Behind-The-Scenes Details About The Automotive Reality Show Overhaulin’

Starting in 2004, Chip Foose and his team of expert mechanics have been going around America, picking up cars in need of some TLC, and revamping them on Overhaulin’. All of this is done without the knowledge of the “mark” (owner).

While the rides are amazing after their makeovers, what actually happens behind the scenes of the reality series? From the owners actually having no clue who took their car to people being unhappy with the finished product, here are some facts about Overhaulin’.

When She Started, AJ Knew Nothing About Cars

When She Started, AJ Knew Nothing About Cars
TLC
TLC

When it comes to car shows, especially car revamp shows such as Overhaulin’, it’s safe to assume the cast (especially the host), knows a thing or two about cars. Chip Foose, for example, has been working on cars since he was seven years old!

On the other hand, AJ came on the show with no knowledge of the car industry, let alone taking one apart and putting it back together. She was very open to learning, though. And by the time a 1968 Firebird rolled around, AJ knew enough to design and rebuild it, under the watchful eye of Chip, of course!

The CNN Hummer Sold For $1.25 Million At Auction

When She Started, AJ Knew Nothing About Cars
TLC
TLC

One of the more special episodes of Overhaulin’ had to do with a retired CNN News Hummer. The Hummer was purchased for the sole purpose of transporting journalists, photographers, and correspondents around during the Iraq War. Unfortunately, it found itself in a firefight one day.

So, Chip Foose and his crew rebuilt the engine and gave the Hummer a new paint job. He even brought in an artist to air-brush journalists and soldiers in action on the vehicle as a tribute. The Hummer was auctioned off and sold for $1.25 million.

The Show Skipped Around Networks

When She Started, AJ Knew Nothing About Cars
TLC
TLC

When Overhaulin‘ first aired in 2004, fans tuned in to watch Chip Foose and the rest of the cast revamp cars on the beloved fixer-upper network TLC. Unfortunately, the series only lasted a few seasons, with TLC stopping production in 2008.

A few years later, in 2012, Velocity by Discovery decided to renew the show. They needed to fill up some timeslots. But it didn’t last long, with the show stopping a year later in 2013. But Overhaulin’ wasn’t going down easy! In 2019, it was announced that the show would be revived yet again on Motor Trend.

Some People Were Not Happy With Their “New” Cars

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TLC
TLC

The entire premise of Overhaulin’ is to take peoples’ dull and junky cars and revamp them, hopefully making someone’s life better in the process. Unfortunately, for Chip and his crew, that’s not always the case. In some instances, the mark isn’t happy with the fact that someone took their car and remodeled it.

In fact, some people hate their “new cars.” This is because Chip typically takes unique cars, ones that are vintage and have a high collectors value. Even if the car is considered junky, a vintage vehicle with original parts can be worth a lot. Remodeling removes the value.

150-Hour Work Weeks

When She Started, AJ Knew Nothing About Cars
TLC
TLC

Even for some of the most skilled mechanics, revamping a car to Overhaulin’s standards in a short eight days is asking a lot. While it might seem impossible, the fact of the matter is, it isn’t. Well, as long as the workers don’t sleep.

According to some of the guest workers on the series, they would work a minimum of 150 hour weeks! They said they were lucky to get four hours of sleep. Even so, they enjoyed working for Chip Foose and being on the show.

It All Has To Do With The Story

When She Started, AJ Knew Nothing About Cars
TLC
TLC

First and foremost, Overhaulin’ is a reality television show. As such, producers need to make sure people stay invested. This means finding people within the pile of applications they receive that have very good stories. They’re not just picking anyone to come on the show!

No, they’re looking for people such as a guy who was gifted his old car years ago from his parents for high school graduation, or a war veteran who had just returned from Iraq and wanted to rebuild his junky car with his father. The better the story, the more interested the producers of the show are going to be.

Owners Have No Clue Where Their Cars Go

When She Started, AJ Knew Nothing About Cars
TLC
TLC

One of the most interesting aspects of the series Overhaulin‘ is the fact that the marks have no clue what is happening. They don’t know who takes their car, why, or if they’ll be getting it back. So, their facial expressions and surprised looks are totally genuine.

Of course, not all of the marks are exactly thrilled to walk outside, only to see their car gone. Some of them even became unruly, as they’d inherited their vehicles from family members.

AJ Is Married To One Of The Show’s Former Producers

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TLC
TLC

Adrienne Janic, aka AJ, joined Overhaulin’s cast in 2005, one year after its debut on TLC. She replaced former co-host, Courtney Hansen. While AJ stayed on until 2008, she left for a few years, coming back from 2014-2015 and again in 2019.

But the interesting part about AJ is that she is actually married to one of the former executive producers of the series. Bud Brutsman was an executive producer of Overhaulin’ from 2004-2008. He didn’t come back after the series left TLC.

Friends, Family, And Even The Police Are Informed

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TLC
TLC

The thing about Overhaulin’ is that the people whose cars are revamped aren’t actually the ones asking to be on the show. That task goes to friends and family. They send in request forms to the series and ask Chip Foose and his team to fix up their friends’ cars!

But before anything happens and the car is “stolen,” the team informs everyone, including the local police station. Hey, they are technically taking the cars without the owners’ permission.

