Rick Dale, owner of Rick’s Restoration and star of the History Channel’s hit show American Restoration is one cool guy. Amanda Williams and I were lucky enough to spend 40 minutes with Rick in his office at his shop in Las Vegas right off of the strip. His lovely wife Kelly was nice enough to set it up as she runs most of his marketing and day-to-day administrative operations for the business. Both of them were amazing, very welcoming and extremely hospitable. We started by getting a free tour of the shop and seeing restorations that haven’t even aired yet. We then sat down with Rick and joked about the Dodgers, restoring our broken bones from snowboarding, and his love for what he does. Scroll all the way down to listen to the interview or read below (I recommend listening) and see how Rick got his start restoring objects, why he is so passionate about what he does, and why he wants more competition in his business.
40 Minute Interview with Mr. Rick Dale, owner of Rick’s Restoration and star of History Channel’s hit show American Restoration
Josh: One of the reasons I like this so much is because I always worked with my dad in his workshop growing up doing all types of projects.
Rick: I can relate to that. The funny thing about me is, when I turned about thirty my dad taught me everything I know. And I never gave him credit. Everything I did as a kid he taught me and I didn’t really figure it out. I remember the very first thing. It was a bicycle. I was nine years old and with some friends in California. Everyone was getting bikes and I didn’t have a bike. My dad brought back some beat-up pieces of junk. And he said, “If you ever want to have anything, you need to appreciate it and do it yourself.” So he gave me this bike. He helped me to go to the store to get parts. Come home paint it, strip it, and make it all beautiful again. Ride around my neighborhood knowing my bike was bad to the bone. I was starting to get restless so he got me into the soapbox derby racing. So I built a whole soap box racer. It was wood and there was some mechanics in it and a lot of fiberglass. Then the same thing happened. I wanted a motorcycle. He bought me an old motorcycle and helped me restore that. That was pretty much on my own. Then he gave me this old car, a jeep. I restored that. Then next thing you know I restored every single thing. Then I left the house at eighteen and got into other stuff. I did construction. I had all kinds of stuff going on. So I can relate to the dad thing. But what’s most important is when Tyler was three. His mom and I split up pretty much when he was born. Then he came around, so I started to teach him stuff around three. He would just hang around the shop just waiting looking around. Until he was about 16 he never had an interest. Now Tyler can do anything here at the shop. Between 16-20, he went to town. He knows how to do everything. He runs the whole shop. I can be gone for a month and he can make sure every thing gets done.
Amanda: I am sure that makes you proud.
Rick: Yeah, it’s good stuff and Brettly is Kelly’s son. None of them knew anything, including my daughter Ally. Then when they jumped into the business it allowed them to watch us. And they have all taken there own places. I mean right now we leave the kids and they will run the shop. They all want the shop. The thing is they all don’t know everything. They know stages. Like Ally knows the books and how to deal with the customers up front. Brettly knows how to buy and sell. Tyler knows how to run the shop. They all need each other.
Rick: No, my dad was in the army. Then got out and did a bunch of different jobs. Later he got a job with Southern California Edison, which is a big power company. Then he was running it, the whole thing. And when he came home on the weekends he would help the neighbors build something. He was just very handy. As a son he was gone all the time besides the weekends so he could yell at us. He was into the sports. Then the more kids my parents had. Like the last one, Ron, he got into sports heavy and he just went off. I was eleven years older then Ron, so I was gone leaving and Ron was growing up so he got very babied.
Josh: The reason I asked is because you do so many intricate things and if dad had knowledge of those things, that must have been incredible. and you said your father taught you a lot.
Rick: Yeah, he taught me a lot.
Josh: I guess he was just one of those old-fashioned guys, huh? Just pick some stuff up?
