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Barbara Terry interview with Josh Barnett

Josh Barnett is literally a mountain of a man, and an incredibly nice guy, though you wouldn’t know it by his job. Josh is a Heavyweight MMA fighter as well as a pro wrestler. He was UFC Champion in mixed Martial Arts, has fought and performed what is known as catch wrestling around the world, has been in video games, traveled the world and is an absolute perfect physical specimen of health.

What was your first car?

My first car was a hand-me-down ’78 Ford Courier, which was actually made by Mazda. The odometer flipped on it at least twice. It was orange with one black fender. At one point, it had a bunch of primer spots on it because I sanded it, primered it and never finished it off. It was a stick shift, had a Weber carbu­retor, had lower gears in the back and a header, and a 2300cc German single-head cam motor, which is pretty wazoo if you know how to work them. I remem­ber this one small town in Raymond, Washington, we went to the junkyard, found another Courier and found a perfect dash pad for it. In all the Couriers, the speaker grill always rots out. Found one in pristine condition. We got it out easy. There was no wind­shield in the car and it came right out. Then when we went to put it in, it became very apparent that they installed them before they put the windshield on. I sat there for hours with this tiny little screwdriver, taking them out and putting them back in. And when we finally got it back in, it was a little shorter anyway. It was the same make, same year, same truck, but when we got it back in, it was, like, an inch shorter.


So, basically, you gave it more character than it already had.

It was really something else. It was not quite Frankenstein’s monster, but it was close. All in all, I had a wiper motor go out on it in the middle of a Washington winter, so I used to RainX on the wind­shield just so I could see out of the windshield. I had to put a clutch in it one winter. That was freezing.

Sounds like I can’t show you anything when it comes to car maintenance. You have it all down.

I do okay when it comes to maintenance – when I have to, especially. So that was good to go. I couldn’t fix the brakes, they were in horrible shape. The rotors were warped – the previous owner, my brother in­law, never changed the brakes on the car. So I got the whole deal done on it – new rotors, new calipers, got them off the junkyard car. Couldn’t get the brakes bled properly so I kept getting air in the lines. I ended up getting my dad to run up to Midas and get it power- bled. I just wanted to be done with it. Going from sec­ond to third, I blew a rod through the block and it basi­cally landed up on top of my battery. It died a very glorious death.

Sounds like it. How old were you?

Eighteen or 19.

How long did you have it? Sounds like you had it for 50 years, with all of that work.

About two years. Then I got a Nissan Sentra, an ’81.

Pretty slick.

Not really. It was slower than my truck.

But when the little foreign cars penetrated the States, it was like nothing we’d ever driven. It’s not like driving your dad’s Cadillac Seville boat.

I would have preferred that, I think. That little Nissan – I think it was a 1600 or 1800 – once I got it up to speed, it was okay, but getting it into traffic was dangerous some­times.

They were four-speeds before they were five-speeds. They just kind of hummmmmmed along.

Yeah. It really struggled. I put a little tape deck in it and some six-by-nine speakers in the back. I got it for $70 at a downrigger.


Yeah. After my truck nuked, I would drive that to my old gym in Kirkland, Washington. The water pump blew out and the water capacity in a car like that is nothing. I was at 70 miles an hour. I blew up two cars in a week. I had to rely on my girlfriend at the time to get to work. I ran into a guy at work who knew a German guy from Microsoft get­ting rid of a 1991 Dodge Shadow-a crappy car. But it only had 112,000 miles on it and the guy just wanted to get rid of it, so he sold it to me for $1.1 ended up selling it for $80.

ANOTHER athlete that could have been a car salesman. What is it with these people?

You should have been in the used car business.

By that time, I’d been clipped once in traffic by some dummy not paying attention and pulling over one too many lanes. Scuffed it. Wasn’t bad, but I was mad. I could hear the rods chatter. I took care of it. I changed the oil in it, but those K cars are a mess. Somebody tried to steal it once. I was disappointed that they failed. The insur­ance money would have been more than it was worth. I actually had to go get another lock mecha­nism in a junkyard. We had to drill a pilot hole in there. We did it, got a new lock in there and sold it to some kids.

