Classic car flipping shows are always a sight to behold, and “FantomWorks” isn’t an exception. Ever since it premiered in 2013 on MotorTrend, Dan Short and his expert team truly showed us what it meant to give old cars a new life.
Though it’s been a while since “FantomWorks” left TV screens for sure, the show’s incredible success made it unforgettable, including its stars.
So whatever is going on with “FantomWorks” nowadays? Is the business still open, or has Dan moved out to another field? What was the reason the show was canceled, and is there any chance of it returning? Keep with us to know it all!
Is The Business Active Nowadays?
Although “FantomWorks” was canceled a couple of years ago, the business of the same name around which the show was centered is still active. As seen on its official Facebook page, the automotive shop continues actively restoring classic cars, besides offering some other products such as stamp equipment rental, and an online shop for car accessories and clothing.
As well, FantomWorks doesn’t stay away from attending important events in the automotive field, such as the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) which actually showcased the shop’s work in their educational online show “ARMO Builder Series” in 2021. The same year, FantomWorks also joined the Amphicar Swim-in show in Ohio.
All in all, FantomWorks seems to be doing business as always, and fortunately their work flow hasn’t slowed down much despite the end of the show.
What Happened To Dan Short?
Just like his shop, Dan Short hasn’t slowed down one bit when it comes to business, but also keeps trying new ways to uplift FantomWorks in the best way possible. Back in 2015, he started FantomWorks YouTube channel, but the account was barely active while the show aired on MotorTrend.
However, even since the cancellation, Dan has been promoting his shop’s endeavors on the video platform, sharing content about the garage’s activities, tours, and even holding question and answer sessions. FantomWorks’ other social media accounts are also quite active, gathering over 100,000 followers thanks to his efforts.
Check out the FantomWorks YouTube to see our latest video. https://t.co/lzApSjaYza
— FantomWorks (@FantomWorks) September 23, 2021
While not a lot about Dan’s personal life is known, his social media has shown us his marriage with Melissa is going on strongly.
Why Was The Show Canceled?
Once one of the most successful of MotorTrend’s restoration shows, a lot of people were flabbergasted when “FantomWorks” was canceled back in 2019 after the eighth season wrapped up.
What many people don’t know is that the end of “FantomWorks” was a matter of mutual agreement between Dan Short and MotorTrend. As Dan wrote in an open letter in early 2019, many difficulties related to production processes and extremely demanding work schedules, made continuing with the show an impossible mission. On top of it all, Dan affirmed the show had got him and his wife into millionaire debt for affording production costs.
With the support of his staff and family, in 2017 Dan finally told MotorTrend about wanting to quit. However, that didn’t become a reality until two years later, when the show ended for good: ‘As the cameras are now closing out the final segments of filming, the crew’s morale has skyrocketed, and the love of building cars is effervescent again’, as he described the experience.
Although the personal and financial problems caused by the show weren’t easily dismissed, Dan admitted his only ‘regret’ about “FantomWorks” end was to say goodbye to his loyal viewers: ‘I’ve traveled the globe and been truly delighted and humbled by meeting so many people who have openly expressed their love of our the shop and the show’.
More often than not, the off-camera details are kept a secret when it comes to reality TV. However, in the case of Dan Short, he was fortunately sincere enough to tell his followers what was really happening on the show’s set, right before it ended.
As described by himself, the “FantomWorks” production was extremely difficult, even though his team kept up ‘the utmost professionalism’ while it aired. Schedules were a huge energy drain for him and his team, as the show filmed for over 12 hours a day, six days a week.
Since the show’s premiere in 2013 to its end, “FantomWorks” had six producers, who tried to keep a sense of order, while the shop worked on over 60 projects at the same time: ‘Car restorations that averaged almost two years were a reality, while we had to display ‘continuity’ during the builds, so it looked like they were seamlessly done in only days’, as Dan wrote on his website.
I can't say enough how honored I am by the response we've received over the last few months about our show finishing. We've received thousands of heartfelt letters, emails, messages, and phone calls. I'm overwhelmed.
— FantomWorks (@FantomWorks) January 31, 2019
Although the business increased its turnover thanks to the show, it also meant work overload, and becoming the subject of people who allegedly wanted to take advantage of the shop’s increasing fame.
All in all, “FantomWorks” was an amazing show through and through, but keeping it on air became an uphill road for its cast.
What Happened To His Charity?
One of the most famous scandals in which Dan Short was involved is that of his charity, Wounded Wheels. As it happens, the non-profit was founded in the early 2010s and was featured a couple of times in the show, particularly showcasing the build of a 1970 Chevy Chevelle with wheelchair access and other commodities for disabled people.
The organization stated its mission as a means to help veterans wounded in battle, to access vehicles fit for paraplegic needs, listing research and development as its goals. However, the real issue came in 2015, when the then-current Virginia Senator Mark Warner raised concerns regarding the $90,000 in donations received by Wounded Wheels in the course of four years, as the non-profit hadn’t delivered any cars at the time.
Besides the lack of justification regarding the money’s usage, other issues concerning the Chevelle’s safety were reported by the Virginian Pilot, after interviewing former FantomWorks employees. The article was strongly criticized by Wounded Wheels, stating the lack of donations put the organization at risk: ‘A quadriplegic accessible car will cost over $200K, of which only $32K exists in the Wounded Wheels bank account’.
