Mike Mooney is a magician of sorts.
Not the sleight of hand kind, but the type that takes a pile of material and makes something beautiful out of it.
Mike builds cars, the custom and hot rod type.
His cars are eye stoppers. The attention to detail … the paint … the upholstery … the chopping and fitting.
Mike was named to the Street Rod Hall of Fame in 2010. It wasn’t entirely because of the cars he builds, but also because of the help he provides to other people.
Then in June, Mooney took the Best Paint Pick award at the National Street Rod Association’s Northwest Nationals in Vancouver, Wash., where 1,304 cars were in competition. Even better, the honors went to his 1949 Ford painted in Mooney Yellow, a color actually named after Mike.
His cars are stored in two large workshops. He has all his own equipment, save a sandblaster, which belongs to Kary Byam.
He has collected tools from a 35-year career as a mechanic.
You could say he has oil and grease in his veins. But you won’t see oil and grease when you go into his workshops.
Mike is the kind of guy who sees an old rust bucket of a car or truck parked in a field and his mind helps him paint a picture of what might be done with it.
No doors — no problem. No hood — no problem. No trunk lid — no problem.
Mike makes many of his own parts. One of his workshops are full of bins of vehicle parts. Ask for a part, and if Mike has it, he can walk right to it.
He even builds his own frames, and often makes over cars so that you have trouble figuring out what it was when he started working on it.
He paints his own pinstriping with a special brush — freehand and straight as a ruler.
He says he used to work long, long hours in his shop, and confesses he now puts in just a few hours a day.
“I couldn’t have done any of this without my wife, Judy,” Mike states.
She set up a car account for him. When he sells one of his cars, the cash goes into this account and finances his next car project.
Mike and Judy go to a lot of car shows, and drive one of his rigs. They attract a lot of attention.
When asked if he gets offers on his cars, or does he plan to hold on to them, he said, “They are all for sale.” For a price, of course.
Mike picked up a rusty old Model A shell for $700, a project for this winter. He has already done some work on it and plans to take on the challenge when the weather starts turning bad.
He has a second Model A hull alongside his home; and it looks pretty bad.
Mike always starts by sandblasting both the inside, outside and the frame.
Mooney restored his first car back in 1964, a ’34 Chevy. That took about a year.
You’ll find Mike and Judy buzzing around in one of his re-built rods on their way to Flo’s Cafe, a regular coffee stop for the retired mechanic and his wife.