Ozzy Osbourne. Kim Kardashian. Tommy Spagnola.
What’s that? You’ve never heard of the last reality TV star on our list?
That’s because Spagnola, a North Texas-area car dealer, is just beginning life in the reality TV game.
He’s one of the so-called sharks featured in Dallas Car Sharks, a new series premiering at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday on Discovery’s car-loving Velocity network.
Spagnola has a knack for “flipping” used cars. He buys them at auction, then sells them for sweet profits.
It’s actually only a fraction of the business he does every month at Texas Motorcars, his Addison-based dealership. But it’s a skill that the makers of Dallas Car Sharks found particularly fascinating about him and three other sharks.
Spagnola, a 52-year-old Dallas native, has been flipping cars since he was 13.
As for the ins and outs of reality television, well, that’s a different story. In that department, he’s a babe in the woods.
Once the show airs, will viewers start recognizing him in public and asking him for autographs or to pose with them for photos? He has no idea what to expect.
“I had a conversation with my wife,” Spagnola says. “She said, ‘I’m really not looking forward to this if people are going to stop you in the grocery store and things like that.’ I said, ‘I don’t know that that will happen, but I suppose it could.’ I’ll just have to deal with that if it comes around.”
An offer he couldn’t refuse
The show follows Spagnola and three others (Ash Rabah, Martha Davis and J.D. Cole) as they prove that TV auction surprises aren’t limited to storage lockers. Sometimes they invest in vehicles that lead to big sales; sometimes they sink their money into lemons.
Spagnola got involved in the project about a year and a half ago.
“The production company sent a couple of cute 20-year-old girls and one camera guy to an auction, them knowing nothing about the car business or the auction business,” he recalls. “They were just sent out to roll some footage and ask dealers if they were interested in talking on camera.
“They asked me several times and I turned them down at first, because when I’m at an auction, I’m strictly business. But eventually I gave an interview after the sale was over. After all, when you’ve got cute 20-year-old girls asking if they can interview you, you’ve got to stop and think about it.”
A dozen or more Dallas dealers were considered, but Spagnola eventually made the cut. He’s at a loss to explain why. There’s nothing about him, he admits, that says he belongs on TV.
Truth be told, Spagnola went along for one reason only: in hopes that the exposure might be good for business.
He describes Texas Motorcars as “one of the biggest small dealerships in North Dallas.”
Texas Motorcars moves an average of 100 to 150 vehicles every month. Only about 30 percent of that, Spagnola estimates, are cars he purchases at auction.
Even though Spagnola is serious about the company always “turning and earning,” he still knows how to have a good time.
In one episode, he plunks down $25,000 for a 2003 Chevy Silverado with monster tires and a 47-inch lift. Then he drives the behemoth over a couple of cars on his lot, crushing their tops and windshields, while also wrecking the truck’s axle.
A daredevil stunt like that isn’t uncommon for him, Spagnola admits, but in retrospect he probably shouldn’t have done it with so big an investment.
“I make it look pretty easy on TV, but it could have gone completely different,” he says. “When I was up on top of those cars, I thought for a moment the truck might slide off and land on its side, possibly even roll over on its top.”
Had that happened, that would be have been a different form of flipping, a not-so-profitable one.
Aside from bringing potential customers to his dealership, Spagnola hopes the show corrects a few negative stereotypes about car salesmen.
“Depending on who you go to, you get all sides of the car business: the good, the bad and the ugly,” he says. “My hope is that the show lets people see the better side of the car business.”