Rick: Yeah, he would never buy anything. He would fix stuff and I inevitably learn it. I think when I got into. I got into restoring in 83’. I had a construction company. It sort of went under. I had a bad partner. Then I had a coke machine in the backyard and somebody said, “If you want to sell them there selling them in southern California and Japan’s buying them overseas. So I restored it took it down there. Then I got into coke machines then gas pumps, coin op vending machines and juke boxes. The show is what brought out the weird stuff. Those were always just a challenge. It’s not like I know how to do everything. I just tear it apart, clean it out and put it together. It doesn’t always work. You always have struggles. I remember at times at the beginning of filming. We couldn’t make it work. Then it had to go out the way it was. Or we would just keep it until it did work. And you know over and over and try to progress. And the details is something I keep going on. Pushing on details. Do a little bit more on this, a little harder on that, and get it a little better.
Josh: Well, all those details is where it really drives your success. You know what I mean? You don’t cut corners.
Rick: Yes, and it just got more, it’s like a snowball, always learning. Every single day a new project. One of the things about the show is that when I would for 25 years, buy something restore it and take somewhere and sell it. And mainly the people who would buy from me are people with money. And they would just buy it and thank you very much and see you later. There was no gratification as an artist. I didn’t get anything. The show really hit. I mean I was like. I would restore something but it was their grandfather’s or grandmother’s. Then they would come back and there would be tears and all that stuff. No I drive for that stuff. Now I only want the stuff that means something to somebody. I don’t like doing it, I do it, but I don’t like the corporations that come in and want something done for profit. They want their name out there. But I had started out there like that. Then I had feelings for this artist thing. But it was for a casino that was selling that was profiting. This stuff is just not as driving. Like we just did a slot machine and turned it into a kegerator and it was for a big company. But it was challenging, so it was really cool to get insight. And it just depends on budget. Because I can really get stupid on one as long as somebody’s got the budget. Just do something wild like Sammy Hagar. Sammy Hagar’s was a piece.
Rick: Yeah, just could make something into the wildest thing I wanted. All the guys in the crew were giving different ideas.
Josh: Your imagination is unbelievable.
Rick: Yeah I just keep throwing it out there. I’ve been around for so long. I’ve done a lot of car shows, been out there so much that all this weird stuff starts to come out. It helps to have a good crew. I mean these guys all came to me with nothing. No one had a job, no one is an expert at anything, and I bring them in and find what they’re good at. Then we teach them.
Josh: That’s really cool. You guys have come a long way. So speaking of budgets. What’s the largest job you have ever done?
Rick: I would say right now it’s the car that just came threw. Were doing a James Bond four of these 1977 Lotus’s that were built for a James Bond movie that were a submarine. They went from the shore into the water shot rockets just like a James Bond movie.
Josh: Do you know what movie?
Rick: The Spy Who Loved Me. So, you know I don’t do a lot of cars that is why it gets expensive. This Lotus, it’s a fifty thousand dollar restoration and it’s just trash. What happened was. They had four, that they kept in different stages, one was used as a prop, one was all there, one was in the water. Well this was the one that was under water. And its trashed. It got left in the Bahamas, in a salvage yard and nothing is left on it. It used to have little fins that turned on the side. And the wheels tucked themselves in and under. Had missile launchers and all that stuff. So that the most expensive one. And when you guess that an estimation. Exactly what I do. A lot of car shops will say ok. The shop operates at one hundred dollars an hour. And give me a ten thousand dollar deposit. And as we go the week you had this many hours and you owe us this much money. That’s how car shops do it. Our shops not like that. You come in we give you a price and that just were it at. So a lot of times we lose. Percentages are probably eighty percent ok. A lot of these we haven’t built before so it’s not like were going to go fast. When you go to a car shop or bike shop. They know what a bike looks like they know what a car looks like. Its just boom boom de boom. When you get this weird stuff. You can spend two days messing with it. Just to make sure its right. So, taking on this kind of car. I’ve done a lot of cars before. And I hate fiberglass. I like it but it, but its twice as much work and as much money as anything with money on it. It just always is. It takes longer process to get it right. So the James Bond car is the highest that came in. Out of the four cars one of them sold for a million. I find all this stuff out after. But I am not about that. I not about saying, I mean I could of charged him five hundred thousand dollars to restore his thing that’s worth a million. But I didn’t. I didn’t want to check into it. I was just playing it by ear and a lot of people get things restored for different reasons. I mean to get something restored, the restorer makes all the money. You’re not going to make any money unless you hold onto it for a while. Then it goes up in money.
