Vegas Rat Rods is not a show that should have worked. There are so many other car shows on several networks. Yet, somehow, Vegas Rat Rods has won the hearts of millions of viewers and is entering it’s fourth season.
The show follows Steve Darnell and his crew at Welder Up, a customization car shop.
In each and every episode, they push the limits of human ingenuity to create some of the most unique vehicles you’ll ever lay your eyes on.
They create “Rat Rods,” a custom car that exaggerates or imitates the early hot rods of the 1940s, 1950s, and early 1960s. Their goal is not to try to recreate or restore hot rods, but rather they aim to piece together automotive “Frankensteins” for their clients, truly delivering one-of-a-kind vehicles.
Beyond the raw talent and skill of each of the cast members, the show has a lot of heart and does not veer off into theatrical arguments or drama.
Sure, there are disagreements here and there, but for the most part, this is a show about passionate people who care about each other, coming together to create vehicular works of art. Their intention is to not simply entertain but to inspire.
With that said,, here are the 15 Behind-The-Scenes Secrets About Vegas Rat Rods.
15 Grant Schwartz Had A Hard Time With The Show At First
When Grant Schwartz first came to Welder Up to shoot the second season, it was not an easy transition.
Having to leave his shop and family for several months was extremely difficult. “It was completely outside of my comfort zone. I’m a homebody,” said Grant. “And not seeing my kids for more than a month at a time was hard.”
When Grant first walked in, he was surprised to see how cluttered and disorganized the shop was.
“If I had been hired on and this was any other shop, I would’ve walked out the first day,” Grant said. “There’s nothing wrong with the way they do it, it’s just not my preferred way.”
Grant has described the work as “very intense” and long, working 10- to 12-hour days. One of the more difficult obstacles was working Steve Darnell.
Grant admits to butting heads with the star of the show, noting that they are both very stubborn. “He’s the guy who has to make the decision, because it’s his name on it, but it took me half a season to figure out that somebody has to be the boss, and it’s not going to be me,” he stated.
Although his first few months may have been hard, Grant seems to fit right in now and is returning for his third season. It’s nice to know they were able to work out any issues and Grant adapted to his role in the show.
14 Steve Darnell Doesn’t Come Cheap
No one knows how much Steve Darnell is worth, as he likes to keep it private. However, one can assume, it is a lot. The work that he and the rest of his crew does comes with a hefty price tag.
Reportedly, he will charge between $80,000 to $90,000 to design cars and rods with an additional $100,000 for the build.
His clients must bring some pretty hefty money bags in order to get one of Welder Up’s famous builds.
It isn’t really all that surprising when you consider that this more than just scrap metal and spare parts for Steve. This is truly an art for him and his crew. They take their time designing incredibly intricate and unique cars.
For example, in season three, the crew used a Coney Island carnival seat to give their client a unique seating experience.
Another time, they used a diesel Cat engine to give their build extra power. Instead of tires, sometimes they use tracks.
There is no telling what they will come up with next, but you can be sure of two things: first, it will be incredibly unique; and secondly, it will certainly put a dent in your wallet.
13 Barber Dave Owns His Own Barber Shop in Southern Utah
The frequently funny and quirky Dave Lefler has been on the show from the beginning. Often referred to as Barber Dave, Lefler is in fact a barber.
When he is not fabricating at Welder Up, he lives in southern Utah cutting hair at his own shop aptly named Barber Dave’s. Who would have guessed?
Similar to others on the show, Dave spends time away from Welder Up when the cameras aren’t rolling. A couple hours north of Las Vegas, Dave runs his barber shop in Washington, Utah.
He describes his shop as having a punk rock, hot rod vibe.
When reflecting on his childhood, some of his “most cherished memories [were] going to the barbershop” to get his hair cut. From there, Dave was inspired to pursue the art of straight razors and guardless clippers.
“[Barbering has] become popular in recent years because people have recognized the quality of the era before them,” Dave reflected. “For me, it’s a fascination with a culture.”
Through the years, Dave has acquired loyal customers who keep returning for the relaxed atmosphere and friendly service.
“He’s the only one who knows how to cut my hair,” says Brad Harmon, a regular. “Dave gives the best fade anywhere.”
It is important to Dave Lefler to create a meaningful experience for his customers. He believes, “When you find your barber and your shop, it becomes your sanctuary.”
