In the fascinating world of rat rods, "car parts" can entail everything from electric chairs to cowboy boots to gator heads. Yes, gator heads.
If it's hard to visualize how a car interior could be made entirely of cowboy boots, fear not. You can see the transformation right before your very eyes on the new Discovery series "Vegas Rat Rods." It follows master auto fabricator Steve Darnell and his crew at Welder Up, a Vegas-based shop that makes driveable art out of, well, junk.
On the show, we meet Darnell's apprentice, Twiggy, who hails from Toronto. She's the lone female on the crew, but she can certainly hold her own on the male-dominated team. Shortly after she arrived at Welder Up, Darnell announced that Discovery would be shooting a TV series featuring the shop. That resulted in a very surreal learning experience for the affable young apprentice. HuffPost Canada TV caught up with Twiggy during her recent return to Toronto, and chatted about her rat rod love story, the whole TV experience, and what it's like being a woman in a man's world.
HuffPost Canada TV: What was it like being filmed while doing your apprenticeship?
Twiggy: It was by far the weirdest experience. Working in a shop is definitely a different world altogether. You're seeing a very different side of people. It's obviously got its ups and downs. It's difficult when you're an apprentice and you're constantly being taught and shadowing, and at the same time you're on camera and you have all of these expectations. It can be overwhelming at times.
How much time did you have at the shop until the camera crews arrived?
Not very long, unfortunately. It was something that happened very quickly, that I didn't really expect. I never expected that anybody would put me on television [Laughs]. At first I wasn't even supposed to be on the show. It came with time, I guess. I'm not in the first pilot they filmed.
Do you know why they ultimately decided to have you on the show?
I don't know. I guess because I'm the only woman, and TV people saw their angle and here I am now. To be honest, I've never worked in the television field before. I've been told this is how television operates. Everything happened really quickly, and not a lot of things were explained! [Laughs]
What drew you to rat rods?
Want to hear my rat rod love story? I was modelling at a car show five years ago, and I saw my first rat rod. I think it was a '29. It was beautiful. I was like, 'Can I get my picture with your car?' And immediately I didn't give a shit about my [modelling] job there whatsoever. I was immediately right in the car looking at all the dial switches, because that's how you turn on the car. There's no key. And there are so many cool things about a rat rod. They're so customizable, they're so unique to the person that's built them. They're so beautiful. I honestly had no interest in cars until I saw one ... [then] I felt like I had found my calling.
What's the process of building a rat rod like?
Usually a customer will come in with some piece of a car. It's never a full car. It's always in pieces or just a cab or something. Steve is kind of a like a car religious figure. He looks at the car and he looks at you and he looks at the car again and he's like OK, this is what I foresee for this car! Seriously, no bullshit, when you go to Steve Darnell for something, you are getting a Steve Darnell custom car. You trust in his vision of what he sees the car to be.
What's it like being a woman in such a man's world?
I don't think that any woman is under any false pretenses about what it's like to succeed. There are a lot of jobs outside of trade work that are male-dominated, like finance. It's hard to explain. It's definitely a challenge. You have to be the best and pay your dues and work really hard. It's a respect that you have to earn, and I really appreciate that. I like this industry because you don't get anywhere without trying. This is a job where hard work pays off.
Who do you think the show will appeal to?
I think that obviously it will appeal to car people. I think that it will appeal to artists, because of the degree of metal work. There are so many pieces of these cars that aren't related to cars -- they're these little trinkets Steve has found in junkyards that he's collected. We're all hoarders. That's the thing about being a fabricator -- you're constantly like oh, maybe I'll use this for something someday!
"Vegas Rat Rods" premieres on Discovery on Thursday, April 17 at 10 p.m. ET/ 11 p.m. PT.