Rick: Yes, I am very passionate. Between the crew and my family and what I do and what I love doing. That’s just the way it is. I like that. That’s what probably makes me really give it all. You know, I am all the way in it.
Josh: And that comes through in the show. Ask her (Amanda) I’ll watch fifteen episodes in a row man I love it. Really I do. I love it and a couple questions regarding the family orientation of the show itself. Was that your idea or Kelly’s idea? The History Channels idea?
Rick: Well it was sort of slid in there. When I first started the show I was working for Pawn Stars. Tyler was around, Brettly was around and I had one body man and we were really getting slow. I mean the economy was dying and we had nothing going on. And when the production company called and said they wanted me to sell something to the Pawn Stars to be on a episode. It was something unrestored and I was a restorer. I wasn’t into junking. I never have been into taking an unrestored piece and selling it unless I had done it for the money. So they came in and they wanted us to do something. I said no to them a couple of times then finally I said well I restore stuff. They said well why don’t you be our expert and we were mingling to make the show Pawn Stars work. So I said ok, I came in, did a few machines for them, then they ended up liking the episodes well enough and they liked the character well enough they offered me my own show. When they offered me my show. I was sort of reluctant, because I didn’t know what it entailed. But I could surely use the money at that time. So I started in and I think I was telling you earlier about the people emotions it really started kicking in. The production company is tough. That’s how we have gotten into it. I didn’t want a show and just sort of got dropped into it.
Josh: And you can see the transition of the show over time too. Through out the seasons till now were it seems more family oriented. Even the introduction to the show.
Rick: To finish off what I said. They picked Tyler and Ron because I said to him the very first day. What I really wanted was for my son to take over the shop. They said ok your brother around and this around. Kelly at the time really didn’t want it. She wanted to be in the back of things. Then she threw out all our business into it. So then immediately she needed to be in the show too. Brettly did the same. So that is what brought in the family characters and Kowboy has been with me for fourteen years. He left then he popped back in. He left for a couple years then he came back. He knocked on my door wanting work so I through Kowboy in there. Then Kyle was doing restorations. So I had like five guys doing restorations and they picked the family members to be the characters in the cast. I am pushing to get Ally in more and Kelly in more. Because they both do a good part of the business that you really don’t get to see in the show. And like producers. They’re writers who write different stuff, it’s not all about how we use to do it. That stuff just happened. Now all of a sudden it needs to stay fresh. So they hopefully are going to write them in more. Its tough in the family somebody feels neglected and it makes it tough for the family when you go home. So we got to make sure everybody is in there. And I have a power now, that I didn’t have before, I feel like now I can say what I want and ninety percent of the time I get it.
Rick: Yea Brettly is a character, the funniest guy, he never found his niche you know. He wanted to be a guitar player, he was only working to make money and that was it. Now he is really deep into the business and he really likes it.
Josh: So you can obviously see the passion you have when it comes to restoring objects so two part question. What’s your most precious restoration you have done for something you own? What is your favorite restoration for someone else?
