On November 1, roughly 1,000 vintage and contemporary Dodge muscle cars sat in the parking lot of Richard Rawlings' Gas Monkey Bar and Grill in Dallas, Texas. More than two thousand gearheads walked through the lot, the sometimes backdrop to Discovery Channel’s "Fast N’ Loud," drinking beer and talking shop as they eyed up the exposed Mopars and Hemis gleaming in the central Texas sun. Food trucks sat amongst the cars and the heady scent of slow-cooked barbecue mixed with the clouds of tire smoke that wafted off the asphalt where stunt drivers drifted party-goers around in Dodge Viper SRTs. Elsewhere, a leather-clad local band played classic rock hits from a small stage; behind them, a pair of Challenger Hellcats hauled down a drag racing strip. Later that night, Rawlings ascended a scaffolding to announce the event’s headliners: Motley Crue. The band had taken a brief hiatus from their tour to play a two hour set for a self-selected crowd.
“This was better than I could’ve ever dreamed,” said Rawlings, who teamed up with Dodge President and CEO Tim Kuniskis for the event, dubbed "Dodge Rocks Gas Monkey." “If you’d told me twenty years ago that Motley friggin' Crue would be playing my bar, I’d say that you were crazy. I’m just a guy who loves cars.”
Rawlings passion with all things fast borders on the insane; his is an insatiable lust and he’s written his resume in burnt rubber. In addition to searching for and building cars with his Gas Monkey Garage crew on Fast ‘N Loud, Rawlings has won the Gumball 3000 rally twice, and, up until last year, held the record for fastest Cannonball Run with a time of 31 hours and 59 minutes. We spoke to Rawlings in front of his maroon and gold tour bus about his party, Motley Crue, and future plans to obliterate the Cannonball Run record.
You grew up in Central Texas in the 80s. I’m guessing Dr. Feelgood had quite an impact.
Oh man, all their songs. That band’s had more of an effect on my social and love life than anything else. It was the soundtrack of my youth. And they’re all gearheads, so it’s a match made in heaven.
What’s your greatest Crue memory?
The whole Dr. Feelgood album. That was in ’87 and I’d just cruise around listening to it with my buddies for hours. It’s what I listened to when I drove around chased chicks, and went into the woods to drink beer and raise hell with my buddies. That was the soundtrack of it.
Did you listen to Crue to fuel the 31 hours you spent driving the Cannonball Run?
Heck yeah I did.
How angry does the name Ed Bolian make you?
[Laughs] You know, I’m not sure about the Cannonball Run record he claims to have set last year. I haven’t been able to study it. I heard about it happening, but Ed won’t release the data showing his route or actual time because he’s nervous about the authorities or something.
Did you speak with him about the record?
Yeah. He actually called me from the Portofino Hotel the day he completed the record. He’s a sure-up gentleman and if he did it, well, that’s freaking awesome. For me to hold a record like that for six or seven years; I mean that’s cool enough for me.
Any plans on doing it again?
I’m gonna do it again. I’d drive a Dodge. We’ve mapped one out, how to do it, how to make it happen - no fuel stops whatsoever. We’d build it to hold enough gas so that we won’t have to stop once. We used 47 minutes up stopping for fuel last time. So that’ll shave some time off. We’ve got it all figured out.
In addition to the Run record you also won the Gumball 3000 twice. We know things get wild on the race. What’s your best story?
That’s the coolest goddamn thing on the planet. The gumball to me is all about the camaraderie from all walks of life and all different countries. And you’re racing guys that don’t even speak your language but you all know where the gas pedal is, where the brake pedal is. The car is the great equalizer. You’re all having a damn good time and the parties are great. But my favorite story? I just loved showing up at my very first race in 2004 driving a jacked up Chevy Avalanche and having everyone look at me with cockeyed glances because I wasn’t in some crazy Lamborghini or Bugatti. But I had my plan: Four wheel drive, jacked up too far to go into any parking garage. So we were out first every morning before everyone else. And we ended up winning by a couple hours.
On Gas Monkey, you’re always searching for classic cars to rebuild. What’s been your favorite build so far?
The one we just finished. It’s a ’76 C10 pickup. Its one of the most unbelievable cars we’ve put out of gas monkey so far. The crew wanted to build it, everyone was fired up about it. Every nut, every bolt, everything is custom made.
What’s the one car that you’ve searched for but haven’t been able to find?
A ’69 Lamborghini Miura. I’ve been looking for it for nearly twenty years and I always have feelers out for one. It’s a car that just has a special place in my heart. By now, its appreciated so much that I don’t know if I could afford it if I found one now, but I’d sure try. If you have any leads, let me know
Photos by Carlos Sanchez