When the news came out just before Christmas that “Fast N’ Loud” mechanic Aaron Kaufman would be bidding farewell to his co-star Richard Rawlings, it was a shock to some fans of Discovery’s car-restoration series. After all, the Dallas-based reality TV show has been a huge success since its debut in 2012 and helped turn their Gas Monkey Garage into an internationally known brand and business empire.
And it wasn’t just about the bottom line; Rawlings and Kaufman became stars among car freaks.
But the hirsute Kaufman is turning his back and his beard on all of that to go his own way. Yet, aside from the post on gasmonkeygarage.com announcing Kaufman’s exit, there haven’t been many details about what his next step would be. Rawlings said Gas Monkey Garage would continue. “It is a big hit to GMG,” he said of Kaufman’s departure, “but please note that it would be an insult to everyone here at Gas Monkey who has been putting in the work these past few years to say that we can’t do it without him.”
Still, there was no word on what Kaufman, who originally hails from Crowley, would be doing.
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Now, Kaufman is talking, in advance of the next “Fast N’ Loud” episode which is sort of the beginning of the end. With this episode, airing at 9 p.m. Monday -- as well as in a couple of crossover episodes with the Discovery street-racing show Street Outlaws -- Kaufman begins his, to put it in terms Gwyneth Paltrow might understand, “conscious uncoupling” from the Rawlings machine and his current TV incarnation.
He has a company, Arclight, that specializes in fabricating parts for restoring Ford F-100 trucks and he’s flirting with the idea of returning to TV without Rawlings. We spoke to Kaufman by phone Thursday afternoon. The conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.
What have you been doing since you left Richard?
Well, the short of it is trying to get caught up from four years of my daily drivers having a problem and becoming project cars. I have a slew of non-running vehicles and so I’ve been trying to knock those out.
In clearing my plate moving forward for me are two things: there’s an ongoing converation about coming back to television. But if we do, we’ll do it in a very different way. There are some things that we can’t get away from. But, ultimately, the framework of the next program, should we do one, will be fun with cars, it will be very spirited, will be a tremendous amount of fun to watch, and we hope to do more interesting cars and more in-depth builds. That’s what we’re looking at if we do more TV stuff.
Outside of the TV things, I’m looking to take on the F-100 market [in] the same way [as] the C-10s -- which are the Chevrolet half-ton trucks for quite a few generations. The F-100s got left behind and so we’re looking to bridge that gap, both in the fabrication of chassis components as well as complete total chassis, bumper to bumper...If we can get that ball rolling, I’d love to get back into taking on customer big builds, but right now we’re working on F-100s for four generations, 1957 to 1979. I really think it’s going to do well. and if it does we’ll move back to maybe taking on some big, wild non-F100 builds. That’s where we’re at and having some converstaions about maybe doing some TV.
Are you involved at all with Richard anymore?
Outside of the first six months of the program, I’ve really operated very independently despite what the appearances were. But, yes, we worked together to produce the cars for the television show for “Fast N Loud.” Then, over the years creative differences, professional differences -- the fork presented itself and it was the right time to make my move.
How did he take it when you told him you were leaving?
It was not a surprise. I was fairly vocal about it for quite a long time, so it was really just the time came. To be honest, for quite a while, many people thought maybe I was just full of hot air. So the only surprise was from people who didn’t quite believe me. But there was a lot of lead-up to it and a lot of writing on the wall. I’m not sure how legitimate his surprise was or was not.
Did the grind of TV get to you?
Absolutely. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it. We’re building cars that most sane, normal car shops wouldn’t attempt in less than six, nine months or possibly even a year. We’re building the cars in six weeks. If we run over our time budget, we’re building them in seven and eight weeks. I’m proud of most of the cars, there are a few of them I’m very proud of. We’ve done a few things on television that are firsts globally. And so we’ve really been able to pull a couple of wins out of the bag there.
But, yes, a hundred percent, building cars at that rate at that speed does take its toll. It takes its toll professionally, takes its toll emotionally and physically. ... Professionally, we get to meet all these great people, we broaden our horizons and our contacts and networking. But the one thing is we don’t spend a lot of time to perfect any one type of car, any one style and sometimes we have to make concessions on a vehicle to even attempt to make a time frame. That can be a little grating.
Are you still on good terms with Richard?
Me and the gentleman have had some good times. We’ve definitely got some stories. But, as life does, we definitely went different directions. Of course, we are cordial and we talk about business stuff but we don’t necessarily have any dealings going on...Everything’s fine, but I’ve definitely made a hard-core left turn. So I don’t have anything that goes on with Gas Monkey Garage garage or Richard himself. As far as things being amicable, from my end they are. Everything seems pretty normal.
Did the pressure of being a celebrity get to you?
I don’t even know what that means. I don’t know what the other additional pressures are. I don’t ever really remember having a lot of free time...And these days, if you have 48 hours in a day, I still wouldn’t have enough to get it done...Many things in my life really didn’t change much...Man, I’ve had some weird interactions but never had a bad interaction from people knowing who I was and practically everywhere I go, people know who I am. The one thing is it’s hard to go in and get out somewhere quickly. I don’t know that I’ve had any pressures of being a celebrity affect me in a negative way, or cause me any trouble really.
Why the interest in the F-100?
It’s a hole in the marketplace. The first thing to understand is that me and my associates, we are truck guys through and through. We love cars but we’re truck guys. And the next thing is we happen to be Ford guys. For me, it wasn’t something that I thought about. My dad is a Chevrolet guy and one day I just looked around and everything I owned was Ford and so I embraced it.
And the F-100 market is incredibly barren.
It’s not as easy and no one ever really built parts for it. And the new trends are so much more aggressive than what they were in the ’80s and ’90s or even the early 2000s. Now, it’s not just enough to be low, it’s got to be low on 24-inch wheels...And so the game has changed. We’re really looking to bridge that gap and really bring that F-100 market [up] with the C-10 market. That’s our goal, that’s our intention.
When will you make a decision about doing TV again?
To be perfectly honest, if we don’t have something back on air in the next, oh, I don’t know, call it six or seven months, if we’re not filming something in that time frame, we’ll just close that chapter. That’s one thing for me [is] I love doing entertainment, but I’ve never considered myself a member of that community. I’m first, foremost and will always be a member of the automotive community.
Fast N’ Loud
9 p.m. Monday