Good Bye, FantomWorks

How inappropriate is it to note the end of a TV show instead of the first anniversary of the passing of my former friend and colleague, Kevin Towers? Well, I guess I’ve done both.

The last original episode of FantomWorks airs tonight on Motor Trend. FantomWorks is the name of the largest car restoration shop in the US, located in Norfolk, Virginia. It is owned and operated by a former serviceman, Dan Short.

I am quite sad that the show will no longer be produced as I have grown to like it very much. Where else can you see a 1937 Volvo and a 1963 Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk in addition to the usual parade of Corvettes and Mustangs? Dan Short seems to be very passionate about automobiles and seems to be genuinely concerned for the safety of his customers. Obviously, it’s a TV show and not a hard documentary so I assume some fudging occurs, but the show is very enjoyable.

I wish the shop well in its future endeavors, but will really miss watching its exploits on TV. From FantomWorks’ Facebook page:


Kind of ironic, no? I wonder if a new image will soon appear at the top of their Facebook page. (Update: FantomWorks’ Facebook page had a picture of a show promo, which remained even after the last original episode aired. I thought that was ironic. By now, the image has been changed and the old image is no longer available.)


Driving and working on cars is a hands-on, visceral experience. Reading and writing is not. I have always wondered about how a somewhat academic approach to cars, like writing a blog, can resonate with car enthusiasts.

Pro football is, by far, the most popular sport in America. However, when it comes to selling books, baseball and golf titles sell better. Take it from someone who has had three sports books published. I think the disconnect is similar to that which I think applies to car enthusiasts reading about cars instead of driving them and working on them.

If you hadn’t guessed by now—and if not you’re probably not paying attention—I am a “cerebral” person. Reading, learning and solving problems primarily by thought has basically been my life. I am a pioneer in the application of analytics to professional sports (a father of “Moneyball”), but I have never played any sport in an organized league. (Please click the link to the About page.) I wrote a book about football that the Wall Street Journal called without a doubt the best book of its kind ever written, but it didn’t sell that many copies.

I think theory and application both have their place in the world. One would be amazed how many people do not share that view.


Besides noting that two of the top four selling makes and three of the top six from fifty years ago (1969) are no longer produced, 1969 also marked the last use of the name Rambler on a car. The Rambler name first appeared on an automobile in 1902.

Performance car fans may be aware of this car, the 1969 SC/Rambler:

Picture from The 1969 SC/Rambler (Scrambler, get it?) was a limited production model sold to people who wanted a 14-second quarter mile car right off the showroom floor. For 1969 that was very high performance. Only 1,512 were made.

Except for the paint job the SC/Rambler was really a bare bones car designed to go fast in a straight line. The 390 cubic-inch V-8 that powered the car produced 315 HP (some think that was understated by AMC) and 425 LB-FT of torque in a car that only weighed about 3,200 pounds.




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2 thoughts on “Good Bye, FantomWorks

  1. FantomWorks is one of a few car shows I have enjoyed watching… they really aren’t that far from where I live and I’ve thought about stopping in there sometime (wanna go?). I’d love to meet Dan and I do think he’s a good guy, although, on the show, he tends to be a bit dramatic and I have been known to roll my eyes. While I love cars, I don’t necessarily enjoy all of the car shows out there… I really don’t have much interest in the “how to” type shows… and some of the restoration shows where they get it done in a few weeks which is not the real world if you’re doing it right. I like Wayne Carini a lot, the Canadian show, the Guild with David Grainger, Wheeler Dealers (Mike gets on my nerves)… anyway, I could write a column critiquing all of these shows, but, I’ll leave the blogging to you…


    1. Many thanks, sir. I love cars (duh!), but I avoid many of the shows on Motor Trend. Let’s just say that I have no interest in clown cars or trucks or in celebrity pimpmobiles.


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