While it’s unknown where Warner’s investigation led to, Wounded Wheels’ social media accounts haven’t been updated since 2017, and its website is no longer active, leaving us to think that the non-profit was eventually shut down.
Truth be told, no show would be successful if its cast hadn’t been involved in a legal matter at some point. For FantomWorks and Dan Short, said incident occurred in 2012, when Richard and Cynthia Owens commissioned the restoration of a 1960 Ford Thunderbird to FantomWorks.
Upon inspection, Dan calculated the total restoration costs at $40,000, but a written contract was never signed. The Owens paid $30,000 split in half, though later Dan offered to buy a ‘donor car’ which would apparently provide an engine and other parts for a lower price. Said donor car turned out to be a $6,000 2001 Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor, damaged in an accident, amounting to a final price of $38,093.48 which the Owens agreed with.
Despite Dan suggesting a couple of fixings to the car’s interior later on, the relationship between both parts was on good terms, until Cynthia apparently threatened to sue Dan short through email if he didn’t provide ‘extensive documentation of all costs for parts and labor’ about the job, leading Dan to stop the work done on the car until sorting out the issue. Not long afterwards, the Owens sued Dan and FantomWorks for breach of contract, but the case was won by him in 2014.
As with most people in the automotive business, Dan Short’s love for cars started when he was a little kid. As he told the Virginian Pilot, he was five years old when he saw a 1967 Camaro, and became completely enamored with it, never forgetting that certain incident, even though he wasn’t really conscious of his love for cars until later in life: ‘I really didn’t start tinkering with cars much until I was about 15 or 16, and I just started playing. I didn’t have the money’.
In 1979 Dan enlisted into the US Army at 17 years old, which allowed him to finally buy his first car at 19 years old. That 1967 Camaro was where everything started, as it made him think about vehicles more than he ever did, even though his responsibilities in the Army were about ‘demolitions and medicine and weapons’. As he recalled in the interview, he would show up to work with grease on his hands, attracting mocking from his fellow soldiers, and sometimes putting his work in health at risk.
As a Green Beret, Dan was deployed very often, using his scarce free time in working on cars, learning as much as he could by self-learning, classes and other methods: ‘I hung out in shops, and helped out guys for free if they would teach me how to do stuff’, he affirmed.
How Did FantomWorks Start?
As if it wasn’t obvious enough, Dan Short’s passion and commitment with cars led to incredible results. Though his career in the military taught him great lessons, and even led him to meet his Marine future wife Melissa, the truth is that his time there made him realize he wanted to do something else with his life.
It occurred to him that he wanted to establish his own company, regardless of barely knowing how it could be possible: ‘It’s one thing to build cars as a hobby. It’s another thing to run 75 cars at a time through a business. It’s a completely different world’, he told the Virginian Pilot.
With his then-vast knowledge in cars, and testing his luck in the business field, in 2006 Dan finally established FantomWorks in Norfolk, Virginia., with the mission to ‘provide superior quality craftsmanship, old fashioned customer service, and complete upfront honesty’, as its website states. FantomWorks’ most special build offs start with a drawing, and result in a special, gorgeous classic car, which Dan affirms is a rarity to find in the automotive world: ‘There’s not 10 shops in the world that have ever even done that’.
While the work delivered by FantomWorks amounts to 1,000 hours of labor at minimum, it’s undeniable that Dan and his team’s passion is what primarily makes such a feat possible.
How Much Does It Cost?
Many people wonder how much a FantomWorks’ project costs, but the answer varies depending on what the work entails. Parts and material are usually included in the initial estimations for every car, but even though the former usually amounts to 25% of the total costs, and could even be lowered by using what’s already in the car, the final price is strongly affected by materials and labor costs.
While FantomWorks’ labor rates are often questioned by online users, given the lack of clear estimates in this regard, the truth is that most projects done in the shop usually cost thousands each. As Dan once said in an interview, their most ambitious builds could cost from $250,000 to $500,000, but those are very rare.
How Does It Work?
Although it’s unknown how FantomWorks’ processes went before TV fame increased their workflow, nowadays the shop only accepts projects by appointments. As it’s usual in any body shop, some restorations are only effectively calculated after the team inspects it, but other times the cost is calculated after half of the work has been already done, such is the case of rust repairs.
This is Sal's Cobra. I think it's the greatest paint scheme I've ever seen on a snake. What do you think? We just finished this one. Please ignore the dust, it was still in build here. pic.twitter.com/ULZ5uoq9bN
— FantomWorks (@FantomWorks) January 31, 2019
Even if working this way might not be everyone’s cup of tea, Dan proudly considers the work done in the shop worth the money and wait: ‘Even the minor stuff that we do is extensive, more extensive than any garage in town will do’, he admitted, while also pointing out that no FantomWorks’ project is done half-assedly. When his team builds, they commit to complete a restoration through and through, even manufacturing the necessary parts and fully leading its assembly.
The work done by FantomWorks mostly comes from the local area, but even in its beginnings, the shop received a considerable number of projects submitted by national and international customers, though that quantity surely increased as their MotorTrend’s show gained fame.
Despite the shop’s demanding work schedules, and the hardships it endured while the “FantomWorks” show aired, the business stayed alive thanks to Dan’s deep love for it, admittedly considering it ‘the most important thing in the world’, second only to his family.