IF YOU WATCH
What: “Fat & Furious: Rolling Thunder”
When: 10 p.m. Monday
Where: Discovery Channel
What it’s about: Christmas Automotive in Boardman rebuilds cars to make them fast.
Episodes: Season 1 will have six.
By GUY D’ASTOLFO
Tommy Christmas and his crew can make cars go fast.
It seems they also make good television.
Christmas — yes, that’s his real name — and his cohorts at Christmas Automotive in Boardman are the stars of the new reality show “Fat & Furious: Rolling Thunder,” which premieres at 10 p.m. Monday on the Discovery Channel.
The show will follow the crew as they acquire left-for-dead muscle cars, restore them to blazing speeds, and sell them. Another story line involves customers who want their already-fast cars to go even faster.
“Fat & Furious” is filmed at area tracks and airstrips, where the cars are road tested, including Quaker City Motorsports Park in Salem. Some action also takes place at the shop at 6602 Market St.
The gang is the real deal when it comes to cars, but to get a reality show, you also need characters.
That’s what caught the eye of the production team that is filming the show.
“We had a video on YouTube, and this production company out of New York saw it,” said Christmas. “They liked how we looked and acted. So we did a show pilot, and Discovery jumped on it.”
Christmas and his mechanics have big personalities. And as the name — a play on the film “The Fast and the Furious” — indicates, three out of four of them are big guys.
In addition to Christmas, the four gentlemen of Christmas Automotive are Chuck Kountz, Steve McGranahan and Andy Pasternak.
“I go 310 pounds, Chuck goes 340, and Steve is 320,” said Christmas. “The only one who is a decent size is Andy.”
Christmas, 55, of Boardman, is an East Side native and a graduate of now-closed Wilson High School. He had been working at a local Chevrolet dealership when he opened his own shop 12 years ago.
Did he ever imagine that one day he would have his own television show?
“Not in my wildest dreams,” said the jovial Christmas. “My wildest dream was to have my own shop, and I still can’t believe that came true. This is the last thing I thought would happen, especially at my age. It’s unbelievable.”
Christmas explained how things work at his business.
“We’ll find a car that had been stuck in a barn for years, clean it up, put in a new motor, and drag race it, see how fast we can get it, then try to flip it,” he said. “I also have a couple of guys who come in with cars they built and they want them to go faster. It might go a quarter mile in 10 seconds, and they want it to go in 9 seconds. For the right amount of money, I can make it go as fast as they want. We wheel and deal with them. Our concern is speed. Everybody wants to go fast, and then even faster. The faster it goes, the more money we make.”
When Christmas Automotive is done with a car, it can reach speeds of up to 160 mph on a drag strip. “They can hit 100 mph within the first 60 feet,” said Christmas. “That will set you back in your seat.”
Not surprisingly, Christmas said he was going to spend this weekend at the Steel Valley Super Nationals. One of his restored muscle cars is on display at the annual Salem festival that draws thousands of hot rods and dragsters from a dozen states. So are many others that he has worked on.
Christmas said the best feeling for him is seeing a car he suped up going down the track with the Christmas Automotive name all over it. “I sit there with a big old smile on my face.”
Already well known among the region’s speed fanatics, Christmas expects his fame is about to hit the gas pedal hard.
“I’m not blowing my own horn, but a lot of people around here already know about me,” he said. “And after Monday, they will really know me.”