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Where reality meets the road: TV makeover shows take viewers on a fantasy ride

When it comes to taking a junker and turning into a jewel, Jeff Odden says there's not a lot of reality to car-customizing reality shows on the tube.

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When it comes to taking a junker and turning into a jewel, Jeff Odden says there's not a lot of reality to car-customizing reality shows on the tube.

Stripping a car to its bare bones and rebuilding it in a week is fun to watch but doesn't happen in the real world, says the owner of Odden's Rod Shop in Fargo.

Shows like "Overhaulin'" or "Pimp My Ride" give "a real bad perception of how much time it takes to restore or customize a car,'' he says.

"A typical restoration for a drive train, suspension and body is three to four months."

One of the biggest problems in working on cars - especially older vehicles - is getting parts, he says. At times, it can take months to get some parts.

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For reality TV shows, aftermarket parts makers are "going to do whatever they've got to do" to get their products seen.

Also, the show's producers will aim to have all the parts they feel are necessary on hand before work starts, Odden says.

"Like on 'Overhaulin' - if they put a new frame on that car, you're looking at a couple of months to get that part. To get a new motor, it doesn't happen overnight. It's at least a month."

Odden says reality TV is also a place where money is no object.

Customizing crews, which can include a dozen or more professionals, labor on vehicles sometimes around the clock to get them finished.

A properly repaired car body alone can cost "close to $10,000 to get something really pristine, inside and out, and no worries about future rust or the body work coming apart," Odden says.

That doesn't include upholstery and other interior work, suspension, engine or transmission repairs or replacement.

A vintage muscle car that needs a lot of work can cost $25,000 to $40,000 to turn into a show car, he says.

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On top of that, hurried jobs leave insufficient time for body fillers, primers and paints to properly dry. While the finished result may look good for a while, a year later things can start to turn ugly.

"It's not that it can't be done, but should it be done," Odden says. "If it's not done perfect, you can see it in as little as a week. If rust isn't handled properly, it will come back instantly."

And that, Odden says, is a reality the cameras probably won't catch.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583

Helmut Schmidt is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead's business news team. Readers can reach him by email at hschmidt@forumcomm.com, or by calling (701) 241-5583.
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