The Hidden Truth About MTV's 'Pimp My Ride'
| LAST UPDATE 03/28/2023
The iconic reality show from the early 2000s took over MTV as young hopefuls saw their cars transform into the ultimate ride. But years later, contestants are sharing what being on the show was really like...
Greeting the Contestants
The contestants on Pimp My Ride might have been shocked to see Xzibit standing outside their front door, but in reality, everyone who participated in the TV show was fully aware of what was happening.
MTV had pre-selected the show's contestants, so they already got the head's up. So when they opened the door to see Xzibit standing outside, they knew to act surprised. Sometimes they were greeted with a gift card, which was a surprise! But most of the time, the houses weren't even theirs-they were rented by MTV!
Because the contestants knew what was happening, their excited reactions were fake, staged, and rehearsed! There are only so many times you can act surprised your car is getting re-done. And contestant Jake Glazier later told HuffPost he was told to act a "little more enthusiastic" during his episode.
Glazier said of his experience on set, “Big Dane, very big dude, he… walks me around the shop for like ten minutes and he’s like, ‘Listen, we put a lot of work into this. We expect you to be a little more… enthusiastic.’” So, that's exactly what he (tried) to do.
What to Talk About
But even though the contestant's reactions and expressions were rehearsed, it doesn't mean every interaction was fake - right? Well, according to those who were featured on the show, the conversations between them and Xzibit were real (well, for the most part).
Basically, the producer told the contestants they would be a certain "character" on the show, and they were given topics to talk about within that realm. One contestant, Justin Dearinger, revealed on Reddit, "All they gave me was a topic, and we just went with it. My topic, obviously, was the 'hopeless romantic.'"
Not-So-Real “Audition Tapes”
At the beginning of each episode, audiences met the contestant who would get their car pimped out by Xzibit and the team at West Coast Customs. We saw a short audition tape where the contestant allegedly pleaded with MTV to choose their cars for the ultimate makeover.
And unfortunately, these videos were all fake! The "audition" tapes were actually all professionally shot, so none of what we saw was even real! MTV had previously picked out all their contestants, and this was just a little preview of what each episode would cover.
The Real Casting Process
So, how exactly did you get cast for the popular reality show? Justin Dearinger from season 6 of Pimp My Ride gave audiences the low down on how the audition process played out. In his Ask Me Anything thread on Reddit, he revealed the casting call happened in a parking lot with 200 other people!
Eventually, the numbers dwindled down to 15 hopefuls, and the final group was told by the producers that whoever made the best video would be picked for the show. However, all 15 people who auditioned ended up getting chosen and featured on Pimp My Ride!
The Robotic Arm
Audiences saw some out-of-the-box makeovers on the reality show within its six seasons, but were they all practical? According to Season 6's Seth Martino, who had a robotic arm installed in his car, said it was "controlled by commands that were entered into a laptop by the spiky-haired guy off-screen."
So it didn't work, and all the wires hanging out were just for show. However, Martino admitted that he "was very excited and naïve, so they could have told me unicorns were making me breakfast, and I wouldn't have questioned it." Well, that's TV for ya!
And well, it didn't stop there. Martino explained that it wasn't just the robotic arm that didn't work, and there were a few modifications that didn't work after the car was pimped out. For example, the TV screens installed in the vehicle didn't work. Now that's super frustrating!
Besides the robotic arm and the TV screens, he couldn't use the new LED lights that were installed into the vehicle's seats. "They would get really hot if left on, so I couldn't drive with them on," he added. Well, that just sounds like a giant recipe for disaster.
Cotton Candy Catastrophe
Ideally, Martino should have the perfect car by this point: a robotic arm, LED lights in the seats, and TV screens for full-time entertainment. But in reality, none of it worked. So when the car was returned with a cotton candy machine in the trunk, he hoped that would have at least worked out!
But the idea of a cotton candy machine in your trunk sounds much better in theory rather in reality and proved to be nothing more than an inconvenience. He shared, "it didn't have a protective hood that fit, so if I tried turning it on, it would get candy scars everywhere. Very messy. So, I never used it again after the shoot."
Besides the obvious physical transformations done to the cars, the contestants were promised the mechanics would also be attended to. However, according to Martino, "there wasn't much done under the hood in regards to the actual mechanics of the vehicle."
"For the most part, it needed a lot of work done to make it a functioning regular driver, which they did not do." he told HuffPost. He knew his vehicle had engine issues when he signed up for the reality show, but he definitely wasn't expecting it to die just a month later. Ultimately, he ended up fixing it himself.
Ignoring All Special Requests
But how exactly did these modifications get chosen by the Pimp My Ride crew? According to Justin Dearinger, they were interviewed about what they liked and didn't like, and when it came down to the car alterations, MTV didn't always pay close attention to their wishes…
In fact, once the cars were handed over to West Coast Customs, it was totally out of their hands! The producers did what they thought would work best on TV. For example, Justin Dearinger ended up with his car's red interior even after he told them he hated the color.
