If you watched MTV in the mid-2000s, you were almost guaranteed to catch an episode of Pimp My Ride. The premise of the show was helping out young people who drove truly awful cars -- so bad that those vehicles were definitely not street legal.
Xzibit would show up, say some quips, and then take the car back to West Coast Customs so they could modify the car. (At least for the first four seasons -- then Galpin Auto Sports took over.)
The show was known for making cars that looked like trash look amazing, as well as giving them some absolutely ridiculous upgrades-- one car owner even got a badminton net in the back of his car.
You could almost always bet that there'd be some over-the-top rims and an eye-catching custom paint job.
The show was entertaining and ran for six seasons, from 2004-2007. As with all reality shows, though -- especially ones that aired in the 2000s -- everything was not as it seemed.
Behind the scenes of Pimp My Ride, there was a lot being manipulated so that they could create a good story for the thirty-minute episode. Now that it’s been off the air for more than a decade, the secrets are starting to spill out.
Ready? Here are 20 Secrets Behind Pimp My Ride. We're off to the West Coast!
It’s not a coincidence that all of the behind-the-scenes secrets from Pimp My Ride only started coming out years after the show went off the air. (Though faster internet connections and social media probably also helped with that.)
One of the conditions of being on the show, of course, was signing a pretty lengthy contract that partially dictated what the owners were allowed to do once they were on the show.
Don't worry -- it was nothing like a Disney contract, where talent allegedly signs away their ability to swear or be a normal teenager while representing the House of Mouse. However, participants on the show weren’t allowed to say that the car was on Pimp My Ride if they tried to sell it.
If they were going to keep the car for themselves, they were free to brag about being on the show. If they decided to sell their car, however, the gag order was suddenly in place.
There were also restrictions on which sites could be used to sell the car in the first place. This was done to make sure that owners couldn’t try to inflate the value of the car by saying that it had been on the show.
There were probably other, more serious reasons why this provision was in the contract, however-- like trying to prevent the public from finding out about the shady work that was being done on the car.
One of the best parts of the show is seeing everything come together at the end.
The last few minutes are dedicated to someone from the shop -- usually Mad Mike -- taking the owner on a mini-tour of their new car, showing off all the new additions that they’ll be able to drive away with. Maybe.
Some of the upgrades to the car were fake and only there for the cameras. Jake Glazier, who appeared on season four, said that his car really needed a new muffler. This was an issue that he was able to easily recognize himself even though he doesn’t work on cars for a living.
Instead of just fixing the muffler, though, the shop installed a fake exhaust pipe to make it look like that’s what the car was supposed to sound like. It clearly wasn’t.
Martino also noted that some of the upgrades to his car were fake, like a robotic arm that had been added for no other reason than to look cool. The arm didn’t actually work on its own -- it was actually being controlled off-screen by someone entering commands into a laptop.
For the amount of time that the shop has the cars, you’d think that they wouldn’t have to resort to installing fake upgrades just for the reactions.
The best part of Pimp My Ride is seeing the finished product. The specialists in each shop always give a lot of cool gadgets and tricked out interiors to each contestant’s car, and seeing how it all comes together is part of the fun of the show. (We’d imagine that it’s the best part for the contestants who got to go on the show, too.)
Unfortunately for the owners, though, not all of the additions to their cars kept working after they’d driven away from the shop.
In fact, some of them stopped working within days. It turns out that even though the shops had the cars for months, that wasn’t exactly enough time to make sure that the work was as good as it was supposed to be.
The TV screens in Seth Martino’s car stopped working, and the LED lights that they put in his seats were so hot that he couldn’t drive with them on.
He also wasn’t able to keep the gull-wing doors that they’d installed in the back since the mechanism they used to make them work prevented them from installing seat belts in the back seat.
This might be forgivable if they also fixed up other issues with the car, but most of the time, they didn't...
The cars might look fantastic by the time that they drive away from West Coast Customs or GAS, but that doesn’t mean that they ran well.
One of the reasons why producers of the show always had a tow truck on hand was because the mechanics on Pimp My Ride don’t actually fix any major mechanical issues with the car.
Did you need a new transmission? Sorry about that. Is your engine ancient? That’s got to be rough. We’ll enhance the frame of your car so that we can put cool doors on, but we won’t make sure that you can actually drive from your home to your job.
It’s disappointing to hear that they didn’t fix any details that weren’t discussed on the show since some contestants talked about how they needed their cars to run reliably so that they could help with family or hold down a job.
A cool paint job doesn’t do you any good if the engine still has issues.
It sounds like all they did was make the car look amazing while completely ignoring the underlying issues. Some owners still had to take their cars to a different shop after being on the show to make sure that all of the necessary repairs were done.
