The Muscle Car Chief

September 14th, 2011

Text and Photos by David Fetherston

Is this GUY for Real?

Guy Fieri (http://www NULL.guyfieri NULL.html) is a phenomenon. All it took was a little nudge and Guy was off pursuing his dream to combine his innate passion for food, cars and entertainment. He has managed to mix his love of downhome cooking with an obsession for muscle cars and the thrill of revving up the crowd for television game shows and road tours.

I could guess that you’re wondering, Is this Fieri guy for real, or is he just fulfilling TV persona obligations and driving whatever he’s assigned?”

Well, let’s clear that up right now! Firstly, Guy lives the life he presents on screen. It’s no act, that’s him everyday with unstoppable energy.  He is absolutely a major league foodie, but the red ‘67 Camaro convertible on (http://www NULL.html)Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives (http://www NULL.html) (http://www NULL.html)is there because he’s a total muscle car gonzo—has been for more than 30 years! Guy hosts not only Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, the Food Network (http://www NULL.html)’s top-rated show, but also Guy’s Big Bite, Tailgate Warriors and Minute to Win It, which are also high on the rating cards.

You might ask yourself how a kid from Ferndale, California, ended up as the hottest ticket in the world of television, food and celebrity. From a tender age, Guy knew his life would revolve around food. He was cooking for his family when most kids were watching Wiley Coyote. By the age of 10, he was in business with his own three-wheeled pretzel cart, built by his dad.

In high school, he worked every job in the restaurant business from washing dishes on up. By late high school, he had earned enough to pay for a study abroad program in Chantilly, France. This was the life-changer! The year in Europe introduced him to a whole new world of food and culture.

When he returned home, he moved to Las Vegas to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management at UNLV. The next step was opening his first restaurant, with partner Steve Gruber, in Sonoma County, California, Johnny Garlic’s. He was just getting his feet wet, as other successful restaurants soon followed.

Along the way his car collection started growing. Guy aimed high; his real dream was to own a big-block Chevelle SS. That he did, and when I met him at a Foster’s Freeze cruise-in show in Sebastopol, California, six years ago, he was there with his buddies to check out the other cars. I was looking for test cars for an exhaust company. Guy and a couple of buddies had built his Chevelle from the ground up, painted it and built the engine to perform.

It wasn’t long before the company used his Chevelle as a prototype car, and then he was asked to appear with his Chevelle in its print ads for the next two years to expound on the increase in performance offered by the system. Guy’s career took a giant leap from there when he was sought after as spokesperson for two company TV commercials on Trucks TV and Horsepower TV. That was the start of Guy on national television.

Guy’s passionate about cars, so much so that this big-block Chevelle has been a part of his life through a couple of engines and paint jobs.

In 2004, Guy went with me on the Hot Rod Power Tour. Running from Green Bay, Wisconsin, all the way to Orlando, Florida. We traveled through hail, tornado warnings and blinding rainstorms, but it was no surprise that the Chevelle made it to Orlando with flying colors.

Along the way he was asked to present the awards for one of the sponsors. The bleached, spiked hair and tattoos were part of his persona long before the days of TV fame. What you see is what you get.

Guy was such a hit that other sponsors asked him to present. Onlookers would start to drift away once Guy’s presentation was over, and other sponsors wanted to enlist his talents. He was a fireball of energy and a magician on stage, working the crowd like a seasoned Las Vegas performer. If you were on that HRPT, you’ll remember his magnetic and hilarious presentations. From there, Guy took the bull by the horns and leaped into the celebrity world in a way that only happens in America.

But what is in his garage these days? Well, he still has that brilliant yellow Chevelle SS, but it has been revamped from the ground up. Now it’s a re-motored 454 monster with 600-plus-hp, Tremec five-speed, new brakes, new suspension and engine accessories.

His amped-up machinery includes: an ‘06 LS2 Corvette coupe; a 427 Carol Shelby Continuation Cobra that even Guy says is frightening to drive; a massive four-door, Chevy Kodiak 4500 truck that is tricked out; and a very special 2011 Camaro convertible that’s due to replace the ’67 Camaro on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives next season. The Corvette is his daily driver at home, and the Chevy Kodiak truck is used to haul the trailer for his buggies, motorcycles and ATVs.

This 2011 Camaro was a special-order car. It was the first ‘11 yellow SS convertible off the line. Underneath, the line workers have signed it as it moved down the production line. The car is currently being upgraded with a supercharger, lowered suspension and custom three-piece wheels.

There are several other vehicles in the fleet, including an Easy-Go custom golf cart that runs nitrous and a new, over-the-wall Rhino ATV. Other machinery includes a custom Jeep and a custom ‘68 Chevy pickup that has been five or more years in the building.

According to Guy “I’ve got two passions, cooking and cars! I figured out about ten years ago, that if I worked hard enough at the cooking gig, I could have the cars I wanted. Back when I started making money with my first business ventures, my dad told me to put a deposit on a condo and build some equity in real estate.” My reply was, “Dad, you can’t do a smoking burnout with a two-bed, two-bath condo! Oh boy, did my dad laugh at that!

You get the picture. As you might imagine, his life runs at high speed these days, but that has not stopped him from enjoying his family, his cars, nor has it stopped him from expanding his world.  His career has exploded with a best-selling book (New York Times Best Seller List for 12 weeks); new food lines, including Flavortown; extremely wild-looking and very sharp knives under his own design and brand; and now The Guy Fieri Food Show. This summer his obligations mix rock and roll and food on a month-long swing around the nation touring 21 cities.

All this has not diminished his view of the real world. Guy is a community activist for many civic causes. He’s onboard with the Armed Forces Entertainment group, having toured with the troops in several overseas locations. In addition, he helped develope the Cook with Your Kids Day in California, and has his own charity that works exclusively with non-profits to help educate and train young chefs and food enthusiasts of the future. In Sonoma County, he is already a legend in his own time.

The world needs more movers and shakers like Guy Fieri. There’s a shortage of those who give back and care passionately about their family, their friends and the world around them. Remember, when you’re watching his shows, Guy is just like you. He’s a tire-smokin’ muscle car freak, who loves the smell of burnt rubber in the morning, as much as he loves the smell of pork ribs on the BBQ.

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