“Fast N’ Loud” took the world by storm upon its release on 6 June 2012. It was a reality-based TV series by Discovery Channel, in which Richard Rawlings and his Dallas, Texas crew operated the Gas Monkey Garage, where they would bring old and broken-down cars to restore, hopefully for profit. The show garnered a lot of attention due to how extreme the car makeovers were, with some of their most impressive builds seeming nigh impossible to the unpracticed eye.
Sue Martin, also known as the ‘Upholstery Queen,’ has been an instrumental part of the cast ever since the show first aired. Her small stature and eastern appearance have also made her quite memorable among the audience, since these particular features are rarely, if ever, present in automotive industry celebrities.
Of course, as her nickname suggests, her talent for upholstery was unparalleled in the business at the time, and Richard Rawlings, who owns the shop, saw that quite clearly. She was thus his general go-to whenever a new rig needed upholstering, but this lasted only the initial 24 out of 157 total episodes.
Fact is that Sue herself was never an employee of Gas Monkey Garage, which would imply that Rawlings had to pay a lot more than he would to a direct subordinate. This is probably why he ended up siding with someone else later down the line, and why Sue dropped out of the series.
She and Richard had a great friendship
In spite of Rawlings eventually finding a replacement for Sue, the two had great chemistry on the show, and their interactions were some of the fans’ favorites. The video that clearly shows what an hilarious duo they are is entitled “Riding with Sue | Fast N’ Loud,” on Discovery’s YouTube channel.
The video starts the way they usually meet up – with Richard bringing the vehicle over to Sue’s shop so that she could look at it and give him an estimated price of the work he requires. This time, however, old Rawlings wanted to play with the idea that she doesn’t have anything good to say about the cars he brings in, so the video went in an evidently different direction than normal.
Right out the door, Shawn says ‘Man, Sue, this place gets bigger every time I come in here.’ He tells her that he has a ’1932 Ford Coup – ‘You’ve done a couple for me in the past.’ Sue is visibly confused and asks ‘Where’s the car?’ Rawlings casually replies with ‘Well you say I always bring you junk, so this time I left the junk at my shop.’
Sue chuckles and asks ‘How am I supposed to work on it? The car isn’t here, I can’t give you a price.’ Shawn simply says ‘Well, can’t you just come over and take a look at it?’ Sue reluctantly agrees, and the next thing the audience sees is her climbing onto the back of Shawn’s custom-built green chopper. He simply says ‘Alright, hold on tight!’ and lets the engine rip, giving Sue a visibly worried look throughout the ride to the shop.
Immediately upon arriving, Sue said ‘It hurt my back. I ain’t riding with him no more. Lousy driver.’ Shawn shows her the car, and says that he wants the upholstery to be a ‘clean’ black color, including the carpet, the headliner and the door panels. Finally, he asks ‘How much is this gonna cost me? You’ve done cars like this for me a hundred times over.’
Sue nonchalantly replies with ‘This is gonna cost you $5,000.’ Shawn waves his hand away and says ‘What?!’ Sue simply confirms what she said. In the interview with the camera crew, he says she did upholstery for far less and in far worse conditions earlier in the show, sometimes with very tight time constraints as well. Naturally, he begins haggling, saying ‘How about $3,500?’
Sue just says ‘What?! No,’ and to the camera crew ‘Here we go again. Every time.’ Richard is very visibly trying to reduce the price, while still believing in the quality of her work, saying ‘I don’t know if it’s worth five grand. Can I get some kind of discount, like $2,500?’ Martin gives him a quick ‘No way,’ calling him a ‘Cheap ass monkey’ in her private interview.
It’s videos like this that truly appealed Sue to the fans, even though she was never a part of the original cast from the shop itself. Her no-holds-barred approach was seen as quite refreshing by most of the audience, and thus her presence disappearing from the show was a tough pill to swallow for many car enthusiasts around the world.
Don’t mess with Sue
In the video entitled “Don’t Mess With Sue | Fast N’ Loud,” Sue is seen handling many situations that are commonplace when Rawlings is doing business. Thanks to her honesty and confidence, Sue came across as one of the most unique members of the show. Richard brought her a very small van, to which she said ‘What the s**t is this,’ to which he casually responded with ‘It’s half a van. Half-car, half-price.’
Sue just hit him with ‘I don’t think so. $3,500.’ Rawlings was visibly taken aback by how boldly Martin asserts her prices, saying ‘$3,500?’ To the camera crew, he said ‘That’s the most expensive interior job she’s ever quoted for us.’ Sue wasn’t having any of the half-car half-price narrative, saying ‘He just left, and I don’t care. Go. Bye. Who the hell built a car like that anyway?’
They tried bringing her another car, which this time needed full upholstery. Sue again said ‘$3,500,’ to which Rawlings said ‘$3,500? Is that the only number Sue knows now? Alright, $3,500. I need it by… Can we have it Monday morning?’ Martin just gave him a ‘Sure!’
