American Restoration: The Truth Behind the “Reality” Show

One of the most successful shows on the History Channel is American Restoration. Initially, the program focused on Rick’s Restoration in Las Vegas, which specialized in repairing vintage items and making them look as good as new. Rick Dale made his reality show debut on Pawn Stars before the History Channel gave him a show of his own. The world got to watch Rick, his crew, and his family on screen, giving new life to old, worn-out objects.

Rick Dale posing in front of an old green truck / The front of Rick’s Restorations garage
Source: Pinterest / Twitter

But in Season Seven, the entire premise of the show changed dramatically. Rick’s Restoration was replaced by five different businesses, each with their own specific specialty, and a new cast came along. It’s rare for a television program to change course so radically, but that’s exactly what happened with American Restoration. And that’s just one of the many scandals surrounding the hit reality show.

As we already know, reality shows aren’t as real as they are made out to be. Here are some behind the scene secrets of American Restoration.

The Public Tour

If you’re in Las Vegas, you could stop at Rick’s Restoration and take a tour of the facility. However, you may not want to. Many visitors have given the tour bad reviews. One complaint is that there are two different versions, but neither is that impressive. The five-dollar version lasts only ten minutes and then gives you access to the gift shop – where you will probably spend more money. There is no chance of seeing anyone from the show, and no pictures are allowed.

Rick’s restorations team
Source: eBay

The fifty-dollar version isn’t that much better. You can take pictures and get to see some of the items restored. For another 25 buckeroos, you can get a picture of you and Rick sent to your house. At least they cover shipping!

A Jukebox Scandal

The main thing that hurts a business is screwing over customers. According to Vegas Tourists, Rick Dale wasn’t the kindest to one of his customers. Allegedly, 85-year-old Angel Delgadillo allowed American Restoration to film at his memorabilia shop. He asked Rick if he could fix an old jukebox for him, and Rick said he would do it for $4,000.

A before and after photograph of a restored jukebox
Source: Pinterest

After two months, he returned the jukebox to him. It looked better, but it still didn’t function. The large check had already been cashed, so Mr. Delgadillo called and wrote Rick asking him to complete the job, but he was ignored. Rick eventually arranged for the jukebox to get restored, but only after the story went public.

A Messy Feud with A Bar Owner

If you watch the show, you surely recognize Dale Walksler from Season Seven. The Wheels Through Time Museum owner attended a typical town council meeting in Maggie Valley, North Carolina. However, he turned it into four-hour circus name-calling and insulting everyone in the room.

Dale Walksler standing over a bike frame in the garage
Dale Walksler. Source: Flickr

He was the head of a movement to prevent the town from granting a permit for another business owner to reopen his bar. Walkser claimed that when the bar was open, biker gangs and drug owners wandered into the parking lot of his museum and often left condoms and needles behind. However, during that meeting, Walksler got so out of control that he needed to be reprimanded repeatedly. The bar ultimately got to reopen.

Shoddy Work Accusations

The finished products on American Restoration come out sparkling. It looks like Rick and the guys do an incredible job bringing these old, worn-out objects back to life. Usually, their work comes out fantastic! However, some fans claim that their work isn’t always as good as it’s cracked up to be.

A vintage McCulloch Go-Kart in yellow
Source: YouTube

One fan found an example in an episode involving a McCulloch Go-Kart. If you look at the finished product, you can tell that the tires were crooked, causing them to wobble. Some other fans noticed things like chipped paint. Still, many people feel like Rick overcharges customers for the work he does.

“Kowboy” Is Really Grumpy

Every good reality show has that one colorful supporting character. It adds an interesting element that keeps viewers tuning in. In this case, the role goes to a man by the nickname “Kowboy.” He is a metal polisher and has been described as “grumpy.” In fact, his irritability seems to be his most dominant trait.

Kowboy posing outside of Rick’s Restorations garage
Source: Pinterest

As it turns out, it doesn’t go away when the cameras go off. On the TripAdvisor website, one user said that Kowboy’s negative attitude ruined her trip. Apparently, she and her fiancé were excited when they ran into Kowboy, and they asked for a picture. His response was, “I don’t do pictures.” How rude! Reportedly, some fans stopped watching the show after having unfriendly encounters with Kowboy.

Rick Didn’t Think He’d Last

Rick Dale got his reality show start on Pawn Stars as an occasional guest. His popularity gave producers the idea to give him his own show. However, his immediate response was “no.” The reason was that gas pumps and soda machines were his specialties. He didn’t think he was capable of restoring enough products to carry an entire show.

