- 1 Meet Duane Mayer and how it all started for him
- 2 Background on “American Hot Rod”
- 3 Drunk driving incident
- 4 What happened to Duane Mayer
Duane Mayer was one of the key personalities in “American Hot Rod” aired on TLC and Discovery Channel. The automotive-themed reality show featured Boyd Coddington’s custom car shop, Hot Rods by Boyd. Duane helped bring the legendary hot rod designer’s visions to life as he served as the shop’s foreman, a tough one at that. Upon Boyd’s death the show was canceled, and he went on to do his own thing.
Meet Duane Mayer and how it all started for him
Duane was interested in cars at a young age. At first, he was into Corvette, Trans Am, and Camaro but later gained interest in trucks as he saw a lowered truck with a louvered hood owned by his buddy and thought it was cool. It was a 1929 Ford Roadster called the Silver Bullet, which was built by Boyd Coddington.
He started following Boyd in the late ‘70s through Hot Rod magazines. When he heard that Boyd built a ‘32 Roadster as the giveaway for a car show at the Tropicana Hotel in 1982, he jumped on his motorcycle and rode all the way to Las Vegas from Wisconsin. He was in his early 20s then, and got the chance to meet Boyd and engage him in conversation.
Even after he was back in Wisconsin, they continued to talk over the phone. One time, Duane saw Boyd along with a Blazer gracing the cover of a trucking magazine. He immediately called Boyd and told him he would love to have that if it was for sale. The owner didn’t want to sell it, so Boyd offered to build him one if he really wanted it. Duane thought he could never afford it but was surprised with the price that Boyd quoted as it wasn’t uneasonable. Within three months, Boyd constructed a short-bed pickup truck that met Duane’s preferred specs. The funny thing was that he convinced Duane that he would give him a deal on Boyd Wheels after Duane hesitated, because the amount was a bit pricey for him. The wheels were indeed a better fit for his truck but was shocked to learn that the price was the same after it was done, so he asked Boyd about the ‘deal’ to which Boyd said, ‘That was it.’ Duane could only laugh about it and was just glad that he got to have one of Boyd’s creations.
Worked at Hot Rods by Boyd
Duane kept calling Boyd to ask him about his new truck that he wasn’t familiar with. Later on, Boyd invited him to come over to California, and told Duane that he’d find him something to do as well as a place where he could stay. At that time, Duane was laid off and was picketing in the middle of winter as a member of a machinist union, so it wasn’t a hardship for him to drop everything and join Boyd. This was in 1985, when the hot rod designer had just opened his shop on Monroe Street.
He sold the truck that he got from Boyd, and bought a brand new Chevrolet S-10. Steve Stanford, a prolific car designer, did some rendering for Boyd, and one of them was for an S-10 truck. At that time, Boyd had no plans of building that one, and so Duane, with Boyd’s permission, used it to customize his truck. Steve had no idea because he had said in a previous interview that he only did a single rendering for Boyd and it was an Astro van, which never got built. Duane later wrecked his S-10 truck, but still had the sketch in his keeping.
— Barrett-Jackson (@Barrett_Jackson) January 14, 2015
His work at the shop involved anything that Boyd threw at him. He knew how to cut glass but he wasn’t an expert at it, so Boyd told him he was going to send Duane to a glass-cutting school – Boyd was such a funny guy, because there was no such school. What he did was send Duane to a glass shop where he paid a guy to take him in and show him what to do. Duane spent a week there learning everything he could about cutting laminated glass. After that, he returned to work at Boyd’s shop. Apparently, the reason Boyd wanted Duane to come to his shop was because the guy he previously hired to cut glass broke a windshield after throwing a hammer on it. Realizing he had a loose cannon in his shop, he fired that guy and called Duane to ask if he knew how to cut glass, which he did. Duane had since evolved and could do a bit of everything at the shop.
