High River auto body shop owners featured in Discovery Channel reality series
The series is called Bush Wreck Rescue and it's described by the producers as "Western Canadian motorheads obsessed with turning abandoned trucks into custom gems, hunt for old rust buckets, drag them out of the bush and go to great lengths to transform them into vintage classics."
Audrey Steele and Peter Nickerson are two of those motorheads. The husband and wife team own and operate Midnight Oil Custom & Classic Auto Builders Inc. in High River and have run the business since 2000.
"The reason it's called Midnight Oil (is because we're) burning the midnight oil," Steele said. "There were many days we're here till 2 a.m., I've left at midnight, come back at 4 a.m. and just keep working till 10 o'clock that next night."
The couple have a friend who is on another reality show called Highway Through Hell that recommended them for a new Discovery Channel program. They shot a demo video for the producers to show them how the High River operation works.
"It was just about what we do," said Nickerson. "I mean none of this is scripted, we do what we do, basically, they filmed it and presented it to Discovery and they approved it almost immediately so they were quite pleased I guess and the rest is history."
The crew started shooting the series one week out of every month for seven months but realized they needed more footage so bumped up the shooting schedule to three weeks a month. Nickerson says he and Audrey did some homework before taping began.
"We watched a lot of not just car shows but a lot of home improvement shows," he said. "Just general reality shows, just to see what was interesting, and why these are so popular, to get a wider view of things."
That research paid off because the couple were naturals in front of the camera and like the final product.
"I'm very happy, the crew did an amazing job, the photography, the drone shots, just the scenery around here and in Kelowna is amazing, I do love the show for that," he said. "It does pick out what we do very well, it does demonstrate both shops, the one in BC and ours, it's good and I think everybody involved is quite pleased, I haven't heard anything bad yet from any of the cast so yeah, I think we've got a winner."
Steele says her husband is the head mechanic in the shop and they have staff who work in the body shop while she looks after the interior upholstery and office paperwork. She says many times they work on tight deadlines to get vehicles back to their owners.
"I don't think people understand and realize how time consuming all of this stuff is," she said. "You're taking the old (material) off, you're trying to maybe make up a new pattern with some of the old pieces and some of the old pieces are in really bad shape so you've got to figure out to how to make that work and then you're getting your new material, making new patterns, (and) it's very time consuming - I wish it wasn't as time consuming but that's just the way it is."
Steele says there are not a lot of full service automotive shops on reality television now and says here clients come in to have their regular vehicle serviced or want a custom hot rod built from scratch.
"It doesn't have to be $100,000 car and so that's great like you know if they just want a daily driver we can do that or if they want that show car we can do that too," she said.
SHOWCASING SOUTHERN ALBERTA
Steele says the production team wanted to include a taste of southern Alberta in the programs that forced the couple to take time out of the garage.
"I actually thank the show for making us take time out of the shop and go do things," she said. "Last night's episode (five) showed us going to the junior rodeo in Nanton and we took the day and we did that and if they hadn't been here pushing us, we'd have been here working because we're just suckers for punishment."
Nickerson says the people who finance the show want to see how it's doing by the third episode to decide if they'll invest in a second season of the show. But so far it's looking promising for another shooting season starting this summer.
"I don't see any reason why we wouldn't be doing that," he said. "We haven't got the official thumbs up yet but if it continues to a second season, I would think a third, fourth and yeah, just who knows, that show business."
Learn more about Bush Wreck Rescue here: