By Nancy Gutierrez
The Discovery Channel has created a monster in Vincent Carlos.
They have chosen Carlos to participate in two of their automotive television shows. His latest gig was as a contestant on the ever popular Monster Garage.
Known as Vinnie to his friends and clients, Carlos is more than a mechanic he is a fabricator and welder specializing in the upgrading of automobiles, both old and new. Carlos owns Vinnie's Welding and Fabrication in Lindsay. A year ago he was contacted by Discovery to be a contestant on Drive Shaft, a game show for the mechanically inclined, in which two teams of engineers create a working automobile out of different objects, then race the creations. Initially Carlos was to do just one show but ended up staying for six. Then one year later he heard from Discovery again.
"They called me up and asked if I wanted to be on Monster Garage," he said.
Monster Garage is hosted by Jessie James, whose celebrity status can be attributed to the popularity of Monster Garage as well as his motorcycle fabrication show, West Coast Choppers.
In Monster Garage a team of six fabricators, welders and mechanics from across the country must turn a vehicle into different functional tools. Some of the creations from the show include turning a PT Cruiser in to a Zamboni, making a vintage mustang into a lawn mower and mounting a backhoe onto a hearse allowing it to dig graves. The team has five days to finish the build and, by midnight on the last day, the vehicle has to work properly. If it does each person receives a large toolbox filled with a variety of high-end tools.
"Our project was to build a gorilla transportation vehicle out of a Toyota Tundra," Carlos said. "We had to build a cage on the bed that could be hydraulically lifted off of the truck onto the ground to put the gorilla in."
If the team completed the project, the vehicle would be donated to a gorilla habitat in San Francisco. Carlos said a gorilla at the habitat had died because there was no proper transportation to get the animal to a veterinary hospital in time.
Carlos said the first day of the build is mostly spent filming introductions for the show.
"The challenge is basically to build it in four days cause they waste your time on the first day," he said. "Jessie James was two hours late. He was there for ten minutes, gave us some directions, barely, then he takes off. He said he'd be back later but he never came back."
Instead of waiting for their host the crew started on their task.
"We tore the car apart on the first day," Carlos said.
On the second day James dropped in to observe their progress and left. Carlos said he was supposed to return at the end of the day and again never did. Then a surprising thing happened.
"On Thursday the produces got us together and said, we have some bad news and some good news," Carlos said. "The bad news was that Jessie James was no longer the host and would not be associated with Monster Garage."
The good news, according to producers, was that the contestants had the choice of finishing the job if they wanted or of walking away from the project.
"I told them that I didn't come here to meet Jessie James," Carlos said. "I came here to meet a challenge and walk away with some tools."
With one man down the crew would have to work even harder. The main challenge would mostly be who to look to for leadership. Producers didn't have to look far. The determined fabricator from Lindsay was ready to take charge of the project.
"I stepped up and said I didn't care if Jessie was here or not. Then the rest of the crew said they would stay," Carlos said.
They had just under two days to finish the project. Carlos said some members of the film crew didn't believe they could do it. One crew member in particular, known only as "Shwag," talked to Carlos about the low probability of a positive outcome.
"He said not to feel bad if we didn't make it," Carlos said. "So I made a bet with him that we would finish in time. If I won he'd have to give me one of his huge rings he wears that cost $600 each."
True to his word, Carlos and the rest of the crew finished the vehicle on Friday afternoon. But the project isn't completely done until the vehicle's main purpose can be executed without a glitch. In this case, successfully moving a 2000 pound cage from the truck bed to the ground.
"At 6 p.m. we ran into a problem with the hydraulics. We spent a few hours on it then found out it was a factory defect," Carlos said. "It was 10 p.m. but we knew that if we didn't finish we wouldn't get the tools. So we rigged it up on a drill and I sanded it down."
At five minutes to midnight the producers of the show had the team move the Tundra outside for the final run through. In what Carlos called a one shot deal, the Toyota was put to one last test.
"We started [the lift] and got it up but the cage started hitting an arm," he said. "We went out there and just started cutting. We got it done."
The lift worked and the team received their tools as well as the satisfaction of finishing the job without Jessie James. And Carlos got that $600 ring.
But that wasn't the end of Carlos' work with Monster Garage. Without James, the finishing touches couldn't be done to the vehicle. After the main work is done on the project, it is refined and given a special paint job.
"Their crew walked out with Jessie and he took a lot of the tools they needed," Carlos said.
So the producers of the show called Carlos and asked if he would do the finishing touches on the hi-tech truck.
"I brought six people from Lindsay to help me and told [the producers] they'd have to provide room and board for everybody for the three days," he said.
The Lindsay six included; Mark Felix, Benny Rocha, Danny Salinas, Mark Macias, Mark Morales and Anthony Moreno.
"It was the experience of a lifetime," Salinas said. "Vinnie gave us a great opportunity."
Salinas added that it wasn't just an opportunity for the six other fabricators but for Lindsay as well.
Together with Carlos the group prepped the body for a new paint job, installed two televisions, a DVD player and a plasma flat screen TV, all of which was filmed and will be shown on the air.
The show, complete with refining work by the Lindsay group, will be aired sometime in June. Carlos said that he felt lucky to be called on to finish the work and hopes people will see that the show will go on without Jessie James.
"Monster garage is not about one person. Its about coming together and creating something from nothing, it's about teamwork," he said. "It's not about one bad a–. There's a Jessie James in every town, you just have to find them."