Wheeler Dealers: Mike Brewer Know-How at Greystone Concours d'Elegance 2016 Part 2

Wheeler Dealers host Mike Brewer chats with friends Jay Leno and Bruce Meyer.

Mike Brewer visits with friends at Greystone Mansion Concours

Beverly Hills CA, May 1 2016 - This year's Greystone Concours d"Elegance featured a special appearance and guest lecture by British Wheeler Dealers television personality Mike Brewer in the Greystone Mansion library. A Wheeler Dealers book signing was also hosted by Autobooks-Aerobooks.

Wheeler Dealers host Mike Brewer signs book

Wheeler Dealers Car Restoration Manual book signing at Autobooks-Aerobooks

Following are excerpts from Mike's story as unfolded in the mansion library darkness... Part 2 continued from Wheeler Dealers: Mike Brewer Know-How at Greystone Concours d'Elegance 2016

Mike Brewer: Are you ready for this? They paid me the equivalent of $250 pounds! Or I’ll put that into dollars: $400 dollars for each episode. So I turned up at this show we’re in with a shiny shirt on and a pair of bad trousers and a pair of polished shoes that Michelle had done for me. I stood there. Somebody handed me a script - I said you want me to learn that? Okay. You want me to learn that in minutes and they said “Yes just learn that and tell us about this car and stories about this car.” I said what’s the name of the person? They said it’s “Jean. Jean is going to sell this car.”

I took some of the information, screwed it up and threw it away and I did it myself. The show started to air on Channel 4 television. At the time Channel 4’s biggest audience in their history was 3.2 million people, and that was for a very popular show called The Chew. This little show we aired called Deals on Wheels was presented by yours truly. The very first week we got 3.5 million, 2nd week 4 million and the 3rd week 4.2 million viewers. By the third week they rung me up and said you have to come back in case we need you to do another series. I said well, I am a car dealer. Me and my wife are doing well. Now people are recognizing me in the streets and saying "I watch your show and you are really good."

This is a bit strange but I didn’t expect any of this. I didn’t want any of this. So there you go - I’m now on television. I’m presenting a show called Deals on Wheels, which happens to be their biggest show.  And it’s a huge success. This show goes on to make 5 seasons. A big success. Me and Michelle can still sell cars in our car showroom.

Once the contract finished on Deals on Wheels I am now being courted by everybody. We’ve got BBC wanting me to present on Top Gear. We’ve got ITV wanting me to present a show. But more importantly we have this little channel called the Discovery Channel going to me “we’d really like you to do want you want to do. We want to do a show about you.” Okay - what’s the show? They said “well if you was to do a show what would it be about?” Well I just like cars. All this TV nonsense is nice and it’s nice to have people come up to me in the street, but I just know about cars.

“Why don’t we do a show just about that? What you know about cars; how to buy a car; how to fix a car up; and how to sell it. We’d like to do that with you.” Okay. I tell you what, I’m in between jobs at the moment – I’ll just do this show for you. “What do we call it?” Me and Michelle owned a company at the time called Wheeler Dealers. “And we’d really like when you sign off your emails you sign Wheeler Dealers. We really like the name Wheeler Dealers. Shall we call it that?” If you want to call it Wheeler Dealers, it’s up to you.

“We would like a mechanic. Do you think that would work?” I do need some help. Somebody to help me fix up cars. “Let’s cast for a mechanic and find one – a good TV mechanic.” So they went and found this guy to do a pilot test with me. He was absolutely hopeless. He couldn’t open his mouth. He couldn’t say what we were talking about on screen. So we really finished off that frustrating day scratching our heads.

“Well if it’s not him who’s it going to be?” Exactly at the same time on BBC television, a car program was on. They had this how-to-build a James Bond car on a budget. Guess who built that James Bond car on budget? This big tall, gangly, posh, publicly educated school boy named Edd China. I remember watching Top Gear and that car on a budget, that little item that Richard Hammond did with him, and he is really fun guy and good on screen. I looked him up and found that he built motorized furniture. He owned a world record on how to ride a sofa [audience laughs]. What about this guy Edd Chinese or something [audience laughs]. This weird named, big tall lanky guy. 

“Yeah, we’ll try and find him.” A few days later they tracked him down. There is a little garage on a little farm nearby. “Do you want to go down there and shoot a pilot?” I knew of Edd and clearly Edd knew of me because by then, I was famous. I’d been on TV the past 4 or 5 years in England and everyone knew me. When I turned up people were pretty nervous because I was kind of a big deal back then. As I walked in Edd and I talked about the car.  “I think we’ll be alright”.

