"Pimp My Ride" premiered on MTV in 2004 with a straightforward premise that was beautiful in its simplicity: Take a kid with a beat up car and have the rapper Xzibit orchestrate a massive and ridiculous upgrade. The theme song explained it all in just a few lines: "So you wanna be a player, but your wheels ain't fly / You gotta hit us up, to get a pimp't out ride."
But although the show operated within such a minimal framework, things were a bit more complicated behind the scenes. From cars that would break down in a matter of weeks to fat-shaming a contestant to one MTV employee apparently trying to convince another car owner to break up with his girlfriend, there was a lot more to the creation of this show than Xzibit simply saying, "Yo dawg."
The Huffington Post spoke with three of the kids who got their cars pimped: Jake Glazier from Season 4 and Seth Martino and Justin Dearinger from Season 6. All three had previously done brief AMAs on Reddit about their time on the show. (It should be noted that each appeared on "Pimp My Ride" near the latter half of its run.) And for a perspective from the other side of the camera, co-executive producer Larry Hochberg responded to a few of the claims made by contestants.
Although all of the people spoken to about "Pimp My Ride" ultimately had mostly positive experiences, the reality of what it took to get pimped ended up being even more strange than expected.
"I was very excited and naïve, so they could have told me unicorns were making me breakfast and I wouldn’t have questioned it," Martino said. Viewers of this aughts-spectacle ended up having the same experience ...
In Justin Dearinger's Reddit AMA, he claimed that "they actually take out a lot of the stuff that they showed on TV," such as in his case, a "pop-up" champagne contraption and a "drive-in theater." Further explaining to HuffPost, Dearinger said that they removed the champagne part because the show didn't want to condone drinking and driving. The theater was removed for not being street safe.
According to Larry Hochberg, however, the removals were done with a specific purpose in mind. "Sometimes we did things for safety reasons that the kids on show interpreted as us 'taking away' some items," he said. He gave an example where 24-inch spinner rims on a 1977 Cutlass would look amazing for television, but "out of abundance of caution" they'd end up switching the spinners to "beautiful 20s for daily driving."
That said, it seems as if things were occasionally put into cars with no intention of them ever working in real life. For example, a robotic arm installed into Seth Martino's car was, as he put it, actually solely "controlled by commands that were entered into a laptop by the spiky haired guy off screen." In reality, it "was just a robotic arm with a bunch of wires hanging out of it."
Seth Martino's car seemed to be particularly low quality. "There were plenty of things wrong with it," he told HuffPost, including television screens never working again after filming. As Martino recalled, some things that didn't work on the car included the LED lights that were put in the seats. "They would get really hot if left on so I couldn't drive with them on," Martino said. "They took the gull-wing doors off because the pistons used to lift them kept them from putting seat belts in the back, which was highly dangerous." A cotton candy machine they installed was fit into the trunk without leaving enough room for the dome top to keep the cotton candy strands "from flying all over the place."
Apparently, Mad Mike would try and help out when cars would have problems. MTV also had flatbed tow truck driver on call according to Larry Hochberg. "The people who had cars that appeared on the show would call me, and I would leave my desk, run to meet up with the flatbed tow truck and go help them," he said. Hochberg also said the cars would occasionally have wiring issues, which he would coordinate in getting back to the West Coast Customs or eventually the GAS shop. At least it seems for the serious issues, MTV attempted to reconcile problems. "I made sure that things were fixed on cars that needed fixing," Hochberg said. But speaking of the root of those more serious issues ...
From the onset here, it should be noted that Larry Hochberg says that "it's not accurate to say that we didn't work on the mechanics of the cars" and that the contestants on the show had a misconception of what had happened with their vehicles. As Hochberg explained to HuffPost, "Some of the cars were so old and rusted that they would have mechanical issues no matter how much work you put into them [and] the production team and the car shops worked their butts off to get parts for these cars." In one instance, MTV even sent someone all the way to a desert junkyard in Arizona just for a replacement hood on a car. But the show wasn't about saving cars from breaking down; it was about pimping cars.
