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Q&A: Behind The Scenes With Internet Sensation Cleetus McFarland

Becoming the internet sensation known as Cleetus McFarland wasn’t always Garrett Mitchell’s plan and it turned out to be something more than he ever could have imagined.

Born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, Mitchell has always been quite the car enthusiast. When he was 15 years old, a random encounter with Chase Lautenbach, 1320Video OG and now Street Car Takeover co-owner, led to the start of a dream job for Mitchell.

“It was crazy; I met Chase at a stop light and after a quick race we exchanged numbers and went on our way,” says Mitchell. “He gave me a call a few weeks later and invited me out to a car meet. So, I drove over there in my Subaru STi to hang out with everyone, and that was the night I met Kyle Loftis, CEO of 1320Video. I had known of him but never really knew him personally. Another six months passed, and randomly one day I decided to call Kyle and ask him if he used Instagram at all for the company since it was just starting to become a thing. He told me that they had one but he really didn’t use it much, so I offered to run it for him. I worked on that for about two years, building the account up and then he called me one day and offered me a full-time job to take over all of the social media for 1320Video.”

On top of running multiple social media accounts, helping build up 1320Video, and traveling all across the U.S to events to meet fans, Mitchell is a full-time student in Law School out of Tampa, Florida. Luckily, in between all of that, we had a chance to sit down and talk with Garrett and ask him about the origin of Cleetus McFarland, Leroy and what we can expect in the future.

So how exactly did the whole “Cleetus McFarland” alter-ego come to be?

Becoming Cleetus Mcfarland was a pure accident. We were out on Rocky Mountain Race Week in Pueblo, Colorado. I went to Walmart to get some stuff and there was this red Chevy shirt for five bucks and I bought it, ripped off the sleeves and I told Kyle to interview me in front of Tom Bailey’s 3000-horsepower twin-turbo Camaro street car. While I was standing there, he turned on his phone and asked what he should call me and I originally said, Dale McFarland. He starts videoing and he goes, “We are standing here with…Cleetus McFarland,” laughs, and I was like, Yup, and just went on with it, made the video. He couldn’t stop laughing; he thought it was pretty funny. He was like, “Oh, we have to post this,” – I didn’t think it was that funny. So I went to bed and Kyle stayed up, edited a video and posted it. By the time I woke up, the video had almost a million views. Cleetus was a total accident, but from there I decided to run with it and make something out of it. 

Let’s talk about your build that’s taking the Internet by storm, Leroy. What made you decide to purchase and modify a salvaged, cut-up C5 Corvette?

So once my YouTube channel started to grow this past year, I started looking for a project car. I didn’t want to really beat on the ProCharged C7 as much anymore: it’s hard to just beat on a nice street car all the time. So, I talked to my good friend Jeremy, owner of Fasterproms, and we brainstormed ideas for a project car. We thought to ourselves about what would be something we wouldn’t have to worry about being beaten up and that had a good drivetrain for making a lot of power and something that would be cheap. Obviously, a Corvette can make good power but they aren’t cheap, so we started to look for a salvaged-title Corvette. I looked up a bunch of Corvettes and finally found what I liked. A salvaged, fully stripped 2001 C5 Corvette that had 32,000 miles and a perfectly working drivetrain. The price tag was only $5,500, so I was just like, screw it, and we bought it. We named it Leroy, put out a few videos and it just took off; everyone loved it. 

Just recently, you installed the LSA blower and a roll-cage on Leroy and then cracked into the 9-second mark in the quarter mile. How did it feel going 130 mph in what is basically a go-cart?

Since the day I bought the car, I’ve gotten really used to it and it feels like home for me now. It’s just like anyone driving their own racecar; it feels safe to them and they feel like they are in control. Obviously, from all this time driving it, I’ve definitely picked up some skills and the car has taught me a lot. Everyone is always asking me how sketchy it is, but to me, it isn’t sketchy at all. I know the car better than anyone and I love it. When I made the 9-second pass and hit over 130 mph, I stayed in it through the beams and it got pretty windy with no panels. But the thing is, the car felt totally stable; it doesn’t feel out of control or anything. It was my first 9-second pass, so it was cool to do it in my own car, especially my own salvaged-title piece of crap.

Now that you accomplished your 9-second pass on blower, we saw that you decided to switch it up again and put a set of twin turbos on it. What are your ultimate plans for Leroy? Do you plan on getting anymore crazy with it?

I would like to run an 8-second pass with it, to be honest. Being that it’s a stick shift, it may be tougher than the 9-second pass. Leroy now has a built transmission from RPM Transmissions, a Texas Speed and Performance 427 re-sleeved aluminum block and a pair of Precision 6466 turbos, which may or may not have made over 1,000 hp so far. It’s definitely missing some components in the mix to go 8’s, like upgraded axles and brakes, but we will get to that eventually. As far as the powertrain goes, we are looking really good. The car is getting to where I really want it to be. On my 9-second pass, I made a 1.4 60-foot time, so I’m not as much worried about the traction or suspension anymore. People were telling me because it’s so light, under 2800 lbs, that traction could be a major issue, but for whatever reason, the stock suspension and tire setup I use works pretty well. 

What event do you plan on attending next? When will we see the upgraded twin-turbo Leroy in action?

The car will be making its debut at the Ice Cream Cruise on August 5th and 6th in Omaha, Nebraska. I will be racing my boss, Kyle Loftis, owner of 1320Video, in his fully built twin-turbo C5 Z06 Corvette. Leroy versus the Unicorn Vette is going to be an epic race. If I get Leroy to leave on boost and hook up halfway decent, I think it’s going to be a really good race. I don’t know what they all have planned for the car, but I do know they made a few really fast passes in it and we haven’t had a chance to test the new setup yet. Once we get the tune finalized this Friday, I should have some seat time this weekend to see what she can do. I will see everyone there.

Oh, and one last thing, I know Kyle doesn’t do it for Dale, and that may be his biggest problem. – Cleetus McFarland

To follow updates on Cleetus McFarland and Leroy, visit 1320Video and Cleetus McFarland on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

See the most recent update on Leroy in the video below:

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