It’s always impressive to see the incredible passion and encyclopedic knowledge that classic car enthusiasts possess. For hobbyists and professionals alike, each car is unique and every build has a story all its own.
At MetalWorks in west Eugene, it’s obvious the team is dedicated to their craft. The second you open the door, the sound of classic rock and the smells of a car shop hit you. Surrounded by walls of hard-to-find parts and a showroom with some of the coolest classic cars you’ve ever seen, you’ll want to roll up your sleeves and join the crew.
MetalWorks sets out to do the very best in restoration work for its select clients. When Jon Mannila, the owner of MetalWorks, talks about his cars and his clients, he knows every detail and talks through the history of a car as though he’s experienced it himself.
Recently, his team finished up the restoration of a 1937 Willys coupe. Originally purchased for $750 by an aviation mechanic in the Bay Area, it’s a rare car to have been kept for so long. The owner lived like a hermit in a little white logging shack that sat on 33 acres of land, his shack surrounded by sheds filled with old cars. When he died at age 92, his three sons inherited the lot. They sent all the cars out to be restored, with the Willys coming to MetalWorks to be made brand new again.
“To keep something that long and then have it be cherished is really pretty cool,” says Mannila. He knows the car’s full history, including why it got permanently parked in a shed back in 1968: police orders due to a broken headlight the family couldn’t afford to fix. The headlight was still held together with Scotch tape when the car arrived in Eugene.
For Mannila, projects often create clients who become friends. It’s such a personal process for the clients that putting the focus on building those relationships takes precedence for Mannila. For a recent project involving a 1955 Chevy, the interior was completely custom built, with power Lexus seats and custom-made panels and dashboard. “It’s a piece of art,” Mannila says, poring over the build photos on the company’s website. He’s proud of his shop’s work and the results of this project. The clean engine and sleek finish really speak to the attention the team put into this car, which will be featured in Chevy High-Performance Magazine.
The dedication to and enthusiasm for the craft of classic car restoration have an entirely different spirit at Sports Car Shop off 6th Avenue in Eugene. The sleek showroom features exotic and luxurious European models like Ferrari and Jaguar, all polished to a high shine. The cars on display sell to new owners around the country, and car enthusiasts look to the shop owners for their unique expertise. Moving through the showroom, it is immediately apparent that these cars are different.
For Bob Macherione and Joe Potter, the eclectic foreign cars are the most enticing projects to take on. Both men have a lifelong love of cars that has grown into an interest in tackling the most challenging projects. Macherione started in on these cars long before most people knew what they were––pre-internet––when information was hard to find and getting parts was nearly impossible. It’s these years of acquiring incredibly specialized knowledge that gives the team at Sports Car Shop their sought-after expertise.
At Sports Car Shop, their best work shines through in cars that originally had hand-built alloy panels or were part of a small run without standard parts. They create some of the most interesting cars and take on build projects that are not limited by pre-determined standards. “We all grew up with guys around us that were doing the standard hot rods, and, for whatever reason, we were drawn to this eclectic stuff ‘cause you had to figure it out without a lot of resources to figure out what you were doing,” Potter says. “So, we hold knowledge in things that a lot of guys that are into cars don’t.”
Right now, the team at Sports Car Shop is crafting a car from scratch, with a hand-made alloy body and an invented style that combines a vintage look with modern mechanics. They tackle builds of cars worth half-a-million dollars even before the project begins. Whatever the project, the team at Sports Car Shop is pushing the envelope and taking the craft even further.
With changes in the restoration industry, many shops are specializing in very specific brands and cars. Taking a look at the projects at MetalWorks and Sports Car Shop, it’s easy to get a sense of how diverse the world of classic car restoration really is. These two shops exist in two different worlds, but the passion for the craft of restoration is thriving in both.
MetalWorks Classic Auto Restoration, 1045 Arrowsmith St., 541/341-3372, metalworksclassics.com
Sports Car Shop, 288 W 6th Ave., 541/342-1520, sportscarshop.com