To add insult to injury, some of the modifications weren’t even allowed to drive off with the car. Instead, they were only added for the big reveal in the shop and then removed before the owner was able to drive away... or watch their car be towed away, depending on how bad the engine was.
Justin Dearinger said that after filming was over, they took away a lot of the things that were featured in the car.
The guys at GAS had installed a pop-up champagne contraption in his car, but for obvious reasons, they worried that keeping it in would promote drinking and driving, so they took it out. (Why they thought it was a good idea to install it in the first place is another question entirely.)
They’d also given him a way to create a “drive-in” theater, but that too was removed before he could take the car back home with him. We would guess that a lot of other people who have been on the show also had to have something removed before they could leave.
It turns out that some of the modifications that they add to the cars to look great on camera aren’t actually safe or street-legal.
Each episode of Pimp My Ride usually starts off with what looks like an audition video, with the person showing off how terrible their car is. They emphasize how bad it is to “convince” MTV to come and modify it, closing out the video with, “Please, MTV, pimp my ride!”
Enter Xzibit, with some form of early-2000s video editing that looks hilarious today. He goes to the owner’s house, checks out the car, and then knocks on their door.
When they open it, they always look surprised and usually give the cameras a great reaction.
If you stop to think about it at all, you can tell that the car owners already knew MTV was coming. They have a mic on them to capture all of their excited reactions, and there’s no way you don’t notice a camera crew setting up outside your house and don’t come outside.
According to participants on the show, they knew MTV would be there, but they didn’t know if Xzibit would be there or not.
They were told that when someone knocked on their door, it would either be a producer offering them a prize because they didn’t win or it would be Xzibit telling them that their ride was about to be modified.
Xzibit makes jokes about driving the cars to West Coast Customs, but it wouldn’t surprise anyone to know that some of those cars had to be towed to the shop before they could be worked on.
The last thing you want is for the car to fall apart on the way there, or worse, get into a car accident and cause even more damage.
What’s worse, though, is that a producer admitted that a tow truck was pretty much always on hand at the end of the show, when the cars are supposed to be fixed, modified, and ready to go... just in case the car didn’t run.
It’s always better to be safe than sorry, but that doesn’t exactly speak to a lot of confidence in the quality of work in the shop. If the car was literally just fixed up, you shouldn’t have to worry that it won’t run.
After all, isn’t that the whole point of the show?
Sometimes cars needed to be towed because of wiring issues, but sometimes the problems were more serious. Either way, we’re sure those owners weren’t happy to see their “fixed” cars on a tow truck because it wouldn’t start.
In addition to fake upgrades, the producers of the show also tried to fictionalize some aspects of the contestant’s lives.
It might be reality television, but most producers don’t actually want reality -- they want a good story that’s close to reality that’s easy to sell and fun to watch. Sometimes to get that story, they went too far.
One of the car owners, Seth Martino, said that he felt like MTV went the extra mile to make fun of his size. Before his walkthrough of the car with host Xzibit -- where the owners are supposed to show the rapper all the things that are wrong with the car but also talk a little bit about themselves -- producers dumped candy all over the floor of his car.
Then they told him to say that it was his and that he kept it there just in case he got hungry. (The names of the candies were blurred out, but it's not hard to tell what they planted.)
As if that weren’t demeaning and shaming enough, then they gave Martino a cotton-candy machine in the back of his car. It wasn’t as though he needed one (who does?), so Martino felt as though they’d done that just to really drive home the fact that he was overweight and allegedly liked to eat a lot.
It’s not just the owners’ backstories that MTV likes to embellish, however. They also make the cars more dramatic so that the end transformation is even more dramatic. Anything for a good before and after photo, right?
So even if a contestant already has a really awful car, sometimes producers would make it look worse just so that it was even more shocking when the owner revealed how awful their car looked. Producers would also exaggerate damage that was already there.
In one instance, for example, they used aircraft remover to make the peeling paint of a car look even worse. They also completely removed a bumper that was just hanging off and "enhanced" a dent that had been caused by something else.
Some of the owners were insulted by this -- their cars might have been bad, but they weren't as bad as MTV made them out to be.
The shows were also sometimes edited to make contestants look and sound like worse drivers than they actually were. (Or worse, the show made them sound like they were just straight up clueless.)
In the end, the extra damage didn’t matter as much, since it was done right before taking it to the shop to get fixed up for free. It’d only be a matter of time before they got their car back... right?
On the show, the editing makes it look like the owners are only without their car for a short period of time-- aweekend, maybe, or a week.
After all, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition can build entire houses in a week, so surely West Coast Customs and GAS can fix a car in that amount of time.
Well, not exactly. Editing might make it seem like it’s been a short period of time, but in reality, WCC and GAS could keep cars for weeks or months before finally giving them back to the owner.
The time frame isn’t really explained, but people who had appeared on the show complained about how being on the show actually made their lives more difficult.
