Thursday, April 14, 2011

Chad Reynolds Interview

Luckily for us fun seekers, the hot rod universe is heavily populated with colorful characters and Chad Reynolds has to be one of the most likable. The name was already very familiar to me when I heard him announcing at the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational in Nevada a few years ago. I hotfooted it over to the platform and found Chad to be one of those 'Hell yeah, let's do it!' kind of guys. I was instantly comfy with him. Since then, we've crossed paths online a couple of times, but Chad has remained a bit of a mystery to me. So when I asked if he'd be willing to do a SGE interview, I shouldn't have been surprised when he responded with, "Hell yeah, let's do it!"

Welcome to Scottyville, Chad. I've been looking forward to this for a long time. One reason why: You're known as a defender of grassroots hot rodding, due to driving the wheels off your '56 Chevy beater wagon, wrenching on a wide variety of cool tin, and your work at  Were you born with a silver wrench in your hand? Where did you start rodding and how did that bring you to where you are today?

I appreciate it, Scotty. I certainly didn't set out to be a fixture in the hot rodding community, it just sorta happened. I grew up in Northern California, at Fremont Drag Strip, and was born into this. It's genetic. Hell, my initials are CAR and it wasn't by accident. My dad raced all his life and still does, so growing up in a family that had a race car just planted the seed. My Grandpa Earl owned an auto shop that I spent most afternoons and all my summers at. Between him and my dad, I was hooked. Hell, I probably put 100,000 miles on a floorjack before I was 12.

My first car was my 1969 Camaro convertible, which I still have, and a little Mitsubishi pickup I got from my Grandpa. Both were street raced, cruised, and modified to the extent I could afford growing up and nothing ever stays stock for long with me. After going through school and working in the very lucrative high tech industry of Silicon Valley and the Telecom Corridor in Dallas, I was hit by the crashing economy and the fact that I was burned out, no matter how much money I was making. So I did the idiotic thing and started a hot rod shop. It's a bad idea. Don't do it. Seriously. The guys that make money at it are awesome, but I didn't. I did however, have a lot of fun. And that's how things got started to where we are now. After throwing together Rusty, my '56 Wagon, in 59 days and heading out on Power Tour, Freiburger and Kinnan decided they wanted to run a feature on it. We got to know each other and after hitting Drag Week in 2005 we all became friends. Hot Rod asked if I would announce on Power Tour. I said yes and it's been all uhhhh downhill? from there.

Freiburger left Hot Rod and asked if I would go with him to start Car Junkie TV and we were off. I'd been working at Spectre Performance running their race car shop and loved it, but when Freiburger called, I was in. Turns out, CarJunkieTV wasn't going to make it with the management team we had behind us and we lost our gig. With nothing else to do, Freiburger, Brian Lohnes and I decided to start Ultimately, Freiburger had to go back to Hot Rod, but Brian and I stuck with it. Trust me, our families sometimes wish we hadn't, but it's really grown into something we are proud of and the growth still amazes even us. For those of you that are regular BangShifters, thanks! For the rest of you, "What are you waiting for?" It's going to be an exciting ride in 2011 and into 2012 as we have lots going on.

Sounds like quite a ride, just getting to this point... You pop up often in David Freiburger's stories, along with Keith and Tonya Turk. Have you guys all been pals since childhood, or does David just pay you to fix stuff as he tears it up? Do you see yourselves as the hot rod mafia, or are your adventures just a normal part of your everyday life?

Freiburger is one in a million. We really didn't start hanging out together a lot until 2006 or so. At that point, we started doing lots of stories and I was helping out anywhere I could. I still show up anytime they need help and are doing something fun. That surprises people, because they think of BangShift and Hot Rod as big competitors. We're all friends and I love the magazine for sure.

Keith Turk is an interesting duck. He's another guy that would give you the shirt off his back and knows I would do the same for him. I met him on the same Power Tour in 2005 and since then, we've done a lot at Bonneville together with the Camaro. Keith runs the ECTA, is in more 200mph Clubs than any other human, and makes me look like I'm backing up, with regards to talking. He'd argue otherwise, but his opinion is wrong. Keith and Freiburger have been racing together for years and I've loved working on the Camaro with them. I was lucky enough to get into the car a couple years ago and try for the 200mph Club at Bonneville, but we just didn't have the combo we needed for me to make it. I do have the distinction of driving the Camaro faster BACKWARDS than either of the Turks or Freiburger! Not a good distinction, but I'll take what I can get. My goal is still to get into the 200mph Club at Bonneville in the Camaro, but we'll have to see how budgets work out this year. I've had offers to get into a couple other cars and go for it, but it's not the same as doing it in the Camaro that I have worked so hard on with those guys. I can't forget Tonya either. She's like the hot den mother for all of us and treats us so well. She really is the organization behind all the racing efforts and is one hell of a driver! You tell her to shift at 7005 RPM and she does. Nobody does what they are told to do in a car better than Tonya.
Our adventures are real. We don't make this stuff up. The truth is, we do the same things that all of the hot rodding world does, or wants to do. We just happen to have had a camera pointed at us a few times. I'll admit that we get to do things that I would have only dreamed about 10 years ago, but the truth is, any guy or gal can go out and have the same fun we are. In fact, Freiburger and I have been trying to make a new TV show that would show just that. We'll see.

