In June of 2013, following a rather rocky cancelation of Jesse James’ Outlaw Garage, it became apparent that Discovery Channel was looking for something new and fresh to follow their Monday night smash sensation, Fast N’ Loud.
One has to credit the higher-ups at Discovery for heeding the tortured cries of their viewers on social media. Almost without exception, everyone was fed-up with heavily scripted build shows.
Enter Street Outlaws
Fans of Richard Rawlings and his Gas Monkeys hung in and kept their TVs tuned to Discovery as Street Outlaws was rolled off Discovery’s hauler. In the days following its premiere, there was a strong buzz on social media about the show – and much scrutinizing – but more viewers checked it out during week number two. While the main attraction was the street racing and lots of talk about what the members of the “405,” (so named for their Oklahoma City area code), were running, something else happened: viewers quickly discovered a cast of very colorful characters that squabbled incessantly and tossed around insults that were clever and funny. The new audience identified with this gang of car guys from Oklahoma and quickly endeared themselves to the new series. Unlike the clashes many viewers had rejected on Velocity’s Graveyard Carz, the boys of the “405” displayed camaraderie and mutual respect for each other. The bickering was real, yet their brotherhood as street racers had created a visible bond.
When the dust settled in August of 2013, the original eight shows became sixteen: Discovery ordered and began airing a 2nd season just four months later in December of 2013. Discovery had a new hit show.
Discovery Discovers the 405
So how did Discovery Channel end up with a new hit series from a relatively obscure location like the “405”?
“I’d been racing and doing cash days for 20 years,” explained Justin “Big Chief” Shearer, who has become the show’s narrator and the groups most outspoken representative. “And we’d been posting our races up on YouTube. When the producers at Pilgrim Studios (Fast N’ Loud, Wicked Tuna, Orange County Choppers) were looking for something new, they saw our videos and came out to Oklahoma to meet with us.”
When asked how the cars and drivers were chosen for the new show, Shearer explained.
“We have a pretty good dynamic, so Pilgrim basically left it up to us,” he said. “The slower drivers were out, of course, but the List (top 10) was the deciding factor. If you could make the list, you were in. We lose people who are slow – they just fall off the List.”
Naturally, there were drivers who challenged the List in order to be part of the Street Outlaws television show.
“The way I look at it is, if you wanna be on TV, then go audition for American Idol,” Shearer scoffed. “If you want to challenge us with a fast car then bring it – along with your money.”
One puzzling aspect is the longevity of Farm Truck and his sidekick, AZN. When asked how they’ve remained on the show without being on the List, Big Chief attributed it to the fact that they’ve always been a part of the “405.”
“It became pretty obvious that the truck became too heavy to really compete, but I look to Farm Truck to make a move soon,” Chief explained. “He and AZN are a staple and have been around for years.”
As a team, Farm Truck and AZN provide plenty of hilarity between races.
Shearer didn’t earn his “Big Chief” nickname solely based on his leadership role on Street Outlaws – he’s adhered strictly to Pontiacs, despite others’ pressuring that he switch to Chevy power. Chief remains Pontiac-powered with a well-massaged Rodney Butler engine.
“My first car was a ’72 Lemans,” he recalls. “We were ready to drop a Chevy 350 into it, but I decided I wanted to make that Pontiac motor run. Once you start down that road, your sense of pride kicks in. You become an underdog and I picked up that challenge.”
When the striking white Lemans with GTO Judge striping named “Crow” crashed and burned last season, Big Chief salvaged the Butler-built Poncho engine and dropped it into “Crow-Mod” – a 1968 Firebird that looks more like a funny car than a street machine.
“I’m not done with that Pontiac motor,” Chief explained. “I expect it to be pushing over 2,500 horsepower when I’m done.”
The “Crow” Lemans weighed 3,200 pounds with 58% nose weight, the new Firebird, “Crow Mod” tips the scales at only 2,250 pounds and is running a 36-inch top fuel drag tire.
“It’s gonna be downright hateful on the street,” Chief boasts. “We ran a test run at 4.10 seconds at 182.97 mph.”
This may be a factor the next time Big Chief bumps into New Orleans’ Kye Kelly.
“He shouldn’t be a problem,” Chief contends.
Another often asked question on social media is whether or not the “405” is returning. Many are not finding Street Outlaws: New Orleans as appealing – further proof that the boys from Oklahoma are a likeable bunch.
“We’ll be back after that God-awful New Orleans season is over,” Chief assures. “And we won’t be running a ‘small tire list.’ We’ve already filmed season 7, but Discovery hasn’t told us when it will air.”
A big difference will be Pilgrim Studio’s smart decision to allow the “405” some wiggle room.
“They gave me a lot more reign to do whatever the f___ I want to do, explained Chief. “People are going to see how real we are. Season 7 will be wild with more people coming in. We have a couple of new guys on the show who’ve been racing around here for years.”
Big Chief bristled at the mention of appearing on the car show circuit.
“We’ve been doing this for 20 years and when the cameras stop rolling we’ll still be racing. I’m not interested in sitting around with my car and trailer parked while I sign autographs,” he groused. “Maybe when I’m 60, I will, but I’d rather trailer my car to a race and win races for cash.”
When asked about his leadership role in the “405,” Big Chief attributed that to the brotherhood within the group.
“In life, there are leaders and followers,” he said. “I really don’t care about being the leader, but I just found that the guys started trusting me more and more for making rules that kept them safe.”
In the end, it’s the thrill of the competition and the big money you can win.
“We do it because we love to race,” Chief said. “It doesn’t matter where we do it, all I care about is racing and taking the other guy’s money.”