Finding old cars in barns has long grown from pasttime into big business, what between the soaring prices of collector cars and the gaggle of auto-restoration reality shows that rely on the three-F formula — find, fix and flip. No episode demonstrates that merging better than the episode of Discovery Channel's "Fast N' Loud," which will reveal Monday how it discovered a true treasure — the first prototype Pontiac Firebirds.
Now in its fifth season, the crew of the Gas Monkey Garage from Austin, Texas, has built a fervent following with their quick restoration jobs and general hijinks, thanks to the personalities of Richard Rawlings and Aaron Kaufman. Rawlings and team had veered into unusual work before — such as rebuilding a wrecked Ferrari F40 — but putting a pair of museum-quality cars together requires a different approach.
According to Rawlings, he uncovered the Firebirds in a barn in Connecticut, after selling their owner a rare Corvette. The two were prototypes hand-built by Pontiac engineers who had been denied their own two-seat sports car by rivalries with Chevrolet, and forced to adapt the new Camaro chassis to their ends with unique styling, engines and handling.
"They were really beaten down and were rusted out, with their motors laying off to the side,” Rawlings told the New York Post. “The (owner) was never going to restore them, so we made him a pretty hefty offer and the game was on."
Under normal circumstances, such cars would typically get worked over by a team of experts who could take a number of years to finish. Rawlings and company did the work in 60 days, the kind of reality deadline that's the high-octane fuel of car TV. The Fast N' Loud team will finish their Firebird saga through next Monday's episode as well.