The Ford Explorer garbage truck

Photo courtesy Discovery Channel

The Challenge

The basic idea of "Monster Garage" is to apply the principles of car customization to a different kind of project. Instead of rigging up the standard hydraulic shocks and spoilers, a team of eight to 10 "gearheads" transforms an ordinary car into a different functional machine. In the first episode, for example, the crew turned an Eddie Bauer edition Ford Explorer into a working garbage truck. In the fourth episode, they built the world's fastest lawnmower out of a 1990 Ford Mustang GT (it can actually mow at 60 miles per hour!).

The Mustang lawnmower

Photo courtesy Discovery Channel

That in itself would be challenge enough, but on "Monster Garage", the artisans only have seven days and $3,000 to get the job done. Unlike their counterparts on "Junkyard Wars," the team members aren't working against other people -- only time, economic constraints and physics.

To make things even more difficult, the team has to rig the machine to transfigure itself into an apparently normal car for street driving. These "transformer" type vehicles are usually configured with hydraulic cylinders, like the type you might find in a skid steer loader. At the press of a button, these cylinders expand to open the car up and extend the unusual machinery hidden inside.

The VW bug swamp buggy, from episode 3

Photo courtesy Discovery Channel

The true reward, of course, is the finished project, but every member of the team also receives a deluxe tool set if the thing actually works.

The heart of the show is the team leader, well-known bike builder Jesse James. In the next section, we'll find out a little about James' background and see how his show came about.