The small town of Bloomingdale, Ontario, just seems too small to produce someone so talented, and now, TV famous, thanks to Welderup and Vegas Rat Rods. Bloomingdale where Grant Schwartz grew up, and until very recently, worked.
Grant credits part of his passion to Carl Zenger, his godfather, who always had some wild bike or car around.
The second part of the passion comes from Grant Kay, otherwise known as Homer, and to save you the confusion I will refer to him as that. Homer is a long time hot rodder in the area, and has built several vehicles and has had them featured in numerous magazines.
Homer remembers Grant sitting at the end of his driveway on his bicycle at at 14 or thereabouts. Homer would invite Grant in and start teaching him different things as he was building a '34 Ford at the time. Just a few years later, while Grant was still in high school, he asked Homer if he could bring over some tubing and if he could get Homer to help him weld it into the dune buggy he wanted. Sure enough Homer says yes, and Grant brings the tubing over with the help of some friends. As Homer begins welding he comes to the conclusion that since Grant was taking shop classes in school anyway he should be the one doing the welding! "I watched him weld it," says Homer. He would offer him advise, and help him along, but believes the best way to learn something is by doing it. It seems to have worked.
When I first met Grant in the late winter of 2014 I noticed a 1961 Comet off to the one side which he pointed out was the first car he ever bought. At about 40% completion he plans to turn it into what he calls "a real street car". He wants something that is fun to drive and simple. Definitely not a trailer queen!
At age 19 Grant opened up his first fabrication shop! After a few different ventures in between, including working in a hot rod shop, and helping larger fabrication companies get their feet on the ground, he always came back to working for himself and owning his own business.
I recall seeing Grant's post on Facebook last year when he was asking his friends to send in an email to get him noticed by the casting folks for Vegas Rat Rods. One of Grant's friends, Steve, had sent him a link to the casting call, which Grant laughed at, not realizing what it would lead to. After thinking about it for a day, Grant sent the email and went to social media to ask his friends to send in emails on his behalf if they wanted. Grant has a great personality, is humble, and the local hot rod community knows he is as talented as they come, so they obliged, and two days later Grant got the call saying they had no choice but to call him!
Very quickly the list of candidates was narrowed down from 350 to 6, then the more personal interviews happened via Skype, and even a chat with Steve Darnell himself. A day of filming at his shop, then meeting the producers in Toronto, and a few weeks later Grant was in!
Appearing on Vegas Rat Rods meant closing down his shop for 7 months and putting several builds on hold. I love how understanding car guys are, because I know the same car Grant was working on before he left, he kept working on when he got back. It also meant leaving his family here in Ontario when he went off to fulfill a newly realized dream.
Arriving at a television set of any sort, let alone Las Vegas, fills my mind with grandeur and all kinds of fancy lights, product placement that will get you a shop filled with the best tools, and the best shop you could want. That was essentially what Grant expected too, but he arrived at a humble, unorganized, and under equipped Welderup shop. Not the expectation, but I guess it's easier to film the real thing than to try and stage a shop that looks cheap.
The trouble with visiting a new place for a short length of time is that you're a tourist, but with Grant spending 7 months there he had some time to settle in, and by that I mean he did what the locals do. Shoot guns, go treasure hunting in the desert, see things besides the strip, and of course, drive a tank. I think Grant just became an American.
The one thing missing was proper transportation. He was given a rental car, and didn't ride everywhere with Travis (although they are good friends). The rental car was a new Chrysler 200, and simply was extremely dull in comparison to the rat rods they spent their days building.
Grant did make it home for Christmas and was browsing Craigslist for a replacement to the rental car. A 1970 Ford caught his eye, and they owner agreed to hold the truck for him till he would be back in Vegas. It was exactly what he expected to see! A deal was made and Grant had the "Race Ford"!
It wasn't a perfect truck, and that's what drew him in. In the words of Grant, "It felt like I had owned it for years the first time I drove it!" I got this feeling when I hopped in with Grant to do the photoshoot too, it just belonged with him!
It didn't take him long to figure out that there were a few things he did want to change though, and before he brought the Race Ford home he had a new seat, and replaced the wipers, gauges, carpet, clutch, exhaust, windows, trim, etc. But when he got home he got really busy, and while following along on the Schwartz Inc. Facebook page I saw that the 10 day builds were rubbing off as the truck was ripped apart and put back together in no time! The old suspension came out, and the Mustang II went in the front, a 4 link in the rear, and I know Grant was feeling safer with the coilovers at all 4 corners, not to mention the new brakes!
I really enjoy this kind of vehicle because it's not overly complicated, it's not perfect, and if it gets another dent or scratch it adds to the story, it doesn't mean redoing the 5-figure paint job. Even the lopsided look of only having a mirror on the driver side just adds more character. In a truck like this it's the flaws that make it better. I hope it doesn't get a paint job any time soon, and I hope it stays with Grant a long time, because they just fit.
I guess maybe the truck is a bit like Grant. A bit unassuming, hardworking and humble, and next thing you know it's on TV!