A love of classic muscle cars lands an alum on Discovery Channel
Cheyenne Ruether (Auto Body Technician ’11) has a job that may well be unique in North America: she has combined her roles as actress, spokesmodel and auto body mechanic.
Ruether currently stars in the reality TV show Vegas Rat Rods as the lone women on a team of mechanics. They build rat rods – hot rods that look like they drove straight out of Frankenstein’s garage – at a custom shop called Welder Up.
Based on vehicles from the 1940s to the early 1960s, they’re often pieced together from multiple vehicles and sell for anywhere from $3,000 to $200,000.
Ruether, who joined the cast for its third season, was already a fan of the show when she heard from an interested casting agent. We caught up with her on set in Las Vegas during filming of the series, which airs on the Discovery Channel. Here's what she told us about her one-of-a-kind career.
I have always had a weak spot for the automotive trade. I love to work with my hands and I hate the idea of an 8-to-5 desk job. Classic muscle cars made me fall in love with the thought of working on vehicles for a living.
There are very few people in the world who get paid to build these kinds of cars. Typically, it’s a time-consuming hobby for most gearheads. Rat rods were founded on the concept of making do with what you have and not spending a ton of money.
It’s safe to say this is one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever done. Don’t get me wrong – 10 previous years of restoration had me working my butt off. But nothing is harder than trying to build a rat rod in tight time frames with a big group of people working simultaneously on one car. Add a camera crew and constantly being pulled off the job to do interviews. You definitely have to be able to roll with the punches and give it your all, 10 to 18 hours a day.
That made my job [at the shop] especially challenging. I had to juggle my work in the automotive side and prove to Welder Up that I could work right alongside the team instead of being given a typical “parts girl” role.
I’ve grown accustomed to being pointed out as an oddity in this trade. But to be shown doing what I have been working towards for 10-plus years and proving women do need to be taken seriously in trades is very gratifying. I’m trying to pave a path so that women aren’t scared to enter and succeed in a male-dominated trade.
Things to know about life as a mechanic on TV
Training: Two years for a red seal journeyman ticket, plus more than 10 years of experience in collision repairs and restorations
Hours: on Vegas Rat Rods, 10 to 18 hours a day
Salary: An auto body technician makes between $15 and $60 an hour; salaries vary for the TV variety, depending on the contract