Gearheads raved about “Iron Resurrection” as they swore on its authenticity as a show on auto restoration and customization. The hit Motor Trend series documented how a team of craftsmen at the Martin Bros Customs breathed new life into vehicles that were rusted out, and likely headed to the junkyard. Joe Martin, the shop owner, acquired a reputation for his incredible builds, which led to his journey into the world of reality television.

Get to know Joe Martin

He was born in Illinois, but his family moved to Texas when he was 10. Joe’s artistic bent had been quite evident since he was a little kid, as he loved to draw on just about any surface. The walls in their house weren’t spared, so his mother bought him a sketch pad. Aside from the cars that he tried to copy from Hot Rod magazines, he also enjoyed drawing trains, bicycles and other modes of transport. He just drew non-stop, even though he thought that he was bad at it. He didn’t know it then, but it was as though he was practicing for what would be an integral part of his business, which was conceptualizing designs.

Image source

Martin Bros Bikes

Joe didn’t receive any formal training whatsoever, but by hanging out with guys in the neighborhood when he was in his mid-teens, he was able to observe and pick up on things, be it ideas or skills. He painted skateboards, helmets and bikes, and then when he worked at an aftermarket accessory shop, he learned more about the mechanics of vehicles. People around him noticed his talent ,and began asking him to do custom paintwork. Soon he found himself with so much work that he had to expand from the back of his pickup truck, to a house with space at the back that he could use as a shop to handle the workload. His younger brother Jason became part of the operation, as they set up the Martin Bros Bikes. Joe was grateful that he was making a living out of something he enjoyed doing.

The company’s philosophy in terms of bike building was about putting a lot of emphasis on creativity and craftsmanship. Joe said that people with enough skills could construct anything, but if solely focused on getting the technical aspects right, one might end up with something good, but lacking in style and imagination – he was certainly not lacking in that regard.

His greatest influence

Joe’s talent was recognized by many, and it was natural for his fans to be curious about who his greatest influence was or who inspired him. He revealed in an interview that he was very much interested in the works of the American hot rod builder and designer, Boyd Coddington, but he couldn’t afford any of it; this inspired him to acquire tools and learn to do things by himself. If there were things he didn’t know how to do, he hung out with those who could teach him. At that time, bikes were not that cool, so he didn’t really have heroes in this line of work. That said, the people whom he considered to have influenced him the most were the local guys whom he acquired his skills from.

Inspiration for his designs

When Joe got into building or designing, all he wanted was to ‘freak’ people out with his work or to ‘dig his stuff.’ He believed that a bike was an extension of one’s personality, which meant that so much care was put into how a bike would look. When it came to cars, he drew inspiration from old ones, particularly Cadillacs, as he liked the bodylines or metalwork from the early models of General Motors. He also preferred the appearances of old aircraft and trains. Later on, ideas for his designs would come from some music he listened to, or creatures he saw in films; basically, he said it could be anything that sparked his imagination.

Greatest bike builder in the world

Motor Bros Bikes offered custom-designed wheels, exhaust pipes, and other aftermarket accessories. Joe never imagined his creations would gain a lot of attention, not just locally but also at a national level. He recalled winning EZ Rider shows, and subsequently being featured in magazines. Soon, producers from the Discovery Channel become interested in him being part of “Biker Build-off.”

The show was first launched in 2002 as a single competition, but as it became popular, it turned into a regular series. Each participant was given 10 days to construct a customized bike, and then take it on the road to prove that it was completely operational. If it broke down on its way to the bike show, the builder was given an hour to fix it before he or she was disqualified. When the bikes made it to the show, the audience would cast their votes to determine the winner.

Joe joined in 2004, and although he lost during his first try, he later won, and qualified for the “World Biker Build-Off” that same year. He proudly represented the US as he competed against Australia’s Scotty Cox and England’s Russell Mitchell. As he pushed the boundaries and went for something he believed was most radical, he was declared the greatest bike builder in the world.

