"Junkyard Wars" contestants come from a variety of different backgrounds -- for example, repairmen, airline pilots and artists have all been on the show. They're just regular people, in the sense that they don't necessarily build those sorts of machines professionally, but they generally have considerable collective engineering experience of some sort, either from work or a hobby.
To get on the show, contestants have to fill out an application, explaining their backgrounds, the history of their friendship and their interests, and create a short video demonstrating their abilities. On the video, the team can either explain how a particular machine works or document its attempt to build a machine.
The "Junkyard Wars" producers are looking for the right combination of skill, creativity, screen presence and history. Contestants don't need an engineering degree, or even an engineering job, but the producers do look for a few crucial skill sets. Each team needs at least one person who knows how to use a MIG welder, as welding is a crucial part of putting together just about any "Junkyard Wars" machine. Experience with engines is also a definite plus, and every member of the team should have a good understanding of physics.
The producers are typically drawn to team members with a close connection to each other -- siblings, long time co-workers and school friends, for example. You also see a lot of teams that were brought together by an interesting hobby. The main thing is that everybody works well together, while all bringing something to the team. Simply put, charismatic people with a good group dynamic makes for more interesting television.
While the producers don't care much about the submission video's production value, they pay a lot of attention to the applicants' choice of subject matter and the way they decided to present it. Creativity and originality is key on the video and the application.
If the producers are impressed by a potential team's video and application, they schedule a telephone interview. If the telephone interview goes well, the team is selected for the upcoming season, and the producers schedule a date. They fly the team members out to L.A., set them up in a hotel, and take care of reasonable expenses.
If you love the show, love to build things and have a couple of like-minded friends, you too could get your time in the spotlight. "Junkyard Wars" is not accepting applications right now, but they will start up again as they prepare for the next season. Keep an eye on the "Junkyard Wars" Web site.
For much more information on "Junkyard Wars," and its English cousin "Scrapheap Challenge," check out the links on the next page.