Fired from the shop
He was later assigned to work on trucks at the Electric Avenue shop. Boyd had a friend who frequented the shop along with his 16-year-old son, who hung around and drew pictures. Duane thought that since he was a friend of his boss, being there was quite alright. However, the son stole a set of keys that were hanging on a wall. The shop had six or seven trucks at that time, and a fenced-in yard and a gate weren’t a deterrent to someone who wanted to break in. Come nighttime, he cut the chain of the gate and stole one of the trucks. This was in 1989.
Duane Mayer, owner of American Hot Rods Inc., will be at Morongo Casino October 5th, 2014 for photo signings!Your…
Boyd was livid and called Duane to ask him about the missing truck but the latter didn’t know what to say. Boyd then said that until he found out what happened, Duane should take some time off and stay home. Duane was pissed off because he didn’t have anything to do with it. He didn’t wait for Boyd to call him back, and immediately went to another shop specializing in Ferraris down the street and asked for a job after disclosing what transpired with Boyd. He was hired so he got his toolbox and worked there for six months.
A year later, the truck was found in Victorville and the teenage boy was driving it. The truck’s original color was white and it had been painted black using a spray can. It still had a dealer’s plate on it. When Duane heard the news, he went to Boyd and asked him about it, waiting for an apology, but it never came.
Quit one job, Got fired at another one
After working on Ferraris, Duane got a job lowering trucks at a company called Trader’s, which was mostly known at that time for sport truck accessories. He only lasted there for six months because he didn’t like putting bumper covers and mud flaps on a truck. The owner bought a high-performance Chevy SS 454 pickup and told Duane that he wanted to transform it into a quarter-mile racer; Duane was interested, and stayed a while for that.
Later, he got a job at Lombardo’s California Street Rods for a couple of years; it was a former co-worker who informed him that the company was hiring, and even put in a good word for him. Duane said that while he learned much at Hot Rods by Boyd, he never got to apply it because Boyd always had someone who could do it or was in charge of it. At Lombardo’s, he had the opportunity to do all those things. However, he was fired after he was caught stealing tires. He said that he had six weeks of paycheck in his back pocket. It seemed that upon receiving a paycheck, it was a race to the bank to encash it because funds were limited. He said he got tired of doing that, and since he wasn’t getting paid, he tried to help himself to a set of tires that Lombardo had in the storage room.
Got hired by Boyd, quit or fired, and back to work
After Duane was fired at Lombardo’s, he approached Boyd and told him about it. Boyd offered him a job as he was looking for someone to help put muscle cars together – Duane worked there part-time.
In 1998, Boyd’s company filed for bankruptcy. By that time, Duane already had his own shop called Hot Cars, and Boyd was establishing a wheel shop just a block away on the other side of the freeway. At lunch, Boyd would come over to Duane’s to hang out with him and even sat at the desk to answer the phone. Sometime later, Boyd talked to Duane about needing manpower to build six hot-rod-styled buses for an Alaskan tour operator; each bus cost $180,000. At that time, he was going through a divorce, and had a lot to deal with particularly his shop. Boyd said he would take care of that and pay Duane cash for everything inside the shop.
After the buses were done and payment for the shop was settled, Duane took a week off for a vacation, and went to Sturgis riding a motorcycle. He thought to himself, ‘He [Boyd] doesn’t owe me anything anymore and I really don’t owe him anything anymore. Fuck this! It was the perfect time to quit.’ That said, Duane went back to work at the shop after three weeks had passed, but Boyd told him to get his tools and leave, so he left.
In 2001, Boyd reached out to him and asked him to come back as he needed help with something at his shop in La Habra, California, so Duane worked for Boyd again. The two really had a love-hate relationship going on.
Background on “American Hot Rod”
Boyd Coddington was a prominent figure in the world of custom car building. He established his shop called Hot Rods by Boyd in 1977. The Vern Luce Coupe, a 1933 Ford Coupe owned by Verne Luce that Boyd customized, won for its technical excellence at the prestigious Al Slonaker Award in 1981. Its sleek styling, which had later become known as the ‘Boyd look,’ defined an era of hot rodding.
