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Man Says Reality Show Sham Contest Will Ruin Reputation

LOS ANGELES (CN) - A custom car mechanic says he won a contest on a reality TV show to build the best classic car in a three-day period, but producers handed the victory to the show's recurring stars after they threw a fit over losing.

Rick Sheley of SKJ Customs claims he traveled from Utah to California to take part in the reality TV show "Car Warriors." Each episode shows a new team of "grass roots mechanics" challenging the same "All Star" team of mechanics who work for the show to see who can build the best classic car within a 72-hour period, the lawsuit states.

But when Sheley's team built the better 1972 Cadillac, the producers did extra work on the All Stars' car, did not race or test drive the cars and capitulated to the All Stars after they caused "pandemonium" during the filming of the judging portion of the show, according to the Superior Court complaint.

The two teams worked side-by-side, according to the complaint, with only a workbench separating them. While working, Sheley says his team noticed that the All Stars team had trouble installing the drive shaft in their car. The part wouldn't fit into the car the All Stars team had designed, leading the All Stars to cut the drive shaft into two pieces before welding it back together, the lawsuit states.

Sheley says the team realized that the All Stars' car probably wouldn't pass a safety test because the shop was not set up for that kind of welding.

One week later, Sheley says he and his team returned to the shop to film the judging segment of the show. In the shop, they saw non-All Star mechanics working on the All Stars' car. Shelly claims one of the mechanics told him "changes had to be made because the car was unsafe to drive."

The next day, Sheley and his team went to the shop for the judging session. The producers were loading the cars onto tow trucks to take them to a spot for three road tests - one testing the cars' ability to accelerate from zero to 60, another testing braking power from 60 to zero and a third slalom course.

Sheley says neither his team nor the All Stars was invited to witness the tests. But Sheley's team was suspicious about the fairness of the show, after having seen extra mechanics working on the All Stars' car the day before.

So Sheley says two of his team members followed the tow trucks to the test site.

There, they saw test drivers struggling to get the All Stars' car started, according to the complaint. While a test driver drove the car built by Sheley's team aimlessly through nearby streets, a team of mechanics worked on the All Stars' car for an hour, trying to get it started, the lawsuit states. When the car finally sputtered to life, it was "driving rough and black smoke was issuing from the exhaust. At times black smoke was pouring from the All Stars car," the lawsuit states. The test drivers were only able to drive the All Stars' car a short distance before giving up on the tests, Sheley says.

Back at the shop, the producers announced that they would reveal not only the winner of the second episode of the season, in which Sheley and his team had participated, but also the results of the first and third episodes of the season.

First, Sheley says the producers declared the All Stars winners of the third episode.

Then, they announced that the All Stars had lost the first episode, Sheley says.

"Pandemonium ensued. The All Stars, feeling that the result of the first episode was egregiously wrong, threatened to quit the show for the remaining episodes," the lawsuit states.

Sheley says the producers took the All Stars into a separate room.

"Sheley and his team were left standing in the shop understanding that a negotiation concerning the first three episodes was taking place instead of the judging they had agreed to," the complaint states.

Half an hour later, the producers and the All Stars emerged, Sheley says, and the producers announced that the All Stars had won the second episode.

Sheley says he decided to participate in the show because the producers claimed it would be a fairly judged contest that would showcase his talent in front of a national audience. Instead, the show's back-door dealings will ruin his reputation, Sheley claims.

Sheley demands $2 million for fraud and negligent misrepresentation. Fredric Brandfon with the Law Offices of Barry K. Rothman is representing him.

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