Like many car enthusiasts, Mike Williams started at a young age, and with the printed page: his love of hot rods began with reading Car Craft magazines as a teenager. “I always wanted a hot rod,” he says. “I wanted it and it had to go fast. That’s all I knew.”
That’s still everything to him, and right now he has a 1929 Ford that he’s building in his garage. He’s not a mechanic, but he’s probably as close as you can get.
“When I was growing up with my friends, they were all older than me and they all had driver’s licences,” Mike says. “When I was 15 years of age, we were in their driveways, ripping motors out, changing transmissions, grease from head to toe and loving it, and I’ve never stopped since.”
He’s now a building coordinator for maintenance for the Municipality of Clarington, looking after the “building envelope” of heating, air conditioning, roof and exterior walls of 31 buildings, including fire halls, arenas and town halls. “You have to know a little bit about everything, but not be a specialist,” he says. “I’m not a tradesperson, but I went to Durham College and took courses there. I look after all the wells that the municipality owns, and I have to be certified for public drinking water. I’m also a licensed home inspector, licensed locksmith, and I’m a bit of a carpenter. My dad was a cabinet maker by trade and we’d always build boats in the basement.” In fact, he built the home in Tyrone that he shares with his wife Irene.
His interest in cars led him to working at John’s Garage, a transmission shop, in the 1970s. He wasn’t a mechanic but he rebuilt transmissions at the shop and learned the skills that he would later use on his own cars.
His first car, when he started driving in the 1960s, was a Volkswagen Beetle, and he still retains a love of German cars. “My mother bought me the first one, and from there I got six more Bugs for a total of seven,” he says. “I went to a 1963 Chevy II, to a 1964 Chevy II, to a 1963 Pontiac, 1964 Chevelle SS, and 1969 Chevelle. My dad was a cabinet maker at home but he also worked in GM in charge of security, and so he got me a job there, really early. I couldn’t take it; I couldn’t work on the line.”
He also had a 1979 Chevrolet Malibu and a van – “it was in there somewhere, I can’t quite remember” – and then he got into older vehicles. These included a 1930 five-window Model A coupe, a 1937 Chrysler, and a G-gas dragster. “Then I got a 1930 two-door Tudor sedan and then a fiberglass five-window 1930s coupe, and then my 1950 Chevrolet,” he says. “I took that on a maiden voyage when we all went to PEI when they had the Nationals there. Ted Whitehouse and I got in it and I drove it to PEI. I never even took it around the block first. I came home, dropped him off, and then I stopped in a variety store and when I came out, it wouldn’t start.”
He has been a member of Motor City Car Club twice. “I joined early in the 1970s and I stayed there for about eight or nine years,” he says. “I knew of Motor City’s existence in the 1960s when they were down on Bloor Street and I stopped in there one time with my buddy to see what they were all about. They impressed me and I had never forgotten about them, so in the 1970s I had that Tudor and I found out they were on Hopkins Street. I paid them a visit and fell in love with it.
“I lost some love for the sport and I needed a break from all automotive activities. I took my break and then when I regained my interest, I went back to them. I joined again five years ago. It’s the only club I’ve belonged to.”
He participates as much as he can with the club and expects that he’ll be able to do more when he retires in the near future. “That will free up a lot of my time and I hope to do more with the club and be a lot more involved at that time,” he says. “I’m retiring next year and if I have a lot of time on my hands, they will fill that void.”
He continues to work on his car in his garage. “It’s me myself and I, all three of us,” he says. “I’ve always pretty much worked by myself in my last 30 years of working and you get used to doing things yourself. I have a very well-equipped shop and it goes back to those years from the transmission shops when we used to do other things as well. We did engines, brakes, rear ends, and that’s where I got my basic training. The rest is shadetree and the Internet – that’s where I buy stuff and learn stuff.”
He sees the club changing as time goes on, but he’s very optimistic about the future. “We’re getting new guys and that’s good,” he says. “It’s nice to see the new guys coming in and they’re listening to the old guys, soaking it in, and they want to help. There are lots of clubs, but I’m here with this one for the camaraderie and the fellowship.”