Martin Bros Customs

He originally worked with cars and then with bikes, especially during the motorcycle craze in the ‘90s. His business was booming, but with the economic downturn in 2008, Joe had to reduce his operation. Later on, he and his wife Amanda, moved from Dallas to Dripping Springs in rural Texas. Coincidentally, famous fabricator and customizer, Jesse James (“Monster Garage”), was also in the area, and Joe had the chance the work for him for a time, as he was just starting to establish his business there. Martin Bros Customs, which specialized not just in fabricating bikes, but also cars, trucks, and boats, was co-owned by Joe, his brother Jason, and Amanda.

“Iron Resurrection”

With Joe still on top of his game, it didn’t come as a surprise when the producers of “Biker Build-Off” reached out to him when they were looking for new content for the automotive-themed programming of the Velocity Channel, later rebranded as the Motor Trend Network. With the help of his brother, who had video equipment, they made a teaser reel on what they did at the shop, and presented it to Velocity. Before long, Joe signed a five-year contract with the network for the show, with his brother as one of the producers. “Iron Resurrection” premiered on 13 April 2016.

When he described what the show was all about, he said, ‘My team hunts down rusted wrecks. We knock out the ugly and put in the cool, and turn these buckets of rust into street art.’ Basically, Amanda and Joe’s best friend, Jayson “Shag” Arrington (Sales & Marketing), would travel all over the Texas countryside in search of classics that were thought to be just a heap of junk. Shag was known for making the best deals in acquiring not just cars but also the parts needed. As Joe’s reputation preceded him, the shop also had people coming to avail of their services. Joe would put to paper what he envisioned the vehicle would look like after it was restored, and then he and his crew would make it happen.

No frills, no drama

It was not just fans of Joe Martin who tuned in, but also those who appreciated reality TV without all the drama that most producers usually inject into the narrative to make the show more intriguing. Perhaps with his brother as one of the producers, they had more control of their content or what would be aired; not that they were trying to give themselves a positive image, but there really weren’t any fights, shouting matches, or drama that went on at the shop.

Working with family members could become problematic for some, but not for Joe. His brother was with the TV production, and Amanda handled the finances so was always in the office. He said that they never got on each other’s nerves as they worked on different things, and besides, they were too busy that they didn’t have the time to fight.

Joe claimed that through the years, he was able to build a team with people who were the best in their field, and who got along well. So, the chances of any of them butting heads over something trivial or a fight turning physical would be very rare or nil. The guys pulled pranks on each other, but they were all in good fun, and no one felt slighted when they joked around. Then, when the team was under pressure, they reacted to the situation well, to get it resolved in no time.

Problems naturally cropped up, but Joe didn’t want the focus to be on those things, saying that they weren’t actors, so there was no need to be dramatic about the things that happened in the shop. Also, he sometimes had to remind the producers that viewers weren’t stupid, and could easily see if a particular scene was staged. Joe mentioned in an interview that he wanted the biggest takeaway from the show to be the fun of building a car, as he was hoping he could inspire people to work on their vehicles, that might have been gathering dust in their garages or barns for years.

Joe’s favorite builds

It was known to many that he favored old cars, or those designed by the legendary General Motors designer, Earl Harley. From time to time, he would come across something that he found special that he ended up owning it.

1956 Ford Truck (“Cherry Bomb ’56 Ford Truck” episode, season five)

His wife Amanda’s uncle, Terry Smith, was selling his ’56 Ford truck that had been sitting in his barn for 30 years since 1990, and Joe was interested – Amanda and Shag went to check it out, and loved it. Terry shared that his grandfather, who owned a Ford dealership, immediately bought the truck upon seeing it for the first time fresh from the manufacturer. From then on, he drove it until he sold it to his friend before he passed away in the late ‘60s. Terry, who bought it back for $350, wanted to sell it for $500, but Amanda and Shag said they would buy it for a little over a thousand dollars, saying that it was the first time they offered a client more money.

