Jason Cameron, "Man Caves" host
2009 Land Rover LR2 (Jason's rating: 8.5 on a scale of 1 to 10)
Favorite road trip:
Beartooth Pass in Montana
Car he learned to drive in:
1969 Chevy Nova
First car bought:
1969 Chevy Nova
If you're a fan of the DIY network's wildly popular "Man Caves," you know Jason Cameron is not only a cohost, he's also a licensed contractor and lead builder. Since he really does pitch in to work on every project, his own 2009 Land Rover LR2 serves double duty. It's his personal daily driver, but it also hauls materials needed to build each man cave.
For anyone living in a big city where it's all about street parking, a smaller car means a better chance of finding a parking spot. The LR2 satisfies what's required of Cameron's day job, and it's the SUV best suited for street parking in the city, so he gives his burgundy LR2 an 8.5 out of 10 rating.
"I live in Hoboken, New Jersey. So I needed something that I could run to Home Depot, but still be able to park it in town," he says. "That's the dilemma -- finding something small enough to park, yet big enough to haul materials. In the Land Rover lineup, the LR2 is the smallest."
Cameron loves cars and, if he lived in the suburbs, he would probably have more than just this one. The LR2 is the first vehicle Cameron bought since he got his big break on TV. "In Hoboken, parking spots are $800 a month, so I went a couple years without a car," he says. "We just used mass transit. I had always had a car growing up, and it was weird for me not to have one. My wife had an old '94 Ford Explorer. I finally broke down one day and said, 'I've had enough, I've got to get a car.'"
Car he learned to drive in
Although Cameron was born in Toledo, Ohio, he was raised in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, in a town called Republic, outside of Marquette. That's where he learned to drive in his neighbor's burgundy 1969 Chevy Nova.
"My mom used her car to go to work, so when I wanted to drive, my neighbor was nice enough to let me use his car, and he would go with me," he says. "I loved that car. When he decided to sell it, I bought it."
When Cameron bought the Nova, two years after learning how to drive it and getting his license, Cameron put a little work into it. "It was rusted out, but I fixed that up with some Bondo," he says with a laugh. "I wasn't Picasso, but it worked.
"Being young, I wanted to go out and have some fun and I needed money, so I sold the Nova to somebody who was looking to buy one. I ended up getting a really cheap baby blue Pacer," he says. "Which was really embarrassing when you picked up the girl you wanted to take out in a baby blue Pacer. It looked like an upside-down fishbowl. That was my embarrassing car. I didn't much like driving it to high school; it was embarrassing. But it was a good car; it got me around."
Cameron had the late 1970s AMC Pacer for a couple years. He then got a 1979 Ford Mustang Fastback with money he earned as a teen working at Pizza Hut. He took that car to college for his first year before switching to another car.
"There were a lot of problems with the Mustang, and I kept spending money trying to fix it up, so I got rid of it and got a Camaro. That was a real nice car," he recalls. "I was in construction at the time. I was making good money and going to school and saved up enough money to buy the Camaro."
Cameron can't remember the exact model year -- it was either a 1988 or 1989.
Of all the old cars he had, Cameron says the Nova remains his favorite. "It's the car I learned to drive in and I just fell in love with it," he says. "The styling -- it's Americana to me. It's one of the cooler cars, and I just love the way it looks. I've always been a big fan of those."
While was driving the Nova, his family got a blue Chevy truck, which had a manual transmission. "I learned to drive a stick shift, which I appreciated as a young kid because not that many kids learn anymore," he says.
Favorite road trip
Cameron's favorite road trip was a family trip to Yellowstone National Park. "Driving through Yellowstone, going through Beartooth Pass in Montana, is the most beautiful drive I've ever seen," he says. "I was 14 years old and remember it being very vivid - the mountains and the scenery were incredible."
The trip was incredible for several reasons, including the sheer beauty of the drive. "It was everything - all the animals, the curvy roads, up in the mountains where there's a cliff on one side of you and you look down and you see cars that went off the road, but they just never recovered them. It was an amazing experience. If you've never been to Montana, Beartooth Pass is a must. I haven't been there since," he says. "We had a great time. In Yellowstone, you stop every 15 minutes because someone sees an animal and you stop and look. It forces you to get out and admire."
DIY's "Man Caves" and "Desperate Landscapes"
Cameron is familiar to most people as a host of DIY's "Man Caves" and "Desperate Landscapes," but his big break in the home-improvement genre was on TLC's "While You Were Out."
"I was a working actor and there was a casting call for a carpenter on 'While You Were Out,'" he says. "I had been a framer for years, a carpenter, and I worked in concrete, so I grew up in the trade. I was already a contractor. That was one of the things that helped me get that job."
He's proud to have done more than 100 episodes of both DIY shows. With "Desperate Landscapes, the crew shows up at a house and in one day transforms the yard. One of the houses belonged to Penn Jillette (a previous Celeb Drive).
"Man Caves" requires a three-day process to plan and film each man cave. Cameron says it's gratifying to be able to create a place where someone can "relax and be himself." For the lucky recipients of these room makeovers, it's an emotional experience, such as the time the show created a man cave for sportscaster Dan Patrick.
"We did his studio and his mobile studio, and he actually cried a little bit. Of course we had to tease him about it," he laughs. "But it was a big moment for him. Up until that point, he did his show from his house and it was really small. He'd always dreamed of having his own studio, so we built the studio."
Cameron loves that these home makeovers can sometimes change lives. "It's personally rewarding, without a doubt," he says. "And you take that to heart. That's something I really enjoy about what I do. I love working with people and to see the reaction in the end. It's awesome."
People now recognize Cameron, especially when he's in the Midwest. "I'm appreciative for what I have. I don't take anything for granted," he says. "So when you meet people and they're fans of the show, it's humbling because they feel like they know you. And if they tell you made an impact in their lives or you make their lives easier or however you affected them, it means a lot. It just makes you appreciate what you do that much more."
The new season of DIY's "Man Caves" begins October 7 at 8 p.m. For more information on either show, please visit www.diynetwork.com.