If you’re a fan of automotive content on YouTube, chances are very high that you’ve heard of a guy from Florida named Cleetus McFarland. He’s one of the most popular automotive YouTubers ever, with an assortment of insanely fast home-built cars, his own racetrack, and a passion for going fast. Real fast. He’s also got a massive following with millions of subscribers to his channel – which isn’t surprising considering his fun and energetic personality. But there’s a lot more to him than that. Who is Cleetus McFarland?
- His real name is Garrett Mitchell
- His birthday is April 5 (born in 1995)
- He was originally from Omaha, Nebraska
- He studied law in school (did his undergrad at the University of Tampa)
- He started his main YouTube channel on June 28, 2009
- He started his secondary YouTube channel on May 28, 2019
- His net worth is approximately $800,000
However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. In order to truly understand who Cleetus McFarland is, you’ve got to go back in time and learn how it all started:
How the Cleetus McFarland character came to be
Even before the Cleetus McFarland Youtube channel was ever a thing, Garrett was uploading automotive content for 1320Video. He was running their social media at the time, but it was mostly just a side hustle to make a little extra money. He was he was a full time student in those days, and his time (and resources) were tight.
The Cleetus McFarland persona was an “on-the-spot” creation during an automotive event he was filming at in 2015. He took on a redneck-style accent (with the clothing to match) during a segment involving a highly modified Camaro, and the rest was history.
Garrett upleaded the video, it went viral, and the Cleetus McFarland persona was born. Personally, I think the best way to describe the character of Cleetus McFarland is to watch the live TV interview he did with a local news station about his purchase of the DeSoto Raceway in early 2020:
As you can see, he did the entire video “in character” – and it was utterly brilliant.
The birth of the Cleetus McFarland YouTube channel
Many first time viewers of his channel don’t even realize that there is more to the Cleetus McFarland brand than just one guy. Who is Cleetus McFarland? “He” is actually the lead of a team consisting of two other people:
Garrett’s channel started as a continuation of the redneck theme he had established in that video he created that went viral. There was no specific theme or style defined for the content that he and his team were creating at first, but most of it involved fast cars, good humor, and crazy challenges.
To me, that’s one of the things that has made the Cleetus McFarland YouTube channel so fun and entertaining to watch. Garrett and the guys aren’t trying to be anything other than what they are: just ordinary guys from Florida who love fast cars.
The beauty of this is that the content on the channel hasn’t changed much from the early years. This is likely one of the primary reasons why his viewership remains so strong to this day. Those who subscribed to the channel in the beginning are still getting that exact same kind of content today.
All the reasons why the Cleetus McFarland YouTube channel has become so successful
The best way to understand how Garrett grew the Cleetus McFarlnd brand so fast (and so well) is to think about how I explain him to others. When a non-automotive enthusiast (such as my wife) asks me who is Cleetus McFarland is, the most succinct and descriptive answer I can give is the following:
He’s just a normal (somewhat goofy) kid from Florida who decided to turn his passion into a living.
When automotive enthusiasts (who have no idea who he is) ask, I give the following answer:
He’s an automotive gear-head focused primarily on building crazy fast General Motors cars and trucks (and then having tons of fun with them afterwards). In his mind, if he’s not breaking stuff (blowing engines and differentials), he’s not pushing hard enough. And push hard he does indeed.
As you can see, my answer for automotive enthusiasts is sloppy, long-winded, and not very well thought out, since Cleetus is far more than just a builder of fast cars.
Cleetus is also:
- An extremely talented and knowledgeable drag racer
- Someone who is not afraid to beat on a car until it breaks (this is probably the thing that made me subscribed to his channel in the first place).
- An up and coming automotive drifter – though, at this point, he just does it for fun and is not actively competing. Yet. Although, if you want my opinion, he may end up going down that road since he has a very competitive personality. He is also the proud owner of the Freedom Factory – his very own racetrack (which used to be the DeSoto Speedway – located in Bradenton, Florida).
- Known for putting on incredibly entertaining burnout shows and competitions.
- An up and coming entrepreneur (which I will get into below)
Did you know that Cleetus is a very successful businessman as well?
It’s true. I subscribed to the Cleetus McFarland YouTube channel several years ago because of how rowdy he got behind the wheel of a fast car. However, as time goes on, I’m finding myself enjoying his content even more as he builds his brand and launches new projects and side hustles.
The YouTube channel
The first thing he did was to build a successful YouTube channel. Not only by simply uploading content of him and his friends goofing around in fast cars, but by officially creating a “Cleetus McFarland” brand name with the help of Cooper and James.