How long did you have that one?

At least a year or two. Then I got a ’92 Mustang LX that my parents picked up and did nothing with. It was in good shape. It was a convertible. It was a highway car. It handled well. I never messed with it at all. It was in great shape, except for the ashtray. It broke, but the ashtray drawers in those cars always break, every single time. We fixed it and it broke again. It was a design flaw by Ford. Then I gave it to my sister.

How old were you and was that your first Mustang?

It was, and I was 22, maybe, about 23.

So, you’ve been bitten by the Mustang bug since then?

Yes. Well, growing up, my dad liked classic cars and I always liked them myself. I must have been five or six and they got a ’66 GT Fastback from an old friend of my mom’s. Over 11 years we put it together and made a beautiful show car out of it. It’s a single-flare red GT. It’s immaculate. It was all original, but my dad smoothed the motor over. It’s still a 289, but a different cam. He has an original ’65 or ’66 289 Cobra intake sit­ting on it- bigger Holley, and we added a nitrous kick to it.

It has lower gears – three 89s in the back, a Detroit rocker. We put a five-speed transmission in it. It looks stock, but it’s not. You know you are a car lover if, after you had to wet sand that thing for days on end, for free, and you still like cars. Then you must be a car nut.

How fast have you gotten that car up to?

My dad has gotten that thing fast, not with me in the car. We’ve gone fast in it, not that I look at the speedometer. I’m too busy smiling. I’ve gotten my own cars fast. I have an ’09 SRT-8 Challenger, Hemi Orange, and I got that to 140. I always back down because those roads from Orange County to Washington aren’t safe and I don’t want a ticket or have a blow-out. I bought that Challenger to replace a black-on-black ’07 GT California special Mustang, and with the help of my sponsors – Lethal Performance and Red Bull -1 put a super-charger kit on it and an exhaust, a drive shaft, suspension, shifter, you name it. It was 500 horsepower and had about

  • miles on it. It had just about every option you could get with it. I bought it as a birthday present to myself.

That sounds like an interesting story.

You know what? I was just killing time, saw it and decided to buy it. Just one of those impulse things. I love the car. My mom was driving this crap ’93 Thunderbird and I just got so sick of seeing that thing.

Why was she driving that?

I don’t know. I told my dad I was giving her this car, but the rule was the Thunderbird had to go. Set it on fire. Blow it up. Whatever. I don’t want to see that car ever again. My dad ended up keeping that stupid Thunderbird. I can’t get him to get rid of it, but my mom is now the proud owner of my black-on-black 500 horsepower Mustang, and she loves it.

Black on black, that is sweet. What kind of rims do you have on it?

Just the standard rims that Ford uses on their Mustangs. They’re 18s – it has all-season 235/50-18s on it. I wanted her to have all-season radials because of Washington weather, but I intend to have her get some Toyos for it.

You obviously like speed. The Shelby is great for you. Would you ever own a Hybrid?

No, but I prefer going to cleaner gas, at least. I like to tell people at the track, ‘I grew up drag racing’ from that classic Mustang that we have. We also picked up a Ford Falcon that ran 12s and we’d race that every weekend. We also had a super gas car that ran in the nines. It was a tube chassis, 70 Mach 1 with a small block in it. I’ve been at the track most my life, changing plugs and tires. When I take people to the track, the big stuff like NHRA and stock, especially the top fuel, which is like a force of nature, I ask people if they smell it. It doesn’t smell like gas. They always say no and I tell them that’s purer gas, that’s the difference between what you put in at the pump and what they use. If I run 100-octane unleaded in my car versus premium unleaded, the difference in smell is unreal.

Speaking of top fuel, Tony Schumacher is in the book. Does he stand out to you?

I know who he is. I respect them. Eyes sucked in the back of their head, 330 miles an hour. I have great appre­ciation for them. I like being right behind it. Used to go into Seattle to the track, about 50 feet behind them, behind a fence, we would watch it. And when they take off, they kind of take you with them. Tony’s one hell of a guy.

Is there a dream car that you don’t have, as of yet?

A ’67 GT 500, night mist blue with white stripes.

Do you have one in your sights?

