“Danny [Koker] fights tooth and nail to keep it real because car people know when you are faking it. We do everything we can to keep it real, the stories are real, the cars are real, and it’s the reason it takes so long to do the episodes,” explains Kevin Mack from the popular TV show, Counting Cars. The shop, Count’s Kustoms, is in the center of Las Vegas and works on one-of-a-kind hot rod and motorcycle customization projects. Apex recently sat down with Kevin Mack, who is the Business Manager for the shop and a long-time friend of Danny “The Count” Koker, and got an exclusive behind-the-scenes scoop of what keeps the TV show and shop going… full speed!
When it comes to producing the TV show, the cast works with a production company and the network, which is the History Channel. For the episodes, Kevin explains, “when we build cars and motorcycles, we don’t fake the funk, it is all real. Car enthusiasts know when a show is staged and it becomes obvious. They found a way to keep it entertaining, so families can watch the shows and understand about classic cars and motorcycles.”
Kevin met Danny while riding motorcycles some 23 years ago, “it was a lot of fun.” There were about 15 guys that would ride together, going to Southern California, Arizona, etc. They were constantly changing up and making modifications to their bikes, but it was a frustrating process because they would have to “wait months and months to get the work done.” As a result, Danny decided to open his own shop, and with that, they “could get stuff done” when they wanted. The shop, Count’s Kustoms, worked on motorcycles initially, but eventually the cars started to catch up and have now surpassed the bikes. It was the natural next step, since Danny was around cars since he was nine years old, when his father purchased a 1966 Ford Mustang GT350. “That car was always in the family,” Kevin explained and is currently in the showroom at Count’s Kustoms for all to see.
“I’ll tell you what, I wouldn’t change it for the world…it’s home. I appreciate everything Danny has done for me,” is how Kevin describes working with Danny at the shop. Kevin has been working there for 11 years and was hired when Danny was starting to get “really busy and needed to put a head on the monster.” At the time, Kevin was working in the convention labor business and was “burned out.” The timing was right and a good fit for both men. “We get along great and I understand he’s the boss.
The shop has grown tremendously in a short time. When Kevin started, there were seven employees, and now it’s up to 48 employees. In the last five years, since the TV show started, “we now have the right people” and the functioning of the shop has “gotten easier.” The shop completes between 30 and 40 projects per year and they are currently booked with a lot of work. Projects on average take 12 to 24 months to complete, but sometimes they are completed in as short as 90 days, depending on the client and the situation.
How did the shop become a reality TV show? Kevin explained that they have been friends with the guys at the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop for a long time. He used to ride motorcycles with Rick Harrison’s brother for many years. After Pawn Stars became a reality TV show, “Rick had asked Danny to be his car expert on the show. Danny has an unbelievable knowledge when it comes to cars,” Kevin said. Eventually, the same production company, from the Pawn Stars show, contacted Danny about doing a reality show for his shop. In time, a pilot show was done and the network liked it enough to continue with a show, and the rest is history. The first episode appeared in August of 2012. Now the show is very popular and in its seventh season. The opening monolog for the show has become a familiar classic when Danny says:
Vegas is a gambling town. Most people bet with chips. I bet with rides. And I always go all in. I’m Danny, a.k.a. the Count and this is my all-star team. We find ’em, fix ’em, flip ’em and sometimes, I keep ’em. For my crew, every job is high stakes, and we can’t afford to lose. This is Counting Cars.
When asked about the Count, in Count’s Kustom, Kevin explained it is from a stint when Danny’s family owned an independent TV network. On the show, Saturday Fright at the Movies, Danny was an Elvis vampire known as “Count Cool Rider,” who had cool glasses, vampire teeth, a leather jacket, and a motorcycle. Danny and his family did that show for 10 years, but eventually it ran its course.
In addition to the commitments of running the shop and the filming for the TV show, Kevin is also the Road Manager for Danny’s band, Count’s 77. The band has been together for about seven years and have released two albums. The second album was released March 10th of this year. Recently, they also released their first video, named “Summer of ‘77.” It is all about ‘70s music and “it’s a lot of fun, we have a lot of fun together,” Kevin said. The guys in the band are all very successful musicians and they all like the same music, from the same era, it’s new music 70’s style. Danny was very close to his late father, who was a very accomplished musician and composer, so it was natural that Danny would do the same thing. As Kevin explains, “it feeds his heart, his soul…music is a big part of his life, it was a big part growing up [because of his father].”
There have been many unique and challenging projects that have been highlighted in the different episodes on the show, but one that was particularly interesting was the restoration of the car that was owned by the legendary singer-songwriter Barry White. Danny was asked by his wife, Glodean, to find her late husband’s car, a 1979 Stutz IV-Porte. Kevin explained, after Barry White passed away, his wife really wanted that car back because of the sentimental meaning it had to her and her family and the connection to Barry.
The Stutz IV-Porte is a car with very distinct design features, manufactured by the Stutz Motor Car of America Company. They manufactured cars in the 1970s and 1980s, including limousines and sedans, like the IV-Porte. From the episode, Danny described it as, “the car of kings.”
Danny had no idea where to even start to try and locate the car, and according to Kevin, they found it in the most unusual way: “When filming the pilot show, the producers said to Danny and I, ‘go to the end of the street, make a left and go around the block and come back.’ Instead, by accident, we made a right and ran smack into that car sitting in a driveway, covered in dirt and cobwebs. The film crew came running up, but Danny was knocking on the door of the house to talk with the owner. There was no one home and Danny left a note for the owner to call.”
Upon learning of its recovery, “Glodean started crying.” In the end, they purchased, “actually overpaid,” for the car, but Glodean didn’t care about that. There was a show featuring the finding, restoring, and presenting of the car back to the family in season one, episode 12. Kevin said, “The family fell in love with the car again. Many times with the show, we put that piece of history back to a family member that lost someone or something. And to have it back with them — you know — I think that means more than anything…umm…bringing families together!”
The opportunity to the meet members of the show at a meet-and-greet in Las Vegas at Danny’s bar, Vamp’d, was a lot of fun. What you see on the show, is pretty much the way it is with the guys. We met: Ryan Evans, the head painter and graphic artist, Shannon Aikau, the bike shop manager, Mike “Horny” Henry, the airbrush artist, Roli Szabo, the shop’s detailer and Kevin Mack, Danny’s right-hand man and best friend… who generously agreed to an interview.
Words by Bob Sblendorio, Photos courtesy of Count’s Kustoms