'Street Outlaws' stars among guests at Pittsburgh's World of Wheels
Jeff “AZN” Bonnett and Shawn “Farmtruck” Whitley from Discovery Channel's “Street Outlaws” say the Pittsburgh police don't have to worry:
They won't be bringing their 1970 Chevy long-bed truck that regularly tears up Oklahoma City streets to the 54th annual Innovative Autoworks World of Wheels.
The street-racing duo will be sharing stories and answering questions about their “ultimate sleeper” pickup with custom-built 8-cylinder big-block engine, two-stage nitrous-oxide under the hood and horsepower that is “top secret information” during the World of Wheels this weekend at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.
Whitley and Bonnett say they never expected the success of “Street Outlaws,” a weekly reality show that pits everyday guys with unlikely race cars with cool names against each other. The races usually result from the guys bragging about whose vehicle is the fastest.
“Street racing is all about talking smack and heading to the track,” Whitley says.
Competitors and their cars include “Big Chief” and his '69 Pontiac Lemans known as The Crow; “Monza,” and his '72 Camaro Rally Sport that goes by Sinister Split Bumper, and “Daddy Dave,” who races a '96 Chevy Sonoma S10 called The Sonoma.
Whitley was working as a carpenter and Bonnett as a graphic designer when Discovery Channel heard about the street-racing contests and created the show.
“We were all worried about TV showing up, but it turns out we were quite surprised about how many fans we have,” Whitley says. Local police don't like it when a street race breaks out, he says, but the most the cops have done to deter them are to issue speeding tickets and impound their vehicles.
He won't divulge how fast his truck can accelerate to in a race, noting that “our speedometer doesn't even work.” Bonnett races his '66 Volkswagen, nicknamed the “Dung Beetle,” on “Street Outlaws.”
Joining Farmtruck and AZN in a Q&A session from noon to 3 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m. Jan. 24 will be Jeff Lutz of Callery, Butler County. Lutz has appeared on the show and recently won the Unlimited Class championship at the Hot Rod Drag Week at Tulsa Raceway Park, Tulsa, Okla., with his '57 Chevy Belair, dubbed “The Evil Twin.”
World of Wheels show chairman Sean Ulanowicz of Blawnox says this year's edition of World of Wheels will include an extensive lineup of special events and exhibits geared to enthusiasts of hot rods, custom cars, trucks and motorcycles.
“If it's got wheels, we want it in the show,” he says.
Among the featured cars will be “Fast & Furious” movie cars, including a '95 Eclipse, '95 Jetta Bullet Car, '70 Chevelle, '70 Charger and '08 Challenger from three of the films.
Offering “chop shop” demonstrations during the weekend will be Gene Winfield, 87, who has been building custom cars since the 1950s, including several TV and movie cars, such as the Galileo shuttle craft for the “Star Trek” TV series.
Also scheduled is an FMX Motorcycle Stunt show, a Pedal Car Challenge and the Pittsburgh High Scrollers Pinstripe Charity Auction, benefitting the Autism Society of Pittsburgh.
Other celebrities set to appear are Laura Marano, who portrays Ally Dawson on the Disney TV show “Austin and Ally,” from noon to 4 p.m. Jan. 25, and WWE superstar Big Show from 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 23.
On Jan. 24, there will be pinball tournament from 2 to 4 p.m.
Candy Williams is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.