ASHLAND Mike Gillam made his dreams a reality when he bought a rusted body to a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro, and he set out to restore it.
The Ashland native grew up around car lovers. His dad and cousins were major influences for him, and it helped him develop his love for working on cars. He started working on cars when he was 12 years old and his love has grown deeper since.
“A lot of kids these days will take a check book and go to a car dealer and just buy a new car,” Gillam said. “Then they are done, but to do it yourself with your hands and to see what you’ve done is just extra satisfaction. You get to bring it out and let people look at it. It makes you feel good to know you did that yourself.”
The last car he worked on was his black-and-white-striped ’69 Camaro. It is the only one of his classic cars that he has left.
Gillam said that he wished he still had the other cars that he has rebuilt, but over the years he had just sold them for “one reason or another.” He has taken a break from restoring classic cars. He put the hobby on the backburner while he is focusing on tackling another project of remodeling a new home.
“When you get married and have kids, cars take a back seat,” said Gillam. “I’ve sold them throughout the years, but I wish I still had them.”
He finished restoring his Camaro three years ago.
Gillam said he didn’t plan to or want to take a break from classic cars, but sometimes other things take priority.
“They (classic cars) aren’t cheap,” Gillam said. “Matter of fact, you could buy one cheaper than you could build one, but you don’t build it. You are buying one that someone else did.”
His favorite part about rebuilding classic cars is seeing the progress of the car and watching it become something he made. He started his own body shop and started working on restoring classic hot rods. He has no idea how many cars he has restored, but he has built six for himself.
“This is the car that I’ve wanted all my life and never could afford, so when I found this body for sale I bought it,” said Gillam. “I decided I was going to build the car I always wanted and never could have.”
He loves knowing as much as he can about each car he has rebuilt.
The car he has now has won several car shows, but he said it was not a “prima donna” and it doesn’t just sit. He drives it as much as possible.
“I drive it as much as I can,” said Gillam. “But it (the car) has never been wet and it’s not going to get wet.”
Gillam said he isn’t afraid to pull off on the side of the road to keep from driving the car on wet roads, and he has done it several times in the past.
“I’ve had to sit for two or three hours before to wait for the roads to dry,” said Gillam. “We did a car show over in Ironton last year and a little storm came up, so we sat over there and just waited for the roads to dry.”