Craig Gruden, (Little) Donny Kleinfelder, (Big) Donny Kleinfelder, Dale Kristensen, Dave Schwandt, Alyssa Schwandt, Tristan Schwandt and Angela Kirstein will feature in Backroad Truckers, a Barriere-based History channel series. (CORUS Entertainment photo)

Craig Gruden, (Little) Donny Kleinfelder, (Big) Donny Kleinfelder, Dale Kristensen, Dave Schwandt, Alyssa Schwandt, Tristan Schwandt and Angela Kirstein will feature in Backroad Truckers, a Barriere-based History channel series. (CORUS Entertainment photo)

Shuswap auto recycler breaks out of Rust Valley for Backroad Truckers

White Lake’s Dave Schwandt joins Big Donny Kleinfelder on new History Channel series

By Marty Hastings, Kamloops This Week

History Channel’s exploration of the B.C. Interior will continue with Backroad Truckers.

Season 1 of the documentary series revolves around Donny Kleinfelder of Barriere and Dave Schwandt of White Lake, the stars who have parlayed appearances on another History offering, Tappen-based Rust Valley Restorers, into a show of their own.

“Five years ago, would I have thought I’d be on TV? I would never have thought so,” said Kleinfelder, the 400-or-so pound man who goes by Big Donny. “It’s fun. It’s a life-changing event.”

In Backroad Truckers, the stars’ businesses are pitted against each other, with a focus on hotshotting, which is the process of moving time-sensitive loads from points A to B, often through perilous off-road conditions.

“It’s a high-octane show, with big adventures, crazy scenery, vehicles you’d see in a kids’ playroom, but imagine if the playroom was inside a Mad Max movie,” said showrunner Matt Shewchuk, who gets executive producer credits, along with Mayhem Entertainment business partner Tyson Hepburn.

These types of series only achieve success if personalities click with viewers, who will have plenty to choose from with Backroad Truckers.

Read more: Shuswap’s Mike Hall geared up for third season of Rust Valley Restorers

Read more: Rust Valley Restorers behind car show and cruise to benefit Habitat for Humanity

Schwandt, who runs Twisted Auto Recycling, is a workaholic family man who has five children, a salvage dealer who loves building cars for demolition derbies and restoring old snowmobiles.

“Me and Donny have known each other for 20 years,” said Schwandt, who grew up in the Salmon Arm area. “Who would have thought we’d be on not one, but two huge shows? We have the potential to become a huge hit. It was not even remotely on my mind for something like this to happen.”

Shewchuk penned a concept for a hotshotting show prior to his involvement with Rust Valley Restorers, which is in the midst of Season 3.

After meeting characters such as Donny and Dave while working on seasons 1 and 2 of the car restoration series, the time was right to make a pitch to Corus Entertainment, History’s parent company.

“As each piece came together, it became more and more apparent that, yes, this could be an amazing show and we could tell some amazing stories,” Shewchuk said, noting filming brought the crew as far north as Yellowknife.

Kleinfelder, who spent a good chunk of his life in Chase, employs an eclectic crew that includes ex-con Craig Gruden, big-rig-operating little person Dale Kristensen and Angela Kirstein, a fearless foul-mouthed driver.

“I don’t care what anybody looks like, as long as they don’t have bad habits,” said Kleinfelder, whose son, Little Donny, also features on the show. “You’ve got to kind of take what you get. It’s two families trying to survive.”

The stars insist there has been animousity between them in the past, noting the conflict is not just a storyline drummed up to increase ratings.

“We’ve butted heads over the years legitimately,” said Schwandt, who used to work for Kleinfelder. “There is no baloney in that situation whatsoever. It gives great exposure to the industry, of what it takes to actually do something like this. These back roads we do travel on are pretty treacherous sometimes.”

The Interior and Shuswap, along with other B.C. regions, will again be given a platform on the nationally televised show. Kamloops, Barriere, Sandon and White Lake are pictured in the first episode.

What the audience thinks of Kleinfelder and Schwandt will go a long way in determining the success of the show, with Corus and History executives left to decide whether to green light a second season.

Episode 1 will air at 10 p.m. on Thursday, March 4.

“Curiosity killed the cat, right?” Big Donny said with a laugh. “We’ve all been kind of grinding away, wondering when is it coming, when’s it coming? Now it’s going to be here and we hope for the best, right?”

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