Edd, if you bought this Beetle (and Edd knows about Beetles) how would you fix it up? That’s what we’re going to talk about.  So they turned the camera on and I can honestly say a little bit of magic happened, because both me and Edd aren’t really brothers that would have met in normal life. We never would have bumped into each other in the real world me and Edd. He is a publically educated school boy that is quite posh; quite dangly, very eccentric. He wouldn’t ever brush upon my life or car dealing in South London. But we were great together.  And within that first 5 minutes, just like when I first met my beautiful wife Michelle, it was love at first sight for me and Edd. We just absolutely knew that what was happening between us was right and that it could work and it was correct.

They knew it as well. Once they turned the camera on us they could see that we both respected what each knew and we could both talk to each other about what we thought about. “This is great, you two seem to work well together. So why don’t we start thinking about the show?” So I went back and started to write with another guy about this show – Wheeler Dealers not expecting back then this tiny little program with a $25,000 project per episode, I never ever thought I’d still be doing, 13 years later, it is now the biggest car show in the world with over 220 million people in 217 territories.

And I never expected that to happen. It took us both completely and utterly by surprise because now there is an utter demand for Wheeler Dealers. It’s actually the biggest show on television in Poland. When I say the biggest television show I mean the biggest -- bigger than Dancing With the Stars or the Polish Bake off [audience laughs]. It’s the biggest show in Poland. So much so, we’re the Beatles in Poland. When we were at the airport they were screaming unfortunately not women, they’re men with beards [audience laughs] chasing us through the airport.

I did a show called Wheeler Dealers “Trading Up”. When I did that show, I was driving a little car and the car was running out of petrol and I swung into the gas station and I stood there filling up with petrol -- it’s a liquid called petrol not gas [audience laughs]. So I’m standing there filling up this car with petrol and some Polish guy gets out of his car and just snaps a picture of me. I sort of look around and smile as he snapped his picture. About an hour later we’re filming on this nondescript road in Poland and out of nowhere came 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 cars just start appearing in the street. People, stopping, phoning each other, people started coming out of their cars, walking down the street, walking across the street trying to hide around trees [audience laughs].

One of the Polish guys comes up to me. Who are you people? He said “we found you, we found you.” How did you find me? “Somebody had taken a picture of you a the gas station on this street.” Somebody had called the number on the gas station and gone into that call and found out which gas station and said Mike Brewer is in this area. And they just descended. Honestly, I have never seen anything like it – it was kind of scary. It was weird. I’m me - I’m Mike Brewer, not Tom Cruise. I would understand if it was Tom Cruise [audience laughs]...

The show has gone on to become monumentally successful. Now where are we? Since 2008 I’ve been going back and forth to America to buy some American classics and take them back for a story. Over the last 2 years I decided with Discovery Channel to do American Wheeler Dealers. It was because of Michelle’s determination as she gathered fan mail and emails weekly from people from America who watch our show about doing an American Wheeler Dealers. Two years later we turned up and we made our very first series of Wheeler Dealers thanks to Michelle. And we did our very first season of Wheeler Dealers and that show transmitted and aired on the Velocity Channel and it broke all records. The biggest show aired, by far in America. They still talk about it today.

This is good. The show is successful but me and Edd had a contract to go back to England to make another series. So we went back. We made another series in England. During that series in England, Velocity and Discovery Channel says we can’t make enough of these shows. Normally we make about 13 or 14 shows a year, what we really need and what the world needs in particular, Poland [audience laughs] - is 20 shows a year.

We can’t do that. I slept in my bed 9 nights in one year. That’s how hard we work to make this show. Physically we can't make the time to make the show – none of us could. Discovery says “How can we make it so you can make more shows?” The answer was really obvious and really simple. They put Hollywood there for a reason. Hollywood is there because the sun shines 360 days a year. If you want to make more shows you can’t make shows in the snow or when it’s raining and it’s hailing and it’s cold and the sun comes up at 9 and disappears at 3:30. If you want to make more shows me and Edd want to come to Hollywood [audience laughing].

So Discovery thinks we can make this work. Right now we got the shop at Huntington Beach for our second season here in the USA. We’re so blessed to be in Southern California – the home, I think, of hotrods; the home of customization; the home of amazing cars; amazing people [audience claps]. It’s not like any other place in the world – you are unique. I just said to Michelle driving to the studio, driving on the Pacific Coast Highway and driving the other way was a ’67 Mustang Fastback, followed by a 1968 Camaro and followed by a MG TF. When in the world are you ever going to see that? We are so happy to be here.

