Mike’s Muscle Car Garage is a small American classic car restoration garage based in Welwyn Garden City owned by Mark Maloney, but don’t let its size fool you. This extraordinary little unit in rural Hertfordshire has worked with some of the best in the automotive world. Mike Brewer, from the globally renowned Wheeler Dealers was one of Mark’s first big builds. A stunning Le Mans blue 1968 Chevrolet Camaro SS was built from the ground up for the television personality, and revealed at the 2015 Classic Motor Show at the NEC.
The shop was named after Mark's late father, another major petrol head who was the influence behind his love for American classics. Mark's genuine enthusiasm for the vehicles he works with and his attention to detail are what define him as one of the best in his trade. Now, more than ever, we are exposed to a new style of television restoration - the apparent ever growing build teams and ever shrinking build times. Mark’s shop, and others like it, uphold the genuine characteristics that make classic car restoration such a fabulous enterprise. This single unit in WGC is probably the very reason I now appreciate classic American muscle cars as much as I do.
When I visited the garage last week Mark had seven project cars crammed into every available inch of the site. Only two mechanics, Mark included, work on the vehicles. The build quality on every single vehicle in his workshop is then, quite obviously, exceptional. He tells me that in the case of Mike Brewers ’68 Camaro SS the previous paint shop, that had been tasked with colour matching, preparing and painting the vehicle, failed to deliver on every front. Mike sought after a mechanic who could get the job done with exceptional show quality, which Mark was able to achieve. He is a remarkably humble man who has traded in his construction tools in order to restore brilliant pieces of Americana. His Chevy El Camino, that he is currently working on, stands as proof of his incredibly refined automotive taste. Mark is also a guy with whom any petrol head can chat with for hours, following him around his workshop as he perpetually works on the cars.
Mark's speciality is classic American muscle, a genre of cars that redefines how we Brits see the automobile. A robust, simple base, off of which any modification can be undertaken. Mark is currently working on another Camaro and has just taken delivery of a Mustang body, both of which are undergoing full modern upgrades. The Camaro will receive a 6.2 litre 2015 Chevy LS3 running around 525 bhp. Mark will tune an extra 50hp from the block and couple it to a Tremec Super Magnum 6 speed manual transmission. She will have a Heidts engineering IRS set up with a Ford 9" locker diff with 3.55 gears, inboard Wilwood disk brakes, coil overs and tubular arms, all attached to a Speedtech Performance front clip. It has been painted in an incredible shade of red, suitably named ‘root beer’. It is one of the most outlandish paint jobs to grace a car in Britain, if not Europe, but is simply sublime.
The Ford will be another Resto-mod, with a 2017 Mustang 350GT model 5.2 Coyote "Aluminator" engine running 570bhp as standard, but will once again be tuned to around 650bhp by Mark. If a 1969 Ford Mustang fastback with a 650bhp engine and a brand new leather interior doesn’t take your fancy, maybe take up knitting or something.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I personally think cars are very much like music. The best examples of either from the 70s and 80s are more exciting to me than the plethora of new releases. I am just as excited now by classic cars as by Pink Floyd, David Bowie and Madness. When I was in my final year at school my best mate was really into rock music: Black Sabbath, Guns N’ Roses and Led Zepplin. I despaired of him, thinking his taste in music was appalling and out of touch. How could an 18-year-old guy be more into outdated rock than pop music or rap? The irony is, now more than ever, I despair of my 18-year-old self for being so narrow minded and hell bent on proving to my best mate that he had no taste in music. Pink Floyd, AC/DC and Queen are now cemented in my mind and ears as having created some of the best music in the world.
This recent awakening of my musical taste has come at the same time as my newly found obsession with classic automobiles. Quite frankly, I thought I had just become weird and detached from the modern world. But the more I think about it the more I have come to realise that the music I now enjoy listening to, and the cars I dream of owning one day, are quite simply the best those 30 years of history ever produced. Mark works with these vehicles every day, making his workshop one of the best places in Britain to enjoy the wonders of classic automobiles.
Visit Mark's website for any details about his business or to contact him about possible imports or restorations: www.musclecargarageuk.co.uk