Apparently satisfied with the outcome, Rawlings said ‘It’s very easy dealing with Sue today. Did you wake up in a good mood?’ She just said ‘Yeah.’ Richard didn’t feel like that was enough, so he continued with ‘You didn’t say ‘cheap ass monkey,’ or ‘bring me junk.’ He gave her a high five and said ‘Bye dragon lady.’
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Right as he was leaving, she had to interject with ‘Gas monkey!’ Rawlings was excited, yelling ‘Aw she said it!’ He then explained how they need to get the old upholstery material to Sue so that she could look at it and create her own design based on that.
He approached with the necessary seats and said ‘What’s up Sue? You remember the Night Rider?’ Sue straight up gave him the price of $1,500, and he stated ‘You know what? I’m not even gonna argue. $1,500 is fine.’
This let Sue know that she should’ve given him a much higher quote, since Richard didn’t even haggle. She told him that, and he replied with ‘Yeah, you should have. See, I got one over on you today. $1,500. See you in four days.’
Four days later Sue brought in the seats, immediately asking ‘What’s wrong with you?’ Richard said ‘There’s a lot of things wrong with me, Sue. Most of it you wouldn’t understand ‘cuz it’s in English.’ He asked her how much the seats were, and she said ‘I only wanted to make you happy.’ Richard gladly responded with ‘I wanna be happy. You know what? And I want you to be happy, so go in there and tell Christy that you need a check for $1,600. You get a $100 tip today.’
Sue’s own spotlight
Even though Discovery never signed a contract with Sue, they were more than happy to feature her business in the show, simply for the fact that she always did an incredible job with the upholstery. The video starts with her saying ‘I’m the star, not Richard.’
In the video posted in February 2013, Sue reveals that she has owned her business ASM Auto Upholstery for 23 years, which in late 2022 is nearing 33 years. She calls the place her ‘second home,’ saying ‘I like it, I spend a lot of time here.’
It’s no surprise that Sue doesn’t get much of a weekend, spending 12 to 14 hours working every single day, which is undoubtedly what allows her to produce such high quality car interiors, and outshine the competition.
She has a son, as well as a daughter called Karen, both of whom have now been in the business for over a decade. Sue has been trying to get them to take over the business so that she can retire. The wall in her office is covered with the hundreds of cars she’s worked on throughout her career, coming off as a truly impressive resume without the need for words.
Funnily enough, she revealed that she doesn’t have any “Fast N’ Loud” cars on the wall, saying ‘I like it, I like it very much, except Richard. I don’t have Gas Monkey’s car, Richard, his car is junk. I don’t want to put junk on my wall.’ What makes the statement particularly entertaining is the fact that most of her worldwide popularity came from the projects she worked on in the show, for Gas Monkey Garage. However, since the cars do actually look like junk prior to restoration, Sue decided to simply keep them off her wall.
Her sister also works there, mainly taking charge of duties in the sewing room. Next up was the material room, where hundreds upon hundreds of rolls of leather, cotton, velvet and other types of materials lay stacked on top of one another. She showed the crew how they were all placed in an orderly fashion, except for one corner.
She said ‘Look at this material here. Look at this. This is for Gas Monkey. That’s a piece of junk. That’s why I put the junk material in one area, for him to pick.’ At the time this video was being filmed, it appears that Sue was working with Gas Monkey so closely that certain portions of her shop were fully altered to fit the ever-increasing number of orders coming from Rawlings.
They finally reached the garage area, where numerous cars were parked and in various stages of upholstery work, some with their convertible tops still torn off. She said ‘Look over here, this is a Maserati. We walked in on it right now. Look at it. Richard never brings me cars like that. That’s why I tell him ‘You always bring me the junk.’’
Ultimately, she introduced everyone to her pet canines by saying ‘I don’t have a monkey, but I have my dogs. You wanna see ‘em? Come on.’ She showed her three boxers named Coco, Bronkie and Chuchu, then ended the tour with ‘Thank you for visiting my shop, now get out of here! I have work to do! Bye!’
In late 2022 Sue still runs her business as smoothly as ever, having expanded her array of services into repairing, besides just upholstery. Martin’s new dent repair service features paint-less restoration of vehicles that had been battered by a strong hailstorm or anything else of the sort, as long as the damage is light and not severe.
The business began in 1990, six years after Sue moved to the US with her husband and kids. Martin and her friend reupholstered the family’s 1968 Grand Torino, which eventually got her to purchase a failing and bankrupt upholstery company, for just $4,500. ASM Auto Upholstery has been dominating from Dallas, Texas ever since.
Finally, with Richard Rawlings’ business doing mighty fine as well, it might only be a matter of time before the two start collaborating again, which is bound to present the audience with some of the finest looking vehicles yet.