“You actually used your truck, and in using your truck, you build this relationship with it,” he says. “Any guy who works for a living and drives a truck, his truck is part of the family. That’s his livelihood, that’s how he makes his living, that’s how he gets to and from work. You’d be shocked at how many people across this country have a family-type relationship with their truck.”
2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee Diesel
Heavy D also has a Jeep that he relies on heavily. “I love the fact that it’s not a truck, and I come from the truck world,” he says. “For me it’s a total change of pace because it’s sporty. It’s the Overland package, which has the Air Suspension, so it’s very smooth riding.”
Heavy D uses his Jeep to drive around town and finds it easy to get in and out of tight parking spots. “The turning radius is awesome. Fuel economy is amazing—it gets an average of 25 miles a gallon. And it’s super peppy; it gets up and goes. It’s much faster than old Jeep models,” he says.
He gives it an 8.5 on a scale of 10 because he feels Jeep could have done a better job with it. “As far as the transmission, it needs a little bit of help with the way it shifts sometimes,” he says. “The back seat is really tight, so that makes it not fun for when there are kids back there.”
Heavy D originally bought the Jeep new for his wife. “We’re in the business of diesel vehicles, and I wanted to try to support the diesel market, so when Jeep came out with the Grand Cherokee, it was a natural fit for us because there weren’t very many diesel SUVs on the market, especially in 2015,” he says.
The Grand Cherokee was comfortable when they had two kids, but now that they have a third, the back seat is too tight for three car seats. So they switched to a Chevrolet Tahoe, and Heavy D started driving the Jeep himself.
“Originally I planned on selling it, but after driving it for a couple of weeks, I fell in love with it,” he says.
2017 Polaris Slingshot SLR
Heavy D drives this street-legal three-wheeled two-seater anytime he can. “That thing is awesome to drive back and forth to the office. It’s not something that I’d take on a long road trip or lug my family in,” he says. “They’re super cool.”
Even though it drives like a car, he doesn’t give it a 10. He says it needs a little more top-end performance and could use a factory-installed turbo.
“I love the Slingshot because I love motorcycles,” he says. “I alternate between my Harley and the Slingshot, but I like the Slingshot because it’s more of a hybrid between a car and a motorcycle.”
He gets that feeling of riding a motorcycle, but the Polaris has more of a windshield and cockpit. “If I’m going to a meeting, I don’t want my clothes blown all over the place, so it protects me from that. But it gives me the chance to catch some sun and it’s really sporty and super nimble, so I can get in and out of traffic really easily in tight places,” he says.
Although the Slingshot is his commuting vehicle, Heavy D takes the Jeep in the winter or anytime it’s overcast. “In Utah we only get three or four months’ worth of decent weather, so that’s the only time I can drive the Slingshot. I’m not going to take it out in the snow,” he says.
The Slingshot always turns heads. “I’ve got some pretty amazing vehicles, but strangely enough, the vehicle that gets the most attention, the most looks by far, is the Polaris Slingshot. People look at it like it’s a spaceship, because it looks like a spaceship,” he says. “It’s crazy.”
One time, Heavy D and a friend in a Lamborghini drove to a fast food place and everybody went straight to the Slingshot. “They’d never seen it before—they didn’t know what it was. People definitely love them,” he says.
2017 Polaris RZR Turbo
Heavy D drives this Polaris to work once or twice a month. “Most of the time, I leave it parked at home. We live on a mountain, so we can drive straight from our house, go up to the top of the mountain, go for a little drive up on the trail, and then come back. We also have a cabin 15 miles up the mountain from our house. And that’s our number-one mode of transportation to get the family back and forth.”
He originally bought the RZR Turbo to take it off-road in the mountains and for tight spots where trucks can’t go. “But now that they’ve made them street legal in Utah, we can literally drive it from the house all the way to the mountain, and we don’t have to trailer it anymore, which is awesome,” he says.
This short list is the extent of Heavy D’s personal drivers. “I’ve made my cars my business. I used to have a garage full of cars that were mine that I just drove,” he says. “Now I have a dealership so that I can buy and sell them and just drive whatever I want.”
Car he learned to drive in
Heavy D’s grandfather taught him the concept of driving when he was eight years old, in a backhoe. “The backhoe has a steering wheel, gas, a brake, forward, reverse, everything like a car,” he says. “I was very ambitious to learn how to drive. I always bugged my dad when I was little to take me out to the desert and let me drive his truck.”
After he learned the basics, anytime he got a chance to drive tractors, or if the family went camping in the desert, Heavy D would drive anything he could.
He got his learner’s permit and license on his first car, a 1988 Chevrolet K5 Blazer, in Utah. “My birthday is in January, and in Utah there’s a lot of snow, so I got my driver’s license when there was a couple feet of snow on the ground. I had to adapt and learn really early on how to drive in the snow,” he recalls.
His parents made him save up money to buy his first car, and he thought they would chip in, as well. “But they wanted me to have the full experience of the responsibility of buying a car,” Heavy D says. “To be able to finish paying for it, they taught me how to get a loan from the credit union. So I got a small loan and learned how to make payments on time. It was cool because I was the only 16-year-old that had any credit. … Looking back, I’m super grateful for it because it taught me how money works.”
Favorite road trip
Heavy D’s favorite road trip is a family summer trip he’s done since he was a kid. He takes I-15 to U.S. Route 89, and his favorite stretch is from Beaver to Lake Powell on U.S. 89.
“It goes through Bryce Canyon and all those beautiful southern Utah places—a city called Panguitch, Kanab, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, and then it goes to Lake Powell. It goes from high forest to high desert, to red rocks and desert. All within a couple hundred miles,” he recounts.
