Vince McCloskey might well have bought his cars using his air miles. A robot technician for more than 25 years, he has travelled the globe for his job, including Australia, Italy, the U.K., Sweden, Mexico, Latin America, the U.S. and the Czech Republic.
And all of that started when he went back to school at the age of 33. “I owned a Superior Rustproofing for 13 years,” he says. “I liked what robotics had to offer and it was new, and I wanted to get in on the ground floor.” He sold his rustproofing business, attended summer school to get his required grades, and then went to Durham College to learn the trade. He specializes in textiles, setting up and programming robots that cut carpets and headliners with ultra-high-pressure water.
“I’m one of six brothers, and the older was always in the back yard playing with cars,” Vince says. “I was living in Toronto and Speedsport was a bus ride away. I was the kid walking down the aisle with a bag full of every brochure known to man.”
He bought his first car, a 1955 Chevrolet, when he was 15 years old. “I couldn’t find a summertime job, being under 16, so I bought the car for scrap,” he says. “I took it apart and sold all the parts, and that was my summertime job.” The first car he drove was his father’s 1961 Chevrolet. “We were all self-taught in the back yard. None of us were ever taught how to drive. We got our 365 (beginner’s licence) and that was it.”
When he turned 18, and was working at a Texaco gas station in Toronto, he bought a 1963 Chevrolet Impala Super Sport. After driving it for some 15 years, he decided to turn it into a show car. “From going to Speedsport, I said that one day I would have a car to compete. I chrome-plated the 409, the undercarriage, and put in a Corvette rear end. I did about 90 percent of the work myself, self-taught again by the seat of my pants, and help from my friends.”
He might have been self-taught, but the teacher was a good one: he showed the car throughout the U.S. and Canada on the ISCA circuit. In 1977 and 1978 it took five major awards, finished thirteenth in the international division standings, and was a runner-up for the Ridler.
Jumping in and getting the job done is pretty much Vince’s philosophy. “I had no training when I opened Superior Rustproofing,” he says. “I had no idea what a business was or how to run one. I borrowed $10,000 and opened the doors. There were times when I sat with my head in my hands and wondered how I was going to pay the rent, but it came down to working harder and working smarter, and with perseverance, it worked.”
He came to Motor City through Gary Brown, who was a member at the time and asked Vince to come to a meeting in 1977. “I filled out an application for membership, and after a year’s probation I was accepted as a member, which I still am in good standing today,” he says. “I was never involved in any club outside of the Boys Club when I was a child, but I liked the guys, the interest, and the common denominator was cars.”
He kept the ’63 Chevy for 26 years, but finally sold it, bought a 1972 Monte Carlo, and decided to chop the top. “I’d never done one, but I thought it would compliment the body lines,” he says. “You just have to have an imagination, and what did I have to lose? I asked Bob Clarke and Bill Hurrie how to do it, and we just started with a 24 and a hacksaw. Nobody knows what the roof is on that car. It’s a 1969 Pontiac Catalina, because I wanted minimal welding, and it was the only car with a roof wide enough that I could weld in the gutter rails and leave a pristine top. A measuring tape and a scrapyard, that’s what you have to do.”
The Monte Carlo made its debut at the Royal Run in 1981, put on by Motor City.
Other cars to pass through Vince’s garage have included 1964, ’65 and ’75 Chevrolets, a 1965 Pontiac, and a 1966 Pontiac GP. “That one took me four months,” he says. “The body was good, but there was no floor in it from the heater box to the back bumper, and so the repairs began, along with a four-and-a-half-inch chop. It then went to Cobo Hall for the 50th anniversary and took first place in the radical custom class. I’d already done the circuit, so I didn’t go back out with it.”
Other than his family – daughters Michelle and Amanda – Vince’s interests are strictly about four wheels. “In the summer it’s cruise nights or working in the garage,” he says. He has been a Motor City Member of the Year, has participated in club events including the Santa Claus parade and clown visits, and was vice-president six times. “Over the years, I’ve found that the members, their spouses, their children and their children all share in the happy and sad times, and have become part of the extended family of Motor City Car Club,” he says. “Nothing would have been possible with help from my friends, family and the membership.
“I told my kids that when my time comes, I want my ashes spread out around the club. Why, Dad? So I explained, I’ve been a part of Motor City for more than half of my life and I want to be with the guys I call my true friends.”