Photos: Courtesy of Castrol and Mighty Car Mods
Brought to you by Castrol EDGE
Two mates on YouTube fixing and modifying cars. It sounds like a simple formula, and in a way, it is. But in the case of Mighty Car Mods, it’s a formula that’s also been hugely successful and turned its two car-loving protagonists into internet sensations.
For a large chunk of the JUST CARS audience, Marty and Moog from Mighty Car Mods need no introduction, but for those who are unaware of the duo, do yourself a favour and check them out on YouTube.
At time of writing, Mighty Car Mods (MCM) was on the cusp of its fourteenth year, with more than 3.5 million subscribers to the channel, over 700 million views of their videos (800M+ when you add their other channel, MCMTV2) and a social media following that wannabe Instagram “influencers” would kill for.
The key thing to understand about Marty and Moog is that they haven’t spent more than a decade producing these videos to garner likes, gather followers or make a ton of cash. They do it because they love mucking around with cars (and bikes) and sharing their stories of mechanical triumph and tragedy.
Musical Beginnings . . . and Driveway Beginnings
While Marty and Moog both love cars, neither are professional mechanics and it was music that saw them cross paths initially, as Moog explains.
“Marty and I met working a high school in the music department, so we connected over music and education before we connected through cars.”
The two are accomplished musicians, with Moog writing, performing and producing all the music used in MCM videos.
After studying film production at uni, Moog had been making short films well before MCM came into existence. That included travelling all over Australia filming careers education material for a government project, which provided a good grounding in how to shoot engaging stories quickly with minimal resources.
“I’d spent most of my young adulthood out filming and doing music. Marty had spent a lot of his doing music, but also fixing up cars,” Moog adds.
“We heard about YouTube and went, ‘Why don’t we make some videos for fun?’ Marty said, ‘I know how to fix cars up’ and I said, ‘I can film it and we’ll put it up on the internet’ And that’s what we did.
“Really, Mighty Car Mods became the culmination of our two histories combining.”
That very first MCM video, involving upgrades to a Daihatsu Cuore that Moog had bought to replace a Jeep Wrangler, was filmed on the driveway at Marty’s mum’s place in late 2007.
That driveway would be the ‘stage’ for many MCM episodes that followed, with subject matter that ranged from replacing a windscreen in a Subaru to making a convertible out of a rusty Mazda 323 - really!
Each video mixed information with irreverence – the boys don’t take themselves too seriously and the same applies to most of their projects. As these videos were only being done for fun and fitted in around day jobs, budgets were tight, so the cars selected and the mods made were all affordable – a factor that’s still a part of MCM videos today.
From the Driveway to the Shed
A few years and a few million views after those early videos, MCM was attracting interest from sponsors, as well as requests from fans for more ‘How To’ videos on a range of automotive topics, so the decision was made to take on the former to support the latter.
“We were happy funding projects ourselves, but people started requesting more things and a lot of those requests were going to have a financial burden, so we turned on the monetisation on YouTube and soon realised that it was actually a sustainable way to make some videos, while still managing to maintain control of what we did.”
That creative control was paramount back then and remains one of the keystones of MCM to this day. Most sponsors respect that and one of the first to come on board was Castrol in 2013.
“Marty and I were absolutely stoked about that, because we’d been using the oil anyway.”
Others have followed, including Ryobi, Supercheap Auto, Haltech, NGK and GFB, but the Castrol partnership was the first and has been the most enduring, too.
“[Castrol have] now been a full time, permanent sponsor for almost ten years, so they are the longest-running sponsor that we’ve had in the show’s history.”
It’s worth noting that MCM have been existing customers of all the sponsors the show has, which Moog says is just as important as maintaining creative control of their content.
“We don’t want to be sending people to buy things that we don’t believe in. We want them to be the best they can be for the money they’ve got to spend.”
The expansion of the show not only attracted sponsors, but enabled a move from a driveway to a small, but well-equipped shed, which Marty says has been a godsend.
“When we went from the driveway to a shed, it meant we wouldn't get rained on and you could leave projects in pieces and come back to them, which gives you way more scope than trying to get everything done before the sun sets!”
On that Castrol connection, MCM will be teaming up with Castrol in 2022 for a build that’s still hush-hush at time of writing, but let’s just say it’s an icon of Japanese performance, has played a part in Castrol’s history and holds an important place in Aussie motor racing history, too.
