Car addict, automotive expert and “Top Gear” co-host, Rutledge Wood is hitting the road to rescue and restore America’s underappreciated classic cars in the new History Channel series “Lost in Transmission.” The series began earlier this month. His passion for the eccentric comes alive in the series as he searches the barns and backyards of America to find the most incredible rides from the past and does anything and everything to get them back on the road to live another day.

From resurrecting everything from a 1981 DeLorean to a 1964 Ford F100, Rutledge captives car enthusiasts and non-car enthusiasts alike through his infectious personality and hysterical happenings and banter with fellow car enthusiast George Flanigen. Rutledge can also be seen as an NBC correspondent at NASCAR, Formula 1, IndyCar, Global Rallycross and Mecum Auctions.

I had the pleasure to chat with Rutledge about his new show, fatherhood, and what got him into NASCAR.

Art Eddy: There are a lot of things I want to talk with you about, but first let’s talk about your new show on the History Channel “Lost in Transmission.” Tell me about the show.

Rutledge Wood: Having worked on “Top Gear” for all these years on the History Channel they said that they wanted me to do another show between the seasons of “Top Gear.” I told them that I just wanted to be home. I need to be close to my wife and my daughters. I would like to do something fun. They said to come up with something.

I came up with this idea because I have too many junky cars as it is. My wife would appreciate the fact that I wouldn’t bring any more home. So I thought I could help others with their cars that were special to them. I could live vicariously through them and their cars once I fixed it up. That is what I decided what we were going to do.

My best friend is a great guy named George Flanigen. He signed up for this adventure with me. George is a music and television producer. He is a great guy out of Nashville. He is really good at all the X’s and O’s. I suffer kind of like my dad as being a big picture guy. I forget the details. So together we really make a good team. You will see some of my weird projects on the show. You will see my wife. You will see two of my three daughters. It was a really fun thing to do. We shot in Atlanta. We get to show people what I do when I am not on the road.lost in transmission

AE: Reading up on the background of your show, “Lost in Transmission” it says that you are looking to restore America’s underappreciated classic cars. What is the most underappreciated classic car that you worked on?

RW: I think the worst one that we worked on was on the first show of the season. It was a DeLorean. I will be honest Art, the DeLorean always had an amazing lure to me. I have only seen a few of them in person because there are not a lot of them out there. After working on it I realized that it is for a good reason. They are not great cars. They are quirky. The people who love them really, really love them.

You won’t find a lot of casual DeLorean owners. The car is real slow. It is hard to work on. It was like they were all just slapped together. That was the feeling that I got. My rule was that I wasn’t going to fix up a Camaro or a Mustang. There are so many TV shows that do that. I am not knocking that, but there are people out there with weird cars. We tried to find some cool ones to work on.

AE: What car would you love to work on and restore if you had your pick?

RW: That is a really good question. I am a real big wagon guy because I got three beautiful girls. Having a car that they can all fit in is really important. I don’t own too many two seaters. I own one currently. If you are a dad and you got a motorcycle and they can’t fit in it, guess what you are not going to be driving in it. For me it would be a ’55, ’56 or a ’57 Chevy wagon. It would have an Art Morrison chassis with a LS7 in there. I would just make it so awesome that I could drive it every single day. That would be the perfect family classic.

rwoodAE: You cover NASCAR too. I never was into car racing until I covered the Brickyard 400. Seeing everything that goes into each team I gained a ton of respect for that sport. When did you become a fan of racing?

RW: I started with Speed Channel 11 years ago in their marketing department through a Craigslist ad. It was because I knew I loved cars and I didn’t know too much about NASCAR when I started. I had this plan to sneak myself on TV. I got out there and fell in love with the people, the sport, and the cars. The fans to be honest is what makes NASCAR what it is.

I have been so lucky because my job is to be a bridge between the fans and the drivers. Some people think we are just riding around in circles. They are a hundred percent correct. (Both laugh.) It is pure entertainment. We are not solving the world’s problems. We are out there having a good time.

Now I work for NBC Sports and I will be out each week starting in July for our races. I am lucky because they are going to let me go out and find the fun stories and get to talk to people. Just like you saw when you go to a race in person it changes everything you think you know about that sport. The athleticism for the guys and gals to jump over the wall to do pit stops. The drivers and other members of the crew need an incredible amount of effort to make that sport work.

AE: When you are not working and hanging out with your family what do you like to do?

