COTTONWOODS — Not being content with tackling one automotive project at a time, Kevin Suppes is in the middle of restoring at least three classic vehicles simultaneously, with each project bringing something different to the table.
On Tuesday, the 51-year-old body technician and automotive painter took time out of his busy schedule to show the Sun this trio of classic restorations, which are currently being housed in and around his Cottonwoods residence that doubles as a hobby farm.
In between roaming herds of donkeys, Suppes’ property is also littered with a treasure trove of vintage automobiles, including a 1974 Chevrolet C-10 truck and two Chevrolet Camaros from that same era.
Out of the three, Suppes revealed that the 1975 Camaro has been in his possession the longest, having originally acquired it in Winnipeg around 10 years ago.
"It was a street car and we brought it back home and I stripped it down to nothing and started over to make it into a race car," he said last week. "It’s got a roll cage in it, and it’s back halved and it’s got a lot of horsepower."
Even though the rebuild has taken a lot longer than expected, with life often getting in the way, Suppes is hoping to get the 1975 Camaro race-worthy by the end of the summer, even though organized drag racing events may not be able to take place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I’d be great to take it down the highway, just to kind of test and tune it, just to get the bugs worked out of it," he said. "That’s my plan, anyway."
While the 1974 Chevy truck doesn’t harness the same raw horsepower as the ’75 Camaro, Suppes revealed that he has completely different plans for it.
After rescuing the classic vehicle from a wrecking yard over a year ago, the 51-year-old is hoping to turn it into a fancy show truck for the next World of Wheels convention, with a mint green paint job, suicide doors and small-block blower engine.
Finally, Suppes is looking to position his 1967 Camaro as a happy medium between the two previous models; something a little more rough and rugged that can also cross short distances for local car events.
"It’s going to be a street car for weekends, cruise nights, that type of thing … not an everyday driver," he said.
Despite the fact that Suppes has different functions in mind for each vehicle, he said they all went through the same initial steps.
The Cottonwoods resident said that his usual process for an automotive restoration is to strip each model down to its bare bones and start from scratch, rather than adding onto someone else’s work.
This way, Suppes said he is able to maintain complete creative control over each new project, and ensure that his complete vision for an automotive rebuild comes to fruition.
"He really likes fabricating, making stuff that’s his own," Suppes’ wife Jenifer said during Tuesday’s tour. "Doing the metalwork himself. He’s really good at that."
Suppes went on to share that his love for restoring classic vehicles can be traced back to his years as a teenager when he would pull old cars out of a nearby field and start tinkering with them.
At the age of 16, Suppes even booked his first job at an autobody shop and has stayed in the industry ever since, currently plying his trade at Assiniboine Collision & Glass.
Despite making automotive repair such a big part of his life, Suppes insists that he doesn’t get burnt out working on these vehicles at work and at home.
"I see it more as a way to relax on the evenings and weekends," he said. "It’s kind of my escape."
In fact, Suppes said that one of his least productive periods in recent memory took place during a six-month stretch when he was unemployed, having been let go from his former job due to the pandemic.
But now that he is back doing what he loves at work, Suppes said that he has received a second wind for all his ongoing automotive rebuilds at home, which should put him on a pretty productive trajectory for the rest of the summer.
"The money’s flowing now and … I got my drive back," he said.
» Twitter: @KyleDarbyson