Scott Halbleib works on a bike. | Photo by Dale Berman/Esquire Network
Scott Halbleib works on the bike. | Photo by Dale Berman/Esquire Network

The premise of “Wrench Against the Machine” is simple: Two teams of three expert motorcycle builders compete against each other to see who can build the best bike in three days with $3,000. The wrench in the scenario, however, is that the teams have to start with basic stock motorcycles and scramble to find pieces and parts with a limited budget to create rowdy, riding works of art.

The reality TV competition will debut Tuesday, Nov. 15, on the Esquire Network, and Louisville will have a vested interest in the challenge as local bike builder and enthusiast (and co-founder of Kentucky Kick Down) Scott Halbleib is the leader of one of the teams competing. He chose Louisvillians Chad Francis of Retrowrench and Jeff Gill of AirKooled Inc. to be his teammates.

Jeff Gill, Chad Francis and Scott Halbleib | Photo by Dale Berman/Esquire Network
Jeff Gill, Chad Francis and Scott Halbleib | Photo by Dale Berman/Esquire Network

Halbleib started his own custom build shop, H Garage, more than six years ago and continues to garner praise and accolades around the world for his creations. In fact, it was an article featuring Halbleib in a magazine that tipped off producers of “Wrench” to consider him as a contestant.

While Halbleib can’t reveal too many details about his episode — which is scheduled to air Tuesday, Dec. 13 — he did share a few details with Insider on what the experience entailed.

Insider Louisville: When and where did you film the show?

Scott Halbleib: We flew out to L.A. the first week in May and flew home on Derby Day. It’s all a bit of a blur still, but they flew us out on Sunday, we met with the crew on Sunday night, they picked us up Monday morning and shot promo video all day on location, and dropped us back at the hotel late that night. We got to stroll the streets of L.A. in the morning for breakfast, then back to the location Tuesday morning, a few more promo shots, then the timer started around 11 a.m. and it really was 72 hours straight.

IL: Can you tell us anything about your project?

SH: Very little. We had to sign a 60-page contract with NBC (parent company to Esquire), and there are severe consequences for any breaches. We didn’t know what kind of bike they were going to provide. We had a general idea of the premise for the show, so we figured something a little older, possibly Japanese, affordable. But you’ll have to watch the show to see what was under the tarp.

We were told we would be supplied with tools but were not aware that there would be no parts on hand. Only a rental truck with a questionable GPS system in downtown L.A. Talk about testing your patience!

The team had 72 hours to build a bike. | Photo by Dale Berman/Esquire Network
The team had 72 hours to build a bike. | Photo by Dale Berman/Esquire Network

IL: Are you happy with what you built?

SH: As always, I try and end with something that looks totally different from what I start with, and I think we did a good job pulling that off. It was legitimately a 72-hour build — no BS. We averaged 22 hours a day for three days straight. We sourced some odd parts, had to cobble some things together under the gun, but came up with something … well, that’s all I can say. You’ll have to tune in Dec. 13 to find out more.

IL: What was the craziest thing about filming a reality TV show? 

SH: I’ll say this isn’t your typical reality show, where you’re on and off camera, have time to do your hair, think about how you’re going to act, what you’re going to say, etc. The constraints were legit and intense. So the craziest thing was the concept — building a bike in 72 hours with almost no way to prepare.

As for the TV part of it, being mic’d 20+ hours a day, being locked in a gated garage, no music, no interaction with anyone other than cast and crew. It was pretty brutal, but it will make for actual reality TV. Other than the occasional interruption where the producers would ask you to discuss what was happening, it was 24-hour-a-day footage of full-on shit show.

Halbleib says he would do it again. | Photo by Dale Berman/Esquire Network
Halbleib says he would do it again. | Photo by Dale Berman/Esquire Network

IL: Would you do it again? 

SH: Funny you ask. When it was finally over, I think at a layover at the airport, I asked the two fellas I chose to be on my team, “Would you do it again?” They both said yes. Then I said would you do it next week or even next month, and they said no.

It was grueling, but we all agreed it was one of if not the coolest things we’ve ever done. I hope to be involved somehow in the upcoming seasons. I think the show will be well received. And I have to say, I couldn’t have done it without my two team members, Chad Francis and Jeff Gill.

Barret Bar will host a viewing party of “Wrench Against the Machine” on Tuesday, Nov. 15, at 9 p.m. Halbleib will be there to talk bikes, but don’t ask him about his episode.

Sara Havens is the Culture Editor at Insider Louisville. She's known around town as the Bar Belle and updates her blog (barbelleblog.com) daily. She's a former editor of LEO Weekly and has written for Playboy and The Alcohol Professor. Havens is the author of two books: "The Bar Belle" and "The Bar Belle Vol. 2."


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