Earlier this year, Kenny Alphin and Charlie Pennachio came up with a series idea to find the most unusual custom builds in the country. The plan was ambitious: they would pack the production of 10 shows into a two-week sprint, all within driving distance of their homes in Nashville, Tennessee.
The net result became Big Kenny’s Crank It Up Garage, which explores not just the wacky builds but the people behind them. Episode four features the Limo Jet, for example, a million-dollar roadworthy vehicle with a jet exterior and a luxury limo interior. Following that, the Rocketship Car episode features a vehicle built from one of the rockets at the fair the creators fell in love with as children.
But the wildest and most fascinating build, to me, is the Hippy Trippy Van, which comprises a Volkswagen van frame encasing a VW Rabbit. Here’s the really trippy part: the outside shell is tipped on its side, which means that it looks like it’s sliding down the road as if it’s skidding across as part of an action movie scene.
Alphin, otherwise known as Big Kenny of country music duo Big & Rich, is 6’5” without his trademark tall hat, earning him his nickname. He is also known for having a huge heart for philanthropy–through Big Kenny’s Love Everybody Foundation, he has funded philanthropic projects in the US and throughout the world– and some of these Crank It Up projects are based in helping others.
“I gotta tell you, these vehicles are amazing,” he told me on the phone. “It was super interesting to see them up close and learn how they were put together. But the amazing part was really the people; they have such heart for what they do and it was great to meet their families and see the support they get.”
Pennachio, Alphin’s producer and co-host, is equally enthusiastic about the project.
“Everything we found was stellar,” he said. “We frequently talk about how much fun this was and would have done it even without a TV show. I’d call a builder out of nowhere and they’d be like ‘Big Kenny is coming to my house?!’”
“Yeah, they thought we were cracking a joke or something,” Alphin laughs.
As you’ll see on the show, the guys didn’t only interview the builders and capture video of the vehicles, they drive them. In the case of the Hippy Trippy and the AMC Pacer-based Fishbowl, built by the same creator, Alphin and Pennachio lined them up on the Maryland Super Speedway and drag raced them.
“The guy who built these is totally fun and told us to drive it like we stole it,” Alphin says. “So we did.”
Check out the show on the Circle Network (more info on which streaming services carry it here) for ten Thursdays at 8:30pm ET beginning July 8th.
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