Historical data: Mike Coletta
Back in 2006 and 2007 I ran a series of very well received articles on Corvette garages that were owned by some of the readership of Corvette Fever. We ran a few of these articles and at that time, I had asked for more people to nominate garages that they knew would be interesting, including their own. Well, about 15-20 people responded with photos and data, but due to changing demands on the magazine at that time, the series had to be dropped for awhile. Here is the first of several more articles that will hopefully resurrect this past popular component of Corvette Fever. Again, if you haven't responded to the call I put out before asking for more cool garages to run in this same space, please drop me an email to let me know what cool garage you own or you have located in your own neighborhood. Now let's visit Mike Coletta's garage in south Florida!
If the name Mike Coletta sounds familiar, it should. We featured his very red '59 Corvette (one of many Vette Rods he has personally built) right here in the July 2006 issue of CF. Born and raised in Detroit, Mike fell in love with Corvettes when he was in high school, even though he couldn't afford one (who could?). He was drafted into the Army in 1969 and ended up spending 10 years in the service. He then worked in commercial real estate through the 80's and early 90's and successfully retired as a partner with Duke Realty Investments in 1994. (NYSE-DRE).
Mike started playing with old cars in 1978 when he bought several tri-five Chevy's to restore. His first "body off" restoration was a '57 Bel Air Convertible in 1981. That same year he bought his first Corvette, a '63 fuel injected roadster. Mike and his wife Linda then moved to Ocean Isle Beach, NC in 1994. While cruising the beach one day, he and Linda noticed that Clubvette of North Carolina (www.clubvette.org ) was renting two beach houses for an outing, and there were Corvettes all over the place. Mike had Linda drop him off on the way home from breakfast and he stayed to look at the cars, talked with some of the owners and even ended up joining the club that day (May '95). Mike and Linda went to Bloomington Gold that next June and bought the cheapest and ugliest '62 they could find. Mike built a shop when they returned home and started to restore the car just as soon as it arrived via Intercity Trucking. He did a body off NCRS restoration on the car and then DROVE it to Bowling Green for the 1997 Regional. First time out, first time getting a car Flight judged, and first restoration of a Corvette and scored a 97.4!! Mike continued to buy and sell lots of Corvettes while they lived in NC, and always seemed to have somebody's car at the "shop" for repair, paint, etc.
Mike has spent some time in the judging arena, and he is still very supportive of the NCRS and the knowledge that its members bring to the hobby. Even though he no longer builds these cars for himself, he still does a lot of work on them, and likes the fact that there are still "original" cars out there to carry on the Corvette tradition.
Mike and Linda then decided to move to Florida in 2000 so they bought 35 acres and built his current shop. At that time, he still had a Daytona Blue '64 so they joined Classic Corvettes of Orlando. Mike continued to buy and sell tons of cars until he bought a basket case '61 and met Billy Dawson (owner of Corvette Correction) at Corvettes at Carlisle in 2003. That's when he knew that he had to finally build a true Vette Rod. He actually bought frame #3 from Billy and 5 months later had his first Vette Rod. Since then he has built twelve straight axle Vette Rods and one midyear (a '64, his current car).
Two things set Mike's Vette Rods apart from similarly-built Corvettes. Those characteristics are drivability and gadgets. All of Mike's cars have cutting edge technology that you can actually drive.....even in the rain. His cars have to drive like a normal car in every way. As far as gadgets go, Mike is heavily "into" TV's, remotes, killer sound systems, and power hoods coupled with the latest LS computer controlled engines. Mike does all of his own work with the exception of "plating". All paint and body work is done by Mike in-house. He strives to make his cars show worthy, with good fit and finish, but still drivable. He says "No trailer queens are allowed here". Mike spends his days in the shop (all seven of them), and helps his wife Linda operate a 501.c.3 (not for profit) rescue shelter for dogs (www.Houndhaven.org). The kennels are right behind the shop, and the dogs get to see some of the "coolest" cars around.
While some people may notice that Mike's shop is not the typical Garage Mahal some Corvette owners may covet, his shop is the epitome of functionality. Very few Corvette restorers have accomplished so many builds totally on their own in so little time, and his shop is a big part of that incredible efficiency. Mike's shop is 40'x 50' with a 20 foot addition on the east side for dog supply storage. The covered area on the west side is for the tractors/lawnmowers/etc. He only uses the 40X50 area for the shop.
It's divided into basically three areas, the paint room, main shop, and storage. The paint room also doubles as a storage area for his completed cars. The paint room is cross vented with an explosion proof fan. The room size is about 25'x 22'. Mike says "I have filtered air and lights on the walls to watch how bad I'm screwing up the paint jobs". (Yeah right Mike..I have seen your paint jobs). The main shop is about 40'x 25' and is finished drywall and air conditioned and the floor is vinyl tile. The lift is a Challenger 9,000-pound asymetrical, and the ceilings are 12 feet clear. The neon is a collection that was purchased mostly on eBay. Mike continues "The jukebox is a Wurlitzer 1015 bubbler with 45 rpm records so that I can listen to the same scratchy crap that I grew up with. I have a full working shop with welders, plasma, a complete fastener stock, and lots of cabinets and drawers. The building is a post and beam building with steel siding. The remainder of the space is a storage room, which houses my compressor (to keep the noise down), and all of the junk that I've been saving. I spend 10 hours every day in this building so I have it set up to be as efficient as it can be. Sometimes I wish that it was a couple of bays wider, but then don't we all want that."
By The Numbers Garage Specs
• 40' x 60' stand alone garage
• 2400 square feet
• 12' ceiling height
• Shop/Restoration area is 1250 square feet
• Paint room is 1150 square feet
• Building is post and frame construction with metal siding
• 5 ton Trane air HVAC with special dust filters for sanding and paint
• Trusses are 2" x 6"
• Interior walls are finished drywall
• Commercial insulated 10X10 overhead doors
• Paint room is cross-flow ventilated with explosion proof fans, and fluorescent light fixtures
• Main work area is 12 X 12 black and white vinyl tile
• Challenger 9000 pound asymetrical.
• 200-amp service with 220 for the air compressor. Wall outlets are placed every six feet throughout the work area. Computer and internet access.
• 4 zone alarm system for property and building, with early warning alert.
• Ingersol Rand Professional grade 7 hp, 240v with an 80-gallon tank delivering 175 psi located in the work area of the garage.
• The work area of the garage measures approx. 1250 square feet. It is equipped with an air compressor with overhead lines, glass bead cabinet, hydraulic lift, work benches, hand tools, mig welder, drill press, stationary press, metal brake, and a plasma cutter, among other tools too numerous to list. Located just off of the work area is a storage room for both replacement and extra parts. Also, there are shelving units used to organize various parts and products used to keep the entire collection looking and running showroom new. The work area is equipped to perform any function from simple tune-ups to complete restorations.
• 20 neon signs
• Wurlitzer 1015 juke box
• Corvette 1/18 scale model collection
• Coke machine
• And a '64 LS3/six-speed Vette Rod