12 Grant Schwartz Suffers From Gout
Fabricating and welding rat rods for the mind of Steve Darnell is no easy task. Doing it with gout is even harder.
As an aggressive form of arthritis, gout occurs when high levels of uric acid crystallize in the joints, causing immense pain.
Speaking about his experience, Grant has stated “…it really does take its toll on you… when it comes, it just slows you right down and you can’t think straight and you can’t really function the way you’re supposed to or want to.”
Fortunately, Grant has been able to keep it under control so he can stay on top of his work and life.
“So, I’ve been lucky enough to find some natural remedies that seem to keep it away. Knock on wood, it works,” he stated. He isn’t too clear on the specifics of keep his gout under control, but it is recommended that a diet high in low-fat dairy products and regular intake of vitamin C supplements may prevent further irritation.
Grant advises that to power through the pain you should, talk with your friends… Just try and be positive. So, uh, you just gotta do your best to take care of yourself. Whether you’re in pain or not, I think if you try and live a relatively healthy life style, it all pays off in one way or another down the road.”
11 Steve Darnell’s Wrestling Coach Gave Him His First Job
Long before Steve Darnell was making rat rods in the Vegas desert, he was a high school wrestler at Skyview High School in Billings, Montana.
Rich Malia was a staple at Skyview High School as the wrestling coach for 29 years and finally retiring in 2014.
He encouraged Darnell to enroll in an automotive trades program after he recognized some engineering talent in him. It is obvious that Steve took this to heart and made quite the career out of it.
However, the encouragement didn’t stop there. Coach Malia needed a bike as a Christmas gift for his daughter. Not wanting to go to a store, he hired a young Steve to build a bike.
It was Steve’s first major job as a builder. He built the bike, and as a testament to his skill, it is still used today. Malia’s daughter still has it and has passed it on to her daughters.
To come full circle, Steve’s sons, got their start building bikes as well. Using scrap metal and spare parts, the Darnell boys started to hone their skills and learn a strong work ethic.
Now you can see both of them working in the shop and on the show with their very proud father.
10 Chase and Kash Darnell Will Inherit Welder Up
Steve is not just interested in creating his own business and television show. He aspires to create a legacy. The Darnells come from a long line filled with hard labor.
Steve is very proud of his grandfather, a World War II vet, who spent many years as a truck driver often working long, difficult hours. Steve’s father started his own steel factory during the financial crisis of the 1970s.
This work ethic has practically imprinted in Steve’s DNA. He says he “was raised with the mentality of doing things the right way and no shortcuts.”
Now it seems like his children are following a similar path. Kash wrestled in school just like his father. Both Chase and Kash started building bikes at a young age. They learned to weld and fabricate, and more importantly to use their imagination in creating beautiful works of metal.
Today, they can be seen fabricating beside their father in Welder Up, already having years of experience behind them. “I tell my sons all the time that I would rather have them try and screw up than not try at all.”
Auto mechanical work is not easy and does eventually take a toll on one’s body. Steve knows he cannot do this forever and has high hopes that his two sons continue in his footsteps, expecting them to eventually take ownership of the shop.
Who knows? Perhaps in twenty years, Chase and Kash will have their own show, too.
9 Twiggy Tallant Never Expected To Be A Reality TV Star
Twiggy Tallant’s journey to Vegas Rat Rods is probably the most interesting one. As a young Toronto native, Twiggy had never even thought about cars.
Instead, she pursed a career in modeling and performance. While pursing her career as a model she got a gig at a car show, and then lightening struck. “I had no interest in cars whatsoever until I saw my first rat rod and was like, okay, I need to know everything about this car immediately.”
She instantly knew that she wanted to course correct and set new career aspirations in the automotive world.
“It was a very love-at-first-sight situation, and I’m not a love-at-first-sight kind of girl,” Twiggy remembered. “I just completely stopped caring about my job and wanted to know everything about the car.”
She enrolled in an automotive technology course, and, through a connection with a friend, found herself as Steve Darnell’s apprentice.
As if that wasn’t intimidating enough, she then found herself on a reality show. “[Steve] told me after I got down there, ‘A TV show might be in the works,’ and I was like, ‘Well, cool, good luck with that,’ never thinking it would happen. And even if it did happen, I could see Steve being on TV, but I never thought it would involve any of us who were just working there.”
