Tahoe enthusiast got ‘Monster’ bargain from Jesse James’ show
August 8, 2008
When he wanted to remember the “Monster Garage” episode in which he helped build a “Monster Woody,” Bob Lopez could always look at the DVD.
It’s now a lot more vivid. All Lopez has to do is look in his garage, where he can see the 1950 Ford Woody.
“In all my wildest dreams I never thought I’d own this car,” said Lopez, who on Monday drove the Woody from South Lake Tahoe to Reno, where it is on display at Hot August Nights. “To be driving it around is the ultimate thrill.”
Lopez, two of his building partners from the TV program and two other Woody collectors purchased the automobile at an auction last spring. The Discovery Channel auctioned about 30 of the vehicles built on Jesse G. James’ 2002-06 television show.
Lopez estimated that the car would go for about $100,000. But it was one of the first cars to be auctioned and it went for a mere $28,000.
Lopez spent several days last week driving the Woody around town, getting plenty of curious looks and inquiries.
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“Sometimes they ask if this is the Woody that’s was on the show, and they go absolutely crazy when I tell them that it is,” Lopez said. “It drives and handles pretty damned good for being built in four and a half days.”
The Woody was converted by Lopez and four partners into a four-wheel-drive with a 1984 Ford Bronco front end. It has a 10-inch lift with 36-inch wheels customized by James. It has a fuel-injected 350 Chevrolet engine, which provided last-minute drama for the show: The person who was supposed to install the fuel injector wasn’t up to the task, forcing the rest of the crew to figure it out before the deadline. James blew up all the “Monster Garage” vehicles that didn’t run at the end of the episode.
“In the corner is all these burned-up pieces of metal, and above is a huge digital clock counting down the time,” Lopez said. “We had to be organized and had to keep moving. On the DVD you could see the stress we were under. I had nightmares for three months afterward.”
There were three requirements to make the show: be a surfer, drive a Woody and know how to build a car. Four people recommended Lopez.
Lopez, who has lived at Tahoe since 1964, surfs when he visits the ocean coast or islands. He said he has too many lifelong friends in Tahoe to relocate to an area where he could surf all the time.
However, Lopez is looking forward to one winter activity involving his Woody: “It will be fun to drive around in snow,” he said.