Hey, I'd watch that! Right now, I'm really smitten with Bangshift. How did that site come about?

Well, like I said earlier, it started out when CarJunkieTV folded up and Freiburger and I had no jobs. Brian Lohnes had been doing some freelance stuff for us at CarJunkie and so the three of us decided to start something up on our own. We started off as 'Freiburger's Junkyard', so that we could keep hold of some of our CarJunkie traffic and take advantage of David's good name, but we knew all along we were going to have to change it and the BangShift name change was going through right when Freiburger decided he needed to take the opportunity at Hot Rod again. We hated to see him go, but he encouraged Brian and I to stick with it. Everyone in the industry thought that we were nuts and told us we couldn't do it and we're proving them wrong, day by day. It's really been amazing and our growth speaks for itself. Plus, we have the best sponsors in the business and are getting more and more, every month.

Brian writes his fingers off daily and I'm working all the behind-the-scenes stuff and writing when I can. This year is going to be quite a bit different for us though, because we have more and more great contributors, like Cole Coonce who you just interviewed. Cole's bringing our content to a new level. We've also just started running tech stories for the first time and have a bunch more in the works. In fact, I'm leaving for the dyno shop after this interview. We've partnered with Westech Performance Group and are doing some great stuff this year.

Really. Tech reports from Westech dyno? Damn, you guys are livin' large! But the Bangshift webcast of this year's March Meet came across as charmingly grassroots, with you running off camera every few minutes to kick a phone pole or something to re-boot the hook-up. And the chat crawl under the video felt just like sitting in the stands, listening to dozens of conversations at once - just like being there. I found myself stuck at home, so your coverage of the event was a Godsend to me! Thanks for all of your work, putting that together. Will there be more live event coverage. or did this one sour the whole concept for you guys?

God no, we'll be doing lots more! This was our 3rd March Meet and we'll be doing our 4th LIVE broadcast of the California Hot Rod Reunion this year. We have several other events planned for this year, including the National Hot Rod Reunion in Bowling Green and the PSCA Street Car Supernationals in Vegas. There are several other events on the schedule, but we haven't announced them yet. Some nostalgia, and other street car stuff. But we are also working on some Pro Touring/Autocross events as well. It's going to be a riot.

Our broadcasts have gotten bigger and bigger each year and we've reached over a hundred countries and streamed almost 20 million minutes of video around the world. It's been great. And the interaction with the racers and fans at home have made us heroes in the nostalgia drag racing scene. Companies like Mickey Thompson, Safety Sentry, MSD, and Chris Alston's Chassisworks have been big supporters of our live broadcasts, which has helped us get sponsors like AFCO and Aeromotive on board, as well. We're also working with Don Schumacher Racing again to plan for next years PRO Winter Warmup in Palm Beach Florida, so you can expect lots of great racing with this year.

Okay, I'll expect it. Back to cars for a minute: Your '56 has soaked up gallons of well deserved ink, but is it your only car? What's your real daily driver? What's in the works and what you like to be driving?

Rusty is not my only car, although for a long time it was my daily driver. I have to be honest, I haven't driven the car in over a year now, because of plans to do some cool little changes to it. Don't freak out though, it's going to still be the same car, just some tweaks. I'm hoping to get started on them later this year. That car is great to drive and we put over 75,000 miles on it from the start of the 2005 Power Tour until last year. It drives great, looks great, and scares the shit out of people which is just what I like. Plus, at 70mph it makes a great spark show on the freeway after letting the air out of the Ridetech suspension and laying the front bumper on the ground! Definitely fun.

I also have my first car: My 1969 Camaro convertible. It's sort of apart in the garage right now and is getting some suspension help, along with an M20 Muncie and Gear Vendors combo, soon. Then we'll be driving it again. It's actually a clean car, which is weird for me. You can check it out on BangShift. The car was originally an NHRA Stock Eliminator car and the previous owners have contacted me via BangShift about it now, but it will never go away. Ultimately, it's the one. I'd live in it before selling it. I have lots of fond cruising and street racing memories in that car. You'll see it cruising this year again.

As you saw on the site a few days ago, my back-half Nova drag car is getting the engine worked on right now, then we'll get that thing back up and running this year. My real daily driver is also one of my current projects. It's my '66 Bel Air wagon that you saw on Freiburger and I's TV show and at CarJunkieTV. It's currently stone stock, including some patina, with a 283/Powerglide combo and a 10 bolt. It's getting a 383 that was in the Crusher Camaro along with a 700r4 and a 12 bolt. We're also going to do suspension, brakes, and some interior cleanup. Plus a big stereo. I like my music like I like my cars...LOUD! The '66 is bitchin because the dog, kids, surfboard, and wife all fit in it perfectly and it looks way cooler than any new SUV. If you put the back seat down, it holds 4x8 sheets of plywood and we're going to set it up to pull the trailer with the Nova on it, too. I've got too many cars, which is just enough. I can't bring any more home until these are all working though. I wish we could afford a house with land, so I could build a shop. Daphne hasn't parked in the garage since we met (laughs).

