He’s a proud member and a tireless worker, but Rick Seeley still doesn’t remember how he initially got involved with Motor City. “Dave Repol got me into this car club and to this day I don’t know how that happened, because I didn’t have a car at that time,” he says. “I was looking for a car and he said, ‘You should come to a meeting, you should join.’” He laughs and says, “I think there was an ulterior motive in trying to lower the age of the membership!”
He has a car now, a 1972 Monte Carlo, one of a few he’s owned over the years. Married to Margaret, and father of Matthew, he’s a Site Services Manager for Flextronics Global Services in Newmarket.
Originally from Brockville, he grew up working at a gas station, but his inspiration for automobiles came from further out in the family. “My dad hates cars,” he says. “He detests cars because they cost money. He never fixed one in his life and he never will. My uncle and two cousins always had cool cars, a 1953 Pontiac, 1955 Chevy, 1957 Chevy and to me they were just the ultimate. I used to spend a lot of time at their farm, hanging around them. They were mechanical, fixing and tuning, playing and tinkering, and things rubbed off.
“In 1966, I had a neighbour who wrecked a Mustang and that summer it was his project rebuilding it in the garage. I got involved with him taking off the doors and panels, mixing body filler, priming and block sanding, and that’s probably the first hands-on where I really got involved. I was eleven and I thought man, I could have one of those.”
His first car was a 1964 Valiant with slant-six engine. “It was a beautiful old car, with a pushbutton transmission,” Rick says. “It was actually the family’s car but I drove it 99% of the time.” The first car he bought was a 1967 Dodge Dart GT and “I loved that,” he says. “It was blue with a black vinyl roof, and 273 high-performance engine. I bought it from an old couple who basically stopped driving for everyone’s health.
“I had the Dart from 1971 to 1974, and next I had a 1972 Austin Mini in 1984. It had a Cooper S engine, headers, Weber, race cam, and it would eat a 350 Chevy off the lights if you were doing light to light. After 70 mph it had nothing, but up to there it was just a rocket. I built that car basically from the ground up. I’m a self-taught mechanic the hard way, but it’s the good way. You learn not to take shortcuts because they cost you.”
He owned the car in Calgary, where he lived from 1976 to1984. “I got hired by IBM out of school and they had a job for me, but they didn’t tell me where until I got through my training. I was getting married that summer and I’m surprised there ever was a wedding. Marg was a hometown girl in Brockville and didn’t want to move, and suddenly this guy gets a job halfway around the world in Calgary of all places. Our honeymoon was driving across Canada in a non-air-conditioned car for our first week of wedded bliss. We haven’t gone on a honeymoon since, because that was such a disaster we thought we shouldn’t do that again.”
Despite that rough beginning, “she likes the cars, and as a matter of fact, she had a lot of influence in buying this one (the Monte Carlo),” he says. “I knew at some point I was going to have something. I knew what I was looking for, originally a 1967 to 1969 Dart 340, similar to what I had when I was going to college. I had a budget of $10,000 and found you look at a lot of junk; $25,000 would get you pretty good, so I gave up on the notion of buying a car.” He decided to pay off his mortgage instead, and when that debt was gone, he resumed his automotive search.
He’d moved to Whitby when he discovered the Monte Carlo on the Internet and on sale in that very city. The car needed more work than he originally thought, but it soon became a family project, with Matthew showing as much interest as his father. The boy is also involved in the Canadian Soapbox Racing Association, and each year at Autofest, you’ll find Rick at the soapbox derby.
“My son had a wonderful season of racing and that was a lot of fun, because we’d travelled as a family and did things as a family,” he says. “It meant that I didn’t get to very many cruise nights but I’m okay with that, because you have to balance things. Your kids won’t be young forever, so you’ve got to spend time with them growing up. Maybe my son will be the next generation of Motor City. Right now he likes the import cars, the tricked-out Hondas and Toyotas, but he also gets pretty excited when he sees a Hemi engine with a blower in a Willys, or a deuce coupe all done up.”
Along with Matthew’s soapbox racing, Rick also enjoys photography, woodworking and golf, and spending time at his in-laws’ cottage.
He’s active in club functions and shows, working at Performance World and other indoor shows, helping to get the 50th anniversary display built, and of course at Autofest.
“When I first got involved with the club, I knew there were some guys building cars, but it was more like a social club, almost a service club at a certain point,” he says. “I think when you take a look at that lovely trophy from the city for being recognized, we are very involved and we do a lot with the city and local groups. You’re trying to take a car club out of the greasy guys who raced on the street and make a legitimate thing that you can be recognized by your community. I think Motor City has done that in spades.”