Big in Japan
That upcoming collaborative build with Castrol isn’t the first Japanese car MCM will have worked on – far from it, in fact. Japanese cars have dominated the subject matter for MCM videos because they’re the vehicles that Marty and Moog are most interested in and passionate about.
Moog’s first car was a Leyland-era 1976 Mini and Marty’s first was a 1979 Holden Gemini, but – look away now, Holden fans – only one Holden has featured in MCM’s 14-year history. Aussie Fords have been thin on the ground, too.
“I missed the boat of the big V8 battle,” Moog explains. “At that time, I was really interested in my 180 SX, as well as Supras, WRXs, MR2s and things like that.”
Japanese cars have featured on MCM since the beginning and continue to serve as subject matter for mods and rebuilds to this day. From conventional cars, like Subaru Libertys and Nissan Pulsars, to rarer offerings, like a Toyota Sera, Honda S2000, Subaru Fiori and Nissan Figaro, some are tired nuggets and some are much more presentable, but the passion is equal for both.
That passion has taken Mighty Car Mods to Japan on multiple occasions, filming feature-length stories on Japanese car culture, while also purchasing cars and parts to send back to Australia for new projects.
“I really love Japan as a country, I love the Japanese aesthetic, their art and their spiritual awareness,” Moog says. “But on Japanese cars, there’s obviously spirit in there and there’s something special, but it’s just a car that works - and they don’t seem pretentious.”
Unsurprisingly, Marty and Moog have a big following in Japan, but the reach of MCM is global, which has allowed the boys to take on global car-themed adventures from Europe to the USA and Cuba.
Mix ‘n’ Match
Dive into a few past episodes of MCM and it becomes apparent that Marty’s a big fan of Subarus, while Moog’s drawn to Nissans. They’re not slavishly devoted to either brand, though.
“I was never interested in Subarus and then Marty hooked me up with a Forester. I like Volkswagens and pushed Marty into a Polo GTI, so, I think that, being two people from two different backgrounds automotively, we can help each other.”
The two have influenced and inspired each other to try new automotive avenues, from Honda Civics to VW Golf GTIs, as well as a Toyota MR2, Nissan Stagea and even a Daihatsu Hijet kei truck.
Honouring the “mods’ part of Mighty Car Mods, each project rarely leaves the MCM garage with the same gear it arrived with. Turbos and superchargers have been added, ECUs upgraded, panels changed and wheels upsized, with some truly bizarre – and sometimes terrifying – engine swaps undertaken, too, including sticking a 2.5-litre Subaru boxer in a '74 VW Beetle that made for a mad quarter mile car.
Equally mad, but for different reasons, is Moog's 'Moon Buggy' that was originally created for a TV advertising campaign and a Daihatsu Charade that was supercharged with the addition of a couple of leaf blowers strapped to the bonnet!
Obviously, the boys aren’t afraid to experiment and aren’t afraid to fail, either. They’ve blown engines, lunched transmissions and done other associated damage, but that’s OK. What they’ve gained in experience and enjoyment is worth far more than what they paid for the car – which has sometimes been as little as $50. Often, some of those “failures” are the show’s biggest successes with the audience, too.
Two Man Job
While some of the projects featured on MCM are done in a day, most are longer, but regardless of the length of the project, these ‘workshop’ videos are posted on an approximate weekly schedule.
Moog explains that it takes around five days to film, edit, add music and do the voiceovers. He and Marty do it all themselves – there’s no sound and lighting crew, producers, etc. It’s only when ‘challenges’ between projects, like racetrack battles, are held that they draft in a helper or two.
It’s the same with the adventure videos from MCM’s overseas travels, although being longer format productions, these take longer to edit and complete - sometimes several months.
Since MCM started, more than 100 cars have been torn down, built up, driven (sometimes briefly), broken, fixed and enjoyed. Each have made their impact for different reasons, but when asked to nominate which project made the most impact, it was a tough call. Moog eventually picked his ’98 Rover Mini, while Marty nominated a ’92 Daihatsu Mira TR-XX X4. Reflecting MCM’s passion for all things Japanese, both cars were sourced from Japan.
“That Mini was the first supercharged Mini running on ethanol in the world. And there’s a reason why it was the first, because it just didn’t work that well,” Moog laughs. “Eventually, we swapped in a 1.6-litre engine from a Civic Type R and the car’s now engineered to have that.
“Every time I get in that Mini and turn the key, it makes me feel really good. Driving along the highway at 9000rpm hitting VTEC in a tiny little Mini is one of the funnest, coolest things. It really makes me smile.”