What would I like to be driving? Any of my junk. I love my cars. If I had to pick one thing besides mine, it would be a Pro Stocker. I've had my Pro Stock license since 2001 or so and want to get in one again. I can't think of anything else that just makes me want to jump in. The truth is, I get to drive a lot of cool cars and I like all of them. Hell, I even drove Ridetech's Mustang at the Goodguys Editors Challenge and loved it. AND IT'S A FORD!!! Haa Haa. I'm a GM guy, but if you like your Ford as much as I like my Chevy, we'll get along just fine.

You have a Pro Stock license?! Oh God... Sorry Chad, but the thought makes me a little queasy... Speaking of pros, what's going on over at NHRA? Where do you think this is headed? Are we seeing the last gasp of pro motorsports? Is it even relevant anymore?

Uggghhhh. I hope not. I was asked to announce at the Winternationals for NHRA this year and did. I really love NHRA drag racing and the chance to announce at Pomona couldn't be passed up. They are trying to make some changes to the live program and I hope they get what they need out of it. I'm not sure that I'll be a part of that, which is unfortunate, because I think I can bring something to the table they don't have now, but I do wish them the best. There are a lot of great characters at an NHRA race, not just John Force. When the economy turns around it will be better for them, but I think there will always be a place for them. Ultimately, grassroots racing is what we are all about, but I would drive an NHRA Pro Stocker at the big show any time. In fact, my lotto winnings would go towards driving my own Pro Stocker. NHRA is made up of some really great people, but sometimes they seem to have a hard time all getting to the same place. I will support them to the end though. It's what I grew up with and I believe there will always be a place for the big show. Honestly, we have to remember that half of the guys out there racing at the Texas Raceways of the world are out there because they "someday" want to be John Force. Or because it gets them that much closer to being the same as their heroes. That will never change.

Well, I wonder if NHRA should just handle the pros and stop pretending to value the sportsman racers - cut 'em loose to start something of their own? What about Joe Toolbox, the grassroots racer/hot rodder? Is there any future for knuckledraggers like myself, who source most parts from wrecking yards and scrap piles? You live in the eye of the storm, there in L.A. - are people there selling off '32 roadsters to finance solar powered hovercraft?

Joe Toolbox is who we are. I'm broke man! Brian and I go to the wrecking yards, buy stuff at the swap meet and all that. Sure, we CAN get parts from some great people for our projects, but we haven't really done that up to this point. This year we will be getting some stuff in so that we can do more tech stories, but for us, and all the guys you REALLY like in magazines, that isn't what it's all about. You've seen the junk I've built from nothing. Hell, Rusty was a wrecked cop car and a '56 Chevy Wagon with no floors when it all started. Doing stuff for cheap is still what we are all about. But sometimes we have to do projects that aren't junkyard, as well. You'll get plenty of both this year on BangShift.

If I ever see some jackoff selling a '32 to get a Prius or some electric crap, I'll gladly buy it. That way, they get the hell out of our hobby. There are more Prius' here in SoCal than I could ever have imagined. I still don't think they are the way to save the planet, but whatever. My thought is that if all the mindless boring people are buying them and that makes the government happy, it's good for us, because they will stop paying attention to us. I have a tech story we are going to do later this year that addresses old cars and emissions, then we can talk more about the subject. Until then, know that California is still a great place for hot rodders, even if we are the State that seems to have invented SMOG laws.

Hey, I'm not blaming you for the smog laws! I blame Cole Coonce and his ilk... (Just nerfing you, Cole)... Okay, last question, Chad - I know you're jonesin' for a dyno hit... If being 'Chad Reynolds - Hot Rod Hero' wasn't such a full-time job, what else would you be doing with your life? Didn't you ever want to be a cowboy or astronaut or baseball player?

Cowboys ride horses. And while interesting, one horsepower just doesn't cut it.

Astronauts may go fast, but the acceleration ain't all that. Try launching a Pro Stocker. Or a Top Fuel Car. Sign me up, when they leave on a .400 Tree.

Baseball? Isn't that the thing with the stick and ball? Have they started putting engines and tires in those games? I didn't think so. If it doesn't make loud noise or smoke the tires, I really don't care. Seriously, remote control car racing is cooler. If it is car related, I'm on it. The rest, while interesting, has little or no merit.

I know he was being kind by calling 'the rest' 'interesting'. He only left here a few minutes ago and already, I can hear the operatic soprano scream of a tortured smallblock wafting by on the breeze. It sounds decidedly Westechy to me. Wear some ear protection, Chad!