Rick: For me #1 is my truck. You know my truck that was a project that always got in the way of work. Like I was doing the truck for thirteen years I was building this truck. Then I would go to work and I didn’t have time to work on the truck. Went back and forth. When the show came in I had a Chrysler 300 and the truck that was sitting back there not done. So the show came in and I just jumped on the truck. Got it all finished but I just didn’t have any money. So we took off on the very first pick. So we rode up to LA and I blew both tires. I had old tires. Blew up a tire. So the truck is my personal one. I don’t keep very much stuff that I have restored and I’ve restored some wild stuff. I bought some wild stuff and restored it, then tried to keep it and ended up selling it. The truck is probably my favorite for me. For my customers, on the show there is a ton. The thing that I love. I love our military and I love what they do for us and when I was a kid my dad would take me out to Nellis Air Force Base and we would go to the air races. And there was this plane. An F-105 sitting out there that was sort of a memorial. So when Kelly got a call from Nellis Air Force Base and they wanted me to restore that particular piece that was stored in a shed, I thought that would be great. And it wasn’t all about just the restoration. It was about what we were giving back to them. And doing for the Air Force Base. And I didn’t even get it. When I was doing it I felt a great honor. Then we went to reveal it. I mean there were two hundred guys there from the military and families and stuff. Oh my God it was incredible. How much love they were giving me back and appreciation and it was an honor for me. Well after that they ask if I wanted to go for a ride in one of the F-16’s. Which was one of my dreams. I love racecars and they gave me a ride in a F-16, which was like I can’t even tell you. When I got on the ground I could barely talk. It was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever done in my life. Then after that happened about a month later. They had a ceremony for a wife. What happened was the guy who flew the F-105 died. While they were doing stunts. And the plane broke in half and he died. So that is what the memorial was. What he left behind was his wife and at least four kids. Well they all came to this memorial reinstating. They were going to put it back up there and put a plaque on the front. Kelly said we are going to go to this memorial I thought how cool when they were there. It was even more gut wrenching, heart breaking. There kids were little and now they’re forty. But they showed so much appreciation. The mom is hugging me and she was like seventy-five. It was like just the greatest project and I got the most fulfillment out of it. As far as appreciation and the honor to do that. I was proud. Done some wicked stuff, but that is my best.
Josh: Well I was going to ask you what would be your holy grail but that sounds like it was it.
Rick: Yea, that was it. And it wasn’t that complex. We did the seat they were doing on the moon. One of the moon things. That’s like insane. We’ve done some cool stuff.
Josh: The jetpack right? That was really cool by the way, the one signed by Buzz Aldrin. You guys have done some cool pieces of history. I am a huge history buff and I mean I nerd out on it all the time.
Rick: Oh yea, to be part of that. And when you take apart something. You sort of go through its past. You see how the guys have worked on it. You know back in the day how hard they worked on stuff. How intelligent they were. How much pride they put into it. You can see it when you’re taking it apart. And you can see the layers of somebody painted something or fixing something. And you can see all that when you tear it all apart. So you go to the bare bones. It’s like tearing apart a body and then putting it back together again and you sort of feel it all. It’s just good stuff.
Josh: Well that leads me to a great question I was going to ask you anyways. The future, lets say twenty years from now. When Tyler’s running this place. Sounds like he already is of course. What do you think some of the challenges he is going to face? Because obviously your generation before that they built things to last. So much so that if they rust out you can sandblast them or restore them. Products now I feel as though made out of plastic they wont actually be able to be restored rather than replaced. So do you think that’s going to be a challenge for you or are you always going to be restoring old objects?
Rick: Well, even back when I started which was thirty years ago. I thought it would end. And it hasn’t. I mean I am thirty years into it and it hasn’t ended the stuff is still out there. I think because of shows like American Picker, Pawn Stars and that one on PBS when people bring all there items in and they show how much they are worth. Because they’re all big shows that are taking the economy with the people that are down and want to bring stuff. They don’t have money to buy stuff. So they’re fixing stuff or selling stuff. So I think that’s recycling. And I don’t think it’s going to end. As far as Tyler having a challenge. I think it will all be out there. I think he will be challenged as to be different all the time. There will be something weirder something that came in. I hope we don’t use it all up on my level. But as far as restoring the present. There is only a few things out there. The way I look at things. I am older, and the way I look at things, I said it many times they don’t build stuff like that anymore. They didn’t build it to last. They build it to be replaced. You look around at stuff. And it’s not going to be there. But the innovation of what’s going on. There are still very innovative guys. Like 3D printers. Holy moly there is stuff out there that is both going to help with the really old stuff and if they do it with the new stuff. Lets say plastics. Plastic is the kind of stuff that you can take that sort of thing and reproduce it. So I think there is still going to be work there for ever and ever. I don’t think our history is going away.
Josh: No definitely not.