The Mini went over well when Moog took it to an owner’s meeting, too.
“It was a scary thing turning up to a classic Mini meet in a Mini that had an engine from a Honda Civic. But what was amazing was that people went, ‘this really epitomises what Mini is all about – it’s a platform designed to be modified’. People change them and make them their own.”
Marty’s Mira was a huge project for such a small car - essentially taking the engine, transmission, all the 4WD running gear and other parts from a Mira TR-XX X4 (which was never sold in Australia) and transplanting it into the shell of a local 2WD Mira.
“Anyone who watched that series - that ended up being 17 parts long - would understand how much work is involved in transplanting basically half a car into another car,” Marty explains.
“We did all that just so we could have four-wheel-drive and turbo and try to remake the car that we drove around Japan and had so much fun with drifting through rainy rainbows on Hokkaido.”
Revisiting the First
Another car of Marty’s, and one that harks back to his earliest automotive passions, is a ’77 Isuzu TD Gemini coupe. A lucky find in Japan, especially in coupe form and in the condition this one was in, the Gemini will be the subject of a series of new MCM videos – but perhaps not as many as 17! – sometime in 2022.
As the car came from Japan, it was stripped of the engine, transmission and brakes for asbestos reasons before being exported, so under the bonnet is a blank canvas.
“I owned a Gemini wagon early on in the MCM days. A girl tried to give me her number as I drove it home, so I figured it was a good car!” Marty laughs.
It turns out that Gemini wasn’t a good car, but the JDM Gemini coupe is.
“I'm pretty sure I'm gonna go two-litre and keep it naturally aspirated because the 1600 they come with was pretty lazy and the two-litre was always a hot sauce swap back in the day. I’ll keep it somewhat loyal to that and just do a few mild modifications to bring it up to the standard that I would've liked my Geminis to be two decades ago.”
With 13 years of Mighty Car Mods behind them, Marty and Moog are looking forward to what projects lie ahead for the next 13 years of the channel.
“We both absolutely love making the show and we love the opportunities that it gives us,” Moog says. “And we love hearing from people where the show has affected them in a real way, so we have no plans of changing anything that we do. With the support of Castrol and our other sponsors, we can keep the show going and make it bigger and better for many, many years into the future.”
Part of that future, of course, will be EVs, which MCM has dabbled in, but will expand upon.
“EV stuff is something that Marty, particularly, is really interested in,” Moog says. “We’re going to start dipping our toes into that space by doing some electric conversions - with people who are experts - and start to get some insight into that technology.”
Moog added that a petrol engine car that’s already in the MCM stable will be getting an EV swap in the near future. Which one? You’ll have to follow MCM and find out!
MCM won’t be abandoning internal combustion, though, so expect plenty of petrol-fuelled goodness in future episodes, too.
To see those future episodes - and catch up on old ones – go to: mightycarmods
As well as giving advice, inspiration and more than a few laughs, Marty and Moog like to give back, especially to their younger audience, which is why they’ve been longtime supporters of ReachOut, the youth mental health charity. That support was stepped up in 2017 when they both became official ReachOut Ambassadors.
ReachOut offers practical support, tools and tips to help young people get through everyday issues and tougher times. ReachOut also offers information for parents, so they can help their teenage kids with issues.
MCM’s support has included speaking at events, inviting ReachOut representatives to MCM fan meets and donating the entire proceeds from the auction of Moog's nitrous-injected Honda S2000, while more recently, the refund from a munted engine was donated to the charity, too.
On reachout.com you’ll find articles and videos, as well as links to immediate support services.
To find out more and donate to ReachOut, go to: reachout.com
Mighty Car Mods – the book
If you want to find out more about the projects from Mighty Car Mods, you can watch all the episodes on YouTube, but as an alternative to screen time, there’s also a book.
The Cars of Mighty Car Mods – Ultimate Edition features every car and motorcycle that’s been on the channel (including one or two that are yet to be aired), as well as Moog and Marty’s first cars and daily drivers.
Each vehicle is realistically illustrated by Phillip Ackermann, with the accompanying text including a brief rundown on the car, its specs and production history, as well as personal recollections from Marty and Moog. QR Codes with each car's description take you to the related video.
The first two editions of The Cars of Mighty Car Mods were quickfire sellouts and the Ultimate Edition has been just as popular, but was still available at time of writing.
This high-quality, 250-page hardcover costs $75.00 plus P&P.
To purchase, go to: mightycarmods.com