We are now in our 16th season -- 16 shows! [audience claps]. I am not at liberty to tell you any of the cars that are coming up. I do know that there is a desperation from the American audience to keep the show the same as it is. Keep up with the European, British and American cars. One of the things that we are very excited about and the reason why the big tall guy isn’t standing with me today and that’s because we are completing a build. Me and Edd we come up with an idea -- we entered ourselves in the Peking to Paris Run which is 9000 miles. It takes 35 days and some of people go and do this in a 1974 Aston Martin. Not us.

Me and Edd chose to do it in a 100 year old 1916 Type 53 Cadillac [audience laughs]. The reason is because there are a lot of things about that car: it’s 100 years old; it’s a Caddy; and it’s the world’s first production V8 engine. It’s also the first car ever produced with the pedal box in the modern configutration with the accelerator on the right, the brake in the middle and the clutch on the left. So it’s the familiar modern car without even knowing it. It’s still the same car we’re driving around today.

So me and Edd decided to find one of those. I found the 1916 Cadillac in guess where? England. I found the car and it was a box of bits. It was a chassis and just bits. The engine was completely broken down into a thousand bits. Now it takes 2 years to get a car like this ready and worthy of doing this epic journey. I gave Edd 6 weeks to do the same job. From a car that is a just a box of bits and today Edd China is getting that car started in the workshop running for the first time. We are just 4 weeks away for the beginning of the run in China. The car has to leave here Friday, May 8th and get on an airplane to China so it can go through customs. Edd needed to get that car ready because we’re filming the following week.

Here we are. We are so excited to be here today while I’m sitting at that workshop on my back: handling these wrenches; learning how to put cars together; learning about paint work; learning about the craft of being a car restorer. Many years later standing on a fruit/veggie store learning how to communicate with people; how to sell them bananas, oranges, apples. To us owning my own garage; to me meeting my wonderful wife who has been the backbone and support for the last 27 years. To then becoming me and Edd China and now the host to the biggest car show in the world and just about to embark on an amazing adventure which will be a fantastic show. It’s going to be a 3 hour show on the Discovery Channel.

That’s my story. [audience claps]

Q&A

What was your favorite car? That would be my little Mini. My little 1000cc Mini. That car is the beginning of me – that is where I come from. That one little car changed my life. So when I’m in that car, I have a big smile on my face. I’m not the kind of guy that has a fancy car sitting out there in Concours d’Elegance – that’s not me. That’s for those people. Me and my wife are pretty much normal, every day ordinary folk and we drive ordinary every day cars.

I get to drive every car of my dreams every week on television and somebody pays me to do it. The two cars that mean a lot to me on the series was the ’67 Mustang Fastback. The reason is because that was genuinely the picture on my bedroom wall when I was growing up. I was obsessed with Bullitt Steve McQueen. I was obsessed with that car. When I went to make a car show in America one of the cars we did on Wheeler Dealers was a ’67 Mustang Fastback. I loved that car so much that me and Michelle came back to America and bought another beautifully restored triple black ’67 Mustang Fastback. The other car that meant a lot to us was a Lamborghini Rocket. What was really special about that was we did a test drive in Italy on Edd China’s birthday and that was almost like giving him the ultimate birthday present. It was very special filming there.

Who’s watching the original dealership Mike Brewer Motors? It is both my and Michelle’s dealership back home. About 4 years ago we decided to open up again. We have a beautiful daughter finishing pre-university and we wanted to give her something to look forward to in the future. So me and Michelle opened up a car dealership in Sheffield in England. It started off as just somewhere we put my name above the door and sell a few cars. I have a very particular ethos to my business about when staff should be paid, how they should treat people, how they should sell their cars, how they should present their cars that they must follow to the letter. Today we employ 65 people, we sell 400 cars a month. Me and Michelle still haven't taken a penny from the business. We reinvest in the people, get the people out of the job line and get them into employment, get them educated. We absolutely love it. 

Pictured below: 1931 Cadillac 355 A Sedan; 1968 Ghia 450 SS; and 1930 LaSalle 340 Phaeton

Related: 50 Shades of GreystoneGreystone Mansion Concours d'Elegance 2016 Awards; and Autobooks-Aerobooks: Wheeler Dealers Feeler

by Randy Berg

1931 Cadillac 355 A Sedan at Greystone Concours d"Elegance 2016
1968 Ghia 450 SS at Greystone Concours d"Elegance 2016
1930 LaSalle 340 Phaeton at Greystone Concours d"Elegance 2016

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