CMT airs Joplin-based TV show Trick My Truck

The Mafia work on customizing a new Peterbuilt for a dealership in Louisiana.

The Mafia work on customizing a new Peterbuilt for a dealership in Louisiana.

Believe it or not, Joplin is more than just home to Missouri Southern, a portion of Route 66, and the birthplace of Langston Hughes. Joplin is also the home to the Chrome Shop Mafia and the reality television series Trick My Truck.

For Bryan Martin, known to his Mafia brethren as “the bossman,” said the opportunity the Mafia has been given came from chance.

“We were at a truck show and they asked a driver where he would go to get his truck customized, and he said to go talk to these two guys over there,” he said.

The two guys the driver was pointing to were Rod Pickett and Martin.

“The people from CMT came over and told us they were wanting to do a truck show,” Martin said. “They had the concept of helping a driver down on his luck by remodeling his truck and giving him a loaner so he could keep working while the truck was being redone.

“They had been up and down the east and west coast trying to find a crew to pull this off. They couldn’t find anyone.

“They talked to car dealers, truck dealers, bike dealers, and they couldn’t find anyone. We listened to what they had to say and we had a handshake deal when it was over.”

Though the crew does all of their filming in Joplin, several of the Chrome Shop Mafia calls the West Coast home.

“C.B. and Scrapyard have worked for me for 5-7 years,” Martin said. “Rob, ‘Hotwire,’ has worked in the Joplin area for years and has done some custom audio for us prior to the show. Rhyno is from Los Angeles, Ca., where he has his own paint shop, and the Pickett brothers are from Seattle, Wash.”

As the season enters its third season, Martin said the amount of requests continues to grow.

“I have no idea what CMT gets as far as request, but here at the Chrome Shop Mafia, we get between 25 and 40 a day,” he said.

For the mafia, it’s hard to identify one moment as the best moment of the show.

“When you see the drivers walk through the door and see their truck for the first time, it’s all live action,” Martin said. “Some of them go to tears, some of them say thank you repeatedly. You never know what the reaction is going to be.

“The best benefit for the show is that it’s our chance at the Chrome Shop Mafia to put something out there in the public that portrays trucking in a positive way instead of the negative that has been associated with trucking over the past 10 years.”

To date, the Mafia has tricked out 33 trucks, and even though it may be hard to remember them all, there are still some that leave a mark on the lives of the Mafia.

“During the second season, we did a show called ‘Trey,’ which was a truck that was dedicated to a father who lost his son in a bicycle accident,” Martin said. “What made the truck special, not just the driver and the story, is that the folks from television let us build it in the style we wanted.”

The theme for each truck comes from several factors.

“We interview the driver and their family,” Martin said. “You kind of get a feel of what their hobbies are, what they like to do, and what they want in the truck. We don’t get everything from the driver.

“Then the guys from Chrome Shop Mafia and the guys from television sit down and iron details. A lot of stuff doesn’t come until after we get started on the project.”

The Mafia elected to send the show on the road, sending first season shop foreman Scott “Ragin’ Cajun” St. Germain and Gaylen “G-Man” Johnston to shows with a display truck, allowing many people to see the work of the Mafia.

“They were at 11-12 shows the first year,’ Martin said. “They are planning on attending at least 18 shows this year.”

“I really enjoy getting to go around to the shows,” St. Germain said. “For me, it’s really exciting to see these trucks transform from a new truck to a custom truck. You can’t put a price on the faces of the people who come to get these trucks.”

For many people, it’s still hard to believe that Joplin, Mo., is the home of Trick My Truck.

“Joplin is the home of Chrome Shop Mafia here at 4 State Trucks,” Martin said. “We started the Chrome Shop Mafia as, you could call it a car club for truckers a few years before we met the guys at CMT.

“It’s centrally located, and here at 4 State Trucks, we have the parts in stock to build these trucks. After the first eight episodes, it got to be too big of a project for the shop at 4 State Trucks, so we rented a vacant shop here in Joplin, and it works well for everyone.

I think the main reason it’s in Joplin is because 4 State Trucks was here with the parts, and more of the cast is Joplin-based, rather than L.A. or Washington-based. Plus, it’s cheaper to do it here in Joplin. For some reason or whatever, they evaluated it and decided that Joplin was the place to be.”

Outside of “Piledriver,” the dump truck the Mafia tricked out during the second season, every truck to cross paths with the Mafia have been the over-the-road tractors. Following the response from the “Piledriver” episode, Martin said the variety over the next eight episodes will be surprising.

“The next eight episodes will be like you’ve never seen before,” he said. “We’ll be mixing it up a lot.

“The ambushes will be coming down differently, maybe a little more entertaining. We’re mixing it up so we don’t fall into the cookie cutter form where you can predict what will happen.”