A little over a year ago, the Discovery channel literally stumbled upon the host
and premise of one of their highest rated shows, Monster Garage. Motorcycle
customizer / builder Jesse James was noticed by the cable network when he was
profile in two specials which showcased his handiwork as he built custom cycles
to take to Daytona Bike Week and Sturgis, South Dakota. Hoping to capitalize on
the growing popularity of James and his shop, West Coast Choppers, Discovery developed
Each week, Jesse and a team or mechanics, welders, designers and all-around
gear-heads struggle to transform a stock vehicle into an out of the ordinary
machine that still retains the stock appearance. The first four episodes saw
a Ford Explorer turned into a Garbage Truck, a Ford Mustang Lawn Mower, a Limousine
Fire Truck and a Volkswagen Beetle turned into a Swamp Buggy.
The initial premise differs very little from the format that currently airs,
with the main difference being that Jesse now normally participates in the entire
process every week. The teams now must only successfully complete the vehicle
transformation to win their prize, instead of besting a real-world counterpart.
As the second season continued, vehicles were occasionally allowed to drop their
stock appearance as well.
Monster Garage has done something that little other television shows
have done; it glorifies and celebrates the middle-class workers that essentially
built the country we now live in. In this day and age of computers, the Internet
and dot com everything, it celebrates the gear-head guys (and women) that see
a challenge and conquer it. When two pieces need to be joined together and no
connector is to be found, build it from a solid piece of steel.
Tearing it all down to build it up again appeals to the destructive and creative
nature in us all. Watching Jesse fabricate a set of pipes for a car from hand
because "it will look cool" is what this show is all about. Perhaps
part of the reason the show amazes me so is because somewhere in this DVD reviewing,
web-site building, Internet loving body of mine is a closet gear-head grease-monkey
that fondly remembers growing up in his grandfather's garage and restoring
a 1970 Chevy Malibu to mint condition. I remember the look on my face the first
time we started the 350 big-block engine for that car after rebuilding it. The
bare engine, with no exhaust or pipes, shot flames and rumbled the basement
in which we were working. My dad and I traded the largest grins I ever remember
wearing. That's a look that crosses the faces of the participants on this
The first four episodes of the series included in this set show a wide variety
of skills, but lack some of the spit and polish that would come later as the
series found itself and it's audience. Included in the set are:
White Trash: Jesse and the crew attempt to transform a 1994 Eddie
Bauer Ford Explorer into a garbage truck. As it often happens on the show, there
is 3 times the equipment that must be fit into a place half the size it normally
goes. Lots of fabrication and cutting combine with some serious hydraulics on
job the Jesse had serious doubts could be completed.
Fire truck: A 1996 Lincoln Town Car Limo is transformed into a working
fire truck; compete with a retracting water canon. This episode is one of the
best examples of the "don't have it, make it" mantra that
is so appealing. No problem is too big for the team in this one.
Swamp Buggy: Turning this 2000 Volkswagen Beetle into a floating,
propeller powered swamp boat looks to be the first challenge that Jesse and
his crew can't complete. Get something that's not designed to float
to stay above the water turns out to be a huge challenge.
Switchblade: I'll admit, turning a 1990 Mustang GT into a lawnmower
was the one idea that got me into the show in the first place. I've never
been a huge fan of the modern Mustang, but somehow combining speed and cutting
grass were too much of a lure for me to resist. Aside from where the mower deck
will reside, this was a simple job compared to the others.
Still going strong and approaching 24 episodes, Monster Garage seems to be
experiencing no shortage of ideas as the crazy crossbreed of machines keeps
coming. The show has strayed from the initial idea of staying stock. Likewise,
more and more donations are made as far as equipment goes, meaning the $3000
budget restrictions teams once faced are less of a threat. Despite that, the
show continues with what it does best, building crazy contraptions and doing
it quick, all the while showing the resourcefulness and skills that many see
Video: Your standard television / documentary fare video is
what you get in this set and that's all you need. The colors are sharp
and with 2 episodes per DVD, there is little pixelation in the video at all.
Audio: Aside from the few moments of soundtrack music, there
little more that narration in the speakers, which means the digital 2.0 stereo
track is more than enough. The vocals are crisp and clear and easy to hear at
Extras: No extras at all.
Overall: This is such a great set, mainly because it's
a great show that brings back a lot of memories for me and really focuses on
the unsung heroes of the world today. After watching a four of these in a row
anyone will be ready to go break something and put it back together again. This set is perfect for your father on Father's Day.