Who is Audrey Sickles?

Unlike many reality TV stars, there is hardly any public information about Audrey Sickles, who is known for being a cast member in “FantomWorks”. The elusive blonde’s birthplace, home city, and personal life are largely a mystery, as she only appeared in 23 episodes of the “FantomWorks” between 2013 and 2017, and didn’t give much away.

During her time on the series, Audrey was the garage’s office manager and got on well with her co-stars Dan Short, Allan Alvarez and Rob Dietzel. According to Audrey’s Facebook page, she is still working at FantomWorks garage, despite the TV series being cancelled. In December 2020, she celebrated her 11th year of work at the company.

Audrey is a Jeep and bike lover, who likes to share inspirational phrases with her thousands of social media followers. Never afraid to get her hands dirty, the office manager regularly posts plenty of videos of her latest project cars.

What is “FantomWorks”?

“FantomWorks”, the reality series based on the automobile shop of the same name, premiered on MotorTrend Channel in 2013. The owner, Dan Short, aimed to provide his clients with quality craftsmanship, a pleasant atmosphere, and a fabulous experience with a plethora of services that ranged from minor tweaks to full restorations. However, he soon discovered that when repairing antique automobiles in front of dozens of cameras, there was plenty of room for things to go wrong.

Despite building and repairing various beautiful vehicles over the years, the FantomWorks mechanics were only human, and made the occasional mistake. A few times, their work was criticized for stripping some cars of their original charm, such as the 1934 Hudson Terraplane and the 1979 Ford F350 RV –.

At the end of 2018, Dan shocked the internet and his faithful followers when explaining why there would be no more seasons of the beloved car show. Although MotorTrend posted an official announcement on their website, Dan preferred to give his side of the story – and that he did.

According to the beleaguered businessman, being in front of the cameras “5 days a week, 51 weeks a year, 6.5 years non-stop” came with a whole host of issues. It seems that initially Dan and his employees had little idea of what having a film crew in their workplace would entail, as he also complained about the lengthy filming schedules and the constant retakes.

It appears that when the show began, employees began leaving left and right, as burn-out skyrocketed to an all-time high. The show’s newfound fame also brought unwanted attention in the way of lawsuits, defamation, and negative publicity. Dan announced his decision to leave the show behind in 2017, and everyone was on board with the idea.

Although I asked nicely for constitution and free speech haters to stay away from our meeting tomorrow (you know, we the…

Posted by FantomWorks on Friday, February 7, 2020

In six years, a total of 11 directors worked on “FantomWorks”, indicating that there were serious problems behind the scenes. Some car restorations took almost two years to complete, but Dan and the crew had to make it look as though they’d been completed in days or weeks. The filming gear was also damaged several times by the dust and oils in the shop, which led to whole episodes being re-shot. All in all, the working environment at FantomWorks was anything but harmonious.

If dealing with irate customers, equipment issues, and demoralized employees wasn’t bad enough, Dan claims that the demanding film schedule meant he couldn’t be with his father during the final weeks of his life. “The show took over my life, and to make matters worse, my wife and I now face almost a million dollars of debt we incurred keeping the production going,” he added.

When the situation became unbearable, Dan and one of the network’s senior executives had a lengthy discussion, with the latter suggesting that they call it quits. Unsurprisingly, the shop owner’s blog post garnered over a thousand comments, the majority from heartbroken fans.

FantomWorks Lawsuit

Shortly before “FantomWorks” aired, Dan and his shop were hit with a lawsuit by Richard and Cynthia Owens, a couple from Virginia Beach. In July 2012, the couple brought their 1960 Ford Thunderbird to the FantomWorks garage, explaining that they wanted Dan and his crew to install modern suspension, new brakes, and a reliable fuel-injected engine. Shortly afterwards, things began going terribly wrong.

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Dan was unable to give the couple an exact price without thoroughly inspecting the vehicle first, but he gave Richard a list of recommended repairs and an estimated price of $40,000. Cynthia then paid a $15,000 deposit via cheque, and another $15,000 when the replacement parts were purchased. It’s important to note that the parties at no point entered into a written contract.

Apparently, Dan advised the Owens that they should purchase a “donor car” for a replacement engine, and that such a car could be bought for a low price at an auction, and provide other replacement parts for much lower than retail price. In court, the Owens claimed that Dan said such a donor car could be bought for a few thousand dollars at an auction – something that Dan denies ever saying.

Things got even messier here with other people becoming relevant to the lawsuit. Dan found a 2001 Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor being sold by a man named Alexander Theiss who, coincidentally, lived a couple of blocks away from the FantomWorks garage. The Interceptor’s drivetrain and engine were intact despite a prior accident, and Dan thought they’d be compatible replacement parts for the Owens’ Thunderbird.

The Interceptor had been advertised online for $2,000 – an advertisement Dan denies ever seeing. The garage owner testified that someone gave him Alexander’s telephone number and that’s how he heard about the car. Although there was a “for sale” sign in the car’s window, he claims that it didn’t contain an asking price, just a contact number.

After test driving the car and negotiating a price, Dan and Alexander agreed to close the deal for $6,000. Dan then paid Alexander $4,000 in cash and handed over a $2,000 cheque a few days later, which is when the Interceptor was delivered to FantomWorks garage.

