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Supercar Superbuild Shines With Honest, Heartfelt Approach

When we see our dream cars they always look so pristine and perfect. In fact, they look so good it’s hard to imagine them as anything but perfect. Yet, how our dream cars arrive at this point is something of a story, and Supercar Superbuild on the Smithsonian Channel tells that story in vivid detail. The show goes behind the scenes where we see the high-stakes gambles, engineering challenges, impossible deadlines, and clandestine meetings that often make up a car’s life.

“Part of the story telling is about the stakes involved and these massive bets made by teams of talented people,” explained Dylan Weiss, Executive Producer of Supercar Superbuild for Cry Havoc Productions. “There is a lot of heart and hard work and effort that goes into making a car, and it’s much more than the collection of its parts.”

Little Wonders

Weiss says doing the show has taught him even the smallest, most insignificant parts are anything but. He still marvels at the thousands that need to be designed, engineered, and tested for any one vehicle. These little, yet significant realizations are woven through the Supercar Superbuild fabric, and for viewers the payoff is remarkable.

“We have been very fortunate to get this working man’s Ph.D. on how a car factory works,” Weiss said. “When we walk up and down the lines and see little grommets – somebody had to make that – they are making that to put food on their table and to put their kids through school.”

Eventually, all those little grommets add up to our favorite cars.

“I can’t think of a better thing than how out of that comes this product of joy for someone else,” Weiss continued. “My hope is that if people catch our show, they get a chance to see that.”

Porsche 911 assembly
A Porsche 911 on the line before being “married” to its engine in Zuffenhausen, Germany. Porsche is one of the manufacturers featured in season two of Supercar Superbuild. Photo: Dylan Weiss.

Profound People & Powerful Impacts

The archival footage and historical information is one of the most enjoyable parts of the show, and we see plenty of both this season. We also meet the executives, artisans, designers, and engineers responsible for getting our dream cars to reality. As we get to know them, we begin to understand how our favorite cars come to fruition, and why they contain the engineering and design characteristics they do.

“There’s a lot of humanity to it,” Weiss said. “Every brand is different for a reason, and I think the people behind those brands ought to be celebrated, both for their engineering prowess and their craftsmanship.”

One example Weiss cites is when their cameras traveled to Detroit, Michigan to cover the Chevy Camaro for the show’s current season. Prior to meeting Camaro Chief Engineer Al Oppenheiser, Weiss had met Dave Pericak, who before his current role as Ford’s Engineering Director for Unibody, was Chief Engineer of the 50th Anniversary Ford Mustang. These two engineers overseeing two different platforms had a profound impact on Weiss.

“I can’t think of two guys who represent their cars better,” he said. “That chess match they play every year: ‘how much horsepower is he going to go up by, what do I have to do, how much faster do I have to get’ – that back and forth is pretty incredible.”

Chevy Camaro assembly
“I don’t necessarily look at a Camaro as a Camaro, I look at it as Al’s car,” Weiss said, who snapped this photo of a 2016 Camaro SS at Lansing Grand River Assembly. “Even if I end up in an airport with a rental, it’s not just some big bleak corporation; it’s a person’s machine, and they put their heart and soul into it.”

Generational Pride

The automotive business is similar to other industries in the sense it is passed down from generation to generation. We see this in Detroit, our publication’s principal location and home. Much like a Midwestern farmer might be honored to pass his land to his eldest son, it’s a similar idea here in the mighty Motor City. Weiss says this idea – like the small parts on the assembly line or two engineers in competition – has really stuck with him.

“We’ve been fortunate to connect with all of these multi-generational stories, especially in areas like Detroit or the Midlands of the UK, where jobs are almost handed down father to son, mother to daughter, mother to son; however you wanna do it,” Weiss said. “We end up meeting a fair number of GM families or Ford families or Alfa Romeo families.”

Jaguar factory
During season two of Supercar Superbuild, a father-and-son duo who work together in the Jaguar factory are profiled. Photo: Dylan Weiss.

Personal Journey

The auto industry’s intangible elements undoubtedly strike a chord with Weiss, and it’s evident in his work with Supercar Superbuild. His dad produced Peter Jennings on ABC World News Tonight and spent most of his career in big journalism. Weiss, a USC film school graduate, rode motorcycles with his dad for years, with those rides turning into conversations on how they could take their passion for anything with an engine and turn it into something viable.

“We were sitting at a bar one day after 200 glorious miles of riding up the California coast, having an adult beverage, and watching the sunset,” Weiss recalled. “We looked at each other and said ‘what do you want to do when you grow up,’ and both of us realized we wanted to make original programming.”

Coming To Fruition

That conversation, now 17 years ago, lead Weiss and his father to start Cry Havoc Productions, the company that produces Supercar Superbuild. The show, now in its second season, is signed on for another with the Smithsonian Channel. Weiss and his team are currently working on the third season, and it’s clear none of them take it for granted.

“Basically everyone on my crew is a car guy and it’s just a real blessing to do this,” Weiss said. “These are companies putting people through college, putting food on the table, and making sure the next generation has a roof over their heads. That’s pretty incredible and I think we get lost in that sometimes.”

Mercedes-Benz in Weinsberg, Germany
Quality control associates inspect an aluminum body for a future Mercedes-Benz vehicle in Weinsberg, Germany. Mercedes-Benz is among the automakers featured in season two of Supercar Superbuild. Photo: Dylan Weiss.

When & Where

Supercar Superbuild airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. Eastern/Pacific (check local listings) on the Smithsonian Channel. Our recommendation is to just purchase the entire show if you are able to. In a world where we are bombarded by multiple streaming services and TV programs, many of which offer little to no intrinsic value, it’s rare when we get to enjoy something as heartfelt and honest as Supercar Superbuild.

“We want accessible, friendly programming that the whole family can watch,” Weiss said. “We want to give the whole family some insight into the design, engineering, and the people behind the machines.”

Carl Anthony is Managing Editor of Automoblog and resides in Detroit, Michigan. He studies mechanical engineering at Wayne State University, serves on the Board of Directors for the Ally Jolie Baldwin Foundation, and is a loyal Detroit Lions fan.