DriveTribe Q&A with Roadkill’s David Freiburger
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If you’re one of the handful of petrolheads walking the Earth who hasn’t seen an episode of MotorTrend’s show Roadkill, it goes something like this: David Freiburger and Mike Finnegan take old American classics with the thinnest thread of structural integrity and hot-rod them with quality parts that really deserve a better home. Along the way the pair are inevitably beset by mechanical upheavals, bodging and burnouts. Or attempted burnouts.
Watch Freiburger and co-host Mike Finnegan wheelie Stubby Bob
Freiburger took some time out from welding a ‘76 Cadillac frame to a ‘63 Ford Econoline pickup to speak to DriveTribe about the past, present and future of Roadkill.
How did Roadkill get started?
“I was a magazine editor with MotorTrend, starting in 1991, and have edited the likes of 4-Wheel & Off-Road, Car Craft, Rod & Custom, Hot Rod, and Hot Rod Deluxe. During my time with 4-Wheel & Off-Road, me and staff member Rick Péwé would do adventures where we would buy abandoned vehicles, fix them in the field, and then take them on road trips. We called these ‘Dirt Every Day’ adventures, because we were in 4x4s and would always adventure home using dirt roads.
“Later, when I was the editor of Hot Rod, the company wanted to start doing web videos. Together with staffer Mike Finnegan, I did similar adventures as I had previously done with Péwé, but with cars rather than trucks.
“The first video we did was Mike and I going to Rick’s house and rescuing a Buick convertible that had been sitting for 30-plus years. Those videos soon became called Roadkill. And, incidentally, MotorTrend now also produce an off-road TV show called Dirt Every Day.”
What do you love about old cars?
“Old cars are intriguing for a number of reasons, and people often connect with them for reasons of nostalgia for a simpler time, or a reminder of earlier times in their own lives.
“For the younger crowd, they are interesting because they often have such wildly greater character than new cars. They’re easier to work on, and potentially cheaper to make go fast. Our most popular shows are about rescuing long-abandoned vehicles, and those are most often older models.”
If you were 16 years old now and buying a car to fix up, what would you get?
“This is one of the most common questions from the fan base, as we have a great volume of younger viewers. Because we skew to V8, rear-drive vehicles, I often suggest that older full-size pickup trucks are great value because they already have V8 engines and beefy drivetrains, and they are easy to work on.
“But these days the young hot rodeos can be quite adventurous, and finding ANY car and stuffing an LS-platform GM V8 into them is common and cheap.”
What wrenching skills do you think young enthusiasts should learn?
“Of all the skills I lack, it’s welding that I wish I’d spent more time learning.
“When I was a kid, welding was treated like something no one could ever do at home. Today, it’s easy to get started and it’s very popular to get good at.
“But if you want a skill that is more impressive and that fewer people will ever have, I suggest racing schools for driving skills.”
Is it your aim to inspire people to do their own mods
“It’s my aim to get people to do whatever they have a passion for, especially if they think there’s an obstacle to that.
“People think they can’t afford a modified car, so we show them they can do it cheaply.
“People are afraid to take a road trip in a junk car, so we show them that half the adventure is in the failure. The single biggest satisfaction of what we do is hearing from kids who tell us that our shows inspired them to get into cars.”
If all Roadkill cars were to be crushed, which would you take for a final drive?
“I’d hate to see them crushed, but I don’t need to drive any of them again. I’m usually all about the next adventure ahead.”
Is there one Roadkill car you regret?
“I hated the ’56 Buick Roadmaster that we dug out of a thorn bush and mounted on a stretched Corvette chassis. Bad idea, poorly executed. The car was so rusty that it broke in half and we sent it out for scrap.”
Will electrifications and automation of cars kill automotive enthusiasm
“Every time the media has predicted the doom of gasoline, junkyards, hot rodding, and performance, it has been wrong. People will still be hot rodding in 50 years. Some may be doing it with electric cars.
“If you want my rant on EVs and autonomous vehicles, see Roadkill Extra episode 637.”
What's the most disgusting thing you’ve found in cars you've bought?
“Poop. Large poop.”
What future projects would you like to take o
“I am a land speed racer, and have set records above 200 mph at five different venues.
“In 2019 I hope to get into the 200 MPH Club at El Mirage Dry Lake, which is where hot rodding began here in the Southern California desert. I have built a new engine for our race car and hope to race at the May meet.”
And finally, how did it feel to wheelie your rear-engined truck, Stubby Bob
“One of the biggest wins we’ve ever had. And no, I wouldn’t daily it."
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