Part of the reason why they went on Pimp My Ride was because they needed their cars to carry out their daily responsibilities, but their cars weren't reliable enough to help them do that. Then they went on Pimp My Ride... and weren't able to use their cars for months.
We can’t all have Ty Bennington’s energy and enthusiasm when it comes to getting major changes done in just a few day’s time, but we’d hope that the people who a show is trying to “help” aren’t getting left out in the cold by the producers of that same show.
To their credit, MTV producers did realize that it would be super inconvenient to be without a car for months. (Especially since the shops probably said that they needed a ton of time to work on the awful cars to which MTV added additional damage.)
MTV didn't give the owners a replacement car, but they did give them $2,000 to rent a car.
That sounds like a decent trade, until you remember that the shops had those cars for months. If your car is gone for five to six months, it’s not likely that two thousand dollars will cover your rental costs for that entire time.
Plus, most of the people who appeared on the show were young adults, and were thus not old enough to be renting a car in the first place.
This made the two grand essentially worthless since it was either more expensive for them to rent a car or rental companies refused to rent to them at all.
Justin Dearinger said that he tried to rent a car with the money, but just one month alone cost him one thousand dollars. After that, he just pocketed the rest and found other ways to get around.
It would have been cool if MTV had given them a temporary car, but sadly that doesn’t seem to have been the case.
Once people find out that you were on Pimp My Ride, there’s probably one question that comes up all of the time: what was Xzibit like?
Good news, Xzibit fans-- every participant on the show has nothing but good things to say about the guy. Each person said that he was nice to talk to, funny in real life, and a chill guy to hang around on set.
One mentioned that the rapper would joke about going off set to smoke, but was always professional and a great host.
However, they didn’t actually get to spend that much time with him.
Xzibit really only sees the car owners at the beginning, when he comes to “pick up” the car and take it back to the shop, and at the end, where they do the big reveal.
For the rest of that time, the owners are back at home, going about their lives, while the shop works on their cars. There are really only around two days where they would be able to see him, and that time isn't exactly dedicated to in-depth conversation.
They might not have gotten to spend too much time with him, but he definitely left a good impression on all of them.
What happens if people really don’t like the way that their car turned out? With as many cars as West Coast Customs and GAS worked on, there was bound to be at least a few people who weren’t thrilled with the end result.
The producers had a solution for this, however. Car owners had to pretend to see their car twice when they were given the cue to react.
The more outwardly excited they were, the better. This way, even if they didn’t have a great camera-ready reaction when the car was actually revealed, MTV would still have something to edit into in the final show.
It’s also probably a lot easier to act excited if you can pretend you’re excited about what you hope your car is going to be... and difficult to pretend to be excited if you already know that you hate the modifications.
Some of the participants, like Jake Glazier, had to be coached into showing more effusive reactions.
He remembered that one of the mechanics put his arm around him and walked him around the studio for ten minutes before saying that his team had worked on his car for months and needed him to be more enthusiastic in his reaction.
There would probably be lower chances of people wanting to sell their cars after being on the show if they were able to choose the way that their car would be modified.
After all, if you got to specify a ton of expensive modifications and then receive them all for free, you probably wouldn’t want to sell that car too quickly.
Unfortunately for the contestants who appeared on Pimp My Ride, though, they didn’t get to choose the way that their cars were modified.
However, the show did make an effort to find out what they were interested in seeing. Contestants were interviewed about what they liked and what they disliked before the car was taken away off to the shop.
The show didn’t actually have to follow the guidelines of what the owner liked and didn’t like, though.
If producers or mechanics ended up liking one of the contestant's dislikes more or thought that a specific modification would look good on TV, they were free to do whatever they wanted.
This is how contestants ended up with chocolate fountains and cotton candy machines in the back of their cars when they said that they mostly used them for storage, or why one owner who said he hated red ended up with an interior that was entirely red.
One can imagine that having a car from Pimp My Ride would attract a lot of attention. They’re all pretty noticeable, from the custom paint jobs to the rims to the doors.
Sometimes, this attention is wanted. It’s nice to get attention from someone you’re romantically interested in, for example, or maybe you just enjoy being the cool kid on the block for once.
However, it’s hard to find anyone who wants extra attention from cops while they’re driving.
That's bad news for people who own a vehicle that’s been on Pimp My Ride, because those cars attracted cops like bees to honey.
Justin Dearinger said that he was pulled over by the cops almost every day just because they wanted to talk about the car. Imagine the first time that happened -- freaking out because you see the flashing lights in your rearview mirror, pulling over while trying to figure out what you did wrong, only to realize that the cop just wants to talk about your episode of the show.
It must have been awkward if he was actually pulled over for speeding later on.
