Can “Highway to Sell” End a String of Bad Car Shows?

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Highway to Sell is a new car-themed show on Discovery. It has three things going against it: It’s a TV show. It’s about cars. It’s on Discovery. But there are a few things about its premise that give me some hope.

I will confess that I hate — HATE — almost every television show about cars every produced. I can count the number of really good ones on one hand, even if I’d lost two fingers to a bench grinder:

  • Victory By Design: Alain DeCadenet’s awesome series focusing on a single brand was gorgeous to look at, and soul-stirring to listen to. I imagine it was also insanely expensive to produce.
  • A Car is Born: Literally, the only television show I’ve ever seen that really showed you the hard work that goes into restoring a classic car.
  • Classic Car Restoration: You probably recognize the bespectacled Steve Magnente from the Barrett-Jackson auction these days, but in 2003, he had a show on the DIY network that was a real hands-on depiction of working on a car.

Most car-based TV shows now range somewhere between uncomfortable and blood-boiling. Backroad Gold, for example, takes the American Pickers model to its most obnoxious conclusion. Corky Coker is a nice guy, but that show us unwatchable, with all its cooked-up melodrama and phony-baloney negotiation.

So when I got the press release on the Discovery Channels new show — Highway to Sell — my eyes were rolling in their sockets. The very last thing we need is another show focused on the wild-and-crazy personalities of a restoration shop. In a lifetime of being around cars, I’ve seen enough painters and bodymen in real life. No need to invite them into my home.

The host — Dennis Pittsenbarger — has been around a while. He was a long time contributor to Hot Rod, and did a bunch of TV work along the way. That’s a fairly good sign.

This — “His partner in chrome, mechanical mastermind Slick…” — is not. We’ll see how this pans out when we get to see a few episodes.

What’s interesting, though, is the premise. Pittsenbarger drives around, looking for old relics under tarps and carports, and convinces the owners to let him completely restore them.

Here’s the interesting part, though: At the end of the restoration, the car goes to auction, and the car’s owner has to decide if he wants to keep the money or keep the car. That’s a twist none of these shows have tried before.

If it’s a fair and unfettered auction, it takes the part I hate most about every car program out of the equation.

I get the fact that these shows only have an hour to tell the story, though. The auction at the end at least adds a bit of a sanity check. If those cars are restored on the cheap and with the quickness, they’re not going to bring any kind of money at auction.

It’ll be interesting to see how this one plays out. If they can keep the personality nonsense in check and resist the route that American Pickers trod after the first dozen episodes, it might be interesting to watch.

Craig Fitzgerald

Craig Fitzgerald

Writer, editor, lousy guitar player, dad. Content Marketing and Publication Manager at