Quick Stats: Jeff “AZN” Bonnett, Discovery’s Street Outlaws
Daily Driver: 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 (AZN’s rating: 10 on a scale of 1 to 10)
Other cars: see below
Favorite road trip: Oklahoma to California
Car he learned to drive in: 1964 Chevy II NOVA
First car bought: 1964 Chevy II NOVA
Car lovers understand the emotional value of the first car. It’s like a time machine. It holds memories, staying the same as the world ages around it. We might not be able to go back to an era that no longer exists or be with people who once sat in that car, but we can perhaps still take it for a spin like we did so many years ago. If only we still had the car.
For Jeff “AZN” Bonnett, Farmtruck’s partner on Discovery’s Street Outlaws, his 1964 Chevy II/Nova was that first car that got away. So when Farmtruck was able to locate it, they chronicled it on the show and brought viewers along for the journey.
“It had a straight-six in it and a three on the tree, which was my first experience with a manual transmission, so I assumed all cars came with the three on the tree,” he says. “I was in high school at the time. Farmtruck was able to find it again in the Carolinas and get it back for me in the same condition that it was when I sold it. And that’s the first car that I ever took a motor and transplanted a V-8 into with my dad and then transplanted an automatic transmission in it. And had my first street race in, got my first ticket in, and met Farmtruck in a street race in.”
It was the first car AZN bought and it cost him $2,800. “What my dad did is he basically said, ‘Hey, I’ll be your bank, and I will loan you the money.’ He loaned me the money, and I had to pay him back every single month like I would a bank,” he says.
AZN created a job that helped pay for the Nova. “All houses have an address number, and I found a way to put a note in their box, letting them know that if their house was ever to catch on fire, the fire department would be able to find their house easy,” he says. “They would call me up, and I would paint the address onto the curb. I told them just to leave the money in the envelope, and I would drop back by those houses, pick up the money in the envelope, and then paint the curb.”
“There were a lot of firsts in that car,” he says. “First time I ever got punched in the face—in that car. I did, I got punched right in the face. I didn’t know what to think of it.”
AZN’s dad taught him how to drive the Nova. “He was a horrible teacher, to be honest with you, because he feared my driving, which was probably horrible at the time, and so he did more yelling than teaching,” he says. “But in the end, I did learn how to drive appropriately through his aggression. But yeah, he taught me how to drive. He didn’t teach me how to drive like I drive now. That’s Farmtruck’s job.”
In a rather meticulous process in learning on the Nova, AZN practiced on rural Oklahoma City streets. “To learn how to drive, I would basically take the car and make as many laps as possible in my neighborhood every single day until I was comfortable,” he says. “And then I would move on to another neighborhood until I hit the city streets, and then I would keep doing that until I felt completely comfortable with knowing how to drive the car and rolling backwards on a hill with a manual—that’s always the biggest fear.”
At some point, the Nova leaked, which proved awkward for AZN when he was on a date. “The bushings all wore out on it, so it would get stuck in second gear,” he says. “On a date I would have to try to explain that to them, and I’d have to get out underneath the car and I’d get all greasy. It was embarrassing.”
A first car can be significant for what it can mean going forward. “Everyone’s first car kind of starts to carve the path on what kind of car guy they become,” AZN says. “Some guys like to lower cars for a living, some guys like to paint cars for a living. Some guys like to build motors, some guys like to drive them.”
The Nova was instrumental not just on what kind of car guy AZN did become, but also on the path his life would take.
“This car taught me what to wanted to do with cars for the rest of my life,” he says. “And that was to make them as fast as I could handle and keep upgrading them to make it go faster. So, learn how to drive it and keep improving the potential of the vehicle to be my skill set.”
AZN also began to figure out for himself that the car’s aesthetics weren’t as important as its innards. “I liked the car to look good at the time, but now I honestly don’t care what the car looks like,” he says. “That’s a treat, if the car looks cool. It’s appealing to me—that’s a bonus. But if it drives well and it caters to my style, that’s all that matters anymore. I don’t care what color it is, what wheels are on it. If it’s fun to drive, I’m in.”
In that episode, viewers got to see that AZN had done a little bit of research and only got so far with it initially. “I kind of gave up, and then Farmtruck used his skills in finding vehicles,” he says. “With a little bit of help from a few friends, he was able to track it down, pick it up, and deliver it to me.”
The Nova holds the nostalgic spot in his garage, but AZN’s 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 is pretty perfect in its own right. “To me it’s a 10,” he says. “It’s the most perfect vehicle that I’ve ever owned as far as daily drivers go.”
