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Stories from the used car lot: EZ Cars turns to reality TV

ENCINITAS — From nun-dressed musicians to ex-millionaires looking to buy a car to sleep in, the folks at E-Z Cars 101 said you won’t believe some of the stories they have come across on the used-car lot on North Coast Highway.

It’s enough to make a reality show, co-owner Karen Ventura said.

So, that’s what they’re doing.

The Venturas — husband and wife Gene and Karen — just finished filming a pilot of a show they are calling “Life on the Lot,” which they are hoping to pitch to Hollywood producers (through a connection from a family friend) in hopes of bringing a reality-TV show to the quirky beach town.

“Day after day, we would have these stories and just say, ‘You can’t make this stuff up,’” Karen Ventura said. “We think that this could be something along the lines of a Duck Dynasty, something light and full of laughs.”

The Venturas filmed the pilot from Oct. 2 to Oct. 4. The pilot also included an X-Games-style competition — complete with celebrity extreme-sports judges — held on the lot on the final day.

Used car lots have long been fodder for jokes, and as recently as 2009, Hollywood has chronicled the exploits of a fictitious used-car lot in Temecula, in the feature film “The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard,” which starred Jeremy Piven and Ed Helms.

The Venturas moved to Encinitas seven years ago from Chicago, where Gene ran a successful real estate business. They ran several other businesses before acquiring the used-car dealership two years ago.

After a while, Karen said, the combination of a used-car lot and the eclectic beach town of Encinitas just made sense.

“When you think of it, Encinitas is the main character, it’s quirkiness drives the stories,” she said.

Like the story about the all-girl band dressed in nun costumes who wanted to film their music video, so they borrowed a Chevy Nova that was on the lot and had one of mechanics drive it along Coast Highway to Moonlight Beach where it died and they left the mechanic stranded. Only in Encinitas, Karen said.

Then, there was the other story about the hotel executive whose net worth went from $70 million to $10,000 as the result of the recession, which prompted him to hit the lot looking for a car for he and his golden retriever to call home.

Each episode will feature stories of the fascinating customers as well as the staff — including general manager Linda Johnson — and recurring “characters,” such as the people who sell them the used cars and mechanics that work on them.

The episodes will also include educational components about the used-car industry, such as how to appraise or repair a used car.

Karen said she believes there are enough stories to sustain a 12-episode season, and hopefully enough to curry the interest of the networks.

“We think we’ve got gold here,” she said.

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