Nestled in the heart of the Shuswap in B.C.’s Interior lies a classic car lover’s dream: a sprawling collection of 400 iconic vehicles just waiting to be restored to their former glory as kings of the road.
It’s the collection of Mike Hall, a resident of the small community of Tappen near Salmon Arm, and it’s set to make a debut on the small-screen as the focus of the History Channel television show Rust Valley Restorers.
Mike Hall definitely stands out in the small community, getting his nickname, the “Rasta Blasta,” from his long blonde dreadlocks and his day-job blasting rock faces with explosives. His car collection ranges in condition from wrecked, rusted chassis housing valuable parts to near-mint collector’s pieces just needing a finishing touch.
The cars are as varied in their condition as they are in make and model.
Hall has been amassing this collection for 40 years, and has been looking for people interested in restorations to help offload some of the surplus. After making it public online that his massive collection was open for bidding, he soon found a flood of interest coming in which grabbed the attention of auto magazines and the online car community.
“I put my whole place up for sale, a 40-year collection of over 400 cars, and it kind of went nuts!” he says. “I had people calling me from England and the U.S., all over the world. I thought we had the place sold a few times to guys from Switzerland and the States. From that exposure, five or six people wanted to do a show with us.”
Following this, the collection was documented by several publications in the car community, such as Roadkill. When a viral video snowballed the popularity of the car collection, the idea of a television show came up at the beginning of 2018. After close to eight months of filming between the day job – blasting rocks with dynamite, Rust Valley Restorers is set to premiere Dec. 6 on the History Channel.
“It was definitely a different experience,” comments Connor Hall, Mike’s son and business partner. “It was a little weird getting used to having a camera in your face all the time.”
Now in semi-retirement, Mike is taking this chance to live out his dream of restoring classic cars while Connor focuses on the family business.
“Basically, I worked all year all over the province and I kept buying and buying. And then finally, I am 62 and I said ‘what am I going to do with 400 cars?’ My whole dream is I was going to retire and build cars, and that is the emphasis of the show: If not now, when?” Mike says. “I have seen my buddies who collect cars and run into health problems and their family is left with a bunch of stuff they don’t want or need, and I don’t want to do that to my wife and kids because they will curse me for eternity! So I figured, let’s build the place, start the show and give it a shot.”
While also featuring as a fixture on Rust Valley Restorers, Connor is also busy with the rock-blasting business.
“My dad sits at home and plays with his cars and I go to work and make him the money to afford to do so,” Connor jokes.
Some of the cars which feature on the show were restored for clients, while others were done out of a labour of love. Without spoiling anything too much, Mike noted they worked on everything from a 1940s-era Dodge Power Wagon to big block Chevelles, learning on the fly just how complex it was all going to be.
“There are always more problems than you can prepare for. It’s like unravelling a sweater, you just want to pull that one out- of-place thread and then you look down and you have 500 feet of yarn at your feet,” Mike says. “It’s been an extreme learning curve. They say you can’t buy experience but it’s very expensive to obtain, and I got a lot of expensive experience this year.”
Despite the huge size of the collection, both Mike and Connor can agree on something they would love to have to round out their collection: a 1957 to ‘67 split-window Corvette. And, while most of the collection is open for new owners, Mike stands firm on a few of his all-time favourites.
“In 400 cars there is some gems and some granite boulders, and when people come to buy the gems sometimes I am like Charleton Heston: you will have to pry it from my cold, dead hands,” Mike says. “Even if I don’t drive some of my cars, I just look at them and it puts a huge grin on my face. Even if it never moves, I can just go and rub the hood. It’s a weird thing.”
The majority of the show is set in and around Tappen, and both Mike and Connor are happy to get the chance to showcase their community to the world, incorporating some of their friends and other local collectors into the mix as well.
“I think it’s cool we are doing something here. You watch TV and all you see is these car shows in Las Vegas or California or down south in the U.S., but they don’t have anything in Canada,” Connor says.
However, both Mike and Connor note that it’s tough to stay low-key about their latest project in the little town of Tappen.
“I get called Hollywood about 10 times a day,” Connor says with a laugh.
“It is getting kind of freaky. I can’t go anywhere in Tappen without people making jokes like ‘hey, there goes the superstar,’” Mike adds. “I just say, don’t worry, I am not going to change, I am always going to be the same a**hole I always was.”
Rust Valley Restorers premieres Thursday, Dec. 6 at 10 p.m. PST on the History Channel.