The owner of Gas Monkey Garage
Richard Rawlings was born on 30 March 1969, in Fort Worth, Texas, and had always been a car nut ever since his father gave him a Volkswagen Beetle pedal toy car when he was a child.
He remembered his father working three jobs just so he could afford to buy him a new toy car or toy motorcycle. Growing up, he would accompany his father to auto shops, and watch him tinker with the cars in their garage at home. His father’s passion for cars rubbed off on him; when he learned to drive at age 14, he bought his first car, a green colored 1974 Mercury Comet. Before he graduated from Eastern Hills High School, he was already driving his third car, a 1977 Bandit Trans Am.
He knew that he had an expensive passion, and to support it he had several jobs including as a police officer, a paramedic, and a firefighter before he was even 21 years old. Richard eventually quit those jobs to set up a garage, but it flopped, as no one in the community trusted him to tinker with their cars. He ventured into the advertising and printing industry, and started his company called Lincoln Press which he sold later on to pursue a business that was related to his original fascination – vintage vehicles.
The origins of Gas Monkey Garage
The idea of launching his auto shop was inspired by several car restoration shows on TV. He realized that each time he watched those shows, his children and wife weren’t with him, and then the marketing side of him kicked in. Richard felt that those TV shows were losing a chunk of viewers because of too much machismo and bravado on the show. He thought of creating one that would not only cater to male viewers, but also to women and kids. He also wanted to restore cars that would be accessible to the regular Joe.
To get to that point, he needed to have his own auto shop, thus the establishment of Gas Monkey Garage in 2002, using the money from the sale of his previous business. The journey to success wasn’t easy, as the shop went bankrupt twice before he got everything right. Back then, some people underestimated Richard due to his biker image, along with the series of tattoos on his arms, but no one could blame them as Richard made some poor decisions in promoting his business, but quickly learned from his mistakes and moved on.
He had grown to be a savvy businessman who knew what he wanted, and how to get things done by hiring the right people for his garage.
The Gas Monkey Garage team
Richard’s Gas Monkey Garage team was initially headed by his chief mechanic and main fabricator, Aaron Kaufman, whom he hired after he saw his brilliance at a local garage where Aaron was working at that time. After restoring and building hot rods for 14 years with the team, he left to pursue his other interests that might have been stifled by his participation in the show.
The current team is comprised of Jason Aker (twin Firebird expert), Mike Coy, Kennan Hons, and Tony Cano (paint and body tech), Jeremy Cheatham and John Freeman (fabricators), Jon Rodriguez (wiring expert), Russell J Holmes (contractor/mechanic), and Chad Isbell (parts expert).
Christie Brimberry is the office manager while Richard’s sister, Daphne Kaminski, is head of operations.
From an auto shop, Gas Monkey Garage, to reality-TV series “Fast N’ Loud”
By 2004, Richard felt that his garage with his team was ready for television. He tried pitching his idea to several TV production studios, but only received offers from small networks. He promised himself that he would not fall into the trap of accepting any offer just to be on television, and then get canceled after one season. So he worked hard to have his brand known by traveling around the country, participating in trade shows, and winning competitions. In 2008, the bigger TV networks came to talk about his idea, but nothing came of it since he didn’t want to compromise his original idea on how the show must be done.
Finally, Discovery Channel ordered 15 episodes for one season, and the first episode of the reality TV show “Fast N’ Loud” was aired on 12 June 2012. Viewers were hooked, and the series soon had a loyal following.
Another season was added, as it had become the most-watched show on Discovery. It wasn’t a surprise to many that the show became a hit, as it offered a different perspective when it comes to reality-TV shows. Instead of including any drama about the personal lives of the people in the show to pique the interest of the viewers, they focused on the car restoration, and selling the finished product.
Richard was quite proud to say that his show was unscripted since they used his own garage, his own people, and his own cars to be fixed. He’s a hands-on leader when it comes to business matters, but he’s hands-off when it comes to his team’s expertise. He spent a lot of time vetting his people and making sure that they were qualified for the job, so he’s confident that they knew what they were doing. His job was to make sure that they meet their goal on time, and without overspending, and then sell the car to the highest bidder.
The real reason why Aaron Kaufman left Gas Monkey Garage
In an episode of “Fast N’ Loud” in 2017, an emotional scene unfolded when Aaron announced to everyone that he would be leaving the show, and not just for a vacation. His team and the fans thought at first that it was just a case of being burned out, and that he only wanted a breather, but he said he wouldn’t be coming back. Fans were shocked as Richard and Aaron had seemed the perfect duo in the garage and in the show. Initially, the reason that was given was creative differences; in a way it was true, as Aaron wanted to do bigger cars, but for some reason TV producers only wanted to do smaller cars.
However, in March 2018, Discovery Channel announced that Aaron would be featured in their new reality TV series called “Shifting Gears.” Fans then realized that he left “Fast N’ Loud” to be the star of his own show, but unfortunately the show only lasted for two seasons.
What happened to Gas Monkey Garage?
After being on TV for 16 seasons, Richard announced in the podcast “The Joe Rogan Experience,” that he’s done with the reality TV show, and the June 2020 episode of “Fast N’ Loud” was the last one. He said that he’d left Discovery Channel and excitedly shared that he’s a free agent now. People were surprised at the news, since the show was still doing quite well, but he said that he’d already achieved his goal, and sat on top of the food chain at the cable channel. He needed a new challenge, and teased the fans to expect some cool things he was preparing for 2021. Generally, fans were disappointed to hear that it ended, but at the same time excited that Richard would return with a new series.
While the TV show was canceled, the Gas Monkey Garage continued to restore hot rods for vintage car enthusiasts on Merrell Road, Dallas.