Jake Glazier, who felt "there were a lot of problems" with the mechanics, sold his car after just about a month. He was then told by the new owner that it had already blown out. Glazier told one example of what he felt was shoddy work: the car needed a muffler, and so a fake exhaust pipe was installed to make it seem as if that's what the car was supposed to sound like, "even though it was just lack of a muffler."
"There wasn't much done under the hood in regards to the actual mechanics of the vehicle," according to Seth Martino. "For the most part, it needed a lot of work done to make it a functioning regular driver, which they did not do." Martino said he had a hard time even driving the car home. "They added a lot of extra weight but didn't adjust the suspension to compensate so I felt like I was in a boat, and every time I hit a bump the car would bottom out and the tires would scrape inside the wheel well." According to Martino, the car would only run for about a month. Then he had to save up his own money to replace the engine.
Five years after the show, with extensive and expensive outside work done by Dearinger himself, his pimped car burst into flames. Dearinger was driving home with his girlfriend when smoke started flooding the car. Then the two jumped out on the side of the road and within just moments the car was destroyed. You can watch the aftermath in the video above.
At the beginning of segments, Xzibit would be shown ringing the doorbell to a contestant's house to surprise them. But these houses were often times not the contestants' homes; instead, each dwelling had been rented by MTV. Contestants were told to wait in the house and that at the door would either be someone holding something like a $100 Pep Boys gift certificate or it would be "ya boy Xzibit." So the surprise of Xzibit at the door was real, but in maybe a weirder way than you expected.
Less real was the famous freakouts of contestants jumping up and down when their pimped out car was revealed. All contestants spoken to ended up having to do multiple takes of their reaction, with Justin Dearinger explaining, "I guess I didn't show enough enthusiasm." The director specifically told him to "be more energetic and jump around and scream."
Jake Glazier had a bit of a different experience, remembering they had to coax him to go "ape shit" as his natural reaction to being genuinely excited is a more silent shock. His first real reaction to the car was just a quiet amazement where he said, "This is good." They immediately yelled "re-do!" And then things got a bit weirder.
"I remember this very clearly, Big Dane, very big dude, he like puts his arm around my shoulder, kind of walks me around the shop for like 10 minutes and he's like, 'Listen, we put a lot of work into this ... we expect you to be a little more fucking enthusiastic,'" Glazier recalled. From there, Glazier went full over the top and his reaction (pictured above) even became a bit of a meme.
From watching the show, you might have thought that the vehicles were in the shop for about a weekend or even a week or two and then were given back to their owners. Not the case at all. At least for the contestants spoken to by HuffPost, the cars would actually be in the garage for about six to seven months, which obviously caused some problems.
Seth Martino had a particularly frustrating time where he had to go through a "really small, shady company off the freeway by LAX because they were the only ones willing to rent to me because of my age." According to Martino, at first MTV only paid for a couple months and then he had to pay out of pocket. He held on to the receipts and then about two years after the show aired MTV reached out and finally reimbursed him. "It sucked having that rental car because they wouldn't take payments over the phone so once a month I had to drive all the way from West Covina to LAX just for them to swipe my card," Martino explained.
For Jake Glazier, MTV "pretty much just went with what I told them," but with exaggerations. Glazier had said that his grandmother smoked in the car. For the show, MTV threw an "extra few dozen cigarette butts in the car to make her just look like a total disgusting person."
MTV apparently didn't really listen to Justin Dearinger when they asked about his favorite colors. He said he "hated red" and then the interior of his car ended up being almost entirely that color.
The damage of the cars in the pre-pimped stage was also exaggerated by the show. Dearinger remembered that they added aircraft remover to help with the paint removal and made the bumper "look like it was falling off."
But besides small exaggerations of likes and dislikes, MTV seems to have kind of messed with the contestants lives for the sake of the show...
In Seth Martino's Reddit AMA, the contestant said, "I know im [sic] fat, but they went the extra mile to make me look extra fat by telling the world that I kept candy all over my seat and floor just in case I got hungry. Then gave me a cotton candy machine in my trunk." Further explaining the situation, Martino said, "I sat there and watched them dump out two bags of generic candy."