No way, not at this point. I was waiting and waiting and I kept my eye on them. They were around $45,000. As the years progressed and it started to get to the point that I could buy a car like that, and I get the money, then Barrett-Jackson happened. I recognize cars are an investment, but I don’t want to invest in cars. I want to use them, improve them. I don’t want them collecting dust. I don’t want the original crappy smogged-out heads from some ’71 Mustang. I don’t want the cast-iron mani­folds from a ’63 Galaxy. I want to take 2000’s technology and make them faster and better. That car, I don’t think I could find a ’67 for less that $150,000 anymore. I have, however, always wanted to restore one, maybe find a shell, maybe even a Dynacorn and just build from there. Get some Shelby stuff. Make it the way I want it.

What kind of music do you like to listen to when you are driving?

I’m a big fan of everything but country. Mainly heavy metal. When I pulled up today, I was listening to Killswitch Engage. I listen to lots of bands – Atreyu, Slayer. It runs the gamut. I have heavier stuff than Slayer, too.

Slayer is heavy. What could you possibly have heavier than Slayer?

Black Dahlia Murder or Goat Whore. They’re good friends of mine from Louisiana and it’s just really cool to say you’re going to a Goat Whore concert. The funny thing is, when I want to listen to music like that, I listen to it in the car.

It’s driving music, motivation. It makes you want to speed.

When I was going 140,1 was listening to heavy metal.

What about road trips. Do you have any favorites?

That’s a good question. I like to cruise around in Washington. I like driving to Palm Springs and San Diego, but the traffic isn’t great. Driving through central California is a horrible drive, but that’s one of the closest ones you can make. Northern California and Oregon, that’s awesome.

How long does it take you to drive to your family’s place in Seattle from here in LA.?

It took me 17 hours and some change when I drove an old ’96 Mustang GT I’d done some work on. Dual head­ers, MagnaFlows. It was pretty loud. My Chrysler SRT 300 had gotten hit. First car accident I ever had. I was sit­ting at a standstill on the freeway and she whacked me right in the back. I didn’t have my Shelby yet, so I had to fly up to Washington and drive my black ’96 down. It took about 17 hours. I stopped once, overnight. Got gas a cou­ple times. That engine pulled more gas than if it was stock.

What do you have now, besides the Shelby?

I have a ’66 Mercury Cyclone GT, mostly original, plus some interior the guy I bought it from had. It’s a restora­tion project. I have a ’68 GT 500, which I want to do a motor, tranny and some rear end stuff on, red with white stripes. I have an ’04 Mystichrome Edition SVT Cobra Mustang. That was the first car I went to a dealership and bought. That is my baby. I’ll never sell that car. The scheme on that-the Mystichrome Edition-they did it on

  • convertibles and 610 coupes, so my coupe is one of 610. It’s five-something out of 610. I love that baby to death. Every time I go up there, I get behind the wheel and take it for a spin. It screams. It’s fast. Next would be my ’06 Chrysler 300C-SRT-8.1 put an exhaust on the back and a Mopar cold air intake. I bought my Shelby and my ’09 Challenger.

What about bikes, do you have any?

I love bikes, but with my profession, I can’t ride them. It’s not worth it.

So, you probably give a pretty mean body slam.

Uhm, yeah. I can break an arm or two. In a lot of these competitions, you can’t crank somebody on the neck or head or you can’t put your knee on their jaw. In catch wrestling, it’s okay. You can do what you want. Crank away, see if they quit. Grab a leg and twist it off. I do work in the auto industry every now and then, and have great sponsors like Toyo Tires. I was supposed to be out at SEMA, but got sick. I love the introduction into the auto industry I’ve gotten from fighting because I would be spending my money on these things anyway.n

Bill Goldberg suggested that I put this Babyfaced Assassin in my book, and I am very happy that he did. Josh is a high- energy, very intelligent and polite guy, very confident and self-assured in a good way. I was very curious to find out what type of vehicles a man of his size would enjoy or even find comfortable to ride in. As I already knew, he was a Mustang freak, Shelby’s being his favorite. I found him to be quite knowledgeable about cars and even found out he’s quite the grease monkey.


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