Derek Bieri has become one of the most famous names in car guy world because he is the star of ‘Vice Grip Garage’, a hands-on YouTube show which typically involves the resuscitation of long-dead cars and trucks that are many years past their best-before date.

Derek breathes life back into the mechanically dead and gives them a future instead of a past.

Jim Sutherland

The old vehicles are very important to Derek because he believes they all have a story, one that can be preserved whenever he is able to bring them back on the road for their next journey. Derek works without a safety net, so every road adventure behind the wheel of a revived bush or field car is the real deal for him.

Derek had a modest goal of 100,000 YouTube subscribers but is now at 1 million (and counting) in that department, primarily because he takes his audience on a weekly unscripted adventure with his growing fleet of unloved old cars and trucks.

MyStarCollectorCar caught up with the likable host of one of YouTube’s most popular car guy channels and asked him five questions about his world of mechanical chaos and practical solutions to his automotive problems:

Q: What was your favorite trip thus far?

(Derek had to think about this question for a minute, mainly because he has undertaken so many road adventures over the years, but he deferred to his recent YouTube 2-part road trip)

I bought a 1969 AMC Rebel in Braderton, Florida and intended to drive it 800 miles to reach my new home in Tennessee. The car’s former owners had no idea what to do with a custom AMC sedan that now sported a mid-engine 327 AMC small block positioned in front of the driver who is now in control from the back seat.

I took the car for a quick track test and then decided to hit the road for the 800-mile trip back to my Tennessee home. The car’s massive engine leak onto the exhaust manifold created a major smoke issue that could only be described as a ‘campfire sprinkled with engine oil’, so I had to rethink my travel plans in Georgia.

Then I bought an old ramp truck (sight unseen) to haul the car the rest of the way home, but it was also in bad shape, so I had to nurse the truck home with the Rebel on back. It was a two-day trip that turned into a week and required two Vice Grip Garage episodes to tell the full story.

Q: How well did portable heaters work during a Minnesota winter?

Not well, I used kerosene instead of diesel fuel in my heaters to keep me alive–and warm my fingers for approximately two minutes-because they (heaters) were extremely noisy and no match for cold winters, so I had to adapt because I was also shooting the episodes.  Therefore, I had to shut down the excessively loud heaters whenever I recorded segments for my show, so it was a slow and cold process.    

Q: Your answer directly relates to our third question. Why did you move to Tennessee?

We (my wife Jessica and I) knew we had to get south ever since out first visit here about 10 years ago when we discovered the beautiful scenery here in Tennessee. It already feels like home with the friendly people here, plus it is much closer than Minnesota to every major car guy event in the southeastern United States.

Also, the long winters in Minnesota kept me away from road adventures for about four months and Tennessee’s milder climate gives me year-round opportunities. The warmer climate here is also wetter, so I encounter different rust issues here, mainly along the rain channels along the roofs of old vehicles.

Q: What is your favorite revived ride right at this moment?

That is a very hard question because I love them all, but I will try to narrow it down to two vehicles. The first is my Independence Chevelle because my Vice Grip Garage fans love the car, particularly the younger ones. The car would definitely have been crushed and required plenty of work to make it road-ready, but it is such a favorite with kids that I took it to another level.

The second is my 1980 IHC Scout that was parked in a field, and I drove by it many times when I was a kid. The Scout is now my daily driver because I enjoy it so much, but it is slower than a pedal bike and I have to decide whether to sell it (turns out it is a rare combination of diesel engine and other IHC options) or take it to the next level.

Q: You thrive on input from your many fans, what stands out the most from their feedback?

“Again, there are so many moments where my viewers have offered their information, advice and even technical manuals so I can get ahead of the curve on a project vehicle. Right now, I am at the start line for a 1978 Ford F-100 project that I want to complete on a budget that most car guys will recognize as financially realistic, so the input for the project from other car guys is invaluable to me.

I will never lose sight of the fact many car guys are hard-working people who live within their means because that is the way I learned things as a farm kid on a tight budget”.

MyStarCollectorCar would like to thank Derek Bieri for somehow finding the time for an interview with us.

There are not enough days in the week, or hours in the day for Derek, so we appreciate our interview opportunities with him and look forward to a future conversation with this remarkable car guy.

Jim Sutherland

BY: Jim Sutherland

Jim Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer whose work has been published by many major print and online publications. The list includes Calgary Herald, The Truth About Cars, Red Deer Advocate, RPM Magazine, Edmonton Journal, Montreal Gazette, Windsor Star, Vancouver Province, and Post Media Wheels Section.