HuffPost asked Martino about the instance and he stressed again, "I did not have any candy all over my car. That was completely fabricated for the story."
Why didn't he speak up and say something about how MTV was treating him? "At the time, I didn't question anything because it was an exciting experience and I just kind of went with the flow," Martino said. He further felt as if this was all just a reason to install a cotton candy machine. "I know it is kind of mean, but I think they just wanted to put a cotton candy machine in a car and used the fat guy as the opportunity to do it."
Jake Glazier remembered who he thought was one of the producers mentioning that breaking up with his girlfriend would be good for the show. As Glazier explained to HuffPost, the apparent producer said something about how it would play better into the storyline of him having a "shitty car" and needing the pimping to no longer be lonely.
The MTV employee apparently suggested to "basically either get rid of her or have her not be a part of the program."
For what it's worth, Larry Hochberg said that he was not aware of either this instance of the fat-shaming story. "Why would we want a kid to break up with his girlfriend?" he asked. "How would that have helped the show?"
"I felt like a celebrity when people recognized me/the car," said Seth Martino, who enjoyed driving the car once he "put the $1700 of work" into fixing the engine. He particularly liked the sound system.
Jake Glazier only had the car for about a month, as he sold it fairly quickly for about $18,000. He had originally bought the car for $500. But Glazier also regretted selling the car as the buyer -- MTX, the audio company whose product was in the car -- really just wanted their sound system back so it didn't fall into the hands of their competitors. He had a really good time taking his little brothers and sisters to school in the car because his siblings and their friends were so excited.
After the show, Justin Dearinger actually joined a car club and put about $20,000 more of his own money into the car (possibly causing the aforementioned fiery end). The car would attract a lot of attention from cops however, with Dearinger saying he was "getting pulled over on a daily basis." Every time, Dearinger would have to explain the show "Pimp My Ride" to the cops and most of the time they "were really cool about it."
"Honestly, I missed it for many years," Glazier said of the show, while adding he had no real complaints.
Dearinger, too, enjoyed himself and said he'd be happy to do it all again. "Before then I was just a kid -- I was shy, I was really shy," he said. "And then it's sad to say, but being on the show gave me some confidence. And it made me the person I am today. I'm the most outgoing person you ever met." Dearinger said the pimping truly brought more attention to him from the opposite sex. "A lot of girls noticed me more."
Of the three, it was Martino who had more mixed feelings about the experience. "The whole situation was definitely not what I hoped for, and there were times I wanted to give it all back because of how frustrating it was, but now I look back and laugh," Martino said. "I have this really cool story that only a handful of people can really say they experienced. That makes it all worth it."
As for Hochberg, he "loved working on the show." Hochberg further explained his memories saying, "There were so many great kids on the show, and it was fun to give the cars to all of them." Hochberg said one of his favorites was pimping an Ice Cream Truck, a creation that ended up being parodied by "The Simpsons."
"Xzibit is the greatest," said Hochberg who interacted more closely with the rapper than the contestants. "He's a talented rapper, and he is a natural host. He's cool, funny and always thinking on his feet. I really enjoyed working with him."
The contestants didn't get to talk with Xzibit too much, but each felt he was chill, easygoing and fun to be around. Martino said Xzibit would say things like "time to smoke" and that he "never got the feeling he was talking about cigarettes" although he couldn't confirm otherwise.
"He did smell of [weed]. A lot of it," Dearinger said. "Someone did at least, I don't know who did, but I'm pretty sure it was ... you know."
But Jake Glazier had hands down the best interaction with Xzibit ...
"I don't remember why he brought it up, but we were just kind of talking about what we were doing that weekend and he said he's going to go down to hell to kill the devil so he can make some Satan skin boots."
Now that sounds like an amazing idea for a spinoff.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this piece misstated the lyrics to the "Pimp My Ride" theme song saying a player's wheels should be fine and not "fly."