5 Minutes with Tim Strange
Tim Strange learned a lot growing up on a farm in Illinois. In addition to helping him develop a love of cars, life on the farm taught Strange that hard work pays off. “My dad always told me that a 12-hour workday is still only a half day’s work,” Strange said.
That philosophy – which Strange still lives by with his 14-hour workdays – has certainly proven to be true. Strange, who in 2014 became one of the youngest people to ever be inducted into the National Rod & Custom Hall of Fame, runs the Tennessee-based Strange Motion Rod & Custom with his wife, Carrie. He’s also well-known from his time spent as host on the Spike TV reality show “Search and Restore,” not to mention serving as announcer for Goodguys AutoCross and other industry events.
We nabbed five minutes with Strange to talk about his time on TV, his weirdest fan encounters and…show pigs.
Goodguys Gazette: Where did your love of cars come from?
Tim Strange: My dad was into building custom Harleys, and he had a ’57 Chevy, so I grew up around Tri-five Chevys. My uncle was into customs and street rods, too, so I got it from them. Pretty much everyone I knew growing up had race cars, street rods, or hot rods. It was weird when I met someone who didn’t have one!
GG: Tell us about your first car.
Strange: It was a ’55 Chevy 150 sedan I bought from my great-great-grandpa when I was eight years old. I sold my 4-H show pig to pay for it. It was in a barn and it was pretty rusty, but it ran and drove. I used to drive it around the barnyard.
GG: You spent three seasons as the host of ‘Search and Restore.’ Had you ever pictured yourself being on TV?
Strange: No way. I was raised on a farm and my shop in Illinois was like 18 miles from a town big enough to have a stoplight! I never thought I’d end up on TV, but I was in the right place at the right time. I met Kevin Tetz at the SEMA Show, standing next to a ’52 Buick we did, and he offered me the chance to appear on his show, and that led to me being offered my own show, and we moved to Tennessee.
GG: Some builders feel that car-building reality shows give customers a false perception of what it takes to build one of these cars. Do you agree?
Strange: Yes, but I was lucky that my producer let me mention in every episode the man-hours it took to build them, and that I had fresh volunteers coming in to help. We built those cars in a month, and we only worked when the cameras were running, and we did build them in four weeks and drive them out of the building, but there were times when we were filming that I had 12 people sleeping at our house to get the cars done.
It’s not as glamorous as it seems. We were working 18 hours a day while we were in the studio. Everyone was on the same page, though. I purposely picked the people who were working with us because I knew they would work hard and not bring drama.
GG: Would you ever do another reality show?
Strange: There’s a reason I’ve turned down like 12 show offers, because there’s always a drama lean to it and I don’t want to do that. Also, most TV people you deal with don’t know the difference between a Mustang and a Camaro. The deadlines are put on the show because of TV deadlines.
GG: Can you tell us about your weirdest fan experience?
Strange: Fans come up to you at the strangest times. Like, you get people who want to shake your hand while you’re standing at the urinal. They follow you into the bathroom at the airport or something. I think now that ‘Search and Restore’ is on Amazon Prime, people are watching it more now than when it was airing on Spike.
GG: Which of your career accomplishments are you most proud of?
Strange: Getting induced into the [National Rod & Custom] Hall of Fame while both of my parents were still alive. I lost my mom this year, but she was around when I was inducted. That meant a lot to me. I’m also proud when my cars get into magazines. Getting [my car] into a magazine means more to me and my customers than winning an award does. I’ve always been a big magazine guy. I know the market’s changing, but I still subscribe to the magazines and collect them. Getting into a magazine still means a lot.
GG: What’s next for you? What do you have in the works?
Strange: We’re working on an online build series project with Ian Johnson called ‘Street Rods Ain’t Dead.’ Our sponsors sign up and get 14 weekly five-minute build series videos and they own the video content. The videos will play on social media and put the sponsors in front of 3 million eyes. After the episodes air, the build series videos can be watched on Amazon Prime. We are hoping to have it airing by early 2021.
I’ve also come out with a new tool called Gap It. It’s a four-sided tool that measures the consistency of gaps. It can be used on door gaps, panels and other places. It’s available on our www.strangemotion.com website.
Other than that, I just want to keep building cool cars for cool people. We’re lucky to have a lot of people who want us to build cars for them.