Years later, Twiggy is now recognized for her automotive skills and her modeling all thanks to her time on Vegas Rat Rods.
8 Welder Up Produced A Five Finger Death Punch Music Video
You may recall that heavy metal band, Five Finger Death Punch. They covered The Animals’ classic song, House of the Rising Sun back in 2014, and needed a music video to accompany the song.
The video produced is set in a road warrior, dystopian future, not to dissimilar from the movie Mad Max.
The video has great aesthetics, with automotive Frankensteins, gamblers and desert warriors. This is all thanks to the work of Steve Darnell and Welder Up.
Steve produced the video, and even had a cameo as a cheating gambler in it. The sets, costume designs, and vehicles were all created and provided by Welder Up.
Any fan of the show will recognize Steve’s diesel rod, powered by a twin turbo Cummins diesel motor 12 valve, in the video.
Steve’s particular style works very well for what the band wanted to achieve. It looks like they had a ton of fun making the music video, also providing the stunt driving, spinning out, and doing doughnuts in the Las Vegas desert.
It’s impressive to see Steve’s work go beyond rat rod construction and into set building and costume design. It’s obvious that he is a jack of all trades.
7 Being A Woman In An Auto Shop Isn’t Easy
Auto shops are primarily dominated by men. Car culture as a whole is still full of machismo and testosterone. This makes it harder for a woman to make her way in this world.
Twiggy found that she needed to truly know what her goals were and needed to have “tough skin to be a woman in this (rat-rod) industry.”
“You have to be [a feminist to work in a garage],” she explained. “You have to really believe you’re not just doing this for yourself, because it just gets that difficult where you’re just like—no.”
To find moral support, she turned to other female mechanics for inspiration. She found the encouragement she was looking for at the all-female Decent Auto Repair in Toronto.
The women of Decent Auto Repair, formally known as Ms. Lube Garage, created a car club for women. “It was called the ‘Wrench Wenches,’ and I wanted to be one so bad! It’s women like that you meet and that inspire you to go, like, Hey, I want to be like her because she is so bada**.”
Although it hasn’t been easy, the guys at Welder Up have been accepting of her.
Twiggy explains that “At the end of the day we’re all human beings, and it’s got nothing to do with [gender] or where we’re from, we’re all here to make this work.”
6 Welder Up Originally Worked on Heavy Machinery and Agricultural Equipment
All dreams have humble beginnings, and Welder Up is no different. Steve worked for his father in the steel yard and sacrificed many hours.
While his friends were all out having a good time, Steve recalls working in the yard and missing out on those experiences.
However, it was more important to him to work hard and honor his father. “I didn’t want to show any signs of weakness to my dad,” he reminiscences, “because I respected him and his work ethic.”
When Steve turned thirty, he decided to strike out on his own and start fabricating. He would take any job he could find, garnishing a wide range of clients.
He even had several jobs building chimpanzee cages. One was as large as 3,000 square feet. These were the early days of Welder Up.
Steve started the shop in Billings, Montana fixing heavy machinery and agricultural equipment. Building and customizing rat rods was never even in the plans.
On his own time, Steve worked on customizing an old ’93 Dodge Sedan in his own unique style. After taking it to some car shows, people started to recognize his style and hire him to customize their vehicles.
Welder Up quickly changed its clientele and stopped working on heavy machinery. After a few years, they moved to Las Vegas and the rest is history.
5 There Was A Lot More Emotion In The “Rose” Rod Reveal
The Welder Up crew are very close and have a lot of respect for each other. So, when General Manager Joe Giamanco’s two-year-old son was diagnosed with cancer, it hit them pretty hard.
None were hit harder than Steve, who has a lot of respect for Joe. Hard work is the only language Steve really knows, so when he wanted to show how much Joe’s family meant to him, he built a car-- but not just any car.
“That car…I actually rendered the picture of that in 2008. That was a car that I was going to build for breast cancer,” Steve explained. “I had it on the backburner forever and I’d been waiting around – I was trying to figure out a good reason to build it, and so when Joe’s little boy came up with the cancer, I switched gears from a pink car to a gold car and… roses, and it wound up just being a kind of special car.”
It certainly was a touching moment when Steve presented the car to Joe and his family.
However, what wasn’t shown in the reveal was how emotional Steve became.
