership with news network CNN, Foose and the producers of Overhaulin’ worked over a famous hummer the network used in Iraq called “Warrior One."

Purchased from a dealer in Kuwait back in 2003 and served as the official vehicle with the embedded war correspondents for years. After it was retired, the Overhaulin’ team came aboard and gave it the full, world class revamp treatment, and it toured military bases and hospitals around the country.

After this tour finished, it was put up for auction at Barrett-Jackson, where the winning bid was a staggering $1.25 million.

The charity receiving the money was The Fisher House Foundation, which benefits wounded soldiers by providing their families with temporary housing while they receive major medical treatment.

10 The Marks Had To Pay The Taxes

The first question many people have about any show that gives away prizes is ‘do they have to pay taxes on that’. In most cases and with Overhaulin’, the answer is yes.

The cost of creating the car is figured into the show’s budget beforehand, and the value of the finished product is very high.

While the mark doesn’t pay the same amount as an average Joe off the street would, they’re still looking at a bare minimum $50k value on their new car, and most are even higher. Participants are informed during the application process that they are liable for all federal, state, and local taxes.

The fair market value of the finished product is always uncertain, so applicants for any of these types of shows should have thousands of dollars sitting around before they apply

9 Many Of The Cars Have Sentimental Value And Are Sold

Part of being chosen for Overhaulin’ is to have a good story the audience can relate to. Many of the marks ask for help with their antiques that are either family heirlooms, rare collectables, or otherwise valued in sentiment rather than market price.

When Overhaulin’ works their magic on a car, the value skyrockets on the market, and the owner is then faced with a dilemma. The sentimental value of the car might still be there, but there is also a lot of money to be made by selling the new and improved version.

Most of the contestants are regular, working class people, so a chance to gain tens of thousands of dollars at a car auction is too good a opportunity to pass up for whatever value it had to them beforehand.

Maybe that’s a bit sad, but at least they won’t be struggling with bills for a long while.

8 Many Cars Had To Be Tuned Up After Completion

We know the projects on Overhaulin’ are incredibly challenging, and it is true that the cars are completed in time. However, there have been many times where winners would find minor problems with the cars they get back.

These problems were relatively minor - a loose door handle, a mirror that was a bit crooked, less than ideal suspension - but they do require fixing before they are fully roadworthy. To their credit, the show does indeed provide whatever adjustments have to be made after the episode is filmed.

Part of this is also the condition of the vehicle before the revamp; some of them are derelict for years and require more fundamental changes than others.

The most common problem cited with finished products were the paintjobs, which while good quality, would often have blemishes and scratches that needed a touch up.

7 The Show Really Tries To Anger The Marks

The hook of the show besides the work itself is how they trick the mark into cooperating. They would stage elaborate fake thefts, have a bodyshop say they lost the car, or have it towed for phoney legal reasons.

If you’re wondering what the authorities would do about this, they were always in on it themselves. Police and business owners were contacted well before the mark is tricked, as well as their families, essentially leaving the mark as the only person around who isn’t in on the gag.

You can imagine how someone would react if their vintage antique car was lost through theft or negligence. Some were less than happy to put it mildly, but it always worked out in the end.

Eventually the show changed tactics and dropped the tricking gimmick due to money issues and negative fan feedback

6 Some Cars Totally Lose Their Value Due To The Changes

While the value of an Overhaulin’ project is guaranteed to be well over than of the original vehicle, there is a bad side to the level of change some of them go through.

Sometimes, the car is changed fundamentally, which actually changes the kind of car it is considered. The Ship of Theseus law, named after the famous paradox, addresses what and how much change can be performed on a vehicle before it is considered a different car.

Generally speaking, a car’s “identity” is tied to the chassis, so while new body parts are okay, changes at the chassis level will change the car’s identity, and the potential value is something entirely new.

A substantially modified car will no longer be sought by enthusiasts of that particular type, thereby reducing or completely changing identity and expectations.

5 Celebrity Overhauls Received a Lot Of Negative Feedback

Since most of the marks on Overhaulin’ are ordinary people with an inspirational story, fans really liked the idea of the team helping out a fellow enthusiast when they need a hand. However, sometimes shows need ratings, and Overhaulin’ had several celebrity episodes were seen by fans as disingenuous to the spirit of the show.

Celebrity overhauls include Ian Ziering and Jason Priestly, Lance Armstrong, Tony Todd, and Amber Heard. Not that internet message boards are known for their civility, but the fan feedback on these overhauls was very negative and got worse as the show went on.

People tuned in, but the reception from the core audience is why the celebrity episodes were limited. Perhaps the reactions were a bit harsh, but the customer is always right in the ratings business

4 The Vast Majority Of Submissions Are Deemed Unworthy

Overhaulin was a popular show, and Chip Foose is one of the biggest names in the business. It’s no surprise then, that the show received a lot of submissions.

Most of the audition videos had some sad story attached to them - an enthusiast who has lost their passion, a hard working community organizer with no time - whatever the case may be, there is only room for one selection per show.

This is inherently sad but a reality that no one can really help. The producers will always try to find not just a sad story, but one they think is relatable and with people who have good camera presence.

That means even though a mark may need and deserve help, if they don’t have the charisma the show runners are looking for, they’re out of luck.

3 Workers On The Show Worked An Exhausting Schedule With Little Sleep

Since the show’s gimmick was real and the turnaround had to happen within 8 days, the guest workers had to put in a very grueling schedule over that week.

The amount of work done on each project is challenging even for top level mechanics, and to do them in a week seems impossible to many. The truth is it isn’t impossible, but can be done if sleep is sacrificed almost completely.

Former guest workers have reported working near or above 150 hours for the week. Some have said they were lucky to sleep 4 hours a night and worked around the clock every day of the project.

It’s all a part of being professional to them though, and all have said they enjoyed their time on the show and working under Chip. His drive and positivity were reportedly infectious.

2 Their relationship With Gas Monkey Was Terminated Over A Publicity Stunt

Chip Foose everyone in the business and often had fellow professionals on as guest workers or designers. One of these was a place called Gas Monkey Garage, run by a man named Richard Rawlings.

Gas Monkey were featured on Overhaulin’ but things soon went bad. A marketer named Stephen Andrews spammed car forums promoting the episode that Gas Monkey would appear in, and later, produced a promotional video with Gas Monkey that was received very poorly by the entire hot rod world.

Accused of crass juvenile humor and even sacrilege, Rawlins and Gas Monkey were tarnished in the media and the Overhaulin’ episodes they appeared in pulled and never aired again.

Discovery Communications wouldn't even confirm or deny they had contact with Andrews or Rawlings afterward, in effect blackballing them from any of their channels and affiliated shows

1 Some Customers Were Not Happy During The Building Process

While most of the marks were elated with the final result of the project, law of average says there had to be a couple who weren’t.

One particular owner, in episode 442, reported numerous mistakes before and during the restoration. According to him, he told them the car was not fit for highway use, which the showrunners ignored and drove it on the highway, where it promptly overheated.

He also said they used a power washer sloppily, allowing water into the engine which ruined it. Other complaints include an inefficient nitrus system and no backup lights or gear indicator.

This is an exception to the normal reactions owners have on their projects, but someone investing thousands of dollars into something that is treated so recklessly can hardly be blamed for being angry.


Can you think of any other dark secrets about Overhaulin'? Let us know in the comments!

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