Chris Stephens is back at work. The showroom floor and parking lot at Eurotech Classics, the automotive business near Thurmont that he runs with his brother, is full of vintage Porsches, Volkswagens and other project cars. The 34-year-old mechanic is back at the trade he’s developed since his teen years while he waits to see how his recent move into reality television is received by audiences.
“It’s just ‘hurry up and wait’ at this point,’” Stephens said.
Stephens is a co-host of “Garage Rehab,” a new Discovery Channel reality show premiering later this summer. The show features Stephens traveling the country with host Richard Rawlings to help struggling automotive repair shop owners revive their businesses.
“We help the shop owners build a new plan, a new business idea, and help them with new equipment and even construction,” Stephens said. “Whatever a business needs to get back on its feet.”
When Stephens responded to a 2016 casting call seeking successful business owners, he was a natural fit for the role. He and brother Mark Stephens have run Eurotech Classics in three Frederick County locations since 2003. Their business was successful from the start, Stephens said. Eurotech specializes in restoring German cars, such as Volkswagens and Porsches, a niche without much competition in Frederick County.
Eurotech moved from its first location near Jefferson to downtown Frederick in 2010. The brothers saw a spike in business when rising oil prices in the late 2000s had many drivers buying fuel-efficient European cars, Stephens said.
Before finding success as a businessman, Stephens was fixing cars as a teenager. His father opened Alfa Romeo dealerships all around the East Coast. At 15, Stephens bought his first car, a 1975 Porsche 914, for a few hundred dollars. It took about two years of work to get the car running well enough to drive to school.
“I’ve always been a car guy,” Stephens said. “I’ve always like cars that were different.”
Eurotech moved to the location near Thurmont so the brothers could pare down their operation while Chris was on the road filming.
“I was gone for 15 months, so we wanted a place where Mark could do his thing without too many distractions,” Stephens said.
Filming “Garage Rehab’s” 10-episode first season took Stephens across the country, including Texas, Tennessee and Mississippi. The hosts help owners of car and motorcycle repair shops and even a smog check station in California.
Stephens’ role is that of a consultant, advising the struggling shop owners on everything from store design and customer service to social media.
“It’s all about first impressions,” Stephens said. “I always tell people, ‘Your own mother should feel comfortable going into the shop and asking about services.’”
The transition from mechanic and shop owner to reality show host was easy for Stephens, he said. He’s confident, hardworking and knowledgeable about fixing cars and running repair shops.
“I didn’t know what a TV personality was, or how to wear a microphone,” Stephens said. “They just told me to be myself and asked me to do a few things differently. I guess they liked the way I spoke.”
Although it remains to be seen how audiences will take to “Garage Rehab,” Stephens said he looks forward to continuing the work.
“It’s my dream job,” he said. “The show feels real, and we’re really helping people. When you get your business and financial issues in order, all of a sudden there’s more time to spend with your family. That can improve their marriages, their relationships with their kids, everything.”
Back at work at Eurotech, Stephens is looking forward to restoring a 1969 TVR Vixen he inherited from his father, as well as a 1984 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI.
“This is me,” he said. “I’ve always been really good at taking old cars and getting them in running shape. ... Some people might close down and focus on the TV work, but I can’t not have a shop of my own.”