Minnesota man quietly brings classic cars to life

Mike Nadeau of Mike Nadeau Street Rods and Auto Restoration has been working behind closed doors at this location for 19 years, bringing classic cars back from the edge of junkyards and crushers to live as prized possessions.

“I’ve been doing this all my life,” said Nadeau. “I was working at Walker in a store there and when they closed I came back here.”

Every inch of this custom car has been hand sanded in Mike Nadeau’s workshop. He takes pride in his hard work on every vehicle. Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

Nadeau said he was a child when he first became interested in classic cars under the tutelage of his father, also a classic car enthusiast and gear boss. Before obtaining a driver’s license, he had already entered the industry. After all these years, it is a testament to his love for the industry that he is still in the game.

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“I love making old cars,” Nadeau said. “It’s not work, it’s a game for me and seeing people’s faces when they come in and get their cars when they’re done is a good feeling, when they come here looking like they have to go. scrap and go out looking better than brand new. “

Nadeau’s work is a labor of love. He completely dismantles each car to get a full view of what needs to be done, then he gets to work removing paint all the way to bare metal by hand, repairing or replacing panels, and simply rebuilding and repainting the bodywork of each vehicle from below. up.

Nadeau does the bodywork, upholstery, convertible tops, windows and wiring. All engine work is sent because Nadeau’s shop is not large enough for all the equipment he would need to do extensive rebuilds on the engines, but even without engine work, the restoration can still take three or even four years. At all times, Nadeau is working on four vehicles and as one exits, another enters.

Nadeau’s business is not just an automobile body shop. They focus specifically on the head-turning classics that you see at auto shows.

“I don’t think it’s very often that I do anything after the 70s, unless it’s something very special,” Nadeau said. “Otherwise, it’s all 20s to 60s.”

His work is often featured at local auto shows where the people who hired him show off the same cars he helped bring to life.

“I just finished an Impala SS 65 last fall for a guy. It was a nice car,” said Nadeau. “There’s a ’64 Mustang I made a few years ago and a ’67 Camaro SS.”

Much of his work is derived from auto shows and word of mouth. Although Nadeau has had cars all over the state of Minnesota, he says he has yet to have customers outside of the state.

Nadeau’s workshop is a one-man operation, except when his son joins. He says his son started welding as soon as he was old enough to hold the necessary tools. Like his father before him, he transmits his love for classic cars.

“He shows an interest in taking over the business if I ever retire,” Nadeau said.

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