CMT’s Trick My Truck gives new life to dilapidated big rigs by providing custom touches and luxurious features. But the hit show does more than beautify America’s interstates with polished chrome and thematic paint jobs. It instills pride in the men and women who make their living on the road. For the cast of Trick My Truck, that’s what the show is all about.
Master mechanic Rod Pickett and audio technician Rob Richardson recently called the CMT offices to answer questions submitted by fans. These experts talk about the show, each other and what eats asphalt.
Editor’s note: Trick My Truck airs Fridays at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
1. How do you choose which trucks end up on Trick My Truck?
Richardson: Well, it’s not so much the truck we’re looking at. It’s the driver, you know, and their deserving-ness.
2. Has there ever been a job you started and it just didn’t work out?
Pickett: Truck, no way. We always finish the jobs. There’s some projects sometimes that slow us down. But most times, we always get them done. There’s always problems with every job, but when it comes down to due time, they’re always finished.
3. How did you guys get started with the show?
Pickett: We were at a truck show, and producers come to us looking for guys that build trucks. Kind of the right place at the right time type of thing, really. But there ain’t a lot of people who build trucks, as far as for business-wise, and we were one of them. We hooked up from there.
4. How long have you known each other? Have you guys been friends for a long time?
Pickett: What would say, like three years now?
Richardson: Probably. There were existing relationships before.
Pickett: Yeah, we’d met a few times at truck shows, kind of that camaraderie between truck builders. And we’d been to Dallas, Louisville and a couple other shows. We’d hang out at the shows and talk about building trucks. But, of course, the last couple years, we’ve become really close.
5. What were your first impressions of each other?
Richardson: Obviously, the first time you meet Kevin and Rob, they’re kind of intimidating looking. C.B., Rick and the rest of the guys, I pretty much knew. I think it was just getting used to their working habits and them getting used to our working habits. You know, getting used to working side by side in the shop on this level. But it’s worked out pretty good.
6. Why did you start Chrome Shop Mafia?
Richardson: Well, you know, everybody has a bad image on trucking … the whole image of trucks out there. So we wanted to put a positive spin on that and show that these drivers are actual people with everyday lives. They’re just like you and I. They just drive a truck for a living.
Pickett: All the truck drivers thank us for bringing their image up a little bit better. … They’ve got such a bad rap on the roads. All the shows that have been on TV about truck drivers, it’s usually a negative thing, so this is finally something positive for the truck drivers. That’s the biggest thing. I mean, they’re always stoked about that stuff.
7. How do you keep it going without getting on each other’s nerves, especially since you are always on deadlines to get the truck done and back to the owner/driver?
Pickett: We don’t! It’s tough sometimes because of the amount of hours we put in. We’re here seven days a week, forever it seems like. But definitely, we get on each other’s nerves. But for the most part, we’ve got a pretty good group of guys with a sense of humor, so if we do get on each other’s nerves, by the end of the day, we’re all friends again. So it all keeps it rolling. We make sure we keep our eyes on the big picture and get the truck done.
8. Do you restore semis, pickups or cars in your spare time?
Pickett: There ain’t no spare time here now. I mean, we’re all into something else. Me and my brother drag race. We’re finishing a Harley we’re building right now. There’s Rob, he’s working on different things — cars and stereo stuff and all that. But as far as doing the show, we’re pretty much stuck here doing this. When we get an extra minute, we try to tinker around the shop here and keep our sanity.
9. Have you always been interested in this type of work?
Pickett: I grew up around it. Me and my brother we’re born into trucks, so we were, from day one, into trucks. Always were around them, always tinkering with them. … So it’s kind of the only thing we’ve ever done.
Richardson: Always pretty much had an audio background. My father was a musician, so I kind of grew up with music, and audio was always sort of a passion. Started out working on cars, and as you get older, you would do boats and then trucks. Pretty much anything that needs tunes in it, I’m there.
10. I think your show is pretty cool. It’s a nice change to see a show making a difference in truck drivers’ lives, not just “pimping” some teenager’s Honda. Where do you get your ideas for each design?
Pickett: We try to find out what the driver’s into and sort of spin off on that somewhat. …We kind of take that, run with it and put our own little twist to it. But as far as once we get a theme going, we sort of feed off of each other for ideas. One thing plays into another.
11. I have a 1972 Kenworth. The body is fiberglass, dark gray. It’s in pretty good condition, but it really needs a good shine. What can I use on this?
Pickett: Pretty much on paint, if it’s in good shape, you pretty much just have to start with a rubbing compound and work your way. There’s a ton of different products out there to do that …. Basically, it’s just cutting that top layer of oxidation off, whether it’s rubbing compound or clay, and then the biggest thing is keeping wax on it. Because once you cut that top layer off, the sun just kills the shine on it. So you’ve go to keep it waxed to keep the shine on it.
