Quick Stats: Rick Dale of History Channel's "American Restoration"
Daily Driver: 1951 Ford F100 (Rick's rating: 8 on a scale of 1 to 10)
Favorite road trip: Las Vegas to Florida
Car he learned to drive in: 1967 Jeep
First car bought: 1972 GMC pickup
Fans of the History Channel show "American Restoration" know that host Rick Dale is a master restorer of almost any memento, including cars and trucks such as his 1951 Ford F100, which frequently appears on the show.
Dale rates it an 8 out of 10. "It was one of those restorations I started 15 years ago, and because of work it got put off. When the show began, I decided to start the resto again. It still needs work, but it's getting more reliable," he says with a laugh. "It's got a great paint job on it, it just needed a few things."
The truck was intended to be seen prominently on the show. "When we first started, they saw me working on this truck and the film crew said, 'This is a great truck. We need to see this running.' So I hurried it along. The motor wasn't in it yet, the tranny, nothing was in it."
He hadn't changed the tires before filming started. He was set to film an episode with a customer who wanted a locomotive air brake tester restored. That meant a 300-mile drive to Ely, Nevada.
"They wanted to film me all the way up there, so we took off. I knew the truck was going to break down. Then I had a blowout, and it was on film. It was 20 degrees outside, and we didn't have heat in the truck. As soon as I got back, I put new tires and a heater in it," he says. "The truck's in the show nonstop. I haul stuff in it, and go picking up and delivering. I enjoy it a lot."
There are more cars to be restored that will be featured on the show. "Tyler is my son, Brettly is my stepson, and everybody all of a sudden wants old cars. I'm suddenly restoring these, even though I know restoring a car costs a lot of money and you don't get much out of it when you're done with it," he says.
Brettly bought a 1965 half-ton long-bed Chevy truck, as fans of the show might remember from last season. "On the last episode of the season, he gets finished with it. We spent $38,000 on the thing, but it's beautiful," Dale adds, giving the Chevy a perfect 10 rating.
Dale bought a 1965 Ford truck for Tyler for graduation. "I tricked him and told him I wouldn't buy it, and I did buy it and brought it home. He was happy," he says. "It's a short-bed, pretty truck."
The two have been restoring together since Tyler was young and would sit at his dad's side. "He's gone to a level where he's totally into fabrication," Dale says. "It's not a frame-off restoration where you would fix everything underneath there. He now pulled a chassis out of the bottom of the '65 Ford half ton truck and threw it away, and built everything from scratch."
Dale says Tyler, who went to an engineering high school, originally wanted to make it like a rat rod. "Everybody's got nice cars, so he's going to paint this one," he says, adding viewers will see him work on the truck, which should be revealed at the end of the season.
For the third season of the show, Dale already has another hot rod restoration in mind. "Somebody gave me a birthday gift of something I've wanted since I was 18 -- a 1948 Dodge shorty school bus. It's got only two windows in it. There are 52 projects we do in a season. It's all these things where we're making other people happy. We're bringing back their memories. Once a year, all of a sudden, now I'm restoring a car. So, in addition to my 18-hour day, we're building a car for the family.
Car he learned to drive in
Dale's work restoring things started when he was a teenager taking apart his first car. Although he was born in Newport Beach, California, the family moved to Boulder City, Nevada, when Dale was 13. That's where he learned to drive in a manual three-speed 1967 Jeep. "It taught me a lot -- learning how to drive on a stick," he says.
"When I turned 16, the first car my dad gave me was a 1967 Jeep as a birthday gift," he says. "The next day, I had it ripped it into a million pieces, and I restored it from the ground up. As a kid, I was into bicycles and motorcycles. As soon as I could drive, immediately I was into cars, and I built what I called hot rods at the time."
Dale started pouring all the money he had into fixing up cars. "But my dad told me I was going to spend a lot of money on cars, and all of a sudden I couldn't afford a house when I turned 18 because I was spending thousands of dollars. Every dime I made, I put in a car. This Jeep still is around. In fact, I gave it to my brother for his 16th birthday."
