The television show ‘Wrench’d’ continues to bring people to Watseka to meet the stars, even though the show isn’t currently in production.
The Nichols Paint and Fab crew finished two seasons of the show, which was airing on the MotorTrend Network.
The group is negotiating with the production company on more seasons, Justin Nichols said Wednesday.
The group just returned from Las Vegas, where they were taking part in the Speed Equipment Manufacturing Association (SEMA) annual event. They spent Nov. 2-10 in Las Vegas.
That event is a by-invitation-only one that puts car/truck/motorcycle industry people in the same place to show off new items and network.
“The show was great,” he said. “There were tons of people there.”
Because of the show, he said, they were greeted by lots of people who wanted to meet them, which they appreciate. Sometimes, though, he said it can be a little overwhelming.
The Nichols group has made it to SEMA for several years now, and has had their custom-built vehicles win awards at the specialty show. While they took one vehicle this year, a custom-built motorcycle, they didn’t compete for any prizes this year.
“The bike that we built was my personal bike,” he said. “Then we cut it up and made it cool. We ended up selling it before we left, but we still took it.
“We put it in the booth, where there were 10 other bikes and a couple of cars. One of the cars was from Count’s Customs,” he said. “They use the painting company’s new paint on that one. That’s what we will be switching over to. It’s called Matrix Edge. We did it (their bike) in the old paint.”
Also in that booth was a 1949 Mercury from Jesse James. “He was hanging out in the booth, too,” Nichols said. “Everybody in the industry seemed to gravitate toward this booth. We were talking to so many people about the bike. Talking about paint. What Jesse’s got going on. He’s building some really cool stuff. It was really cool to talk to him. He’s always been an inspiration.”
Nichols said he and James had never met, though they have corresponded before because of a sign Nichols built for him.
Nichols said the reason they went this year to SEMA was to show off the Matrix paint. They used the paint on the bike they built and then took it to SEMA to show off the paint skills they had. It is those kinds of endeavors that the show is based on.
“At SEMA they have Battle of the Builders. You submit your build to them before the show even starts, like a year prior. You get selected by them to be in the competition.”
Nichols said they didn’t enter this year, but “we had four friends who made the top 12. It was cool to see everybody else be in the top 12. That’s a big deal. One of them was Maxlider, who are originally from Iroquois County. They’ve helped us on the show before.”
He said they stayed with friends they met from Pennsylvania who have a house in Las Vegas. “It was on the outside of town. We could relax. It was a good time.”
Nichols, Magaen Ashline, Greg Huizenga, Nick Roberts and Cody Schoon were the Nichols’ crew.
“My goal going out there was to network and connect with more companies, and meet with the companies that are already in partnership with us as far as builds go. It’s nice to get face to face with them. It let’s them know where we are and we know where we are with them. We weren’t going out there to compete this year. We were going to network, enjoy and look at some of the builds. We were able to do that.”
They attended some after parties, one of which was a fundraiser for Jessi Combs, the “MythBusters” host who was killed in a jet-car crash while trying to break a land speed record earlier this year. “She was doing what she loved. There is a Jessi Combs Foundation and a lot of money was raised for that,” he said.
Nichols said they are now trying to finish up some of the builds they had been working on when they left for SEMA. “We are trying to finish up a trike, two other cars. One of them is the Saab we got halfway through of season one of the show. Now we are going to finish it up and unveil it at Chicago World of Wheels in March.
“It’s something different and unique,” he said of the Saab. “No one in the hot rod world has seen a hot-rodded Saab. We’re kind of curious to see what people think of it. So far everybody likes it. It’s a cool looking car and it’s going to be fast. It’s going to be neat.
“We’ve got a bunch of paint work,” he said.
Because of the show, he said they are five to six years out on builds. They try to bring in some smaller jobs to do when they can, including some paint jobs. “We’re doing a lot of motorcycle stuff,” he said. “It is overwhelming of what we have to do. I’ve hired two more guys and looking to hire a third.”
They are also modifying the shop in Watseka. They have some options to expand slightly to make more room. They could have moved to Indiana, he said, but he didn’t want to do that with the amount of work they have on the books.
As for the television show, the meeting with the production company went well, he said. “A lot things are put on hold,” he said. “They are trying to figure out which direction to go. The TV world is changing.”
Nichols said they have had fun with the show, but admits that it takes up an enormous amount of time, especially for a small shop.
“A lot of people don’t understand that the TV show costs this company a lot of time to do,” he said. “When it’s a small shop and we’re doing interviews nobody else can be working because they can’t be making noise. So during the week, I could be paying up to 10 hours of people standing around being quiet. I’m not a huge fan of that.
“On the other hand, it’s done wonders for us. We go to shows and it really boosted faster than we can handle,” he said.
For now, he said, as long as the offer from the network is reasonable he would be open to it. “It’s not out of the question yet,” he said.
“We’re obviously going to be building,” he said. “There’s going to a lot of cool stuff coming over the next few years.”
It could be social media, a YouTube channel or other outlet, he said.
He recently did a YouTube video that was well received. “We try to keep up with the social media stuff. It’s an entire job all to itself,” he said.
Nichols said this is his 13th year in business. He said he wants to see the shop and crew continue to go to the shows and take part in different competitions like they’ve always done.
He said, too, that people continue to stop by the shop to talk to the stars of “Wrench’d” on a regular basis. “When there’s not snow and ice out, we could have up to 10 people a day stop by,” he said.
“I got a phone call yesterday. The Porsche Club of America is based out of Joliet,” he said. “There’s 78 cars and 150 people are planning a trip here in spring. So we’ve got to try and figure out how to park 78 cars around this area,” he said.
The shop also gets handwritten letters from people overseas. Brazil, Europe, Australia are all places from where people write to them.
He’s especially proud to inspire kids who he hears from frequently. They also work with the local high school students and college students and get them involved in projects when they can.
“I think that’s my proudest thing of doing all of it is being able to inspire kids and keeping the industry alive,” Nichols said.