12. I have just bought my first truck. It’s a 1999 [Kenworth] T2000. She’s not the best-looking truck, but she’s mine and she’s a great work horse. My dog has always gone to work with me, and now he can’t. He has gotten too old to jump in and out, and I can’t pick him up (he’s 85 pounds). Any suggestions on how to make my truck pet-friendly?
Pickett: The easiest thing would be, on the passenger side, to make an easier step up for him. Whether it’s automated … or you could just take that one step and make it one bigger step. It’d be easier for a dog to get up in there, but you could make a ramp, too, on the passenger side and make it fold up into the passenger side battery box. There’s a bunch of different ways you could do it. It’s just a matter of how much work you want to put in it … or have the dog go on a diet.
Richardson: You want to have a rubber floor mat down because you’re going to have dog hair everywhere. You know, something that’s going to be really easy to keep clean, for sure, just depending on how bad the dog sheds. And make sure the vinyl’s really thick so he don’t poke his claws through anything.
Pickett: Stay away from black carpet.
Richardson: Yeah, definitely.
13. I haul blacktop. What’s the best product for removing blacktop from my aluminum wheels, steps, tank, glossy paint and all other surfaces on my ’05 Pete Tri-Axle? Some rims are standard aluminum. Others have a no-polish coating from Alcoa. I usually use gasoline or kerosene, which is messy. I slop it on with a rag and let it sit awhile and then scrub like mad. Any suggestions?
Pickett: There’s actually some stuff called Agent Orange. It’s environmentally safe, biodegradable. I’m not even sure who makes it. But that’s what it’s called, Agent Orange. It smells just like an orange and eats asphalt off pretty good. And there’s some aluminum polish by Zephyr that takes it off the aluminum pretty well. But that asphalt’s a pain because it gets in the rags and it’ll scratch. So you have to make sure you get the big chunks out of it before you keep wiping because it just makes a mess. But that Agent Orange stuff actually works pretty good. Just spray it on there, let it soak and then you just need to clean it off.
14. Do you do custom work for other trucking companies?
Pickett: Yeah, we definitely do now. Right now, we’re so slammed with this, we’re kind of at a standstill. But definitely, we want to get more into that when the show ends or slows down.
15. Do you all have formal training in your field, or did you pick this up through on-the-job training?
Pickett: On the stuff that we do, me and my brother learned from my dad. We grew up in it, so we were in the shop. That got us going in the right direction. And then everything else … we’ve never had the money to hire anything out, so we’ve always done everything ourselves. After doing so much for so long, you start getting pretty good at it. You pick up trades and tricks and stuff like that for the fabrication part of it. But as far as schooling, just shop, high school stuff. Anything after that, we just pretty much learned on our own.
Richardson: I’ve picked things up over the years. Being young and into cars, you sort of learn as you go. I’ve sat in on a few seminars from different companies. … But for the most part, it’s all just a hit-or-miss and teach-yourself type thing. And over the years, you just start getting used to your methods and your style and get good at what you’re doing.
16. When you trick a truck, do you do anything with the engine, or is it all aesthetic?
Pickett: We do mechanical work, but the majority of it we don’t film because it’s boring for the audience to watch us fixing air lines or doing that. It’s not like we build the truck top to bottom, front to back. We’d have it six months at a time and $300,000 in it to do brand-new everything. Everything that goes out on the road is roadworthy …. But there’s a lot of stuff that don’t get shown.
17. If you could rid the world of one thing, what would it be?
Richardson: Cancer and complainers.
18. I would like to know the manufacturer of the gas powered blender and a location to purchase. Got to have one.
Pickett: We actually got it online. There’s a bunch of different places that make them. They take a Weed Eater motor and adapt a kit to the top of it. So there ain’t just one manufacturer that makes one. I’m not even sure who it is we got ours from, but you can find them online.
19. Who are some of your favorite country artists?
Richardson: I’ve got a few of them. Big & Rich, of course. There’s some new guys. I met Kenny Chesney at the awards show [the 2006 CMT Music Awards]. He was pretty cool. I’m a big Trace Adkins fan … Toby Keith.
Pickett: Yeah, we met a bunch at the awards, and they’re all way cool.
Richardson: I wouldn’t say there’s one favorite … just all of them, in general.
20. What kind of music do you listen to when you’re working on the trucks?
Pickett: Wide variety, you know? Everything from classic rock to country to talk radio. If it’s on our XM Satellite, we tune it in daily. … There’s a pretty good variety on there.