One day, he was working at a body shop and the next day he was on Fast ‘N Loud (Discovery Channel), a hit reality show starring motor mastermind Richard Rawlings and mechanical prodigy Aaron Kaufmann, as they search up and down through Texas and surrounding states for forgotten and derelict classic cars to buy and restore at their Gas Monkey Garage in Dallas, TX. In each episode, Richard, Aaron and his crew work day and night to finish a classic car and deliver it to auctions with the goal of making money and turning heads. But the same question seems to come up every time they do a build—will their blood, sweat and beers translate into cold hard cash?
Each episode starts when Richard wheels and deals for a good price on a vehicle, and then it’s back to the Gas Monkey Garage to come up with the design plan and begin the major teardown. Then, the major work (and all of the fun and confusion) begins. It’s always a race against the clock to get these cars finished because time is money at Gas Monkey Garage and the faster they finish their cars, the quicker they can get them to auction. That’s the basic premise of Fast ‘N Loud, a show that has gained in popularity and was recently picked up for its third season.
For Hons, he might as well call the show Fast ‘N Unexpected, Fast ‘N Radom or surely Fast Money, because Keenan works full-time at the Gas Monkey Garage and gets paid twice—as a body tech restoring some of the finest cars in the world and as a reality star as well. Not bad for a guy who just turned 26. We sat down with Keenan recently to discuss his role on the show and how it has changed his life.
Q: You’re not listed on Wikipedia yet? Every reality star gets their own Wikipedia page.
A: Maybe I should write one?
Q: If the show keeps getting good ratings, they’ll get someone to do it for you (both laugh).
A: That’ll be fun.
Q: Tell us how it all happened from being a barely paid body/paint tech to a reality star?
A: I started going to my local community college Tarrant Community College (TCC) in Fort Worth, TX to study paint and body right out of high school. I’ve always been a car guy and my best friend Kenny and I would work on cars all the time. We both decided to go to school to study paint and body, but he died in a motorcycle accident shortly after moving to Fort Worth. I went through their whole collision repair program—taking body classes the first year and paint the second year. I always liked the paint side of the business, but I realized you have to do the body work first, so I did the body [training] first, but my heart was in paint. When I went to Fort Worth to attend school about seven years ago, I moved into a house that was just two blocks away from KC Mathieu’s house. (KC is the painter on Fast ‘N Loud) I noticed he had a few hot rods out front, so one day I just went over there and started talking to him. It was a total coincidence that he’s a painter and I was studying paint in school at that time. Once I got to know KC, I saw that he was always working on something interesting, either at his place or at his dad’s shop, so I began going over there to make a little money on the side. After that, KC opened up his own shop and there was more work for me to do.
Q: At that time, Fast ‘N Loud was still not in the picture, correct?
A: Yes, the whole thing was so random. KC and I would joke all the time saying we should have our own reality show, but we never even suspected it would come to this. I worked with KC for almost two years at KC’s Paint Shop after getting out of school. After a while, KC wanted to get away from the shop and pursue other things, so I got a job as an assistant manager at a MAACO location. I did that for almost a year and it was a very fast-paced environment and then later I got a job at Richards Paint & Body Shop. KC and I worked there together and we were still doing work on the side. KC left Richards and I kept working there and doing side jobs for KC. Then, he got on the show and I started prepping cars for the first season of Fast ‘N Loud off-camera and behind the scenes. Finally, they put me on for the final show of the first season (The Apache episode). That was really exciting!
Q: You had never been on TV before?
A: No. At first, seeing myself on TV was strange, but now I’m used to it and it feels normal. I think everyone on the show was shocked when it started getting great ratings. When I gave two weeks notice and quit my job at Richards, I figured I would give this reality show thing a three-month shot. The failure rate of reality shows is very high, but right off the bat this show was a hit. The numbers just kept climbing and the buzz about the show started to build. This is something big, I thought. I don’t have to go back to fixing cars—at least for now.
Q: I’ve heard there’s no reality in reality television, is that true?
A: Not on Fast ‘N Loud. Everything we do is real and nothing is fake, but in certain cases we’ll do something and they won’t’ get it on film, so we have to reenact if for the camera. The camera crew has us re-do it, but it’s not like we’re making it up. It’s definitely reality, but it might be shown in a different order from what it actually took place.
Q: The two main stars of the show are Richard Rawlings and Aaron Kaufman and they seem like a formidable duo. Rawlings finds the cars and Kaufman manages the restoration and they get into some heated discussions. What’s your relationship with Richard and Aaron?
A: Let’s put it this way—Richard enjoys his life and frankly, I can’t keep up with him! The older ladies are in love with him and it cracks me up. If you look at the show’s Facebook page, you can see he’s got quite a following. Aaron is very meticulous about the cars and they seem to work well together. The biggest arguments they’ve gotten into revolve around time and money, of course. Aaron wants the best build he can and Richard is always watching the time. Both Richard and Aaron act the same on-screen and off-screen. Both of them have a lot going on, so it can get crazy at the shop. Flipping these classic cars is a crapshoot, and you can see that they don’t always make money. Now with the popularity of the show, we’re getting trade-offs with the cars from companies that are sponsoring the builds, so the risk is not as much as it was during season one. It helps making the build less risky, but it still is a gamble every time we do a car.
Q: Has the show changed your feelings about collision repair?
A: Yes, definitely. Meeting KC and getting on Fast ‘N Loud really got me excited about collision repair and painting cars, because for a while there I was seriously thinking of getting out of it. I was planning to go back to school and study computer science, honestly, but the experience of being on a show like this re-ignited my passion for this industry. And the rest is history.