None Of The Drama Is Staged

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TLC
TLC

It’s no secret that a lot of reality shows aren’t exactly “real.” Much of the drama is staged, with producers asking the “actors” to say or do something to start fights. Thankfully, that is not the case when it comes to the TLC series Overhaulin’.

Chip Foose is just a car guy and isn’t interested in starting drama or being told what to do or say on camera. As a result, any arguments or people walking out of the garage in a huff are totally genuine.

Getting The Marks Mad Is Part Of The Fun

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TLC
TLC

It might not be fun for the marks, but part of the excitement of Overhaulin’ is seeing the marks’ response to their missing cars. In fact, part of the entire production is seeing how mad they can get the marks!

Staging elaborate car thefts, police towing, or even repossession cases is all part of the show’s elaborate plan to get the marks as angry as possible because, hey, it might be a car show but it’s still reality television.

Everything Is Planned In Advance

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TLC
TLC

Due to the fact that Chip Foose and his team are taking cars away from their owners, everything has to move very quickly. They have an eight-day period in which they take apart and revamp the mark’s ride. That’s a very short turnaround time.

That means everything needs to be planned out to the last minuscule detail. Not only are suppliers told to have all of the parts at the shop and ready to go, but the larger items, like engines, are to be on the floor and ready for installation at the appointed hour.

Celebrity Episodes Received Negative Feedback

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TLC
TLC

Overhaulin’ takes pride in helping out regular folks who are down on their luck and could use a pick-me-up. Or, in the show’s case, a total car revamp. So, when the series decided to switch things up and bring in celebrities such as Lance Armstrong, Shaq, and Amber Heard, long-time fans weren’t happy.

Celebrities have enough money to fix their own cars and don’t need more exposure. Fans were so disheartened by the celebrity episodes that each time one aired, the show’s viewership had a huge decline.

Many Submissions Are Tossed Aside

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TLC
TLC

When Overhaulin’ began to get a following, submissions began to roll in at a rapid pace. The producers were finally able to get picky with who they wanted on the show. That meant they had to have a good and interesting story.

It might not be so surprising then to learn that because of their “interesting story” rule, many of the submissions were just tossed aside. Of course, they were tossed after having been thoroughly looked over. But submissions about a friend not being able to afford repairs just weren’t going to cut it anymore.

Chip Foose Doesn’t Like Fame

2012 Summer TCA Tour - Day 13
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Chip Foose really doesn’t enjoy the fame that came with being the host of the popular series Overhaulin’, especially since he can’t do something as simple as bringing his son to a car show.

During an interview with Car and Driver, he said, “the biggest downfall about the success of Overhaulin’ is that I just can’t take my son and enjoy a car show. It’s not fun for him to stand there when everyone wants to take a picture or get an autograph… I’m sad that I don’t get to share those moments with my son and share the passion that we have for cars.”

Overhaulin’ “Ruined” Gas Monkey Garage

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TLC
TLC

Many auto shops guest star on Overhaulin’, bringing in mechanics and gaining publicity for their work. Unfortunately, it’s publicity that ruined the relationship between Chip Foose and the series and Gas Monkey Garage. When it was announced that Gas Monkey would appear on the show, a marketer, Stephen Andrews, went straight to car forums.

He spammed pages with the news and even made a promotional video. Due to crass and juvenile humor, nothing was received well. As a result, Gas Monkey was tarnished in the media, and the episodes they appeared on were pulled from the air.

Several Marks Sold Their Cars

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TLC
TLC

When Chip Foose and his crew “take” a marks car, they’re typically in a pretty rough state and in need of some major TLC. Even though marks are chosen based on their personal stories, it doesn’t keep them from potentially selling their sentimental car for a profit when it’s returned to them.

Many marks on the show don’t have those vintage and rare vehicles that are devalued if they go through a revamp. They have normal cars. And, with the help of Chip, that normal car’s value skyrockets after the show. Even if it’s a family car, many people sell it for money.

Some Cars Need Tune-Ups After Being Presented

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TLC
TLC

The series Overhaulin’ prides itself in “confiscating” the marks’ cars and fixing them up in a short eight days. And while the cars that are revamped tend to look great after that period of time, sometimes, everything isn’t actually finished.

After the camera stopped rolling, there have been times where marks’ cars actually still need a small tune-up, something that wouldn’t be noticed during the presentation portion of the show. So, in all actuality, it sometimes takes longer than eight days to revamp a car.

Chip Foose Has Been Working With Cars Since He Was Seven

Hot Rod designer Chip Foose stands with his Hemisfear hot rod at his Huntington Beach Foose Design
Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Overhaulin’ host Chip Foose began working on cars at his father’s company, Project Design, when he was only seven years old. He got very into cars, prompting him to attend school at the Art Center College of Design.

In 1998, he started his own car design company. From there, he began to gain more and more exposure until, in 2003, he starred in the TLC documentary called Speedbird. That led to him hosting Overhaulin‘ one year later. It seems as though cars were always in his blood!

They Rely On Free And Cheap Parts

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TLC
TLC

To keep the price of the show as low as possible, Overhaulin’ relies on free and cheap parts to revamp the cars that come on the series. That means heavily relying on the donations of companies that pass through and participate in each episode.

The good news is, there is a certain “payout” for the donations. The companies, or sponsors, get to have their parts shown on a highly-viewed car series. It’s a win-win! The show’s production costs are greatly lowered, and the companies get a solid amount of exposure.