Joe fell in love with it too, and wanted to keep it in the family, planning to use it as a work truck for the shop. His crew took it apart, down to its bare frame, and made the necessary adjustments so it would fit a bigger set of wheels, bigger brakes, an LS3 engine, and modern technology. When it came to its style and appearance, he wanted it to look old and rough, complete with ‘rust’, but retained its original color of Meadow Mist Green. Joe painted the shop’s logo on the door, following in the tradition of a hot rod shop. Amanda’s uncle couldn’t be happier with what they’d done to the truck – Joe then gave Terry a ride.

#56 #ford #f100 #patinatruck #shoptruck #texashillcountry #budnikwheels @ford @budnikwheels @lincolnelectric @mactools38…

Posted by Martin Bros Customs on Friday, January 15, 2021

1967 Nova (“Champagne Super Nova” episode, season two)

Joe said that a Generation II Nova was everybody’s favorite out of all the Novas, but he’d never owned one, so when a customer came in wanting to trade his ’67 Nova, he didn’t let the opportunity pass him by. Clearly excited, he said that it was a perfect canvas to become a kick-ass muscle car, as it had great lines and body. Everything looked cool from the grille and headlights to the tail lights. However, it still needed a lot of work to transform it into what Joe wanted; all the guys put in the time and effort to accomplish that.

After they did the work, everyone agreed that it had the whole package – the wheels, the LS motor, the color (champagne, two-tint), and the stance. The ’67 Nova was one of Joe’s dream cars, so even if there were people interested in it, he really didn’t want to part with it, however, if he could get a good return for it, then he would consider selling. In the meantime, he was going to keep it and enjoy it. Long after the episode aired, the header or cover photo of his shop’s Facebook page was still his ’67 Nova.

What happened to Joe Martin?

“Iron Resurrection” was regarded by most as one of the best car restoration shows around, as it was focused on building or customizing vehicles without all the drama that was usually part of reality shows. For a time, avid fans were worried about the future of the show when the covid-19 pandemic hit, as businesses closed, and there were lockdowns and travel restrictions. It didn’t help that there was no talk about a fifth season after the fourth one ended in April 2020 – fans were aware of Joe Martin only signing up for a five-year contract.

When news that some of his crew members such as Javier “Shorty” Ponce and Philip Cato left Martin Bros Customs for family or personal reasons, many became quite concerned. It appeared that Cato’s exit was brought on by his wife’s career change that necessitated a move to Atlanta, Georgia. Shorty’s family was in Dallas, and he opted to open his shop there so he would be near his loved ones. All this was stated on the official Facebook page of the show, as they replied to a fan who was asking them about what happened. They said that people’s priorities in life sometimes changed, but this didn’t stop other fans from speculating as to the ‘real’ reasons behind their decision to leave. True enough, it was revealed later on that Shorty was given his own automotive restoration show with a Latino flair called “Shorty’s Dream Shop,” which premiered in October 2022 on Motor Trend.

As for Joe, his show was still going strongly as the sixth season aired in 2022; being in a hit reality show changed his life. At car shows such as the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show, he found it strange that people recognized him, and even asked for his autograph or to pose with them for photos; he just saw himself as a regular guy who didn’t warrant all the attention he was receiving. It was humbling for him, as he said that there were other talented people who had the same job as him, but didn’t have the same opportunity to be in a TV show.

If there was a downside to being on TV, it would have to be the grueling schedule. Filming each step of the process was not that simple or easy, as there was pressure to finish the car quickly because the production people still had work to do before an episode could be aired. No matter what the producers said, Joe refused to do a rush job because he didn’t want to sacrifice quality. Even if Joe sometimes second-guessed his decision in doing the series, due to the long hours that it entailed, he said that he had no regrets as he was grateful to have their work featured on TV, because it was great for their business, giving them the chance to meet new clients and work on amazing cars.

Write A Comment

Pin It