Rick sitting in an old cart posing for a photograph
Source: Las Vegas Sun / Steve Marcus

Dale admitted to Sioux City Journal that “I only knew how to restore like five different pieces, and a show has twenty-six episodes. I figured I’d be done after about five.” The producers managed to persuade him that he was talented enough to fill a whole season. Rick felt “overwhelmed,” but after about six episodes, he found his comfort zone. Ultimately, the show went way beyond one season.

Humble Beginnings

Restoring old items is a very specific and unusual profession. How does someone even get into this line of work? For Rick, his passion and devotion to fixing up beaten, worn-out items stemmed from childhood poverty. He revealed that he didn’t grow up with much, so his dad would bring home thrown out items that could be fixed up.

Rick standing in front of an old barbers chair with old gas pumps and coca-cola machines behind him
Source: Twitter

When Rick was nine, his dad pulled a bicycle out of a dumpster, and they fixed it up together. Rick said that when he rode it around, he felt like he had “the coolest bike” in the neighborhood. It taught him the concept that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” and just because something is old doesn’t mean it can’t be fixed into something beautiful.

Rick’s Reaction

Fans were in shock when the History Channel changed the format of the show. Rick and the rest of the cast were fired from American Restoration. When the series came back for the seventh season, it was still focused on restoring items, but this took place at multiple businesses, not just one. Speculations for the reasonings go from low ratings to Rick being difficult to work with.

Rick Dale and his fellow cast members on American Restoration
Source: Twitter

Whatever the real reason was, Rick wasn’t very happy about it. He posted a video holding back tears as he thanked his loyal fans for tuning in. But his message included some subtle shade. He asked fans to go onto the American Restoration website (owned by the History Channel) and comment about their disappointment.

The Timeline

One of the biggest reality show secrets is that much of what you see on TV isn’t necessarily real. Plotlines are usually planned out, staged, or edited in a deceiving way. This is obviously to get more drama to bring more viewers. American Restoration is no exception.

Howie Cohen talking on the phone in his neon lights shop
Source: NYUp / Gary Walts

The website investigates the case of Howie Cohen, a high school teacher who creates and restores neon lights as a side hobby. He was approached to appear on the show, and Cohen revealed that he was actually filmed twice: first in July and again in November. Apparently, the July segment was the “reveal” of the repaired sign, and in November, they spoke about the project as if it hadn’t already been completed. Sneaky, sneaky.

Hurricane Katrina Hit Bob Halliday

In Season Seven of the show, the focus shifted away from just Rick’s restorations when Bob Holiday joined American Restoration. He owns Bob’s Garage in Marietta, Georgia, and specializes in Coke machines and gas pumps. He is known for his sense of humor, which, as it turns out, stems from a tragic past.

Bob Halliday with his wife posing in front of a vintage car with neon signs everywhere
Source: Pinterest

For almost twenty years, Bob operated a successful business in New Orleans, Louisiana. He bought an antiquated gas station, which he fixed up for the city’s historic district. Then, Hurricane Katrina hit and left Bob and his family with nothing. His house, the business, and everything they owned were gone. He stated that when the disaster hit, they had their pets, a laptop, the clothes on their backs, and the car they used to escape in.

Pressure Working for Celebs

Thanks to his reputation, celebrities frequently come to Rick Dale when they need help restoring old possessions. Music legend Billy Joel was featured in one of the episodes hoping to have an old motorcycle fixed up. Pop singer Jason Mraz also showed up with a sign that his grandfather owned. Sammy Hagar and David Copperfield are other notable personalities who have appeared on the show.

Rick helping Billy Joel with an old motorcycle
Source: YouTube

Sometimes, working with celebrities makes Rick a little nervous. While referring to Jason Mraz’s sign, Rick spoke about how he was worried about disappointing him. “I am pulling my hair out,” he expressed. “I can’t sleep over it… I just pray to God I can finish.” He was also scared to let Joel down because “I listened to him as a kid and went to his concerts.”

Mixed Messages

Although American Restoration is about restoring old items, there is also a hint of romance involved. Rick Dale’s relationship with his now-wife Kelly brought a human touch to the show. Fans even got to watch Rick propose. We now know that they have a happy marriage, but he didn’t initially think his attraction to her would go anywhere.

Rick Dale with Kelly Dale posing together outside
Source: Tumblr

Rick explained how she invited him to a party, and he thought it was a date. But once he arrived, he realized she was promoting a singles night event at a friend’s restaurant, and he wasn’t the only one she invited. It seems like a classic case of mixed signals, but that didn’t make the situation any less awkward. The sparks came shortly after when she invited him out for a drink.

