If you are a car enthusiast or a Tesla fan, chances are that you are familiar with the name of Rich Benoit. A charismatic self-taught engineer with a knack for rebuilding Teslas (and not only) has an audience of more than 1 million YouTube subscribers.
What is the story behind this man who self-describes as “Doctor Frankenstein of Teslas”? Join us in this post, as we explore his work that, no doubt, serves as an inspiration for seasoned and novice mechanics alike.
What is the story behind Rich Benoit’s passion for rebuilding cars?
Rich Benoit, a father of three, had been working in the IT sector until very recently. However, his transfer from IT to the automobile world is not coincidental. Ever since he was a child, he loved deconstructing and then rebuilding fake Rolexes that his father, an electrical engineer used to bring him. His curiosity and patience while putting all the pieces back together were remarkable.
He gained the confidence that he could truly fix things and was willing to ride along self-learning curves. He wouldn’t use manuals or consult with other experts, just intuition and trial and error approach instead. Little did he know that his passion would eventually bring him on the path of reverse-engineering.
Interestingly, he did not interfere much with his first car: a 2004 Dodge SRT-4. However, soon enough, he would come across damaged second-hand motorcycles and cars. This triggered his ambition to go bigger with his rebuilds. Thus, another more challenging phase would begin for him, as he would figure out a lot of mechanics knowledge on his own.
How did Rich Benoit come across Teslas?
Even though rebuilding gadgets or wrecked automobiles was a genuine passion, focusing on Teslas was more of a coincidence. In 2014, one of his friends calls him and tells him about his latest car: a Tesla Model S. Rich was eager to test it. But, the moment he sat behind that steering wheel and drove the car, he fell in love with it. Probably it was something related to the specific EV engine, or its quietness, which impressed him. He had to have that car!
Once Benoit found out the six-digit price of the car though, he was shocked. Therefore, he started brainstorming for cheaper ways to get his Tesla. He was able to find an old Tesla, which needed parts to be fixed. However, at that time, Tesla refused to sell him any parts, due to its strict repair policy.
However, Rich Benoit was determined to rebuild his Tesla, one way or another. Soon enough, he figured that he could use the parts of another Tesla to do that. Thus, after spending more than 500 hours in his garage, he reached his goal, deciding to call his first rebuilt Tesla, Dolores. He documented the entire process and began posting videos on a random forum, eventually moving to YouTube. This is how his journey as a vlogger began.
What are the dynamics between Tesla and ‘Rich Rebuilds’?
Rich Rebuilds is the name of Benoit’s YouTube channel, a medium that has triggered a lot of debate around him, but which has ultimately contributed to some of his videos going viral. No doubt he is an interesting, snarky, and humorous character, who is not afraid to come across as goofy. His videos are watched by car enthusiasts, as well as by amateurs.
The first controversy came to light when by accident his hand appeared in one of the uploads, and viewers realized that he was black. The racist comments flooded, but that did not stop him. In fact, he would pin the most racist comments and eventually realize that this strategy would actually decrease such comments by 80%.
The next range of polemics had to do with Tesla. For a long time now, Tesla has been very strict about not letting any information regarding its auto pieces or diagnostic tools become publicly available. The idea of having someone documenting this information publicly did not resonate well with the automaker. As a result, YouTube has removed a couple of his videos, and Tesla has canceled Rich’s referral account. It even refused to provide him with service manuals. As you can imagine, this has not stopped Benoit either. On the contrary, he kept expanding his audience and business operations.
What is next for Rich Benoit?
In late 2019, Rich Benoit partnered with Chris Salvo and Chad Hrencecin to open “The Electrified Garage” in Seabrook, New Hampshire. This garage would be solely dedicated to repairing electric vehicles. He then expanded to Florida in late 2020.
Considering the high demand, he plans to get bigger. In fact, he has even announced that he might go back to rebuilding gas cars, which again has raised a lot of controversy among his followers. Probably, someday, we will see him restoring classic cars too. As he says, “Remember: I’m a car enthusiast, not an EV enthusiast”
The right to repair is one of the main causes that stands behind his determination to grow his business. Benoit believes that it is not fair that car manufacturers make it difficult for customers to fix their own cars. Capable auto mechanics should be allowed to get into business and repair different brands too.
Despite changes in the MA legislation, this is an ongoing effort. The story of Rich Benoit though is definitely unique. It shows how someone who is self-taught can accomplish so much and attempt at demonopolizing areas of the auto industry.