Street Outlaws’ Justin “Big Chief” Shearer: “We’ll be back and better than ever.”

Big Chief Shearer, Pontiac, Street Outlaws, Discovery, Street Racing
Photo: Discovery.com

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.

Big Chief Shearer, Pontiac, Street Outlaws, Discovery, Street Racing
Photo: midweststreetcars.com

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.

Big Chief Shearer, Pontiac, Street Outlaws, Discovery, Street Racing
Photo: Hotrod.com

Pontiac Power
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.”

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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.”

About Keith MacDonald 8 Articles
Keith MacDonald started his automotive writing career at the young age 45. When not writing auto reviews for his local Vero Beach, FL newspaper, he's written 2 street racing novels, "Woodward Avenue," and "Woodward Avenue II: Ground Pounders."
  • MaladoitFL

    Nothing against the NOLA boys, but I’m waiting for the 405 to come back on Street Outlaws. The NO guys are monotoned – pretty certain they’re reading off a cue card.

  • ChevyII

    I watched the first airing of the NOLA and have not watched since. I watch the old re-runs and change channels when the new program comes on. NO just kind of wanders, no leadership. Hurry back Big Chief, Big Daddy and the rest of the gang. Can hardly wait to see season 7.

  • lapleader

    I never thought i would like a show about drag racing but Big Chief and all the characters from the 405 got me. Since the first season, and watching Farmtruck and Azn on fishing trips, I also really liked the people the best. They have something like I had when I was in the SCCA years ago. Comradely, bench racing and helping your friends/competitors were some of the best time and this show captures that so well. I also am not so keen on NOLA . Living in Dallas I love hearing them talk bad about Texas drivers , Discovery has a keeper show here.

  • reaperboehm

    Its a great show and i do love the charactors,but it isnt street racing except for the fact that they are racing on the street,street racing to me is driving your street legal car to a n empty street and racing not trailering a track car to a location and dropping it on the road,we used to hang out at the local hang out cruise the streets then get together on a lonely stretch of road with the cars we have driven around with and see who is really faster,farm truck has the right idea anyways stil a great show but def not what
    outlaw street racing is all about

  • Bobby Field

    I love the show, but I want the old 405 cast back.
    This season sucks…..

  • AATopFuel

    I agree, there is a place for Kye Kelly and that would be going to the 405 and taking all there money, but he is no air personality. I am sure that there is someone else out there that could do the job and do it well, but Kye is not it.

  • Joseph Butler

    NOLA is not what I expected to be, 405 really showed me what loyalty is all about and representing their city. I’ll watch 405 anytime.

  • Kevin Cunningham

    a very long time ago I was into this I built a car that never made it to the street let alone a good pass but that’s about to change. the car is not at the level of the 405 but it should be quick enough and the reason is they inspired me to build it and yes I like the show to.

  • Walt Hopkins

    Yes this season sucks, I’m waiting for the 405 to show all them how it’s done, when I was a kid we raced on the Connecting highway BQE an made it in HOT ROD mag that’s
    why we all call it the Good Old Days

  • Ron Hawthorne

    I watched 1/2 of the NOLA show, it sucked. It is a fraud, a cheap rip off. I am a lifelong car guy and can’t stomach it. I will be happy when the 405 returns. Despite the show, the fastest street cars are in Hot Rod Drag Week !

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