Things seemed to be going well, as Dan and the Owens had agreed on a 25% markup for all required parts that needed to be purchased for the Thunderbird. Dan gave Richard a list of anticipated costs to complete the job, which added up to around $38,000, which Dan had no issue with. After receiving the list, Richard paid the second $15,000 cheque, and would visit the garage regularly over the next two months, often requesting additional work.

In September 2012, Richard asked Dan to carry out design work and rust repair on the Thunderbird amongst other things. Days later, Cynthia – an attorney – wrote a letter to Dan demanding “extensive documentation of all costs for parts and labor; identification, with contact information, for all suppliers; and other information pertinent to the project.” She also threatened to sue Dan if he didn’t provide all the information within five days.

Dan responded in writing that he’d suspend work on the Thunderbird until he and the Owens resolved whatever issues they had. He also twice invited Dan and Cynthia to have a representative of their choice inspect the Thunderbird, and for the Thunderbird and Interceptor to be taken away from FantomWorks garage. The Owens didn’t reply to his suggestions, but rather, filed a lawsuit alleging fraud and detinue, breach of contract, and violation of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act (VCPA).

A three-day jury trial then ensued. Apparently, “at the conclusion of the plaintiffs’ case, the defendants moved the court to strike the plaintiffs’ evidence as to all counts. The court granted the motion as to the fraud and VCPA counts and overruled it as to the count for breach of contract.” Things became even more complicated when Craigslist servers showed that Dan had replied to Alexander’s online advertisement, in which the latter only asked for $2,000 for the Interceptor instead of the $6,000 Dan claimed to have paid.

In the end, the plaintiffs – Cynthia and Dan – were awarded an appeal and the case was finally settled in October 2014. Dan’s show struggled to get off the ground due to the unpleasant lawsuit, but his name was eventually cleared and his reputation didn’t suffer too badly.

Dan Short

Born in September 1962 in New York City, New York, Dan is a TV personality, car fanatic, and US Army veteran. The charismatic reality star was brought up in a two-parent household by Alexander and Louise Short and is believed to be an only child.

While serving in the military, Dan met his future wife, Melissa Martel, a former US Navy Officer born in Muleshoe, Texas. Dan’s military history is pretty extensive itself, as he served for 24 years upon joining the 5th Special Forces Group at the young age of 17. Due to his status as a Green Beret, he was often deployed, and would later fly in the 18th Aviation Brigade and even build an aircraft for Task Force 160th.

However, Dan’s childhood passion was always related to the automobile industry. The first car he fell in love with as a five-year-old was a ’67 Camaro, and while stationed at Ft. Bragg NC thirteen years later, he purchased the exact same model after badgering its owner. From then on, he began taking car repair and restoration classes at local auto shops and could finally restore his Camaro thanks to his newfound knowledge.

Dan retired from the army in 2006, and founded DRS Automotive FantomWorks, which he has been running diligently for almost two decades. With a talented team providing automotive maintenance, restoration, modifications, and other services, it’s little surprise that the New Yorker boasts thousands of clients and knows pretty much everything there is to know about classic vehicles.

Melissa also stepped down from the military, and is now working at FantomWorks as a Human Resources and Special Projects manager. The couple have a son who was born in 2003 and recently graduated. It’s unclear when Dan relocated to Norfolk, Virginia, where his business is based.

“FantomWorks” lovers will know that the first cars Dan and his team worked on in the series were a Ford Model A Hot Rod and a ’63 Chevy Corvette. FantomWorks also manufactures parts for muscle cars and works with domestic motorcycles, Harleys, and Kawasakis – a testament to the garage’s skilled and professional employees. The garage’s loveable guard dog, Heidi, is a cute and rambunctious German Shepherd who has her own fanbase, and has appeared in almost every episode.

When not busy with work, Dan and Melissa carve some time out of their jam-packed schedules to do charity work for veterans. Although they don’t brag about their good deeds, their altruism is common knowledge, as they work with various charities and organizations.

Some online sources claim that Dan is worth over $4 million; this seems unlikely, as he claimed he’d accumulated over $1 million in debt by the time “FantomWorks” was cancelled. However, Dan is nothing if not hardworking, and also sells FantomWorks merchandise to earn some extra cash.

Other Cast Members

None of the former “FantomWorks” cast members seem interested in fame, be it online or in real life, and many quietly stepped back from the limelight when the show stopped filming.

Allan Alvarez, the garage’s resident paint supervisor, is now working as a builder for Vintage Evolution Custom Classic Cars. He previously worked at Sterling Hot Rods and The Creative Workshop, and has roughly 1,500 Instagram followers. Meanwhile, the project manager Rob Dietzel has gone completely off the grid.

Tragically, a FantomWorks employee died in a motorcycle accident in July 2021 aged just 22 years old. Despite not appearing in the series, Mitch was very much part of the FantomWorks family, with Dan and the crew penning him a touching obituary that reads: “Mitch was with us for just a short time but was a valuable positive member of our team and will be missed.  A young man with a prospective future that who was taken far too soon.”

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