Rick: Yea, so our history is not going away so people are going to save some of this history. There is always going to be somebody needed. And I think the thing about, I mean. Lets say a 1977 Lotus ok. 77’ didn’t build a lot of great stuff. So they’re will always need to be somebody to take that on. And when somebody calls me and says. I got a doll I need it restored. And I say well were not doing dolls right now. We’re just not doing it. They’re has to be somebody out there doing it. He says who is the best guy you would recommend? I’m thinking and I know all guys over the United States and I don’t know. I don’t know anyone that does what we do. I don’t. I wish I did then I would probably bring them in or open another shop with them. But I don’t. Nobody steps up and says hey I can do anything. There not even willing to try, bottom line. So with the kids that we have, there’s a lot of innovative kids out there that are doing all kinds of fabrication and cool stuff that cars are changing hot rods are changing.
Josh: There’s a lot of cool artist out there.
Rick: Yea there is a lot of cool artist out there. So hopefully he will be able to take some of those people and carry on. I don’t think his challenge will be anything besides how to keep the business going. I think Tyler will do it, I think Ally would do it and Brettly will probably find something, find his niche somewhere. I think those two kids are just going to go.
Josh: So I know you haven’t seen it now. And I know obviously it’s a huge challenge for people to learn from scratch. Kind of like what you’ve done over the past thirty years. With the popularity of the show do you feel like it will start to promote friendly competition?
Rick: God, I hope so. I want friendly competition. You know what I mean.
Josh: Sure, it doesn’t have to be next store in Vegas but lets say out in Henderson somewhere.
Rick: Yea, absolutely you’re nothing without competition. When I would do the Coke machines there was like four guys in the united states that did it. And when we went to the big tradeshows it would be a fight. It would be like who’s the best. That made me better. It also made them better. And that kind of stuff without it you’re going to get to a point where you won’t learn. And you don’t learn anything new trying to get any better. You’re just going to put out the same product. Yea I want to do a show about that. I want to do build offs with other guys and other people. The goal is to try to get out there and get other shops. Or we franchise out or whatever the case might be. What you just said, how far is Tyler going to go or will he keep going. You just don’t know. You’re one guy in Nevada how do you know. Like in the olden days when I use to run around and pick. I would go there and no more coke machines on this planet. There is nothing left. Soon as the show hit. Here came thousands of emails of people who wanted restored Coke machines.
Rick: Yea, we are laid back. Kelly’s not, we are. Kelly is New York and I am West Coast and so is Ron. Ron is even more laid back than me. Ron and I were best friends from when he turned eleven til he was probably thirty. He got married, had two kids, then he got a divorce and then he sort of went on his own way. He got out of the business for a little bit. Started working for Budweiser. But him and I have been best friends as brothers, which is unbelievable. And it’s always like the kind of deal when I get married its all them. I can only give so much out to my brother or my kids. We were really tight and for him to come in and do that he’s my brother and whatever I say kind of goes. He sort of questions me sometimes and then I still sort of stomp on him, because I am always his older brother and he respects me. And I respect him to. It’s a good relationship. I got another brother and another sister and we don’t talk very much. So to have Ron still around is pretty cool. My parents are still alive they live in Boulder CO.
Josh: Last question, have you given your parents a restoration gift?
Rick: Yea, one of the pieces he still has is called an airline picnic holder made in the late thirties. And it was only for airlines. I mean it would go on a TWA and the pilot would carry on his six bottles of coke in one of those picnic coolers. And at the time I was doing this, they were rare. Expensive, nineteen hundred bucks for a picnic cooler, which was insane when, back then they were selling them for three hundred. I can’t remember, but I think I found it and I restored it and gave it to him as a Christmas present. And it sits in his living room. My parents are very proud of me and he says it all the time. And you know I was doing this stuff for a long time and Ron was at USC playing baseball throwing and a football star. And for my dad to say that, it means a lot. Like my parents got into coke machines so they always followed along with it. Like my first buy in 83’ I had to go buy coke machines and my dad drove with me to New York. He fronted the money for me and went into business with me. So I always built him something. They’re into Coke more than anything.
Josh: I am sure he is more proud of your work ethic then how things turned out with your success.
Rick: Yea, absolutely.
Josh: Ok thank you very much for your time. Rick Dale, owner of Rick’s Restoration and star of History Channel’s hit show American Restoration.