There are times when a reality TV series, especially one in the restoration/makeover category, don’t even pretend to come off as authentic or realistic. In a new Netflix series, a new business is created for the purposes of the show, one whose mission is to make a profit in the U.S. by buying up and restoring classic cars from Mexico.
TEX MEX MOTORS: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: “Somewhere In Mexico.” We see desert and a tumbleweed roll across the bottom of the screen.
The Gist: In Tex Mex Motors, a group of six car experts have set up a business in El Paso, TX, whose goal is to make $250,000 in profit in four months. The idea is that they will find classic vehicles in Mexico, starting with El Paso’s sister city Juarez, bring them over the border, modify and restore them, and sell them for a profit in the U.S.
The reason for doing this? It’s not as easy to find classic cars for cheap in the U.S. anymore, but there isn’t a huge restorer culture in Mexico, which means there are plenty of classics rusting out in junkyards or gathering dust in driveways.
Mike, the shop boss and expert painter, has put together a crew consisting of Rabbit, a deep-voiced Texan who can sell water to a fish; Scooter, a Juarez native who’s a top-notch car scout with lots of contacts; Wesley, a master fabricator; Jamie, who specializes in engines and electrical; and Jenicio, the “rookie” who is from El Paso and is a hard-working jack-of-all-trades.
The first car Scooter and Rabbit bring in is a ’69 Opel sports car whose body is in rougher shape than it appears at first glance. The crew basically tear out the entire interior and clean it up, but the body is so pockmarked by windswept desert sand that getting it sanded and in shape for painting takes much longer than expected. Remember: Time and material cuts into profit.
While they’re working on the Opal, one of Scooter’s contacts in Juarez has a VW Beetle dune buggy to show him. He and Rabbit negotiate the guy down to $3500 and a teeth cleaning from Scooter’s dentist wife, but as they drive to the border, the federales stop them and want to make sure that the car isn’t stolen. As they wait for the police to check the papers, the pair find a local junkyard and a ’67 Mustang in pieces. They buy it for $300, and Scooter promises that he can get a guy who owes him a favor to tow the heap to the shop in El Paso.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Tex Mex Motors certainly gives off the same semi-scripted vibe as Pawn Stars and shows like Rust Valley Restorers and Rennervations.
Our Take: Shows like Tex Mex Motors rely just as much on personality as they do on the cars and the restoration process. In fact, with most of these shows, the restoration process is minimized in favor of personality-driven stories. And that’s what it seems like we’re getting here.
In the first 41-minute episode, the group finds, restores and sells two cars, with a third car on the way up from Juarez. Much of the episode is given over to Rabbit and Scooter, who are about as odd a couple as you’ll find on one of these shows; Rabbit has a deep gravelly voice with a Texas drawl and Scooter seems to be a friendly, guileless sort. Half of the episode feels more like a buddy comedy as the two of them negotiate sales and attempt to get the car over the border (legally) without a lot of hassle.
It might be good that the show has the two of them, because the restoration portion of the show is pretty standard. There are a few challenges here and there, like a used engine that starts smoking when started or the aforementioned pockmarked body on the Opel. But the restoration scenes go pretty quickly, without a ton of details. The crew has personality to spare, and they joke around with each other plenty, but they don’t hold a candle to the adventures of Scooter and Rabbit.
Sex and Skin: Lots of car porn, but that’s about it.
Parting Shot: The chassis of the Mustang shows up at the shop but the rest of the scattered parts don’t. Scooter’s been screwed by his buddy, to whom he apparently owes money, it turns out.
Sleeper Star: We’ve got to give this to the new comedy team of Rabbit and Scooter, who should have their own Vince Gilligan-written series on AMC.
Most Pilot-y Line: It’s a great coincidence that they found a junkyard with a ‘Stang in it right near where the federales pulled them over, isn’t it?
Our Call: STREAM IT. While Tex Mex Motors gives us slightly douchey vibes, and we wonder if the whole “Americans throwing money around in front of not-that-wealthy Mexicans” is the best look. But the show has personality, and the restorations are fun, even if they’re not too detailed.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.