A little story by Kimric Smythe on his experience at Junkyard Wars

Last August I got a call from the producers of Junkyard Wars and was asked to be an expert on the show. Because of my affiliation with Survival Research Labs (SRL), I was considered as a candidate for one of the challenges. I was reluctant at first, but my dad was a big fan of the show, so I told the producers if my dad could come, then they had me. They agreed.

We arrived in Los Angeles for the shooting; got a tour of the junkyard and I was fitted for my uniform. I was introduced to the team, the Jet Doctors, at dinner where they proceeded to interrogated me on my background and history. By the end of the meal, they were thoroughly confused since my background is so varied; I repair accordions, blow things up, have done the pyro at burning man; as well as being an active member of SRL. I felt that the pressure was on since these teams have been in several challenges undefeated and this was the finals.

At 5am I got the wake up call to start the day of the build. It was already getting warm by the time we arrived at the yard. I was a bit nervous as we piled out of the van and headed for the buffet set out for us. The food was amazing. After breakfast we were lead to the set where we were introduced. I had to look serious for my close up, and then the teams ran back and forth to set up the show's intro. People would trip, tools would fall off belts and we had to do it over again. This took several hours and I was getting into the mood of the things.

At last the weight was dropped and the hosts announced our challenge, I was still under the impression that we were practicing. I had to ask if it was really happening! We rushed into the build bay and I proceeded to illustrate my design for the challenge, a machine using a car and a soccer ball to play golf. My idea was to build an industrial version of a tennis ball pitching machine. The first response were questions on the technical aspects of the design which we worked out.

 

They were off into the junkyard to find the parts we needed. Finding some of the parts was difficult. It took several hours to find a suitable motor and the vehicle we had, had 3 flat tires. At this point I was having a great time, since the team said they were there to have a good time, as well as taking it seriously to win the competition. Kirk was getting ribbed with Star Trek jokes and Ed kept getting barraged with governor and political jokes. By then it was getting up in the 90s, but we were making light of the situation.

It seemed like we were not getting much done. All the parts were being assembled but not put together yet. The camera men and producers were constantly interrupting us as we worked. Annoying as it was,I had to keep reminding myself that it was show, even after we had to do the same task over and over again for TV. I realized from my experience with SRL, that a lot of interesting actions got lost since it wasn't being filmed. My teammates were even surprised since in their past experiences, there wasn't as much documentation of the build. By the end, we were all a bit on edge to get the vehicle built.
The first day ended by us getting finished pretty late in the evening. By then everyone was thoroughly trashed. The High Flyers, our compilation, seem to be worse off than us, it looked like they had been rolling around in grease. We all wandered off to get some more food and snacks. They had margaritas in paper cups with salt on the rims waiting for us. We lounged for about a half hour, then headed back to the hotel to crash. At the motel, I almost fell asleep in the tub.

The next day we were bused back out to the set. After a breakfast and more chatting we proceeded to beat down all the sharp edges of the vehicle with padding and duck tape. Replaced duct tape, string, and tie wraps with real welds and hinges. My dad was actually able to assist us in this which seemed to bring him great joy. After finishing up all the loose ends, we were let off to enjoy ourselves.

The day of the competition, we passed the vehicles we built on the freeway, as they were being carted to the final set. They looked like particularly unfortunate car accidents being towed to the wrecking yard. We arrived at the site had breakfast and proceeded to paint and decorate our vehicles, while the crew set up. I had brought along a rather large and unplayable accordion which I wired to the front of the vehicle. Since the Jet Doctors all worked for Delta Airlines, we named it "The Delta Duster". We had an American flag on it also, since we did the Build on the anniversary of 9/11.

The races were about to start. We elected Kirk, the guy with the most golf experience to always be with the vehicle, and we'd rotate the drivers. I drove first. The first two shots,we used the power driver, the ball launcher. It was amazing, It rolled right were I wanted it. The second rolled past the green, but two more puts got it in the hole. We were one over par. The other team ended up being 2 over par. It seemed that their putter wasn't as adaptable as ours, and their vehicle alignment seemed to be more critical than ours for its proper use. Theirs could shoot the ball much further than ours though.

It was apparent that our accuracy was more important to the game, instead of the power. I think if the High Flyers had more time to practice it would have been a much closer match. It was boiling out and we had no shade. I'm glad I insisted on keeping the roof to the Delta Duster, so we had a place to rest. As it was the three holes took all day, we made the last hole just after sunset and we were losing light. On the last put, the ball actually bounced back out of the hole! We made it in the second shot to win the competition. After we won, we sprayed each other in the traditional champagne drenching, and had the awards ceremony. The trophy was passed out, awards given and more champagne dispersed.

It was a great experience. I'm happy that my dad convinced me to go. I still hear from the people who make Junkyard Wars periodically. Maybe I'll be able to do something with them again in the future.