Far removed from the gilded coasts of California and the tangled corridors of traffic in the East lies the openness of the Midwest. The Plains. Some might think it plain by comparison, some might overlook it entirely as they fly over from metropolis to metropolis. But if no other vehicle has brought the region to the front of mind for car-inclined viewers nationwide, in fact worldwide, the Street Outlaws franchise certainly has. And this has been due only somewhat to the racing — the personalities discovered there draw the fans in, while the cars showcase the ingenuity, passion, and daring of the drivers, and keep the television public eager for the next adventure.
From the very beginning of the show’s first season on the Discovery Channel, key players in that dynamic have been Farmtruck and AZN. Somewhat surprisingly, their prominent stature in the automotive scene, currently, is belied by their beginnings as relative outsiders. In AZN’s case, neither racing nor cars were a part of his day-to-day life until junior high or high school, when he began to surround himself with people of like minds and interests. And as he began to foster those relationships with his peers, they, in turn, influenced him to continue with hot rodding as his hobby.
…if we were just ‘a-la-carte’’characters, if we were just ‘cast’ by Discovery, the show wouldn’t go. But because we are, by blood, brothers — whether we like it or not — we have stuck together, before and after the show. – AZN
For Farmtruck, the first recollections begin a bit earlier in life: “I was brought home from the hospital in a 1956 Ford truck that was really loud and kind of a hot rod. It wasn’t fast or anything, but I was just fascinated with [it].” But early on, that’s about as much access as his childhood would give him. “No one else in my family is interested in cars or hot rods,” he explains. Still, the inklings were there, whenever he and his friends would bicycle through the neighborhood and encounter someone working on a hot rod in a driveway. When the others would lose interest and ride away, the draw of it always compelled him to stay. “I was just attracted to it for whatever reason,” he recalls.
Fast-forward to the present day where, in a new stand-alone show on the Discovery Channel, first airing in early 2022, Farmtruck and AZN seized their chance to showcase their (very) unique take on Midwestern car culture. Or, not so much a culture or an aesthetic, but rather a celebration of a DIY attitude based on found parts and shared effort. According to AZN, “For the Midwestern type of hot rod building, there was no, ‘Who’s got the nicest car in the parking lot?’ It was: ‘Who could wrench on it the most?’ ” And with most aftermarket parts coming from the East or West coast, especially when he and Farmtruck started building years ago, necessity dictates a local solution. As he continues, “It wasn’t easy to build vehicles here. So we had to go a different route. We had to go to the dirt, and try to figure out how to build it from there.”
But in addition to the builds themselves, the scene was — and has always been — defined by the relationships between the builders themselves. As AZN says, “It was really about camaraderie: the people we kept around us because of what we liked, equally.”
And in AZN’s view, the camaraderie between him and Farmtruck, and among the 405 crew more broadly, is what has anchored their appeal to viewers. To address the question of why the franchise has survived for so long, he explains simply, “Because it’s real. Because if we were just ‘a-la-carte’ characters, if we were just ‘cast’ by Discovery, the show wouldn’t go. But because we are, by blood, brothers — whether we like it or not — we have stuck together, before and after the show.”
This is especially true of the relationship between the two of them. As Farmtruck explains, after they faced off in a street race some 20 years ago (which Farmtruck won), “We pulled over and started talking, and jokes started flying, and the jokes are still coming, 20 years later.” And from AZN’s perspective, as someone intent on expanding his skills and knowledge, that meeting came at an opportune time: “I was trying to make my car look nice, but I didn’t know how to work on it,” he starts, and continues, “I was open-minded enough to learn how to do it right, and he was patient enough to teach me.” It should be noted that both cars in that race are still in their driver’s possession — the Farmtruck (of course) and the red four-door ’64 Chevy II/Nova, which Farmtruck himself found and returned to AZN on the series.
Now that they have the opportunity to showcase their work, as builders and creators, the question arises: what is the origin of their own unique style, that sensibility?
“I think it’s that, we’re weird…,” Farmtruck offers, with a laugh. And AZN concurs: “I think we started out the same as everyone else. We were into cars, we’re into going to car shows, we’re into going to the drag strip, we like hot-rodding our vehicles. And then it got weird.” Really, though, their aim is not just to create the bizarre, but rather to bring what would otherwise be a thought experiment, into reality. He continues, “You know, all these things, that end up usually getting erased from the whiteboard? They stayed. I think that it’s just our sense of humor mixed into it, and then the attempt to see if it’s possible. Our vehicles are somewhat of a ‘troll’: they appear as they should be, but then they function differently than they should.”
This unique creativity was key to the momentum behind their new series. “I think it comes down to Discovery wanting to give us a stage, long-form,” AZN explains, continuing, “They saw all these projects we were building — we did Mega Race, one and two — and they saw that maybe we could expand who we are as builders, and then add our comedy to that.”
All the while, and even before this new show was conceived, the two of them have been intent on and committed to the platform the Street Outlaws franchise has afforded them. As AZN emphasizes, “At this point, if you’ve got one foot in and one foot out, you’re doing something wrong. It ain’t a pyramid scheme — you got to jump into this and prove to the people that are pulling the strings here, that you matter and that you can make a difference. You gotta’ be able to show the world why you’re different and why you want to make it different. And if you can’t do that, maybe this isn’t for you. But man, you’ve got to go all in.” Farmtruck agrees: “We’ve jumped in, feet first. We figure, hey, all TV shows end, and this one will end, too. So we’re just gonna give it everything we got until it’s over! And at the end of it all, we’ll feel good about the effort that we put in.” All of that serves to ensure, of course, that nothing will be over anytime soon.
We were into cars, we’re into going to car shows, we’re into going to the drag strip, we like hot-rodding our vehicles. And then it got weird. – AZN
Indeed, the pair are committed to translating the successes of their solo debut into additional opportunities in the same vein. AZN emphasizes, “I can say that everything is scalable. We need to be able to look at what we’ve done and find the successes in it. We hope that what the people watch is what they want to see, and they want to see more of it.”
And with the kind of evergreen creativity he and Farmtruck exude, you can be sure they have much more to deliver, should the people want it. “Hey — there are still ideas in the bank,” AZN confides. “We got bullets in the pipe, and we’re ready to shoot ‘em.” But, just what might they have in store? All he offers is a bit of a tease. “You can always see sprinkles of truth in comments on, say, Reddit, or comments on Facebook, or on YouTube. You can kinda’ see the direction we’re going, through the ‘hive mentality’ of our fans. If you look at the comments, you can kinda’ tell where our ideas are coming from.”
So regardless of the format and venue for their next adventure, and all those likely to follow, we can be fairly certain that the following they’ve attracted so far, attention will surely flow their way.