RW: I am a drummer. I try to get to my drum set as often as I can. I played in a band in high school and in college. Now where I am in life I work so much that when I am home I try and jump in and do stuff with my girls. To be honest I will have five minutes every once and a while to myself. Other than that we are just playing. We are just trying to have as much fun with the kids as we can. So I don’t have any hobbies outside of work and family. To be honest I am great with that.

AE: Speaking of family, what are some of the morals you look to pass on to your children as they were growing up?

RW: We try to help them understand how important it is to treat people right. You have to do that across the board. It is not a selective thing. I was really fortunate to have the great parents that I had growing up. My parents always kept reminding me that it was okay to be me. It was okay to be different. Without them I certainly wouldn’t be the person that I am today.

We try to teach our kids that all people come from different places. Everyone has different stuff on their plates. I try to make sure that they know that there is nothing more important to my wife and I then our kids. We need to make them understand that life is about treating people right, having a great time, and loving one another. Love what you have. Don’t wish away your time with you thinking that you should be doing something else. Enjoy the opportunity that you have to be together with family and run with that as hard as you can each day.rutlege and daughter

AE: You travel a lot for your work. Things like FaceTime and Skype are great ways to stay in touch when you are on the road. How do you balance work and family?

RW: For me Skype and FaceTime have completely changed the life of a traveling parent. I am honestly grateful for that. I have thrown out tweets before thanking Skype and Apple for that. The hardest thing about being a parent that travels, and any parent that travels knows this, you constantly want to be connected with your world at home so when you get there it is seamless. You pick up right where you left off.

The hard thing is that when you are gone your partner has to work so hard that everything else is taken care of and it doesn’t feel the void of you being gone. So it is tough when you are all having a good time and you have to say stop and you get off of FaceTime and they realize that daddy is not there. It is a very delicate balance to live off of that.

People will wonder why I take the earliest flights I can or why I take so many red eyes. If you looked at my travel schedule you will see that I punish myself with those flights. I get up at three or three thirty to get home. I want to have every minute possible with them. I am either going to sleep on the plane or I am going to have to have eight cups of coffee today. I just want to be home and be present.

AE: What advice do you have for new dads out there?

RW: That is a great question and a tough one. I read this one book when we were having our oldest daughter. It had camouflage on the cover. I can’t remember the name of the book. It was written by this former military guy who basically telling you that it was cool that you had your own self. Ditch it. You got a new plan. It is being a family man. You are going to step in and do whatever it takes. Be the dad you want to be.

There are a lot of moments as a new parent where you panic. You just have to remind yourself that we all go through that. There has never been anyone as a new dad that said, ‘Oh my gosh, this is a cakewalk. I should have had kids a long time ago.’

That doesn’t happen. It is not like finding out that you are really good at woodworking the first time you try it. It is not like that. (Both laugh.)

rutlege famLife of Dad Quick Five

AE: What is your favorite family movie you guys like to watch together?

RW: We love “The Music Man.” It is an old musical. That one is really good. It is worth watching. My in-laws love it. They got it for our daughters. That is a real big favorite. Of course “Frozen” is up there. We have girls. So that’s a given.

AE: Do you guys have a favorite song that you all like to sing and dance to as a family?

RW: We listen to a lot of Kidz Bop. Sometimes I find myself listening to it without the kids in the car. (Both laugh.) Taylor Swift is popular with my kids. We have a friend named Randy Montana that has a great song called “1,000 Faces.” They love that one. We sing that a lot.

AE: Describe the perfect family vacation.

RW: That is a great one. It is probably loading up my wife’s Toyota Sienna minivan with a car top carry on top and heading to Hilton Head or somewhere on east coast. Just going together and being able to be together for four or five days and just soaking up every minute of that time. Sand castles, sunburn, and eating too much ice cream. That is what it is all about. Those are the thing that I remember about my childhood.

AE: What was your first car?

RW: My first car was a 1981 Volkswagen Rabbit pickup. It was a diesel four speed with no options that my grandpa gave me. It would maybe do 65 miles per hour with a tailwind. It was an awesome first car. I still miss it. I worked on that thing a bunch. Somehow I blew that thing up. It smoked like a barbecue.

AE: Which venue is the best place to catch a NASCAR race?

RW: That’s a good question. My favorite place is obviously Atlanta Motor Speedway. It is in my backyard. They are like family to me. Texas Motor Speedway under the lights is one of my favorite tracks for sure. People always talk about Bristol being the greatest place. It is like watching a NASCAR race in the bottom of a big cereal bowl. They call it The Last Great Colosseum. That is totally true. It is an awesome place to see a race. It is amazing.

Follow Rutledge Wood on Twitter @RutledgeWood