Downey’s Dream Cars Team on Plans for Season 2

John Nguyen

Downey’s Dream Car is a Max series that premiered in June and follows Robert Downey Jr. on a mission to turn his gas-guzzling cars into more eco-friendly vehicles to help save the environment. In the first episode, he turned his fuel-burning, purple Thanos Thumper truck into an electric vehicle. As we see the transformation, the mechanics and engineers explain the process, and during the episode, Downey shares his thoughts on why he’s more conscious about protecting mother nature. The last episode of the series aired on July 6, and the team already has plans for a second season.

We had the chance to chat with the team behind the series including executive producer Jay Peterson, director David Larzelere and cast member Rich Benoit. The latter was brought onto the show to help with rebuilding Downey’s cars into electric vehicles.

Nerd Reactor: How did the whole idea come about for Downey’s Dream Cars?

Jay Peterson: I was lucky enough to meet [Robert Downey Jr.] and spend some time with him. And he was talking about the fact that he loves collecting cars. And he really was dedicating a lot of his time trying to help us in any way he can with the climate change challenges that the planet has. And I think much like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, he realized, “Okay, I’m going to disrupt the car content universe and try and change those internal combustion engines in my classic cars.” And it was as simple as that.

It’s going to take somebody like Robert, who is as charismatic as he is and pioneering in the content universe. Take that guy, and then when you find somebody like Rich, who we won’t call a genius [he doesn’t like to be called a genius], but who’s really, really, really capable of electrifying things, I think it all came together in a way that you saw on the show that he was going to try something. I mean, I don’t think we talked about this earlier. The Thanos Thumper – that big truck that he has – electrifying that and having more power than when it was a big, loud internal combustion engine truck is something that people haven’t done before. And I think Robert loved the idea of that challenge. It created great content; Rich figured it out. And Dave and his team did an incredible job of telling you that story in a way that was compelling.

If you think about it, here’s a show about electrifying cars. Is that going to be really that fascinating? And I think these guys really did deliver the goods on creating more of a documentary series about something that hadn’t been done before. And Robert again was the guy to do this.

It seems like everything at the end of each episode goes in favor of Robert Downey Jr. So what was that like working on a show and hopefully, “We can tackle everything”?

David Larzelere: Well, I can say working with Robert Downey Jr. was fantastic. He’s a great guy to work with. I can’t say that generally on a daily basis that we felt like we can tackle anything. A lot more of the time we had no idea what was going to happen. And that was a pretty regular feeling making the show right to the very end, honestly. And that was part of what made it fun. I think that we’ve talked about this a lot. We’re trying to do some things to some classic cars that have never been done before.

Robert looked at the fact that his two main pursuits outside of his obviously immense film and television career were collecting classic cars that were often incredible gas guzzlers and trying to fight climate change. And he said, “These two things just really don’t go together. How is it possible for me to find a way to make them go together?” Robert is very interested in technology, and he was very interested in exploring the future of mobility as well. And so, alongside the work that gets done on Robert’s cars in the show, we deal with a lot of what’s happening on the cutting edge of the mobility space. It’s a guy who really dug into a couple of these cars, doing and talking about things that haven’t been done before. And that certainly made for fascinating television.

There’s a moment where I think about this all the time. It’s one of the best moments of documentary television I’ve ever captured in my career. When we’re in the garage and Chad decides to turn the motor around in the K10 [Pickup], it’s just such a fascinating moment. So often you’re kind of scripting and staging things, but we’re really there at the aha moment of “This is how we fix that.” And we captured a lot of that because, with these guys, there was no roadmap for how to do these restorations.

Rich, if you could build your own futuristic dream car, what would it be?

Rich Benoit: I think with the advent of electric vehicles, we got some really cool stuff. In terms of the design of new cars, we’re starting to rethink the design of electric vehicles. Body-wise, they have to be a heck of a lot more efficient shapes than their gas counterparts because they’re trying to squeeze every little last bit of range out of the body type, out of the wheel style. A lot of electric vehicles have the flat face, almost like Moon cap wheels now from the ’60s, just so that air can more easily flow over them and turbulence doesn’t get caught up in the braking system, etc.

My ideal electric vehicle is something that looks like it’s from the year 3000. We could say that electric vehicles are this, and electric vehicles are that. They’re going to be around for a long time, so I think having a vehicle that’s a representation of the abstract mind, and just using your wild imagination, is kind of what I would like. In terms of powertrain and range, I’m not really concerned with that because the technology will obviously get to the point where you could drive 500,000 miles on a single charge. But I want something that looks like a stealth bomber. I want something that looks like Stanley Kubrick’s A Space Odyssey movie where there were visions of the future, visions of space travel when he’s never even seen those things before. So I kind of want just a wild imaginative vehicle.

I don’t want to mention the term cybertruck. I think that’s cool. I think it’s a step in the right direction, but I’m thinking of something a little bit more angular. And what comes to mind, if you’re not aware of this, maybe a quick Google search… It’s called the low-res car. It’s almost like a rhombus that’s turned to the side that only has maybe, I think, six or seven angles or so. But it looks like a giant square just going down the road. I think it’s the coolest thing ever.

What can you share about season two of Downey’s Dream Cars?

Jay Peterson: My stock answer is Robert is really excited about a season two. I think Rich is too. More challenges. Robert’s got a ton of cars, so we have the supply. And also at the premiere for Downey’s Dream Cars in Los Angeles. Dax Shepard interviewed him afterward, and Robert put them on the spot, and Dax has a Buick Roadmaster, the car that Chevy Chase has in Vacation. And he said, “Hey Dax, we’re gonna do that car and season two, and you’re gonna do it.” And Dax said, “I’m in.” So we got one car for sure. We’ll see. I mean, Robert has a handful of very notable friends who have notable cars, and let’s see if he ambushes them for those cars too. I wouldn’t put it past him to have a Murderer’s Row of celebrities who are redoing the cars to make them green. Rich is going to have his hands full. He’s going to end up being a talent manager after this slash, slash electric fire.

David Larzelere: I want to throw this in too. I feel like it’s important because I want to make sure that people know this. Robert’s giving all the cars away. So you can win one of the cars from season one, one of the six cars in a sweepstakes. It’s always been his plan to give the cars away to the sweepstakes. And he’s donating all the money that he gets from the sweepstakes to his FootPrint Coalition, which is his coalition to fight climate change. So long as he’s willing and the other folks are willing because I think that’d be the plan for any subsequent season. And honestly, I think that that was part of Robert’s motivation, too, because as much as he loves the cars, he’s also aware that they reflect a little bit of his conspicuous consumption because he does have a lot of cars.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.