Off camera with Cristy Lee, and why she’s restoring a 1967 Pontiac Grand Prix

Off camera with Cristy Lee, and why she’s restoring a 1967 Pontiac Grand Prix

In our interview, she talks about catching the motor bug at an early age, about her bucket list of cars and much more

Editor’s note: Cristy Lee hosts All Girls Garage and Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auctions LIVE and recently added MotorTrend Channel’s Garage Squad to her television resume. She’s also been a motorsports reporter covering motorcycle, rally, off-road and even monster truck competitions. She is an active motorcyclist, regularly participating in track days, trail riding and touring, and is involved in various auto racing and driving school programs. When time permits, she’s in her own garage restoring a 1967 Pontiac Grand Prix convertible. Cristy Lee also took time recently for this interview.

How did you get hooked on motorsports and cars?

Between growing up in the Daytona Beach area and my father owning his own auto repair shop, I think I was bit by the bug at a pretty early age.  I’ve been a tomboy my whole life and always a huge lover of cars, spending time in my dad’s shop and drooling over pricey sports cars on magazine covers. Shocking, I know.  

My adrenaline addiction really kicked in when I bought my first motorcycle at age 18. Most of my friends in Daytona rode and I wanted my own sportbike as soon as I was ‘of age’ — I’ve been riding ever since!  It wasn’t long before my street riding adventures ventured to the race track turning laps at open track days.

She’s as comfortable on camera as she is on her bike or in the garage | Barrett-Jackson photo

There is no shortage of automotive programming on television, and now online. Do you think these shows are important to enthusiasts?

Absolutely!  There is an abundance of TV shows to entertain fans of every genre… cooking, home renovating, noodling for catfish, wilderness survival in the nude, or that show where they sing and you call in and vote or something like that maybe. 

Obviously automotive has its own territory in the land of TV to stake out amongst the rest.   A vast majority of people own and drive a vehicle, but most automotive TV programming, in my opinion, really concentrates on the DIYers and passionate car enthusiasts, more so than just the average “driver.”  

Because there are so many different areas of automotive, fabricating, restoring, modifying, painting, welding, breaking (oops, hate when that happens)… and decades of different styles of automobiles, muscle cars, classics, big trucks, little trucks, off-road trucks, rat rods, customs, the options are limitless – there’s a different flavor for everyone when it comes to car TV programming and that’s a good thing.

What’s been your favorite project on All Girls Garage?

I can’t pick just one fav… The opportunity to work on vehicles using aftermarket products that I’d likely never get my hands on outside of the show has created so many amazing experiences for me.  

A few that stick out were bending up a prototype exhaust system on a brand new Camaro. I recall restoring a ’67 Shelby GT500 and a ’63 Split Window. Installing a sound system on a platinum-selling rock band guitarist’s personal ride was awesome.

“I wish there were more pink cars with butterflies on them,” no woman ever said.

Charity builds for non-profits like the Wounded Warrior Project and Cancer Research Foundation are also a favorite.  On a more personal note, we’ve had the chance to work on my own Kawasaki motorcycle when I “stopped by the shop” (but literally did) during a long-distance road trip through the South.  We also worked on a 1967 Pontiac Grand Prix convertible that resides in my garage as a project car. It’s not my personal ride, but a family car that was featured on the show. We even brought my dad’s BMW 325i into the shop for some much needed maintenance.

Is the staff of Garage Squad as talented as it appears, or is it just TV magic?

Everything that happens on Garage Squad is a team effort. There’s no wand waving. Our crew literally rolls up to the car owner’s garage (of course they’re expecting us and know that we’re about to film a TV show, I’m not Ed McMahon), we introduce ourselves, check out the ride and get right to work. And in seven days’ time, from start to finish – no more, no less, we restore their ride in their own garage. We get it back on the road!  

The goal isn’t to build show cars or SEMA-worthy rides. The cars we work on almost never run and look pretty shabby once we arrive.  Our focus is to get them up and running and looking as best as possible. Some transformations are bigger than others depending on the state the car is in when we arrive!  No magic — yes, parts are sourced ahead of time, yes, we stumble onto problems along the way, yes, we work long days and late nights sometimes. But no, we don’t ever ‘not finish on time’.   

These projects couldn’t be accomplished without a team effort from everyone on-camera to the entire crew behind the scenes.  I’m amazed at what we accomplish.

‘Women have a tremendous influence, especially with the upward growth of females in the trades and the automotive industry in general.’

How much do you feel women enthusiasts influence emerging trends in restoration, custom builds, new “looks,” etc.?

“I wish there were more pink cars with butterflies on them,” no woman ever said.

Women have a tremendous influence, especially with the upward growth of females in the trades and the automotive industry in general.  Women are more proactive, hands-on, supportive and empowered now more than they have ever been.  That presence has most certainly impacted the trends and styles of cars. I don’t think there’s a specific “look” that defines that presence as a whole either, which makes it even more exciting to be part of this influential wave of talented car ladies.

You are given $100,000 to buy a classic car, a bucket-list dream ride, produced between 1953 and 1971, and cars only, no motorcycles. What do you buy? 

