HomeCar CultureLifestyleShock Theater: New automotive TV show is infotaining

Shock Theater: New automotive TV show is infotaining


So, is your car a classic… or a clunker? Answering that question — and with a dollar sign followed by a series of numbers — is the mission of the Discovery Channel’s newest car show, Sticker Shock. 

 Well, answering that question while entertaining the viewing audience, we should add.

The show made its debut May 2, with the second episode scheduled for 9:02 p.m. on Wednesday, May 9. 

The format has the car owner presenting his or her or their vehicle for evaluation by an experienced veteran at buying, selling and appraising the value of such vehicles. The owner tells the car’s story to show-host Dennis Pittsenbarger, including what it cost to purchase, how much has gone into its customization, restoration or maintenance, and what the owner figures the vehicle is worth as it sits.

The appraiser enters the screen, checks out the car from front to back — under the hood, in the interior and the trunk — and from top to bottom — vehicles go on a lift so the underside can be evaluated, pointing out good and bad points along the way and… after a commercial break… announces the vehicle’s current value.

There’s lively banter throughout the process. It appears the vehicles presented were selected more for their seeming uniqueness and the personality of the owner than for any inherent value as collectibles. And that’s fine. This is entertainment, with just enough automotive knowledge that if you pay attention you might learn a few things about checking for rust when you consider your next project car, whether changing from an automatic to a manual gearbox adds or detracts from a vehicle’s value, or even how to add fuel injection to a 1953 Ford Flathead V8.

One thing I learned while watching that first episode was the story of a group of women who toured the country for nine summers in the 1930s and early ‘40s in a 1926 Model T Touring Car. It’s a story I’d not known but it sounds worthy of a book, or perhaps a Hollywood film treatment. 

That car now is owned by a John Butte, whose mother was among the women who traveled in the car one summer. Butte found and bought the car for $8,500, has it insured for $30,000, and learned from appraiser Todd Wertman that it’s worth $30,000 to $50,000.

Other cars featured in that first episode were a radically but beautifully (at least on the surface, as evaluator Addison Brown noted) customized 1953 Buick Roadmaster, a 1951 Divco Model 11 milk truck, a 1973 Volkswagen Beetle, and a 1964 Miller Meteor Cadillac hearse/ambulance.

There also was a brief, Antiques Roadshow-style evaluation of three vintage Porsche posters.

Vehicles to be considered on the second episode include a 1951 Pontiac Bonneville station wagon, a “hot pink” 1967 Ford Mustang, a 1973 Cadillac El Dorado with an Indy 500 “pedigree,” and a 1986 Toyota pickup.

Television, Shock Theater: New automotive TV show is infotaining, ClassicCars.com Journal
The ‘studio’

While I found the initial program to be entertaining and informative, I hated the trite and TV formulaic commercial-break delay before learning what the evaluators considered the vehicles to be worth. In fact, had I been a casual viewer rather than a reviewer, I would have turned the show off midway through, the delay was that irritating.

As it turned out, I was glad I stayed with it because otherwise I’d have missed the story about the women’s tour group.

For the most part, I thought the show’s production values were high (well, except when Bradenton, Florida, was misspelled in one of the graphics), and the industrial architecture of the building where the show is shot provides a fitting set for such a program. 

But I found the show’s hour-long format to be too long, or maybe just too repetitive. Rather than five vehicles stretched over an hour, I think I’d have found three vehicles in half an hour a better serving size.

While presented on Discovery, Sticker Shock is produced by The Intellectual Property Corporation, which previously brought us the likes of Project Foodie; Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath; Operation Odessa; Active Shooter: America Under Fire; and Kingpin, which chronicled the rise of John Gotti, Whitey Bulger, Pablo Escobar and El Chapo.

The IPC was founded by Eli Holzman, who before launching his own company helped create Project Runway, Beauty & the Geek, and Undercover Boss.

Will Sticker Shock have the same legs as Project Runway or Undercover Boss? It’s too soon to know. But I’d recommend you give it a look. You’ll not only be entertained, but you just might learn something along the way.Television, Shock Theater: New automotive TV show is infotaining, ClassicCars.com Journal

Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


  1. FYI the cars were filmed in the old Firestone tire factory in South Gate. I had my 1951 Kaiser Traveler filmed there.


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