Local mechanic stars in commercial with Mike Rowe

MIDLOTHIAN — A quest to stay current with technology and the latest innovations landed a Midlothian mechanic in California, filming a commercial next to Mike Rowe from the TV show “Dirty Jobs.”

Jeff Buckley, a certified master technician with the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, has been running his self-described mom-and-pop auto repair shop, My Father’s Shop, from the building in his back yard for 22 years with his wife Candace Buckley. After reviewing the new Wagner OEX brake pad for Federal-Mogul Motorparts, the company asked him to be in the advertising campaign for the product, he said.

“We are a little mom-and-pop shop in Midlothian, Texas and we got picked to be in a big national commercial,” Buckley said, though he added many first time customers are surprised by the amount of equipment he has in the shop. “We work really hard to keep it clean.”

The Buckleys leave their shop, complete with animal matching magnets on the tool box and a stuffed animal corner stocked for their only granddaughter, every year to attend the Specialty Equipment Manufacturing Association (SEMA) and the Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo (AAPEX) in Las Vegas.

“The company guys are there, so you get to talk to the chemists and the engineers. We get the opportunity to meet different people and higher-ups in the companies,” Buckley said. “We decided years ago if we are going to stay in business, we have to stay up to date on equipment we need and technology. That is almost a daily thing.”

Because of the connections he makes at the shows, he is often asked to beta test new equipment or products before they hit the market, he said.

“In the auto industry, you have a lot of products come out. You have a lot of snake oil products out there. Whenever we get a new product, I research it, and then I’ll try it out on mine before I recommend it to a customer,” Buckley said.

When Wagner was asking for recommendations for mechanics to test their latest brake pads, sales development manager Jack Darovich recommended him.

“The rep we had worked with said ‘I know just the person, but he will tell you if he likes it or not.’ They said that was what they wanted,” Buckley said.

The trial pads arrived without any promotional material, he said. Buckley was one of 450 technicians across the country who tried the pads out. After trying the pads for a few weeks and seeing good results, he submitting his feedback to the company and staff in the promotions department asked to perform a Skype interview with him.

“I went on a little spiel for them like I would give to my customers,” Buckley said. “They didn’t tell me anything about the product, but I guess I had figured out and said the same things they were looking for because at the end they said they wanted to fly me out to meet with their star. I asked who it was, and they said, ‘we can’t tell you, because it was top secret.’”

Buckley said he insisted they tell him or be prepared to fly him back home if he didn’t like the famous person the company had hired as a spokesperson. He didn’t want to be in a commercial next to a restoration specialist who didn’t really use the product or a person he didn’t want to be associated with, he said. At first the promotions staff didn’t believe he was serious, but eventually told him Rowe was the spokesperson.

That worked for him, Buckley said.

“That is a working man, that’s what he supports,” Buckley explained.

In October, the company flew him out to California for four days of filming, but he wasn’t through being vetted, he said. When he arrived, he met the other two technicians the company had called in for the commercial and the three were told they would be observed while meeting Rowe to see how they interacted with him, Buckley said.

The youngest technician and Rowe immediately began talking about Eagle Scouts, Buckley said.

“I was thinking, ‘Here I was, I had flown all the way out here and I won’t even get to say a word,’” he said, but he was saved when he remembered seeing that Rowe had been in New York when Pope Francis had visited. “I asked him about that and he started to talk about how crazy it had been and how all the streets were shut down.”

That night, in his hotel overlooking Route 66 – something Buckly said was a big deal for a car enthusiast – he was first told he would be the first technician heading out to the shoot location early, but had his hopes a bit dashed when he was told he was being called later with one of the other technicians.

“I was kinda down and didn’t sleep well,” he said. “But I got up the next morning and looked out my window and decided I’m here in California, I’m going to get a breakfast sandwich and walk down to the beach.”

At the shoot location, he had to sign a lot of paperwork including a non-disclosure agreement to keep the product and commercial information under wraps until the company began marketing the product.

“They actually make me part of the screen actors’ guild,” Buckley said, adding that he was not an official member until he paid his dues.

After that, he began working on the commercial to show how the brakes would help a car stop 50 feet sooner. Rowe came over to him and asked if he was ready before they started going over the story board for the commercial.

“Rowe said ‘I want you to have a bigger part,’ so he starts writing down different stuff,” Buckley said.

As they worked on the commercial, Rowe was constantly working through the scene in his head, Buckley said, and became convinced they needed a better ending. He and Buckley were discussing using stunt drivers and the truck at the scene. As they talked back and forth, Rowe came up with the ending line of the commercial that Buckley shouts back at Rowe, “It’s kind of a big deal.”

On the third day, he was taken to a different set to film an additional promotional video, Buckley said. None of the lines were prewritten, but instead, Rowe asked questions and Buckley and the others in the video would respond, he said.

“He actually had interactions and listened,” Buckley said.

“He asked me how long I had worked with my father,” Buckley continued. “He had a sheet of paper about me and knew I hadn’t named my shop after my dad but he wanted to hear me say why. So I told him I had named it that because the Lord gave me the hands and skills to work there.”

Buckley said the company called to invite him to stop by their booth at the Las Vegas convention to preview the commercials and other material, but the whole process was still hush-hush even from Darovich, who had first recommended him.

Since the brake pads were commercially released in March in Texas, Wagner staff have told Buckley his photo is on about eight billboards in the Metroplex, as well as in several trade and consumer magazines and videos on Youtube and commercials. Buckley’s photo with Rowe is also posted on the front page of the company’s website promoting the product.

In his Midlothian shop, Buckley continues to work on community members’ cars and is beta testing a new diagnostic tool for a different company.

“It was just a real neat experience. It was just out of the blue, a God thing,” Buckley said.


Contact Bethany Kurtz at 469-517-1450 or email bkurtz@waxahachietx.com. Follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BethanyKurtzMidloMirror or on Twitter @bethmidlomirror.