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.