Tony Todd has been overhauled. Well, maybe not Todd, exactly, but his ’66 Pontiac Le Mans convertible.
Maybe you’ve seen Todd cruising the streets of Santa Monica, top down, music blasting, $20,000 engine roaring. The midnight blue car with black rally stripes commands attention – it must be noticed. Todd graciously accepts the waves and positive comments directed at the car, and is continually waving and smiling back at those enjoying the ride, so to speak.
The car story actually begins when Todd was a youngster. His father had a ’64 Thunderbird, his uncle a ’69 Camaro that “he never let me drive.” These vehicles began Todd’s love affair with sports cars.
His Le Mans, truly a work of art, was not always the showpiece it is today. The premise of the show Overhaulin’ is to take an in-need car and turn it into an utterly awesome driving machine. Todd’s car was overhauled with the help of his good friends Charlie Sheen (they went to Samohi together), Rob Goldenberg and even his own mother, Beverly. “It’s all because we love you dude,” says Sheen.
At the beginning of the show, the Overhaulin’ guys “steal” Todd’s car from Beverly’s Santa Monica home, going as far as knocking down the fence and beating it with a sledgehammer. “I was livid,” says Todd, after discovering the “theft.” Later, guys on the show pretend to be police detectives, and one even suggests that Todd set up the heist himself. It is funny to watch him get irritated at the fake policemen when his logical questions are cast aside. To one officer he answers, “Why would I leave my keys in my vehicle?”
Back at the shop, the Overhaulin’ team gives the car a thorough inspection and then begin reconstruction, which includes separating the body and the chassis, and repairing every inch of the car that needs it, which, in actuality, is just about every inch. When the jig is up, Todd is surprised with basically a brand-new car, with a new speaker system, new black upholstery with a red stripe (a nod to his love of baseball), new parts throughout and a trunk filled with baseball gear.
His Le Mans was in good condition with very little damage before the Overhaulin’ crew got ahold of it. Explains Todd, “Back in the day the GTO and Le Mans were the same car. The GTO was $500 more” because of its better, more powerful engine.
Today, his “lesser” car boasts a nearly 500-horsepower engine. As for mileage, Todd admits, “I don’t even think about that.”
Chip Foose is the car designer whom the show revolves around. After “stealing” the car, the Santa Barbara native went to work designing the car’s new look and, even on paper, it looked like something to be reckoned with. His company, Foose Design Inc., is in Huntington Beach.
At the end of the show, lifelong friend Sheen tells Todd, “Dude, I don’t know how to tell this to you so I’m just going to say it. You’re on Overhaulin’.” Todd is overcome with emotion when he finds out, when he sees his new car and when he meets all the guys on the Overhaulin’ team. And you can tell the Overhaulin’ gang is taken with him, too.
The Mirror learned a little tidbit that wasn’t on the show. Todd had sold the car and had even received half the money for it just before it was “stolen.” Once the car was taken, he “had to call the guy and give the money back.”
Todd, a Santa Monica native, was born at St. John’s and attended Grant, John Adams and Samohi. Driving through Santa Monica with Todd is a ride back in time, and not just because you’re in a 40-year old car, but because he can tell you the history of any building and what used to stand in its place. Stopping by John Adams, where Todd still holds track and field records from the late 70’s, he was in his element, happy to see his old coach and the youngsters admiring his wheels. With kids, Todd says, I want them to “stay positive. I let them know they have opportunities.”
Oh, and how does he treat his uncle with the cool Camaro who wouldn’t let Todd drive his car now that Todd has the groovy car? “I never let him drive it,” answers Todd with a big grin.
Watch Santa Monican Tony Todd on The Learning Channel’s Overhaulin’, January 16 at 9 p.m.