Mechanics test their skills

| 18 Apr 2012 | 01:35

Frankford — Fame doesn’t come easy for four car crazed Sussex County men as they suffer through freezing cold, frying heat, dizzying fumes, sleep deprivation, dirt, grease and skinned knuckles to appear on Wednesday’s (April 25) edition of "Car Warriors." A prime time show on SPEED TV channel, Car Warriors challenges two teams, starting with near identical cars, to produce custom cars that run, and look good. Receiving a call from the show’s producers, team leader Jack Struller of Frankford, owner of Plum Crazy Auto in Passaic, thought he was the target of a prank call. “Usually people make an audition tape and send it to casting, but never get picked,” said Struller. “They just called my shop out of the blue.” Struller gathered five of the best car builders he knew could get his hands on as members of Team Plum Crazy. Plum Crazy is a special purple paint used on Mopar products in the 1970s. He needed a team with enough experience to handle every phase of a custom car build. Frank Bedacht of Franklin is the team’s fabricator and welder; John Palazzolo of Frankford is the body and paint expert; Tommy Kuka of Vernon specializes in custom interiors; Dave Yuppa of Passaic provides a steady hand for pinstripe and lettering work; and Rene Vega of Paterson brings his electric and stereo expertise. Some team members are close friends, while others never met before. “The first interior man I called cancelled two weeks before we left for Burbank, Calif.,” said Struller. “Frank called a friend and Tommy joined the team.” The challengers The producers set up an East Coast vs. West Coast competition with six independent New Jersey mechanics battling a team from Billy Bob Customs in Aberdeen, from the state of Washington. Team Plum Crazy had never worked together as a team, but has 227 years of experience between them. The Billy Bob Customs team is much younger with only 58 years of combined experience. Each team is given a specialist handpicked by host and judge Jimmy Shine. Ray McClelland, owner of Full Throttle Kustoms helps Team Plum Crazy during the build. Previous episodes gave the teams 72 hours to complete a car but the time was reduced to 48 hours. There is not much time for elaborate planning or gathering of parts and pieces. “The whole show is about your MacGyver skills,” said Kuka. “How good you are with limited stuff in front of you is the show in a nutshell.” The teams were not told the type of car they'd get until filming started in December and they are sworn to secrecy until the episode airs Wednesday.