Pat Foster has been known to scrounge a few parts from junkyards as a
fabricator of some of America's fastest drag-racing cars over his 40-year
career in the sport. So don't be surprised if you tune in to The Learning
Channel tonight and see his bearded face smiling out at you on the premiere
of the new year's "Junkyard Wars" hit series. Foster was chosen to
judge the zany competition, in which two teams of three members each (plus
an expert consultant) are turned loose in a London scrap heap and told to
build a certain kind of machine -- in 10 hours' time. The teams then pit
their devices against each other to see which performs better.
"It's a fun deal. I hadn't ever seen the program before," said
Foster, a transplanted Californian who now lives in Wichita, where he runs
Foster Pro-Fab Inc., restoring and re-creating vintage dragsters.
The teams he judged had to build a functioning drag-racing car out of
cast-off parts and then see who could produce the quickest run down an
In its first three years, "Junkyard Wars" was a strictly
British production, with teams of English fabricators building everything
from working submarines to aircraft capable of dropping powder bombs on a
target. This year, all of the teams are from America, but the show is still
filmed in England.
"It's a real working wrecking yard on the southeast side of London,
about 40 acres," said Foster. The part of the junkyard used in the TV
series is about a half-acre, and the crews do their building inside a pair
of 8-foot-high walled-in enclosures.
Foster judged the machines built by the "Texas Scrap Daddies,"
a group of artists who use car parts for their sculptures, and "Chicago
Fire," a group of Chicago firefighters who are into street rods. The
Scrap Daddies built a lightweight, motorcycle-powered rail dragster, while
the firefighters opted for a V-8 powered "funny car" without a
The teams seemed a lot more competitive than their British counterparts,
and there were some confrontational moments on the set, Foster said. But the
end result was a pair of cars that ended up running the track within 0.004
seconds of each other.
Foster said the slam-bang construction of the off-the-wall designs
brought back memories. "It's fun, seeing the way you did things back
when you were 16," he said.
Although he was paid only $258, plus his travel expenses, Foster hopes to
be invited back to reprise his judge's role on "Junkyard Wars."
"I had never been to England before, and it would be nice if I could
take my wife and son over for a vacation," he said.
The "Junkyard Wars" episode featuring Foster, taped last
summer, airs on The Learning Channel, cable Channel 49, at 8 and 10 p.m.