Modifications Taken Away
Oh, and it doesn't stop there! According to Justin Dearinger's AMA thread on Reddit, "they actually take out a lot of that stuff that they showed on TV." So when the contestants get back their pimped-out ride, a lot of the time, they have to give things back!
Dearinger revealed to HuffPost, "the 'pop up' champagne, and the 'drive-in' theater" was just one example. He explained the champagne was removed because MTV worried it would promote drinking and driving, and the theater was impractical and unsafe.
What Happened to Ryan Friedlinghaus?
CEO of West Coast Customs, Ryan Friedlinghaus, backed out of Pimp My Ride after season four, and in season five Galpin Auto Sports was responsible for the car alterations. However, Friedlinghaus launched West Coast Customs: Under the Hood on Facebook Watch.
And after leaving the reality show, he was in deep financial trouble. The entrepreneur had to pay $157,592 to employees he hadn't properly paid over the years. He was even accused of leading a toxic work environment for his workers and hiring illegal immigrants to pay under the table.
Catching Up With Q
And what about Q? Quinton Dodson, otherwise known as Q, was the West Coast Customs sales manager. Dodson was connected to the show after meeting Friedlinghaus by total chance. At the time, he was a delivery driver on the job when he met Ryan!
Q was delivering crates of beer at Ryan's father's liquor store when the two began talking and bonded over their mutual love for cars, and that's how they got into business together. Today Quinton Dodson is the owner of Coast II Coast Customz and the CEO of Road Rage Transportation.
Then there was the electronics wizard known as Michael "Mad Mike" Martin. Martin was responsible for turning all those wild ideas into real life. According to the mechanic, "if it comes out of your mouth, I can do it." Doesn't sound like he's afraid of a challenge!
In fact, Martin appeared on all six seasons of the reality show. When the show parted ways with West Coast Customs after season four, he left and joined Galpin Auto Sports, the garage's replacement. Today he's still featured on reality TV shows, like Discovery Channel's Driven.
Fans of the popular reality show saw a whole lot happen in just thirty minutes! So when it came down to transforming the cars, how long was the process? Audiences assumed it took just ten days or maybe a week, but in reality, it was a lot longer than that!
At the end of the day, how long could someone be left without their car? Well, according to HuffPost, it sometimes took as long as six or seven months for the contestant's car to be completely transformed. That doesn't seem very practical now, does it?
However, MTV covered their clients! Well, sort of. Even though it appeared the contestants were only without a car for a week or so, they were careless for months on end. So, the production team handed over each contestant $2,000 to rent a car while they were without theirs.
But $2,000 can only go so far. That much cash can cover maybe two months of a car rental, but definitely not six or seven months. Let's not forget gas money! Not to mention, many of the participants were legally too young to rent a car in the U.S.
Substantial Tax Bills
And although the contestants were getting a free and upgraded car, the IRS saw it very differently. According to IMDb Trivia, contestants actually ended up putting a lot more money in the end result than they could have ever imagined.
The California Tax Authority and the IRS had deemed their modifications part of the contestant's income. This meant that the overall value of the new and improved vehicle had to be reported differently, which ultimately led some of the participants to rake up huge tax bills.
Increased Car Insurance
Besides paying substantially higher taxes after owning a pimped-out vehicle, the contestants' car insurance also shot up. In theory, a car with a chandelier and 24-inch spinner rims sounds like a great idea until you put that on the road. Sounds like a giant safety hazard!
Drivers in California, where the show was filmed, must have insurance! So you can only imagine the premium insurance cost of an over-the-top pimped-out ride. On average, drivers in California spend $2,500 on car insurance a year, but that definitely doesn't account for cars with cotton candy machines in the trunk!
Getting Pulled Over
Cars with chocolate fountains and chandeliers hanging from the ceiling are most definitely going to attract attention when they're heading down Santa Monica Boulevard. It's not every day that the back of a 1972 Toyota Cruiser is converted into a functioning yoga studio.
However, innocent outsiders weren't the only ones noticing these fun vehicles; according to Dearinger, cops were also taking note. In fact, he was getting pulled over frequently because of the elaborate modifications on his car. However, he said the cops "were really cool" about the situation when he explained he was on Pimp My Ride.
The People Love Xzibit
One of the main draws of the show was the musician turned host, Xzibit. The contestants loved him, and the producers loved him. Executive producer Larry Hochberg said, “Xzibit is the greatest. He’s a talented rapper, and he is a natural host. He’s cool, funny, and always thinking on his feet. I really enjoyed working with him.”
The contestants also agreed that he was great to work with and that he was just super personable and easygoing. The rapper, actor, radio personality, and television host started his career back in 1996 with the release of his studio album, At the Speed of Life.