Did you have to add “no motorcycles” because you know me all too well, or is that a staple for this questionnaire? Unfortunately for my bank account, I have several “dream rides” well above the 100K price point, but if that’s my number, here are a few I’d consider. Sorry, can’t settle for one choice, a girl’s gotta have options:

* 1969 Mustang Boss 302 in Wimbledon White or a nicely restored numbers-matching Mach 1. 

* 1969 Camaro Z/28 in Hugger Orange w/ its original 302.

* 1970 AAR ‘Cuda with 340 Six Pack (duh!) in a high-impact color (double duh!). 

Why these?  Because they’re awesome, their look, their performance, the era. The domestic muscle car horsepower wars of the late ’60’ brought out some of the greatest. 

Cristy Lee

Cristy Lee and her motorcycle in front of the historic Detroit railway station | Cristy Lee photo

You are allowed to ask one famous “car person” to ride with you on a cruise in your new dream car.  Your passenger may be alive or not. (Hey, I’m asking the questions here.)  Who do you ask and what do you chat about?

I moved to Michigan 15 years ago, and although my zip code was inside the Detroit city limits for several years and more recently in the surrounding suburbs, I’ve been fascinated ever since I arrived with the history of the iconic Motor City.  I’d probably invite Henry Ford himself for cruise since he revolutionized the American automotive industry, putting Detroit on the map as the “Motor City,, pumping out cars to the masses, and partnering with many other notable Detroit auto legends like the Dodge Brothers.  I’d probably take him out in the Mustang, you know, as a courtesy (guess that would be kinda like a Back to the Future Part III thing).

Why did you choose a 1967 Grand Prix to restore?

I didn’t really choose it, it chose me, It’s a family car and grandpa didn’t have any place to properly store this monster so it ended up in my garage.  He has many great family memories with this car.  I’m hoping to get him back out on the road in it soon.

Any other classic cars you have on your bucket list?

’69 Boss 429, ’70 or ’71 Challenger, ’68 – ’72 Chevy C10 Shortbed Fleetside, ’63 – ’66 C10, ’58 Chevy Apache, BMW 2002tii, E36 M3 (I know that’s kind of random, just happens to be a car a really love), ‘60’s Porsche 911 (a real one, not a re-creation), ’71 Chevelle SS, and I could probably add a couple dozen more. But I need to invest in a larger garage first.

Let’s talk Barrett Jackson.  So many cars.  How do you keep them straight?  Do you study the docket before the show? Do you get nervous?

I’ve been on-camera over a decade and worked for a dozen or so different TV networks in my career thus far. My role during the Barrett-Jackson auctions is honestly one of the most challenging jobs I’ve ever had.  I started out my TV career as a pit-reporter on live broadcasts, but the BJA broadcast is so unique. I’m acting as a co-host but also as a field reporter at the same time.  

Scottsdale takes the cake of course, with 37+ hours of live TV coverage over a six-day span.  We are provided with the docket list well in advance of the broadcast for our review, note taking, and research purposes.  My role is mostly about being ready-to-go on the fly in the field. That be the staging lanes, tents, auction block, pre-staging, auction floor, skybox, anywhere a cool story is breaking. I’m pretty sure I did a live TV hit from behind the turkey leg smoker stand one year, so anything is possible!  I keep a docket list, tent location list, and some notes for each broadcast with me so I’m ready to hustle.

What do you feel is the next big trend in the auction world? 

Early 2000s cars. They’re really gonna reinvent the collector car market. Those ’04 Corollas are hot… Kidding. We’ve seen a recent swing in popularity over the past few years with trucks, late ’70s era rides and JDM cars.  I do think the resto-mod scene is gaining ground with classic lovers. That’s my personal preference for a collector car; original look with modern conveniences. You can’t go wrong with that.

Cristy Lee

The obligatory glamor shot, though we imagine she’s rather be driving that Boss 302 than sitting on the garage floor next to it | Robert Bruce photo

Bonus round:  Do you think red cars sell for more money on the auction block? I mean, two identical cars, but one is painted bright red.

Is that like how red cars are more likely to get pulled over for speeding too??   Not really sure there’s any adequate evidence to support either claim, but, ok, I’ll bite – yes, red cars definitely sell for more money on the block.  Red is an emotionally intense number that signifies a spiritual awakening, raising blood pressure in the bidders and igniting their desire to win that bid. Personally, I always put my chips on black.

For more on Cristy Lee, visit her professional website.

3 comments
Tom Trace
CONTRIBUTOR
PROFILE

Related Posts

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

3 Comments

  • Bob Davis
    September 29, 2019, 9:51 AM

    Very enjoyable article, she is so genuine and beautiful !

    REPLY
  • Henry Brisen
    September 29, 2019, 5:07 PM

    How do you feel about replacing Heather?

    REPLY
  • wm wilson
    October 1, 2019, 1:05 AM

    What a spectacular young lady ! Any Dad would be so proud of a daughter like that ! good for you youngster 😁 And a Moto rider too boot ! So Fine

    REPLY

Search the Journal

Latest Articles