It’s been more than a year since former MythBusters host Grant Imahara died suddenly of a brain aneurysm, and Adam Savage, who worked with him on the phenomenally popular Discovery Channel show still misses him deeply.
“Like everybody else, I was gut-punched by Grant’s passing last year,” Savage tells Yahoo Entertainment. “It felt like almost too much in the face of all the other existential crises that were going on. But those of us that were lucky enough to know Grant knew him as a lovely man of honor, who wanted to share his knowledge with everybody.”
To that end, the team behind the show about testing whether certain events could actually happen in real life is auctioning off off the props used during its 15-year run, from 2003 to 2018, now through Sept. 1. Proceeds from the sale of all the items, including different versions of Buster, the test dummy who stood in for humans in dangerous stunts, and blueprints of many of the creations, will go directly to the Grant Imahara STEAM Foundation, whose mission is to inspire emerging talent and empower underserved youth in the areas of science, technology, engineering, arts and math education by offering college scholarships and internships.
Listen to Adam Savage talk about items in the ‘MythBusters’ auction in this 3D augmented-reality experience
“My favorite memory of Grant is, every time an experiment went the way that it should have, Grant expressed so much joy with his face,” Savage says. “The fact is that when you conduct an experimental methodology and it works the way you expect, there are few greater highs. I couldn’t believe how much fun that was when I first started making the show. And what I felt inside is exemplified in Grant’s face. Every time something worked. And the main one I’m thinking about is when [former co-stars] Tory [Belleci], Kary [Byron] and Grant did urine creating ice balls on the wing of a plane and then, like, crashing through a house. And they went to this test facility that had a freezing cold wind tunnel, and they conducted the experiment and it worked so perfectly. It is one of the great results we’ve ever gotten on MythBusters. And the look on Grant’s face when the final piece of the puzzle came in is… it’s like you won the lottery. And I think at that moment, he absolutely felt like he did because that’s how I feel.”
Savage was such a fan of what the gang at the show was able to create — yes, the cast were also the builders — that he himself kept a few mementos. One of them was the few pieces that remained of the original Buster, the nickname for the on-set crash test dummies.
“I have a small memorial shelf of some of my favorite objects from MythBusters,” Savage explains, “and in there is a silver dollar with a bullet hole through the middle of it. A Generation 1 iPod with a hole in the middle of it. Two bullets fused together … in midair. Some of my favorite weirdo, wonderful objects, I kept. And yeah, my chunks of Buster have a whole shelf to themselves. There’s a piece of his chin, one of his hands…”
Unfortunately, Savage doesn’t have the room for the mechanical shark that was used to determine whether a person being attacked by the creature would have the presence of mind to jam a thumb in its eye, as we’ve often been told. The asking price for it is $1,200.
“That is one of the, I think, one of the most beautiful things that [former co-star] Jamie [Hyneman] and I ever built in the 20 years of our association, and I really hope it goes to a good home,” he says. “First of all, as an object in and of itself, it’s magnificent. It’s ridiculously large. It’s clearly a robotic shark. I mean, in a way that like five-year-old me would have drawn a robotic shark.”
Bruce — that’s the shark’s name, after director Steven Spielberg’s nickname for the mechanical shark he used in Jaws —was designed to simulate an actual shark attack. Wearing a harness, Savage went into his mouth for a Shark Week-themed episode in 2008 and recalls it being “one of the more fun amusement park rides” he’d ever taken. They’d rigged Bruce so that he would throw them around. They made the eyes so that, when you pushed a button on them, the hydraulics would shut down. It was deemed “plausible” that someone could shut down an attack that way.
Another item up for sale — also with an asking price of $1,200 — is the arrow machine gun, which Savage describes as “one of the most mechanically elaborate things that Jamie and I ever built.”
It “involved multiple parts spinning in perpendicularly to each other that had to deliver arrows to the specific place without deteriorating the string, and also be accurate,” he says, noting that it went “a little slower than I was hoping.” It ultimately launched 15 arrows in 1 minute and 50 seconds. “The fact that it worked at all was remarkable.”
Episodes like that one were years ago, but Savage continues to run into fans of the show, which is available now on Discovery+.
“It used to be, the people were telling us that we got them through high school chemistry. And then they started telling us that we got them through algebra in college,” Savage says. “And now people are coming up and saying that they are PhDs in engineering or medicine. And MythBusters was the thing that started them down that road. And they bring their kids to our autograph line. And that absolutely… I mean, I’m getting choked up just talking about it because it’s such a humbling thing.”
Savage is truly excited that fans can take home a piece of a very specific moment in MythBusters history.
“I feel like they’ll be, there will be a moment in the future,” he says, “when I’ll walk into someone’s house and I’ll see a MythBusters blueprint on the wall, and I’ll feel like a whole arc has been completed.”
—Augmented-reality experience produced by Suri Parmar and Kat Vasquez