Automotive-themed reality shows had been around for many decades, but they gained significant popularity in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It went without saying that Boyd Coddington, who was dubbed as the “King of Hot Rods,” would be on the radar of Discovery Channel, as they were conceptualizing a show in that genre to include in their programming.
“American Hot Rod” first aired on 13 January 2004, and chronicled hot rod building and customization by Boyd along with his crew at his La Habra shop. Duane Mayer was introduced in the show as a project supervisor; Boyd’s wife, Jo, managed the collectible store; his ex-wife, Diane, ran the accounting department; and his son, Chris, worked at the custom wheels sales department. Due perhaps to the pressure of the job and filming for the show, the shop had a high employee turnover rate.
When Boyd Coddington passed away in 2008, the shop closed and the series came to an abrupt end.
The truth about Duane being the ‘bad guy’ at the shop
One of the questions that Chris Coddington was often asked by fans was if Duane was really that big of the asshole as he appeared on TV. Chris would say that he definitely was that on the show, but not in real life; he got along well with Duane. He revealed that they, whom fans assumed were the people from the network or the production, wanted Duane to play that role. Duane said that this was why his hat was black while Boyd’s was white – Boyd was the good guy. He told Boyd he was concerned about getting a bad rep. Everyone at the shop talked behind his back and nobody liked him. Boyd said, ‘Good! That’s why I knew you are doing your job right.’
Drunk driving incident
On New Year’s Day January 2016, Duane was involved in an accident when he tumbled out of his 1932 red Ford Coupe while it was still moving at the speed of 25mph in Weir Canyon, Anaheim – it appeared that he was intoxicated at that time. When the police officers arrived on the scene, the car had crashed into a ditch and had scratches on the side. Duane was rushed to a hospital as he sustained cuts across his face, a bloody head, and bloodshot eyes. Reportedly, he was later arrested for driving under the influence. The Anaheim Police Department posted photos of Duane’s car on their official Facebook page, with a reminder not to drink and drive.
What happened to Duane Mayer
In 2009, he opened an automotive repair shop called American Hot Rods. It was unclear if it took off, but he later revealed that he didn’t exactly want to start a business – he just wanted to do this on his own and work on cars, kind of like a hobby shop similar to what he had, back in Wisconsin. Fans were curious if Boyd’s family had a problem with the name. Jo Coddington was okay with it, but advised him to contact the producer, Craig Piligian, and Discovery Channel; she was surprised to learn after years had passed that he had not. Duane jokingly said that she should have known that he didn’t do things the way he was supposed to. Many believed that Duane deserved to use that name because while Boyd was the mastermind behind every creation, Duane was the face of the shop. He was the ‘executioner’ and had to be the tough guy who made things happen or keep everyone on track.
Sometime in 2019, he had brain surgery because a gas tank fell on him and hit his head as he was working under a car. He didn’t reveal more details about it, just mentioning it in passing, when he was being interviewed.
Duane along with Jo Coddington was a guest in the podcast Wisconsin Hot Rod Radio in September 2021. He was in good spirits, and talked mostly about Boyd and his work at the shop. When he was asked about his future plans, he said, ‘I’m not sure. A few years back, I was just done and I just wanted to relax. I wanted to get out of the rat race.’ Around that time, his mom was sick and it felt that it was the right time to move back to his home state, Wisconsin, and buy a house there. He spent some time with her before she passed away two years later.
With his mom gone, he thought that there was no reason for him to stay there, and was thinking of where to go next, riding his bike. He said that he was most relaxed on a bike and riding on a wide-open road. North Carolina seemed to be his next destination as Duane had a friend there whom he went to high school with. He wanted to check out the NASCAR shops in Mooresville and meet people to see if he could get into that. Duane said that cars were all just the same to him whether they went around in circles or on a turntable at an auto show.
Not much is known about what Boyd is doing recently, as he hasn’t been updating his social media accounts. He was a guest in Chris Coddington’s Hot Rods by Boyd a few times in 2021, and they mostly talked about cars – what else!