His Jeep fits the description of what a daily driver should be for him and for Farmtruck. “We like our daily drivers to be all purpose,” he says. “We’re hauling stuff around. It can’t really be a compact car. It needs to have some storage space. The Jeep isn’t the biggest, it doesn’t have the most storage space, but it has enough so that I can toss boxes in there. I can throw a bunch of people in there if I want to. It’s all-wheel drive, it makes four-wheel horsepower, there’s plenty of upgrades for it. That’s another thing. We like to pick vehicles that have a large aftermarket following. If you have a vehicle that you find performance upgrades for, what’s the fun in that?”
The Jeep has proven to be a great all around and fantastic vehicle, he says. “It handles amazingly, there’s plenty of performance upgrades in regards to the transmission, the rear end, it’s got all-wheel Brembo brakes that’ll do 200 miles an hour, and for somebody looking for a used SUV that offers them those qualities, it’s actually pretty rare to find,” AZN says.
Viewers have seen the Jeep in its cameo appearances on the show. “Our daily drivers don’t necessarily make big splashes on the show,” he says. “It hasn’t really highlighted that quite yet. They highlight our mainstream vehicles, which are our race vehicles. Our daily drivers will lead to us buying more daily drivers because we have upgraded them to the point where they can no longer be daily drivers.”
The Jeep’s been getting the upgrade treatment lately. “The engine is getting punched out, it was a 396,” he says. “Now it’s been punched out to a 405, and then it’s getting ProCharged, a D1X ProCharger on it. It’s also getting an aftermarket five-speed automatic transmission, upgraded axles all the way around, so it should make upwards around 1,100 horsepower and do the quarter mile in the mid nine.”
Favorite road trip
AZN’s favorite road trip is one he recently took with Farmtruck from Oklahoma City to Fontana, California to the Mega Race. In this first ever Mega Race, which aired in March just before the premiere of the new season of Street Outlaws, the duo competed against now-former Fast N’ Loud star and Celeb Drive Aaron Kaufman.
“It was memorable,” AZN says. “There’s things that could’ve factored in that would’ve made it a horrible road trip, but at the end of the day, that was a great road trip. Everything was very unique with this road trip, and being that our occupation, it kind of amplifies everything else. It makes everything else so much more amazing.”
AZN has an appreciation for the nostalgic place his Nova had in his life, but when it comes to a favorite road trip, he doesn’t relish one he’s taken years ago. “I share the same sentiment as Farmtruck,” he says. “I live very much in the present. I don’t live in the past, so everything that we do is amazing. I don’t really hold onto negative past memories. I don’t really hold on to too many positive past memories. I’ve got a good memory, but when it comes to attaching an emotion to it, I stay with the present. So this last trip has been the most recent. and that’s what I focus on until we move on to the next.”
But AZN does have an appreciation for the historic stretch of Route 66 nearby.
He likes that it can be a loop for car lovers. “You cruise the loop, you cruise Tasty Freeze, especially with the Sonic there,” he says. “Guys cruise, you meet up, cars guys, chat it up.
Although the fame that came with being on Discovery’s hit show means AZN doesn’t get out of the car to hang out and kick tires. “We can’t really do that anymore,” he says. “It becomes an occupation. I’ll cruise the place. I don’t mind that. I just won’t pull in.”
Discovery’s Street Outlaws Season 9
Discovery’s Street Outlaws Season 9 premiered earlier this month, after the first “Mega Race” episode where the two raced against Kaufman.
“I kind of feel like this was one of the first times that the two top shows for Discovery were car shows,” he says. “So I think that it’s relatively rare that two top shows happen to be of the same genre, and then it’s even more rare for them to interact or to comingle in a way that is competitive. That in by itself is unique, and then we have two completely different versions of reality in terms of characters. We have a money-generated transactional type show versus a bunch of grassroots, turnip-kicking rednecks that just like to race and don’t care about selling their cars. So it took two car shows and really melded them together, and it created a little bit of chaos. It brought a little bit of friendship together. The interactions are truly what keep people at the edge of their seats.”
AZN feels that Street Outlaws offers viewers a different perspective as a car show on television. “I think that the show has added something to the automotive industry that it’s been missing for a long time,” he says. “And that’s the ability to connect to it mainstream-wise. I think that people that don’t even care about cars and even don’t wish to care about cars, they’re innately attracted to it by the way that the show presents us and the vehicles on it.”
The fact that the show doesn’t just solely focus on cars has probably also helped fuel its popularity. “I think that the show has been successful because of the fact that it’s just a multifaceted version of the car life that we live, and it documents a little bit of who we are, what we do, and our competitive nature,” AZN says. “So the show has really taken the automotive industry and presented it to people that would’ve normally never even researched it. It’s been a huge blessing to everybody involved. It’s created a large dust storm that nobody can avoid. Street Outlaws has become a household name, and we’re extremely thankful for it.”
Street Outlaws airs on Discovery Monday nights at 9 p.m.