Tinkering with automobiles since he was a kid, now-classic muscle cars have always been in Mike Villers’ life.
Watching his dad and brother drive them around as a kid, the vehicles stuck with him —particularly Dodges —and his love for the cars was solidified at the age of 16 when he got a driver’s licence.
That was the day he earned his freedom and was able to join friends in Brandon whose social lives centred on cars, from hanging around cars to driving around in cars.
Along the way, he retained this special connection with 1960s and ’70s era Dodges, and in approximately 1991 he purchased a 1964 Dodge Polara.
His wife, Heather, shared in his interest, and secured a 1973 Dodge Challenger.
Their son, Ryan, got a 1971 Dodge Demon approximately 11 years ago for $400 —a real junker they’ve been fixing up together ever since, visiting various car shows to pick up parts along the way.
The cars were piling up, and would continue to pile up.
When the family relocated to the Shilo area in 2009, the first thing they had built was a garage for their growing collection of classic cars.
"Gotta have priorities," Villers said with a chuckle.
His most recent completed project is a 1967 Plymouth Barracuda, which serves as his daily driver.
Even when completed, classic car ownership is an ongoing effort, he said, pointing to the Plymouth’s interior, which he gutted in order to air out after a recent downpour in Minot, N.D., left it soaked.
The frame of a 1968 Dodge Dart stands in a corner of the garage as the latest ongoing project, with Villers admitting that more projects are likely to follow.
While the 1973 Challenger was purchased pretty much as-is, the majority of Villers’ collection is a result of tearing everything apart and rebuilding them from the frame up.
A machinist by trade, he learned the basics of automotive mechanics in high school and subsequently fleshed out his knowledge base by experience and learning from others.
The vehicles appear original from the exterior, but he has been rebuilding them with less regard for authenticity than he has functionality and is currently musing about putting a modern engine into the Dart.
It’s about having fun, he said, adding that while his ongoing "labour of love" is an expensive one that keeps him in the garage late at night on occasion, he wouldn’t be doing it if it weren’t fulfilling.