“I wish the episode was longer to be honest with you, because there was a lot more emotion involved. Some of my interviews, I couldn’t even get through. I mean, I was bawling half the time because it’s pretty emotional. Joe’s like a brother to me and he held it together so well,” he stated.
4 Steve Darnell has 3 more shows he wants to make
The television experience has been mostly positive for Steve and his crew. Through the Discovery Network, Steve has been able to make friends with other reality stars.
Todd Hoffman of Gold Rush, Wild Bill of Deadliest Catch, Thomas of Misfit Garage, and Mike of Counting Cars have all asked to either collaborate or hire Welder Up for projects they are working on.
Like Jesse James, another Discovery Channel star, Steve would like to eventually try and create other shows. Steve explains, “In the future, I think I would like to get into pitching another show that I want to do — actually I’ve got about three of them that I’d like to do!”
However, rather than creating cars with a different company on another show he would like to do something different.
“I would like to be more of a host, I’d like to talk to people about their cars, their hot rods and their rat rods, and go into some cool places,” Steve says.
“There’s so many people doing it around the world now — this has become a worldwide thing. So now it’s like, well, why don’t we do a show, a follow-up on fans that have actually built these cool things. So, I think there’s a lot to be had after all of this,” he stated.
3 Darnell Wants The Show To Inspire Fathers To Work On Cars With Their Kids
One thing that Steve appreciated about his childhood was working with his father. He hopes that Vegas Rat Rods can be more than another show about cool cars. He wants it to be a show that inspires his audience to get up and start doing.
Steve believes that the appeal of the show is it demonstrates that hard work is what is required to accomplish something-- not sitting around and dreaming.
He has had the opportunity to meet many fans of the show. However, the most meaningful encounters have been with the fathers who expressed how the show encouraged them to get into the garage and start building with their children. “We inspire our audience,” says Steve.
This is what Steve hopes to see more often. He wants fathers, even if they don’t know what they are doing, to get up off the couch and spend time with their children, teaching them the value of heavy labor and working with their hands.
“I’m so passionate, because hard work is how I got here,” Steve exclaims. “Hard work is my legacy.”
With the show slated for its fourth season, Steve may be right that the show’s appeal goes beyond unique builds and cool designs. There is something apparent in the onscreen relationships and examples that inspires its audience.
2 They were required to have a Canadian on the show
Even though Vegas Rat Rods is prominently centered on an American city, the show is actually Canadian. As a regular part of Discovery Canada’s programming, the show is required to have a certain quantity of Canadian content.
Without it, they wouldn’t be able to receive funding for the show. In order to fix this problem, Vegas Rat Rods always has at least one Canadian crew member.
Grant Schwartz, Twiggy Tallant, and Cheyenne Ruether are all Canadian and fulfill this requirement.
Grant doesn’t actually live in Las Vegas or work at Welder Up. He has his own shop in Elmira, Ontario and spends seven to eight months in Vegas shooting the show.
He has to put his life on hold and leave his business and family every year in order to do the show. Cheyenne and Twiggy have been in similar situations as well.
Now, this is not to say that they only got a spot on the crew because of their nationality. After all, these are very talented people who earned their way onto the show. However, they wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for this clause in the Vegas Rat Rods contract.
This also allows for changes in the line up to keep the show fresh with new cast members.
1 Cheyenne Ruether Is Not Returning To The Show
After one season on the show, Cheyenne will not be returning to Season Four of Vegas Rat Rods.
Replacing Twiggy in season three, Cheyenne brought a lot of experience to the team. As a Canadian and the only woman on the show, many are sure to be disappointed by her departure.
Her replacement has yet to be revealed, but she was able to confirm, “No female or Canadian replacement for season 4,.”
“Another older gent I have not met I believe started, they just began shooting it with a smaller production company based out of America to keep costs down,” she said.
This could be a huge shift for the show. This will be the first season with all men and only one Canadian. Perhaps they are moving to the main Discovery Channel and will no longer require Canadian content.
It is unclear what will happen in season four, but with Cheyenne leaving, it is an unfortunate step backwards in representation.
Both Twiggy and Cheyenne have expressed the difficulty working in the male-dominated field and how hard they have had to work to overcome gender bias.
Regardless, neither woman has expressed any negative feelings toward the show or Welder Up.
What was your favorite behind the scenes secret? Do you know any other interesting facts about Vegas Rat Rods? Let us know in the comments!