Dale drove the Jeep to school, but he ended up racing it as well. "I built it into a sand drag thing. It had big paddle tires, a stock motor. I built the motor up, and I would run around the country and race it with all my friends. I had my own little pit crew, and keep in mind we were only 17. We were building this and running around the country racing and coming back with trophies," he says.
First car bought
Since he was racing the Jeep, Dale needed another car as a daily driver and at 17 bought a 1972 GMC stepside pickup truck that he promptly hot rodded.
He bought the truck with money he made working at a Boulder City gas station, where he used to check the oil, wipe windows, and pump gas. "I went to work when I was 15. I did that for a while, and that's how I built the Jeep -- until 2 or 3 in the morning, I would build this Jeep in their garage. I always felt like I needed a couple cars for variety. One was for a date, and the Jeep didn't have a heater or air conditioning."
Favorite road trip
In 1983, Dale had been working in construction for about five years and had his own business, which ended because of the economy. Then he restored an old Coke machine and his new business began.
"I needed to sell the Coke machine, so I took it to Southern California to the Rose Bowl and sold it to a guy in Japan," Dale says. "The same day, I met a guy who had a whole bunch of Coke machines he wanted restored. It took off. Within three months it was huge. I was building three or four Coke machines a week.
One of his most memorable road trips occurred in the early days of his burgeoning restoration business around 1985. "My favorite trip was in my big truck, when I drove Route 66 and had to be in Florida at a certain time to pick up some Coke machines," he says, adding he met a lot of people on that trip.
"I got all the way to Florida, didn't sleep the whole way and didn't use drugs," he said with a laugh. "I passed out in Florida and woke up in the morning. The sun was up, and I felt like it was night. I felt it was five at night, but it was five in the morning. If you drive a long road trip, you can get a little dingy."
He drove by himself from Vegas to Florida in six days.
"As far as road trip, it wasn't fun. It was a work trip, but I had a good time doing it. I've driven back and forth across the U.S. at least 100 times."
He says back then he had to drive everywhere himself to look at machines and pick them up to restore. "This was back before the Internet, you didn't buy on line; you had to go door to door to buy machines, to sell," he says.
History Channel's "American Restoration"
Dale originally appeared on "Pawn Stars." His own show, "American Restoration," was spun off of that. Dale is known for being able to restore unusual items. One popular episode from season one was when Dale restored a 1955 British Matchless motorcycle. The owner's late father raced it around Michigan and won many trophies in the 1950s.
"He would race the Harleys and Indians, and he would eat them alive because it had a lot bigger motor and it was lighter," Dale says. "A lot of people who bring in stuff are bringing their memories. The only thing they have to remember their dad by is this motorcycle. Everything else is gone."
Since Matchless is one of the oldest British bike makers, it was a difficult restoration. "It's got different nuts and bolts. Nothing's American," Dale says. "We had to make wrenches, there were no parts for it. It came out absolutely awesome."
Off camera, when they were doing the paperwork at the end of the job, the customer got very emotional. "He lost it," Dale says. "You could tell when he came back to do the interview that he'd been crying. He was so, so, happy that this thing got brought back. And the guy stays in touch with me all the time."
The restoration cost $8,500. "It should have been expensive. I don't do a lot of motorcycles, and I'm very reasonable when I restore stuff. I can only tell by the time the paper's all done and we write everything down what it costs. It's like, 'Oh, my gosh, we should have charged a little more than that!'" he says.
In season two, which is now airing, he says he's doing a lot of museum pieces. "We're doing this thing called a speeder. It ran on the railroad tracks, but it has a Ford motor in it," Dale says. "So we've got half railroad stuff and half car stuff in it. It's a V-8 flathead Ford. It's going to be the hardest long-range difficult restoration I do in season two."
This season Dale moves his business out of his house into a separate building. "The first season was at my house. I couldn't work and film at the same time," he says. "Things were costing me so much money. We ended up buying an old building for filming, and that has made things a lot smoother. So now we've coordinated that we can do both -- film and work at the same time. Season one, we had everything outside, and stuff was everywhere. You had 15 to 20 projects going on in the same day. We didn't have the space."