Fame Made the Restorations Harder

Rick got his start fixing soda machines and gas pumps. After that, he went on to other items like bumper cars and, in one episode, a motorized surfboard. He learned to broaden his horizons. However, being involved in a successful reality show created an interesting problem. After people saw his work, they wanted him to apply his skills to a variety of things.

Rick and another employee standing in someone’s garage looking at an old refrigerator

This admittedly surprised him. Especially since he started getting objects that were in increasingly worse shape. Rick revealed to The Spruce, “I think all the good stuff is gone. The stuff people bring in now is testing me.” He added that “after 30 years in this business, I learn something new every day.”

Rick Wants His Own Street

With so many items restored, you might think there is nothing left on Rick Dale’s bucket list, but that’s certainly not the case. There is one fantasy project that he hasn’t gotten to do yet. As a lover of vintage Americana, Rick said his dream job is to restore an entire 1940s-era street that has fallen into decay.

Rick Dale holding a large hammer in front of his garage
Source: Amazon

Anyone who has seen the show knows the facade of Rick’s Restoration, which is a mini version of that kind of street. The façade was a variation of his dream. He hopes to one day get the opportunity to restore a full-sized main street with buildings, gas stations, movie theaters, a corner drug store, and all. That would be pretty impressive.

Online Petition

When American Restoration switched formats in Season Seven, many fans were put off. Suddenly, the star of the show and the rest of the cast were all gone. The focus shifted from Rick’s business to five other rotating businesses. It changed the entire essence of the show. One fan was so angered that he created a petition on, where he insisted the History Channel return the show to its original premise.

Rick revealing an old restored vacuum
Source: YouTube

The viewer claimed that “fans who have been loyal to the show since the beginning are outraged” and demanded that Rick’s Restoration either needs to be “a part of the reboot” or continue being the main focus of American Restoration. However, only 16 people signed the petition so calling it unsuccessful is an understatement.

Father-Son Bonding

Every dad who is into cars daydreams about restoring one with his son, and every son who is into cars would dream of having a father with the willingness and time to work on cars with him. Well, Rick and his son Tyler have this mutual interest. Motortrend reported that the two rested together since Tyler was young and would sit at his dad’s side. “He’s gone to a level where he’s totally into fabrication,” Dale says.

Tyler Dale with vintage stuff surrounding him
Source: History Channel

“It’s not a frame-off restoration where you would fix everything underneath there. He now pulled a chassis out of the bottom of the ‘5 Ford half-ton truck and threw it away and built everything from scratch.“ Tyler is now involved with The Tyler Dale Project, whose website says, “Tyler Dale got his start on American Restoration on the History Channel on October 25, 2010. He is best known for his bicolor blond/brown hair and his fierce demonstration of skill in the shop from management to hands-on practice.”


To film each upcoming season, Rick’s Restoration works hard and fast. They typically work on 12 projects at a time. Because of time constraints and since Rick’s crew didn’t specialize in every type of restoration, they would sometimes bring in freelance workers to assist in more complex tasks.

Rick posing in front of an old car
Source: Pinterest

Rick also bought some items from pickers that he knew could be fixed up quickly. Who can blame him, though? It made for great TV. Some of the freelance workers were on the series regularly but not all of them. Other freelancers didn’t get much screen-time and only showed up for an episode or two.

The Show’s Cancellations

We all know that Rick Dale and his crew were let go from American Restoration, but we aren’t exactly sure why. There is one theory going around that seems to have originated on, which stated that “It’s not known exactly why that Rick Dale was removed from the show, but it could have something to do with conflicts between Rick and several of the customers that he was serving.”

Some of Rick’s team members posing in the garage

The post went on to say, “Rick Dale allegedly did not make good on a contract to restore a jukebox at a famous Route 66 venue. This, and the fact that Mr. Dale’s egotistical personality may have been a recipe for his presence on the show.” We already mentioned the jukebox story, but it looks like it may have led to all this. However, there is still no way to know for sure.

Hard Goodbye

Season Seven of American Restoration shocked viewers when the show’s format was completely changed. The series still focused on restoring things, but it took place at multiple businesses instead of just Rick’s. Although we don’t know the exact reasoning behind the show’s shift, rumors include Rick Dale’s difficult personality and declining ratings. Either way, Rick wasn’t happy about it.

Rick standing in front of a sign that says Restore

Now, let’s take a look at another History Channel reality star, American Picker’s Danielle Colby.