HomeCar CultureClassic car restoration shop burns to the ground

Classic car restoration shop burns to the ground

Horrendous fire destroys 50-year-old Woodie shop


In Hagerty’s recent episode of its Barn Find Hunter series, host Tom Cotter revisits friend Mike Nickels after his Woodie restoration shop, featured in a previous episode, was destroyed in a tragic accident.

Nickels, the owner of Nickels Automotive Woodworking in Traverse City, Michigan, was out camping with his wife Lana Sunday, September 5, when he received an alert that his 8,000 square foot shop was on fire.

“We were all camping a week ago Sunday and we got an alarm from our security system of smoke detection and fire detection in our office,” Nickels tells Cotter. “We came around the corner about two miles down the road and we see the fumes up in the air.”

By the time the Nickels made it to their garage, it was engulfed in flames.

Nickels and the firefighters were able to save a couple of the cars, including a 1983 Town and Country and a vintage ambulance.

, Classic car restoration shop burns to the ground, ClassicCars.com Journal

“All his woodworking machines, tools, patterns and templates, in addition to the shop building, were total losses,” notes the GoFundMe page in support of the Nickles family. “Mike and Lana also lost some irreplaceable keepsakes from Mike’s parents, which makes these losses ever more heartfelt.”

, Classic car restoration shop burns to the ground, ClassicCars.com Journal
Nickels’ father’s WWII uniform and mother’s nurse uniform

In the video, Nickels gives Cotter a tour of what’s left of his shop after the fire.

Among the burned-down buildings in the video is one that Nickels built himself while he was in high school. In Cotter’s first tour a few years back, you see that Nickels decorated nearly every inch of this building with memorabilia, including two mannequins wearing his father’s WWII uniform and his mother’s nurse uniform from 1928.

We learn from an updated post on the GoFundMe page that Nickels was able to recover just two buttons from his father’s uniform.

While the fire was ablaze, the fire department allowed Nickels to cover a 1941 Ford with a tarp. While the Ford is slightly charred, he believes it’s still savable.

, Classic car restoration shop burns to the ground, ClassicCars.com Journal

According to Nickels, it took the fire department more than 40,000 gallons of water to put the fire out.

A friend set up the GoFundMe page, accepting donations to help the Nickels family rebuild the shop, which has restored more than 100 classic Woodie station wagons.  

“Mike has stated he wants to rebuild as soon as possible and continue the passion he has had for 50 years – rebuilding Woodie station wagons,” the fundraising page shares. “Your donation will be used to help replace the unique and specialized equipment lost in this tragic fire.”

To learn more about Nickels and his Woodie restoration shop, visit the GoFundMe page.

Racheal Colbert
Racheal Colbert
An experienced writer and editor, Racheal brings her enthusiasm for collector cars to her role as the Content Manager of the Collector Car Network. Former Content Writer and Marketing Manager in the tech and publishing industry, Racheal brings a fresh perspective to the Journal and the automotive world.


  1. Given the price to restore old cars, insurance for fire would be an important part of this man’s business. I hope he has insurance for the building and tools inside. The patterns and templates of course are gone.

  2. One has to imagine that since the FD had to use tankers to truck water to the fire site, there wasn’t a sufficient water supply to the property to support a fire suppression system for the shops. I would also imagine with all the wood working that occurred in the shop, there would have been a lot of sawdust about, which could have acted as an excellerent for the fire. Such a tragic loss for all involved; thankfully no loss of life.

  3. God Bless you and your family richly as you rebuild your shop. As a former surfer ( 50 + years) , I very much appreciate the woody and its relation to our beautiful sport.

    As a side note : My friend had just purchased a woody ( sorry, don’t know year or make) from the hunter’s widow , and as he was driving down the street, some guy stopped him and offered him 10xs what he paid for it ! Nope. And then he had it restored from the tires up , including finding an oldster who painted the wood grain dashboards in the factory where the cars were manufactured. Now , LOL, he is bothered by people that hound him with questions , comments. , and “Can I sit inside ? EVERYWHERE he goes. It is BEAUTIFUL ! REBUILD the shop !


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Recent Posts