Luckily for Dearinger, he said that most of the cops were really cool about it and let him continue on after their quick conversation.
If a cop ever followed a contestant from Pimp My Ride back to their house, they might have ended up surprised. While some people were actually picked up at their real homes, MTV was also known for using staged houses to film the opening scenes of the episode.
There were probably several reasons for doing this. If potential contestants lived with their families, for example, you have a lot more people who you have to manage in order to make sure that you get the right shot.
The last thing you want is for someone’s niece or nephew to go running through the house right when you’re trying to get someone’s perfect reaction shot of Xzibit.
This also guarantees that the contestant will open the door instead of their mom, who honestly might just close the door on MTV instead of calling her kid to come see what was going on. Plus, if the contestant doesn’t live in the most photogenic neighborhood, no one has to know.
It’s not clear how many houses MTV rented to film Pimp My Ride, but it would be fun to go back and see if the same house appears across multiple seasons.
It at least explains why they all seemed so perfectly domestic.
The houses and the reactions might have been staged, but the show itself wasn’t scripted. (Out of all the things that we would have guessed were fake, we’re honestly a little surprised that the dialogue was real.)
That’s not to say that producers didn’t guide what they thought should happen in specific scenes, though. After all, each episode and person has a storyline and “backstory” that has to keep things interesting, and those don’t happen as organically as we’d like to think.
To get the contestant in the staged house, producers would tell them that they were still competing with other contestants to see who could make the best audition video. Then they would have them sit in the house and wait for someone to knock on the door.
Then, instead of scripting exactly what they thought that contestants should say -- and probably getting some pretty fake-sounding dialogue, given that the contestants aren’t actors -- they gave people topics to stick to.
As long as their conversations stayed within that topic, they were golden.
So the dialogue wasn’t completely genuine, but there wasn’t a specific script that contestants had to stick to. Instead, it sounds more like an improv exercise that happened to be filmed by MTV.
We can’t say the same for the guys at West Coast Customs or GAS, sadly.
Taking his car in for extra work actually ended in disaster for one of the participants of the show. Justin Dearinger initially wasn’t happy with how MTV modified his car, even though he got used to it eventually.
He still ended up adding about $20,000 worth of modifications to his car after he was done with the show. He finally got his car the way he wanted.. .and then it all went up in flames.
This wasn’t the fault of anyone on MTV or at Galpin Auto Sports -- the fire was caused by some faulty wiring installed by one of the shops that Dearinger took it to after being on the show.
Dearinger thankfully was unharmed, though he was in the car when things started to go wrong and had to pull over as soon as he saw smoke. The fire department had to be called to contain the fire and stop the situation from getting even worse.
Sadly, the car wasn’t able to be salvaged and he had to lose the car that he spent so much money on.
We’re sure that MTV is glad that no one can blame them for that one. Even if the modifications on the show don’t always work, they at least don’t threaten the lives of people driving the cars.
Producers of Pimp My Ride might not have scripted the interactions between the contestants and Xzibit (even if they definitely scripted the guys in West Coast Customs and GAS), but sometimes the stories they gave contestants weren’t completely accurate.
In addition to giving them a topic or theme to stick to, like being lovestruck or really loving food, sometimes the producers would manufacture backstories as well. Anything to get some good “reality” television, right?
For Jake Glazier, they didn’t just give him a fake favorite color or sob story, though. He says that producers actually tried to convince him to break up with his girlfriend before the show.
They thought that it would make a better story if he needed a modified car so that he could attract women and wouldn’t be lonely anymore. However, one has to wonder why they couldn't just lie about him breaking up with his girlfriend instead of trying to convince him to dump her in real life.
Glazier refused because it didn’t make any sense.
MTV representative Larry Hochberg said that he wasn’t ever aware of something like that happening and that it didn’t make sense for them to ask him to dump his girlfriend because it wouldn’t help the show. That’s probably what Glazier thought, too.
The way the show is edited, it looks as though the clips at the beginning of each episode were from an audition video that the contestants made to get MTV to come and modify their ride.
A moment of thought will pop a hole right in that theory, though. Unless everyone on the show somehow had professional-grade lighting and HD cameras in 2005, it’s pretty obvious that they were already working with MTV by the time they filmed those clips.
So, how were they chosen to be on the show?
It varied based on contestant. For Justin Dearinger, he attended a casting call at GAS with about two hundred other cars that were also super run down and busted.
After that, he was sent to a final audition with fifteen other people where he made a video of the car, which was then sent to producers. He was told that whoever made the best video would be chosen for the show, but in reality, all of them were chosen for the season.
It only took about another week after that for them to call him back to start shooting.
So there was a video involved, but it’s very clearly not the one that we see at the beginning of each show.
What did you think of these behind-the-scenes secrets from Pimp My Ride? Did any surprise you? Let us know in the comments!