The Rainy River District was abuzz last summer with rumours that a TV show was filming in the area. That show was Lost Car Rescue and the episode filmed in the District will premiere on April 19 on the History Channel.
The premise of the episode, as announced by the show, is as follows: “Matt Sager and his team start their car hunting season in the region of Rainy River in North-Western Ontario where they’re tasked with tracking down a historic railway truck to assist the local museum. While Matt and Jess hit the skies, Steve and Lee team up to try to best Dave in filling the remaining spots on the semi’s trailer. It’s an expensive trip being this far from home, so it’s got to be worth their while. They’re out of their element as they adjust to the new, unfamiliar terrain of dense forests and expansive lakes. They’re forced to get creative and with the help of locals from a float plane pilot to a barge captain, and even an eleven-year old explorer, they just might strike gold.”
The Times reached out to Lost Car Rescue and spoke with Matt Sager who is the leader of a band of car rescuers who have traveled around the United States and Canada searching for old vehicles which have been abandoned or neglected. They rescue the vehicles from crazy places with the help of an old Power Wagon tow Truck and a crane, with hopes of selling them to restorers and car enthusiasts.
Sager says he and his brother, Stephen, who also features in the show, spent a lot of time working in northern Alberta and British Columbia with a family business. Part of the business involved them flying around those areas which led to them seeing many abandoned cars.
“We would fly around for work, seeing hundreds of vehicles below us but never having the time to reach out to them,” Sager said. “Then one day the competition purchased our company and we had nothing but free time. We were left with these planes that the competition didn’t want and a couple of semis. It just happened to be all the right equipment to take a little breath of fresh air in life and go follow up on some of these cars.”
After realizing just how many cars were out there to buy, Sager and his brother decided they could make a go of rescuing cars. They started scaling up the business about six years ago.
Sager says it was the customer base that inspired the idea to film what they do.
“We didn’t think what we did was all that amazing or intriguing, or even that different” Sager said. “A couple of our friends, a couple local customers kept on telling us ‘I can’t believe that you guys do this for a job and I can’t believe this is a thing.’ They were just so intrigued by it, so a little bit of pressure from the outside world kind of said you should film something and you should show the world.”
They started by bringing a camera crew up to shoot a “Day in the life of an exotic car hunter.” They shopped the sample around to different production companies eventually finding one in Proper Television Inc. which is owned by Boat Rocker Media. Distribution was secured through the History Channel which is owned by Corus Media. Boat Rocker Media is also responsible for shows like Masterchef Canada and Big Brother Canada and the Great Canadian Baking Show.
As the synopsis says, the foundation of the episode is the search for an old CN Truck which is thought to be on a remote island in Lake of the Woods. The episode starts with the crew talking to Rainy River’s Deputy Clerk-Treasurer Julie Tiboni at the Rainy River Railroad Heritage Museum. Tiboni tells them about the story of this long-lost truck which may have been left on an island in Lake of the Woods when the ice melted one winter after making a delivery.
Sager and the pilot on the crew, Jessica James, take to the air to search Lake of the Woods for the truck.
Sager said searching for the truck in the region was much more difficult than searches they’ve done in the past because of the different landscape.
“We’ve never hunted with so much water underneath us,” Sager said. “It was almost eerie not having floats [on the plane]. There were so many puddles, so many islands, so many pieces of land that this truck could be on.”
When the idea was first pitched to come and look for the truck they were unsure if it was reasonable but they hoped the Rainy River District would come through and offer up some cars for them to resell.
“It was a big ask, and also a big adventure,” Sager said. “So we figured we’ll go try, if we find it, we find it, if we don’t, we don’t. But we’re going to be in car hunting territory so we figured Fort Frances would produce a lot of other amazing things and it seems like it did.”
While Sager and James searched for the primary target in the old CN truck, other members of the crew toured the area looking for other cars to rescue and make the trip worth the money spent travelling halfway across the country to get here.
In their search other crew members come across different local car enthusiasts and manage to make a few acquisitions to help support the trip. Viewers of the show may recognize a few familiar faces when they watch.
Lost Car Rescue season two premieres Wednesday, April 19 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on The History Channel or via STACKTV on Prime Video, the History Channel is also available via the Global TV App with a subscription. The episode featuring the Rainy River District will be the first episode of the season.