Not Around All the Time
However, the contestants didn't really get to spend much time getting to know their host. The rapper may have been the face of the reality show, but he wasn't on set all that often. He was only seen at the beginning when the car was taken in and at the end of the episode when West Coast Customs did the grand reveal.
So what about all that in-between time? He was doing a bunch of other things! He was a star, after all. So even when he was on set, there probably wasn't much time for him to get to know the contestants all too well. But regardless, there was nothing but nice things to say about the beloved host!
No Car Expert
And as it turns out, the rapper-turned-host knows no more about cars than the average person. He might have been the face of the show, but he certainly was no car expert! In an interview with HipHopDX, he made it clear that he doesn't want anyone going around asking him about cars - he doesn't have answers!
"You saw me at the beginning, and you saw me at the end. I know as much as you do," he told the publication. "I put gas in the [car], and I drive it. If it don't start, I take it to the same place you do." We hear ya! So now we know to refrain from asking Xzibit about fixing the car battery…
Contestant Jake Glazier felt "there were a lot of problems" with the mechanics of his pimped-out car and even sold it after just about a month! In his AMA Reddit thread, Glazier explained that the drop-down computer monitor installed in his trunk was far from practical.
And to be honest, we get it. What is a hanging monitor in your car really going to do? "I wasn't ever planning to set up a stool behind my car to get some WiFi in random Starbucks parking lots," he explained. Unfortunately, that was just the beginning of his problems…
Shoddy Mechanic Work
Although he got a computer monitor installed in the trunk of his car, what Glazier really needed was a new muffler. When he signed his vehicle up for Pimp My Ride and handed it over to MTV, his car was making strange noises it should not have been, signaling he needed a new muffler.
He assumed the mechanics would have addressed this simple issue on the show. Instead, his car was returned to him with a fake exhaust pipe. Glazier sold the car a month later, and the new owner reported the car had broken down soon after.
The producers frequently exaggerated the state of some contestants' vehicles on the show to attract more viewers. This is Hollywood, after all. In one instance, Jake told the team that his grandma smoked in his car, so the producers really milked the storyline.
And MTV "pretty much just went with what [he] told them," but completely exaggerated the story like Glazier said. They ended up adding an "extra few dozen cigarette butts in the car to make her just look like a total disgusting person," he explained.
The production team had a clear goal to make the participant's car look totally pimped out and transformed with all sorts of new gadgets. So, often, the team would make the contestants' cars look a lot worse and beat up than they actually were.
According to Justin Dearinger's thread on Reddit, "They removed my front bumper, used aircraft remover, and enhanced the dent on the side of my car." At the end of the day, the purpose of the show was to transform a run-down car into a totally new ride!
Out With the Old, In With the New
On three separate occasions, the cars brought onto the reality show by contestants were far beyond repair, so the crew had to devise a backup solution. MTV decided to just ditch the original car and have new cars pimped out instead! Now that's television at its finest!
In the first season, a cut-and-shut job of two Ford Escort halves didn't fit, so they needed a backup plan! And in season two, a hopeful mechanic was given a brand new car to work on, and in the season three finale, the contestants' Nissan Pulsar had a battery fluid leaking into the main body, so they decided to start from scratch.
One of the stranger storylines from the show was during Jake Glazier's episode. The young contestant told HuffPost that MTV suggested he break up with his girlfriend to promote ratings! Apparently, the sob story of just going through a breakup and having a run-down car that undergoes a makeover would be great television.
However, Larry Hochberg claimed he had no idea Glazier was being told to "get rid of her or have her not be a part of the program." In fact, he questioned the whole concept saying, "Why would we want a kid to break up with his girlfriend?" And "how would that have helped the show?"
Raving Reviews for Mad Mike
Although Glazier was allegedly told to break up with his girlfriend for the show, he did share with audiences on his Ask Me Anything Reddit thread some good news as well! Glazier took to the thread to share that the electronics wizard, Mad Mike was a "very cool guy!"
He added, "He helped me a lot after the show with some problems that came up with the car." Now, that's loyal! Not to mention, the two actually saw each other outside of the show's boundaries. "He lived about an hour from me, and we would meet by the In & Out Burger," he said.
What About Xzibit's Music Career?
And as much as audiences loved Mad Mike, Xzibit, and the crew, the rapper-turned-host believed that the reality show affected his music career - but not in a good way. He might have started his career as a rapper, but because of his contract with Pimp My Ride, he "wasn't able to tour."
"I wasn't able to continue building Xzibit as an MC," he told The Breakfast Club. "All of a sudden, it became almost bigger than the music. It was worldwide, it was on MTV, it was on these networks that were pushing it around the world more than they were pushing my music." Nevertheless, fans can agree the show wouldn't have been the same without him!