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TV Review: ‘Chrome Underground’

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A few years ago, Motorbooks International released Tom Cotter’s The Cobra in the Barn, about every car lover’s greatest wish: finding a rare, valuable, classic automobile tucked away in an old barn or garage and completely forgotten about. I have no idea how some of the world’s most sought-after vehicles end up gathering dust in farmers’ fields. They just do.chrome-underground

Chrome Underground, a new series premiering on Discovery Channel May 23, follows Austin-based car dealers Yusuf Johnson and Antonio Brunet hunting for buried treasures in some of the world’s most dangerous cities. The premiere takes them to some dubious neighborhoods in sprawling Mexico City, and the very first scene shows them watching helplessly as the guy to whom they paid a $30,000 cash “deposit” for an old Bugatti takes off on a motorcycle.

To get the money back, they hire Andrew McLaren, a former U.S. Marine who spends his time tending a seedy Mexico City bar between mercenary jobs. McLaren, it turns out, seems to know pretty much every shady character in North America’s largest city, and eventually he tracks down the thief, who had stashed the cash in his toilet. (The cameraman isn’t allowed into the house, but we hear what’s going on as he gets the money back.)

The “Bugatti” might have been a scam, but Johnson and Brunet make an incredible find: five beautifully restored Porsche 356s, including an exceptionally rare notchback model. But they still have to make a deal with a seller who wants top dollar for his collection – and then they have to get the cars across crime-ridden northern Mexico back to Texas. McLaren comes in handy here, too, helping them navigate impromptu “checkpoints” and hiding the cars in a horse trailer – with plenty of horse manure to keep anyone from looking to closely.

As with any “reality” series, you can’t help wondering how much of Chrome Underground is real and how much is staged. A breakdown in one of Mexico City’s roughest neighborhoods seems to come at too inconvenient a time, if you know what I mean. (For what it’s worth, McLaren has taken to his Facebook page to insist they really were in danger while filming the series, with one crew member even getting kidnapped.) But if the pilot episode is any indication, the show will feature exotic locations (future excursions to Brazil and Argentina are promised), a truly fascinating and mysterious character in McLaren, and of course, lots of beautiful old cars.

I’m not sure how much confidence Discovery Channel has in Chrome Underground; the premiere has been pushed back a few times, and right now only six episodes are scheduled to air.

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About Damian P.

  • bliffle

    Ahhh! Classic Cars! Like classic women, I’ve had my share. Starting with a Jowett Jupiter in the 50’s and including a new 59 Bugeye Sprite (great car), etc., and even a 74 Mazda Rotary Pickup (last of the cars excused from CA smog inspections). Great fun! Nowadays, what I see is pretty boring (youngsters who call skidding the rear tires around at 5 mph ‘drifting’, when it’s only skidding (drifting takes place at 70mph or higher around highspeed turns as the driver uses engine power to increase cornering force).

    But the Young Bucks have a nice innovation as they plant their voluptuous girlfriend in the passengers seat, turn on the dash-cam Go Pro, and then accelerate repeatedly and thrillingly (testified to by their giggling) as GFs breasts rise inexorably above the neckline (look for Underground Racing)!

    It’s great to be alive! As true now as it was 50 years ago.

  • James D

    These guys are a joke, they have No Clue what they are doing. This is why people hate use car salespeople. There customers have to be dumber then Yusuf and Antonio.

    • friskypotpie

      Learn to spell before calling others dumb you donkey molester