Not the actual car- it wasn’t nearly this bad.

The family car was involved in a hit and run last week. Police are still looking for the woman in the red van who sped off, the insurance company is working with us to get the car restored, and we’ve made the appointment with the body shop to get it all fixed. Duct tape has been deployed to keep various automotive parts in place. Can I confess to you that the car is a 2006 PT Cruiser? We’ve affectionately nicknamed it The PT Loser for being a mechanically challenged money-pit. Between the car’s age, the money involved in fixing it, and the recent accident, the Jarrell family is understandably making plans for a new-to-us car in the near future.

The internet has a lot to say about cars. It’s really easy to get lost down the rabbit hole of auto shopping. The best part of the rabbit hole is the daydreaming–clicking over to see what a used Corvette or a new BMW will cost you. Did you know that Volvo will fly you to their headquarters in Sweden if you buy one of their cars new?

As someone with a duct tape automobile, I’ll attest that the daydreams surrounding the MTV show Pimp My Ride are equally as fun as the sports car fantasies. Do I even need to refresh your memory of Pimp My Ride? If you wanted to distill the early 00’s into a single pop culture reference, with reality TV, custom drift-car racing, and over-the-top, pre-recession excess, look no further. Suffice it to say, as the teenager in me laughed at the thought of my t-boned PT Cruiser on Pimp My Ride, I embarked on a Google trip back in time to see what I could dig up on the show. And what I discovered, much to my shock and amazement, was that things were not so glorious for those whose rides were “pimped.”


As the years have gone by, participants from the show have come forward to share what their “behind the scenes” experience was like. And a many of them have testified that, to nobody’s surprise, this piece of reality TV wasn’t so real. Here’s a list compiled from three Reddit Ask Me Anything posts (AMAs) on the unseen production elements of the show:

  • Contestants were never filmed at their houses–they were filmed on studio-chosen property. That said, they were surprised to get a visit from show host Xzhibit–his arrival was not staged.
  • Cars were sometimes trashed to an even trashier state so they’d look worse for the camera. Contestants testified MTV would tear a bumper off, add candy wrappers as trash, or made a small dent worse by beating it deeper into the car. It was going to be fixed again anyway–a little more damage wouldn’t hurt. One contestant even had his front passenger seat removed!
  • The TV show makes a big deal about cars being worked on over a period of a week or two. In reality, contestants left their cars at the shop and were given rental cars for up to 7 months.
  • When contestants were filmed seeing their ‘pimped’ ride for the first time, the producers filmed three camera takes. The first two were staged just in case the contestant hated their new car and couldn’t fake their joy, and the third was the actual reveal. Producers then chose their favorite.

On the flip side, there is some behind-the-scenes fun news. Xzhibit was apparently a very nice guy, car insurance rates did not increase for the ‘pimped’ cars, and MTV helped contestants pay for the increase in property taxes. And let’s be honest, three or four testimonies out of five seasons isn’t the best sample size. But of all the unseen production elements from the show, one stood out to me more than any other:

PMR_415_04u/jaaaaake – “The problem with the show is, they don’t fix any of the mechanical issues, and my car was a piece of [junk]. What they did was make my piece of [junk] sound exceptionally awesome, which is great. Just not great enough to drive on roads… They didn’t do a [darn] thing with any of the mechanical issues… That was why I sold it immediately… I originally purchased the car for 500 bucks. Sold it for 18k.”


Q: “Did they fix anything in your car that wasn’t detailed in the episode? I always assumed the cars on the show would have a lot of other problems that had unglamorous fixes (i.e. engine problems, steering system, mostly mechanical issues I guess).”

A: No. It was all mickeymoused cosmetic.

u/mrandmrsmartino- “[After receiving my car back from the show] I couldn’t drive it right away. It was basically a polished turd. It sat until I saved up 1700 bucks to put a new engine in it. After that I drove it for a month before someone hit me and totaled it. Her insurance bought me a truck. I held onto it as long as I could but eventually I didn’t have anywhere to store it so I parked it in front of a friends house and it got towed. I got all the good stuff out first!”

That’s right–most of the piece of junk cars from Pimp My Ride were only worked on cosmetically, not mechanically. Breaks, engines, suspension, inspection–all these very important, life-saving components were completely ignored during the “pimping” process. So while contestants had their new cars, many have testified that they were quickly sold or wrecked or junked, and the resulting insurance payouts or sales income was used to purchase a boring, reliable, ‘unpimped’ automobile.

The jump from Pimp My Ride to the Gospel, from Xzibit to Jesus, is as absurd as it is fitting. What good does it do to be cosmetically attractive when the innards are falling apart? Since there was no equivalent in the first century to Pimp My Ride (!), Jesus used the metaphor of well-kept whitewashed tombs to describe the same phenomenon. The outside of the tomb might be pretty, but the inside contained nothing but death. What good does it do to make things look spectacular externally when the internal (and more important) part is junk?

It’s a question worth dragging into 2015. How much good does our critique of Oscar nominations do if we have no friends? Does the tanning booth ever fix that neediness which drives companionship away? Should the family adopt a Golden Retriever to signify its traditional family values or a Pitt Bull to signify its commitment to non-judgment? What’s the endgame of wearing an ironic three-wolf-moon shirt outside the house? Or, for that matter, what’s the endgame of wearing the witty Christian T-Shirt? Could it be that we use our exteriors to justify our interiors? There’s a reason the Latter Day Saints require the white shirt with a black tie.

If anything, Pimp My Ride is a generation’s parable about self-justification by externalities: a whole lot of effort put into something fundamentally flawed. These contestants on Pimp My Ride didn’t need their rides pimped, they needed new cars. People don’t need their behavior spiffed up, they need new hearts. Unfortunately, Extreme Heart Makeover isn’t scheduled to debut for another couple of decades.

All that to say, thanks be to God that our cars don’t have the final word on our justification. Or really any word! Because even when they’re not held together by duct tape, PT Cruisers are still pretty lame.