Earlier this year, mechanic Aaron Kaufman told business partner and wheeler-dealer Richard Rawlings on-air that he was going to be like Fleetwood Mac and go his own way, leaving their popular, North Texas-set automotive rehab-and-resell series on Discovery, Fast N' Loud.
For those revved up by the guttural roar of an internal-combustion engine, this was like Simon singing his final note with Garfunkel or Shaggy saying so long to Scooby-Doo. Fans of the show wondered what would come next.
The affable, deal-making Rawlings will continue to oversee the Gas Monkey empire — including the TV show as well as his original Gas Monkey Garage auto shop and Gas Monkey Live! music venue in north Dallas, and the Gas Monkey Bar & Grill restaurants in Dallas and Key West, Fla. At first, his quieter, no-nonsense mechanic/fabricator, Kaufman, was a bit mum about what he'd be doing.
Then came word that Kaufman would be opening his own venture, Arclight Fabrication, dedicated to fabricating parts for Ford F-series trucks from the years 1957 to 1979 — and returning to the world of television.
Arclight, located in a low-slung, 20,000-square-foot building along an industrial corridor of Dallas within a muffler's belch of the Trinity River, has just opened for business. While Arclight itself isn't geared to the public, a retail store on the property — offering everything from Arclight Fab-branded clothing to consumer pocketknives from local
Meanwhile, his new Discovery series, Shifting Gears, a drive through various expressions of car culture, is slated to start in February. It began filming in mid-September.
Kaufman, 35, seems like the type of guy who prefers to be under the hood of a truck than on the front lines of celebrity. "I feel like I'm one of the most extroverted hermits," he said with a laugh after arriving at Arclight one recent morning in his Ford F-350 with his dog, Lola. "I really like being in my shop with the doors down, radio on, but I also enjoy entertainment and the public interaction."
No hard feelings
When any couple breaks up — especially one where the partners have known each other for 16 years — onlookers wonder if there's a residue of rancor and bitterness. While Kaufman concedes that he and Rawlings aren't likely to be found hanging out
"We've had a lot of interesting times. We've got some good stories ... I definitely learned a lot from him," said Kaufman, who's originally from Crowley. "Do we get along? Yeah ... but we definitely see the world differently and it doesn't leave us much time or opportunity to hang out."
Rawlings says he feels similarly. "Like a marriage, we'd been together for 16 years, there's part of each other we probably hate but neither one of us would be here without the other one and we recognize that," said Rawlings, 48, in a phone interview, who went on to say he feels like "a proud father."
"I'm proud that he was paying attention and is trying to do his own thing."
The lord of Ford
Part of Kaufman's "thing" is indulging his fandom for vintage Ford trucks, the crux of Arclight Fab's business model.
"One day I looked around, everything I owned was Ford," he said. "While several of us here are Ford people, Ford's got a big history in racing, which is always compelling for us. But the real deal is we're truck guys and we're Ford guys. And [with] the F-100, there seems to be a hole in the market. ... [With the] '57, [through the] fourth generation, they don't really have parts for them. ... It's an under-serviced area of the market."
He's letting his truck-flag fly now, but still enjoys tinkering tinkering with cars. "It's a completely different trip. It's like [asking] why Christmas is better than Thanksgiving. I couldn't answer that intelligently. ... Cars are neat. I've built a lot of cars. I enjoy cars. We go to a race track and we rarely go racing with pickup trucks. That being said though, I'm definitely a truck guy and I think many of the people here [at Arclight] really, really are."
Back to television
As for his TV series, anyone expecting Shifting Gears to be just a tuned-up Fast N' Loud may be in for a surprise. Kaufman's show is most definitely not about flipping or selling cars.
"Initially, I had left television with the intention of staying gone from television. However ... my phone kept ringing to do more television, so finally we found a set of circumstances that I think work better for my personality."
Expect an experiential show about building and driving cars. "The purchase of the vehicle bears little importance [to the show] at all," he said. "[With] every vehicle, we're trying to use it as a catalyst to explore a different automotive subculture."
Rawlings says he's not worried about competition to Fast N' Loud, and hopes Kaufman succeeds. "It's not buying and selling hot rods for the masses. Everybody knows where he came from; he did a great job here, and I hope he kills it."
For Kaufman's part, like a recent auto buyer still high on that new-car smell, he's ready to show off the latest model of his career.
"I am looking forward to getting out and sharing what we love to do with people," he said.
Cary Darling is a Dallas-based freelance writer.