RM OF CORNWALLIS — Having tinkered with classic muscle cars for most of his life, Mike Villers’ passion for automotive restoration eventually passed over to his son Ryan.
In fact, the pair recently finished rebuilding a 1971 Dodge Demon from scratch, which serves as a good reminder that cross-generational collaboration can lead to pretty impressive results.
"Two heads are better than one," Mike said during a tour of his Shilo-area garage on Thursday. "I’m kind of set in my ways, but [Ryan] also built it in the way that he wanted it. It’s all his vision. I was just helping him out along the way."
Ryan told the Sun that he wanted a Dodge Demon of his own since he spotted this specific model at a Saskatchewan car show when he was roughly 13 years old.
The now 29-year-old recalls that he was immediately drawn to the name, the bold red colour and the sleek body type, which was modelled after a version of the Plymouth Valiant-based Duster.
Cut to several years later, and Ryan finally got his hands on a 1971 Demon after his dad towed one home from Alberta, even though he knew this model was going to need a lot of work.
"There were no doors, no motor. It was basically just a shell," Ryan said. "It was all rotted out."
So over the next seven years, Mike and Ryan dedicated a lot of time and effort into bringing this car back to its former glory, hoping to maintain a slightly obscure piece of automotive history.
After all, the Demon is a Dodge Dart variant that was only produced throughout 1971-72, featuring a name and devil child-themed badging that rubbed some religious groups the wrong way.
According to a 2013 article from Street Muscle Magazine, Dodge even received some pressure to change the name of this model to something less sacrilegious, although those concerns were ultimately ignored.
Ryan’s vision for his Demon rebuild was to maintain the car’s classic look while also beefing up its horsepower by installing a 383 big block engine.
In the back of his mind, the Brandon resident wanted to create a ride that could keep pace with one of his dad’s classic Dodges.
"My dad has a ’64 Polara and that car scared the crap out of me when I was a kid. It was really fast," Ryan said. "I just wanted something that could compete against that."
Throughout this seven-year rebuild, the father-son team were able to split the labour pretty evenly, with Ryan’s experience as a professional welder definitely coming in handy.
"We built the motor together in the shop here," Mike said. "Getting the car so it’s a rolling chassis was a tag-team effort. I mean, there isn’t a bolt that hasn’t been touched in it. It was stripped right down to nothing and put back together."
After finally getting the Demon out on the road in 2018, Ryan put his new chariot to the ultimate test by challenging his dad’s 1964 Polara to a race.
While the pair remain cagey about the details, Mike admits that his son definitely got the better of him in this contest.
"I got my ass handed to me, but it’s OK. I know I had a hand in the build, so the pride is still there," the senior Villers said with a laugh.
"I’ll wait until I get a new drivetrain in that car and I’ll show him what tail lights look like."
And while the pair may have occasionally butted heads during this seven-year rebuild, Ryan is thankful for the time he spent in the garage with his dad, especially since his guidance will come in handy for any automotive restorations that he decides to tackle in the future.
"It’s been a great experience learning from my dad, because he’s very knowledgeable," Ryan said. "It’d like to do it again, but right now … I’ve got to find another car."