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The hot rods are old hat, the cameras something new

Bloomingdale man finds himself working on more than cars as part of the cast of Vegas Rat Rods

Rev up your engines, and tune into the Discovery Channel on Thursday nights at 9 p.m. to see Bloomingdale’s own Grant Schwartz work on hotrods and custom cars with the team on Vegas Rat Rods.

Schwartz answered a casting call posted on Facebook, at his friend’s urging, and within a month, he was cast as a member on season two of the Discovery Channel reality show. Now, he’s working on cars and trucks in Las Vegas.

“There were about 350 Canadians that applied for it, and within a couple of weeks they had it narrowed down to six of us, and within a month, it was a done deal,” he said. “It happened fast and I couldn’t believe how everything just fell into place. I think it was meant to be. It was a good thing.”

He has his own shop in Elmira, Schwartz Inc. on Howard Avenue, where he works on motorcycles and cars, and late in 2014, he took his expertise and added it to the team at Welderup – the shop where the show shoots. Moving from working alone in his shop here in Elmira, to working with a team in Vegas was something different, but Schwartz settled in nicely during the eight months of filming.

“I’ve worked by myself for a lot of years. I am pretty stubborn and so is the boss, Steve Darnell, so he and I butt heads a little bit, but we got it figured out. They are all great guys to deal with. Many of them are like me, they have their own shops as well, so we really understand each other. We all have similar talents so we get along well, actually,” he said from his shop floor. “Everybody there has their own corner, and I definitely love to soak it all in and pay attention. The shop itself does things a little bit different than I do, it’s a bit of a different market, so there is lots to learn and hopefully, lots to give as well.”

Having cameras around while he was working wasn’t too intrusive, he said. The challenge came when it was time for one-on-one interviews during filming.

“During the day, they are just mulling around while we work like it’s a normal day. That wasn’t so bad, but when you do the interviews, they are right in front of your face and that was weird. The producer hides behind the camera and you have to look at like half of his face because they don’t want you looking right into the camera. That took some getting used to. My first one was pretty dry, pretty quiet. But, they seem pretty happy with my progress,” he said, adding that the crew and the team became friends throughout the show. “Again, completely out of left field for me. I think I did pretty good, though. You almost forget they are there. All the film crew are wonderful people as well. We poke fun at each other and you get to know them.”

While in Vegas, Schwartz and the team at Welderup were shooting two episode every three weeks, then taking a three-week break. He spent a lot of time away from home, but his family was more than supportive of his move.

“I couldn’t do it without my kids. They have been wonderful. I am a hockey guy and I tell people this is my NHL. I have made the big leagues, so there is no way I couldn’t do it. My kids are 17 and 18 and I talked with my son and he said, ‘Dad, I am going to miss you, but you can’t say no. You have to go.’ That meant the world to me,” he said. “For the last season, we went down in November, and we got home early July 2015. Home for Christmas as well. My family came down and saw me a couple of times for sure. They really liked that.”

Now that the show has been airing for a few weeks, Schwartz says he is getting recognized on the street and being asked to do car shows and charity events – something he doesn’t think he will ever adjust to.

Bloomingdale resident and Elmira businessman Grant Schwartz has taken his knowledge of hot rods and motorcycles to the small screen in Vegas Rat Rods. The show airs Thursday nights at 9 p.m. on the Discovery Channel.[Liz Bevan / The Observer]
Bloomingdale resident and Elmira businessman Grant Schwartz has taken his knowledge of hot rods and motorcycles to the small screen in Vegas Rat Rods. The show airs Thursday nights at 9 p.m. on the Discovery Channel. [Liz Bevan / The Observer]

“It is just starting to come through now. I am getting phone calls to come to car shows, people are starting to recognize me, it is the strangest feeling,” he said. “I am not sure if I will ever get used to it. It is really weird. Early today, a charity came by and asked me if I could be at a show, and it sounds wonderful, but so odd.”

Before the show aired, Schwartz only got to see a couple of episodes, allowing him to give interviews and a have little taste of what was to come, but now, he gets to see the show as the audience does – one episode at a time.

“It feels good to see it. I had no idea what it was going to be like,” he said. “I got to see the first few episodes a bit early so I had some information to do interviews and things like that, but since then, they are all new to me too, so they are exciting to watch and to see them on TV.”

As for season three? The plans are under wraps, and fans will just have to wait and see.

To see Schwartz on Vegas Rat Rods, tune in to the Discovery Channel Thursday nights at 9 p.m. You can find his Elmira shop Schwartz Inc. on Facebook.

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