The Red Deer car guy world lost one of its own recently with the untimely passing of a local hot rod legend-Mike McCrimmon.
Mike was a car guy’s car guy because he knew his way around a set of wheels-plus he knew how to make them go faster.
It was the basic formula for anybody born with a hot rod chromosome in his DNA.
I met Mike McCrimmon many years ago through his auto recycling business.
He owned and operated DJ’s Auto Recycling and the good word in car world always led to his place.He was a very familiar figure behind the counter at DJ’s: a burly guy in a vest that would point you in the right automotive direction.
You could come into his place, ask for any number of auto parts requests and he would consult the large inventory list in his head.
If it wasn’t handy on a shelf behind him, he would think about the large collection of vehicles in his yard.
That is when the transaction took a different path from nearly every other auto wrecker business in the world. Mike would let you wander into the yard and look for the part. This is essentially every car guy’s dream- a chance to wander around an auto wrecker yard and look at the possibilities found in those broken four-wheeled dreams in Mike’s yard. This is the only kind of window- shopping that guys actually like, and Mike made it happen.
So Mike would size you up and grant you access to the yard. It was a big moment for any car guy. Typically a wreckers yard is inaccessible unless you agree to have a Rottweiller welded to your butt. Most wrecking yards are not accessible to car guys, and that is one of the reasons that car guys liked Mike-he trusted them and they in turn trusted him.
It seemed like I never visited that yard when it was dry. I wasn’t smart enough to throw a pair of rubber boots into my car, but maybe the excursion through the clay and mud was part of the attraction of a visit to Mike’s yard.
The other thing I never brought was tools, but a bond of trust with Mike also gave you access to his shop tools. He would arm you with enough confidence at the front counter to believe that you could climb around his metal jungle and rescue a car part from his stockpile of bent vehicles.
He was a motivator in his own way, because guys like me are not armed with natural mechanical abilities. We learn through painful trial and error. Mike made us believe that we could reach well beyond our serious limitations. Most of the time he was right.
My final transaction with Mike was delivery of an old Fifth Avenue that was beyond any sane reason to sink any money into it. The deal was the old car for future considerations in his yard. As I watched Mike’s forklift grab that old sedan, I pondered the possibilities of possible first round future auto wrecker parts picks in Mike’s yard.
Mike was a fairly quiet guy with an excellent sense of understated humor. Every car guy in central Alberta is going to miss Mike McCrimmon.
Jim Sutherland @mystarcollectorcar.com
KIRBY:”Thanks for the article on Mlke McCrimmon. As you said Mike was a Car Guy’s Car guy and everybody that had a car in his youth was touched in some way by Mike as we all needed his parts and know how at some point. As we all learned what went where Mike was always able to give us the why that we all needed to know. He had a unique way of giving us the what went where by letting us “wander through” the piles of cars looking for that one part we so desperately needed and then tearing things apart until we understood the three W’s. After we got dirty and scraped our knuckles Mike would then fill us in on the why.The scraped knuckles and the getting dirty came free the part and the why came at a reasonable price but understated value. Mikes 5 W’s Wander find your stuff What the parts you need Went remove the parts so you could learn Where the damn things went on your car Why Mikes imparted knowledge to the greenest of car guys Thank you Mike for all your knowledge and car life lessons you will be missed deeply by an entire community of car guys you made car guys. My deepest sympathies to the McCrimmon family.
DENNIS:”I remember those Junk Yard days well. I built a lot of cars out of scrap that I could just go find wandering around a wrecking yard. Those days are gone, and so are the trusting people who ran them, not to mention the honorable customers in the society of the time.