As the adage sort of goes, look before you Leepu -- and that's exactly what Steve "Pitbull" Trimboli did when a production company approached him to do a reality show about his Freeport custom-car garage. They introduced him online to Bangladesh-born custom-car designer Nizamuddin "Leepu" Awlia, he says, and, "I told him my thoughts, he told me his, and the next we know we're doing a TV show." That would be "Leepu ... Pitbull," premiering Tuesday at 10 p.m. on History.
Trimboli, 46 -- who owns two locations of Pit Bull Motors dealership and garage, on Buffalo Avenue and East Sunrise Highway -- had been wooed to do reality TV before, he says. But, "I make a nice living -- I don't want to jump on the first bandwagon. When Raw TV contacted me, I Googled them and found they were a real company, very accomplished, and I liked how candid and straightforward they were."
The London-based Raw had worked with the 46-year-old Leepu -- the mononym by which the designer is known -- on two programs in 2007 and 2008: "Bangla Bangers," a pair of one-hour Discovery specials about his car-customizing business in Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka; and "Chop Shop: London Garage," a one-season sequel series that ran on Discovery overseas. Eccentric and comically animated, he would provide odd-couple counterpoint to the more laconic and organized Trimboli.
That dynamic impacted the way they and a group of mechanics, whom the producers hired for the show, handled things throughout the seven episodes. In each episode, a Long Island car owner gets a humble junker transformed into a thoroughbred.
So can two car customizers share a garage without driving each other crazy?
"Leepu flies by the seat of his pants," says the Baldwin-born Trimboli, a married father of three living in south Bellmore. "No plans, no organization, no structure. When he came into town" -- from Idaho, where Leepu lives with his wife and three children -- "it was OK for a couple of days and then we started working on things. I saw that he was like a little kid, without really understanding ramifications. It was a rough go," he admits. "I had to adjust to his ways, as he did mine. The thing is, he's a very likable guy. And as opposite as we are, we still had common ground" -- a love of the cars they customized on the show, and a respect for the work.
"I'm a free man of my own will," answers the animated Leepu with a mile-a-minute mouth. "I design cars, I build cars, that's what I do. When you build or design cars, you don't care what's going on around you. When an artist is at work, he only cares about what he's creating. He's in the zone, he gets lost."
Or as Trimboli puts it, "You leave the guy alone for a day and he cuts the car up. What are you gonna do?"