“Ernesto Aquino contacted me after watching the Car Warriors series and told me that a body shop promised to fix his truck, but after eight months, nothing had been done,” said Evans. “At the time, I was in the process of creating a new show, and it seemed like a great opportunity to give back to those who served by helping them build their dream cars.”
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(L to R) Rich Evans, John Struller, Sarah Moleda (wife of Carlos Moleda), Joanne Bortles, and Tom Kula pose with Wheels for Warriors star Carlos Moleda (front).
Evans wanted to focus on helping disabled veterans, due to complications with active duty military personnel, like Aquino. He eventually caught wind of Carlos Moleda’s story through former California Highway Patrol Officer Tony Pedeferri. Pedeferri became a client of Evans’ after an on-job accident left him paralyzed from the chest down. Evans’ helped build a motorized Gold-Wing Ford Flex that catered to Pedeferri’s every day needs.
Moleda, a former Navy Seal living in South Carolina, suffered an injury during his tour in Panama in 1989 that left him paralyzed from the waist down. He has been a motivational speaker since his injury over 25 years ago, and is also a renowned athlete in the world of parasports.
“Carlos’ story inspired me,” said Evans. “After meeting with producer Skoti Collins on the set of another project, Wheeler Dealer, he asked me if I had any ideas for another show. I told him Ernesto’s story and he agreed that helping veterans build their dream cars would be a great premise for another show.
“Then, Scotti introduced me to Michael Feifer and Elizabeth Stirling of Bolt Media. We all sat down and started brainstorming a simple treatment, as well as a name. Feifer wrote the treatment shortly after the meeting – Rich Evans Presents Wheels for Warriors – Making Veteran Dream Cars Come True.”
Executive producers Michael and Sandy Matthews joined the team later on to help make the show a reality.After Feifer and Stirling met with Moleda, they agreed that he would be the perfect candidate for the launching of Wheels for Warriors.
Evans then reached out to three of the “best build-techs,” who helped him create a shop on wheels. They were then ready to hit the road. The group began their cross-country trek to South Carolina to aid Carlos in building his dream car; a 1952 Buick Wood.
“It’s a whole other ball game with wood and steel,” said Evans. “I had to get out of my comfort zone, which is what I strive to do every day. Too many people get stuck doing what’s comfortable.”
Evans stresses the importance of providing each veteran with the type of car he or she can enjoy driving.
“We want to create the cars that disabled veterans dream about. A big van shouldn’t be their only option,” said Evans. “But at the same time, safety is our priority, as well as function-ability.”
Evans co-hosts with Dean Cain, known for his role as Superman in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.
“The biggest reward for me is making veterans’ dreams come true; such a great feeling,” said Evans. “I’ve never served [in the military], so this is a way to serve those who have fought for the freedom I enjoy every day.”
Evans has been involved in a variety of automotive shows, including Junk Yard Wars (TLC in 2003), Chop Cut Rebuild The Series (2005), and Car Warriors (Speed Channel for 10 episodes in 2011). He was also the automotive producer and co-host for Motor City Masters during its 10 episode run in 2014. And now, in his latest project, he balances the roles of creator, co-host, and executive producer on Wheels for Warriors.
“Being on TV is not really a big deal for me,” said Evans. “It's about using a small screen to inspire others to believe in themselves -- you can do things that people say are impossible – never let anyone prevent you from going after your dreams.”
Evans grew up in a muffler shop, where he discovered at a young age that he had a mechanical mind and a passion for cars.
“I live for custom designs, fabricating, and painting, but will take on a project of any kind,” said Evans. “My dad use to always tell me, if you don't use it, you will lose it.”
After working as a body tech for five years, he opened Huntington Beach BodyWorks in 1992 when he was 22 years old.
“Since age 13 I’ve been building cars -- this is my passion, and I'm going to continue to challenge myself, and help as many people as I can in the process,” he said.
Evans looks forward to making more episodes of Wheels for Warriors, and will notify Autobody News when a network picks up the series. He added that the show focuses on veterans’ stories, morals, integrity, community, and most importantly, making their dreams come true.
In conclusion, Evans would like to thank the following sponsors: Vintage Air, ABS Disc Brakes, American Auto Wire, Steel Rubber, California Car Covers, Dakota Digital, Vintage Flatz, 3M Automotive, Woodie World, Ranger, Curtis, Max Jax, DJS, Goliath, KCsliders, Gull-Wing, and LA Wraps. He would also like to thank the South Carolina community and his friends in the industry who traveled from all over to help out: Joanne Bortles from North Carolina, J.R. Drake from North Carolina, Cory Jarriel from Florida, John Struller from New Jersey, Tom Kuka from New Jersey, and his three build-techs, Ray McCelland, Alan Lee, and David Rivera.