Heavy D takes that drive once or twice a summer. From his house to Lake Powell, the drive on the winding two-lane highway is a six-hour trip. “We go to Lake Powell, and we tug a boat down there. We spend a week there and then drive home,” he says.
Diesel Brothers on Discovery, Mondays at 10 p.m.
Many people loathe going back to work on Mondays, but what Heavy D does for a living doesn’t feel like a job.
“Unlike other people, I count down the minutes until Sundays are over because I can’t stand sitting around. I love being at the office and the shop, looking for that next deal, or working on a unique vehicle,” says Heavy D.
The day we spoke, Heavy D was in the shop waiting for a helicopter to be painted. “To me, they’re like unique vehicles. I’ve literally been pacing back and forth, waiting for my helicopter to be done, so that I could just look at it. It’s the same way with all the vehicles I have,” he says. “I can’t wait to see when that set of wheels and tires gets mounted, or to see what it’s going to look like when it gets this paint job on it. I love what I do—it’s play as much as work.”
Heavy D has loved cars his whole life and has always worked on them. He wanted to try everything, so he started a used car dealership, allowing him to live out that dream.
“I found out I could make money at that,” he says. Although he didn’t set out to have a show, Heavy D’s photos and videos on social media got noticed by Jay Leno and Discovery.
“People started to go crazy over them,” he says. “That blew up and became really big, and we had a video once where my friend Dave and I did a stunt with a truck. We hooked the tailpipe into a bathroom, and a buddy of ours was in the bathroom and it blew smoke on him. It was funny, and Jay Leno saw that on YouTube, so he had us on his show on a little segment called ‘Prank You Very Much.’ He just thought it was the funniest prank in the world because it had to do with a truck. And then Discovery saw that little clip on Jay.”
Living Out His Passion
Heavy D offers tips to others on following their passion. For him, it wasn’t about the money, although making a living was also a necessity.
“I didn’t get into the car business to make money on selling cars. I got into the car business so I could justify my hobby of wanting to try every vehicle in the book. I treated every car as if it were my own. I would only buy things that I wanted. My thought process when I go buy a car has always been, ‘If I get stuck with it and I can’t sell it, I’ve got to be OK with it.’ That helps me avoid buying vehicles that I wouldn’t necessarily be passionate about.”
Heavy D says his customers are like-minded people. “They see the passion in the car and the passion that we put into repairing or modifying or selling it,” he says. “That’s made our business successful, because we’re dealing with enthusiasts.”
When he started his business, Heavy D also didn’t worry what others thought of him, that he was a used car salesman. “I could care less. Call me what you want to call me, I’m doing what I want to do for a living. I’m enjoying it,” he says.
His passion, and this show, took him from an 800-square-foot storage unit, where he was selling cars, to a new 30,000-square-foot warehouse.
“The show obviously wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t have our original business,” Heavy D says.
He tries to stay away from too many client builds. “I found that it really restricts my artistic freedom. When somebody comes in and says, ‘Paint me the picture just like this,’ it’s not as much fun. But if you get to say, ‘Look at this beautiful picture I’ve painted, and I love it, I’m so passionate about it, it’s exactly what I wanted.’ And then if somebody wants to buy that from you, that’s a totally different feeling than just following someone else’s marching orders.”
Heavy D sums up his life as living the American dream. “We’re building a business, we’re making a living doing things that we love. I always tell people, if I wasn’t doing this for a living, I would pay to do this,” he says with a laugh.
There are 100 cars on the lot that Heavy D can now enjoy, with up to 20 vehicles under construction at any point.
“It’s very untraditional. I’m not loyal to any brand. I love them all, like having a bunch of children and not trying to pick a favorite,” Heavy D says. “Our overall M.O. and what we always try to do, especially on the truck side, is to show what trucks are capable of.”
He says lots of guys build show trucks and park them at a big show, or they’ll just sit and gather dust. “We would rather build a beautiful big show truck and then take it to Moab and go hit all the four-wheel-drive trails and go really use it like crazy,” he says.
Diesel Brothers has also inspired many fans to go after their own passion projects, such as dusting off an old car sitting in the garage, or even just buying their first diesel pickup. Heavy D’s advice to people about cars can easily be translated to how he took chances on his own life.
“When people ask me, ‘How do you do it?’ I tell them, ‘Screw risk! Forget failure. What’s your worst-case scenario? Your worst-case scenario is never that bad.’ If you want to build your project car, go do it. Obviously, be smart about it, but if you want to finish your truck or build your dream truck or go buy your dream vehicle, do it,” he says. “Don’t wait for somebody else to do it.”
People used to ask Heavy D how he knows he’ll make money on a vehicle he buys, and his reply was always, “‘I don’t. I don’t even think about it. I don’t consider the risk,'” he says. “To me, it’s not an option. I just know that I’m doing what I love. As long as I’m doing what I love, I’m going to find an exit strategy and find a way to make it work.”
Heavy D says this all started after he dropped out of college and began buying and selling tractors, which led to trucks and modifying trucks.
“Every little thing happens because it’s one step closer to where you’re trying to get,” he says. “I’ve always said, ‘Roll with the punches.’ Whatever happens, whatever comes, just take it in stride and move onto the next thing. Don’t get hung up on the little issues, the little failures. We’ve had massive failures, but they just don’t matter to us. We don’t really care about them because we’re so ready to move on to the next thing.”
Watch Diesel Brothers on Discovery or right here on Motor Trend Premium.