The second thing he did was to rent space in a shop to create a home base for all of his projects. The shop was (is) located in Clearwater Florida just outside of Tampa. By the way, he shares that space with the fasterproms.net guys – so even though he doesn’t own the space fully, it’s stuffed with car guys and there’s always fun automotive-related shenanigans going on.
In my opinion, it was the leasing of shop space that established him as a legitimate brand (if that really means anything). Another way to explain it is how TJ Hunt moved from Calvin’s parent’s garage to his own warehouse in 2017. When TJ did that, it instantly solidified him as more than just a car guy who makes videos for fun. TJ’s channel exploded (in a good way) after that move – and the same thing happened for Cleetus.
Come to think of it, that was the same path that Adam LZ took as well. Going from “garage to warehouse” seems to be the proper way to supercharge the growth of an automotive YouTube channel methinks.
The Cleetus McFarland merchandise line
The third thing that helped launch his brand? It was his merchandise line. “Who is Cleetus McFarland?” is likely a question that his fans get when they wear his merchandise out in public, but to those loyal fans…it’s an honor to wear his brand.
For those that don’t know, selling merchandise is a very big part of the net worth for many large YouTubers. Adam LZ, Matt Maran, TJ Hunt, streetspeed717, and thestradman use merchandise sales to bolster their business, and in the case of TJ Hunt and streetspeed717, it’s the merchandise lines that make up a bulk of their monthly revenue.
Note that this is 100% speculation on my part. I have no definitive proof to back up my hypothesis, but I’m guessing it’s a major part of their income since they both have employees (and warehouses) dedicated to those products.
Anyway – this is an article about Cleetus. Not anyone else. So, here is what I know about the Cleetus McFarland merchandise line:
- He is partners with T-Shirt Labs (located in Clearwater Florida). They design and produce all of his merch.
- He fulfills orders himself. More specifically, he has others on his payroll do it for him, which you can often see in his videos.
- I’ve been watching Cleetus McFarland videos for years, and I’ve seen James, Cooper, and even his girlfriend processing orders in the background.
- He doesn’t hold much stock. Usually what happens is that he’ll announce a new item in one video, promote it for the next two, and its gone from his website after that.
As I’m sitting here writing this article, I can’t help but think how fun and cool it would be to create a line of T-shirts (maybe even hats) that simply says “who is Cletus McFarland?” I’d totally rock a shirt like that – if only to be able to spread the word about how awesome he is. I mean…how freakin’ awesome he is.
The Freedom Factory
Mark my words. The purchase of the old DeSoto Raceway in Bradenton Florida at the beginning of 2020 instantly put him on the map as one of smartest automotive influencers / personalities on YouTube. Up until that point, Cleetus and the gang have simply been following the trend of building (and racing) fast cars for video views (which translates into ad revenue), and that style of content had been working very well for Garrett. With over 1.9 million subscribers and a million views per video (on average), he didn’t really need to change things up. But he did.
By purchasing his own racetrack, Garrett instantly opened up a world of new content opportunities for his channel. Not only that, it opened up collaboration opportunities with other well known drivers in the automotive space as well. Collaborations are one of the best ways to grow a YouTube channel, as it exposes the audience of each channel to someone they may not have heard of before.
Within the first month of ownership, Garrett (ahem…Cleetus) invited both Adam LZ and Vaughn Gittin Jr to the Freedom Factory, which resulted in epic content for everyone involved.
Purchasing that track, fixing it up, and unleashing a wide variety of new kinds of fresh content to his audience was one of the most brilliant things I have ever seen an automotive YouTuber do (from a business perspective).
A list of all the freakin’ awesome things Cleetus McFarland is known for:
In my opinion, the best way to answer everyone who has ever asked “who is Cleetus McFarland?” is to list out the biggest things Cleetus (I mean…Garrett) is known for. It’s basically the TLDR of this entire article:
- First of all, “freakin’ awesome” and “hell yeah brother” are two of his most commonly used phrases. “Do it for Dale” (in reference to the late Dale Earnhardt) comes in at a close second, with other phrases such as “let ‘er rip tater chip” and “what a unit!” following along not too far behind. Basically, he plays up his “redneck from Florida” persona as much as he can, and you’ll hear it in his regular dialog.
- Garrett puts on a quality show several times a year with his massively popular “Cleetus and Cars” events. These shows are held several times a year throughout the country, and they are designed to give his fans exactly what they want: loud cars, insane burnout competitions, and up close and personal access to the entire Cleetus McFarland crew.
- Because he has so much content to upload on a weekly basis, he created a second YouTube channel for miscellaneous topics (still mostly related to cars).
- Garrett’s patriotism is evident in everything he does – and it’s highly contagious. All of his cars proudly display American flags, he refers to some of them as “bald eagle machines”, and he even named his racetrack “the Freedom Factory”. A total patriot though and through.