MUSKEGON — Steve Sturim and his father, Rick, started Steve’s Antique Auto Repair in Wyoming, Michigan in 1992. Working on their 1931 Ford Model A pickup, when Steve was six, eventually turned from a family hobby into a profession. In their spare time, they worked on cars in the family’s two-stall garage. More and more people came by to have their cars maintained and repaired by them. They worked on many special vehicles from customer referrals. The decision to open a business was hastened when the manufacturing plants where Rick was the maintenance engineer moved out of state and he did not want to relocate.
For the past seven or eight years, their nine bays were always full in Wyoming. The business had outgrown their facility near Grand Rapids. Muskegon had been on their radar for a new location since Steve had friends here, had visited the area often, and was impressed by the general revitalization going on there.
When the former Harley-Davidson building at 590 Ottawa Street came on the market, he decided it was time. Steve moved the business to Muskegon in 2022 and now has five employees.
“Business is wonderful here,” he said.
The business does mechanical and electric work on vehicles built prior to 1973, including engine rebuilding. Some of these engines require Babbitt bearings, which they pour from a molten alloy. Motorcycles are also repaired here.
They have also built cars for themselves. One was a 1927 Ford Land Speed Car powered by a four-cylinder engine based on a 1932 Ford block. They competed in the East Coast Timing Association events held in Wilmington, Ohio. At an old airport, they ran from a standing start one mile for fast time. The first time out, in April 2012, the car ran 109 mph, shattering the existing record of 103. The second run upped the record to 110. When the co-owner of the car died, it was sold. The new owner ran it at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah in 2022, but Sturim did not know the results.
They also built a 1929 Ford Model A Speedster during 1990-91 at home. They did exhibition racing with it on half-mile dirt tracks in Michigan and Ohio with the Antique Automobile Racing Association. This car now sits on their showroom floor.
They also once owned the racer known as the “Prison Car.” The Floyd “Pop” Dreyer manufactured frame and body were assembled at Jackson Prison as a project for Lyle May and fellow prisoners. After his release, the sprint car was raced in the Midwest. In 2010, it was on display at the National Sprint Car Museum in Knoxville, Iowa, on loan from Rick.
They have also worked on other ‘special’ vehicles owned by, or connected to, well-known people or events.
The old saying was, “You can have a Model T in any color you want, as long as it’s black.” Ford used black because it was the only color that dried fast enough to keep up with his new assembly line. Other manufacturers were offering automobiles in a variety of colors, so Ford thought he’d better get on board. In 1923, he took five coupes off the end of the production line and had them painted different colors for testing. The burgundy one ended up in the Sturims’ hands in 2021 for refurbishment, not restoration. They got it running and installed new tires on it for the owner, a distant relative of Henry Ford. It was the only one of the five cars to survive.
They worked on a 1950 Ford pickup truck that Melanie Griffith gave to Don Johnson as a gift. They were husband and wife for six months in 1976.
Harrison Ford jumped into an Auburn Speedster in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom movie. The Sturim family worked on that car preparing it for the 1984 movie.
A rare 1909 Johnson touring car was repaired by them. The Johnson Service Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin produced cars and commercial vehicles from 1905-12.
They worked on a Ford V8-powered racecar, an entry for the 1935 Indianapolis 500. This was one of 10 Ford powered cars on hand at the speedway. Four qualified for the race, but mechanical issues forced all of them to retire early.
Besides the interest in older vehicles, Sturim related the history of his building and an item about Ottawa Street.
Dan Raymond opened a Harley Davidson dealership here in 1919. In 1922, he both organized the Muskegon Motorcycle Club and the first hill climb on Mount Garfield, where it continues to this day. Raymond sold the business to Jim Snell in 1958 and it became Snell Harley Davidson. In 2007, Hot-Rod Harley Davidson bought the franchise from Snell and ran their business at this location while their new building was being constructed as short distance away on Shoreline Drive. One of the old H-D signs from the building is on the showroom wall.
Sturim also said “Ottawa Street was once listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for having more gas stations in a one-mile stretch of roadway than anywhere else. I think the number was 18. Now there are none.”
On a phone call this day, Sturim told a woman his license restricts him from working on her 1977 Corvette, since it was newer than 1972. He then gave her the phone number of a repair shop he recommended. He had a large part in having this specific law enacted by the state of Michigan.
In 1994, an inspector from the Secretary of State’s office came to the shop Steve and Rick were running and told them to be classified as a Master Mechanic, he would have to pass a series of tests to be certified in many different areas. They were working on older cars which did not require training in electronics, fuel injection or computers, for instance, so Steve argued he did not need to train in these areas for the certification.
This led to him speaking with Senator Ken Sikkema about the problem. He then met with a Senate committee in Lansing at the capital. He fielded questions from senators and met with a smaller group to discuss issues. He had to make a second trip to Lansing, but the final result was the Secretary of State being able to issue licenses to people working on 1972 or older vehicles without requiring them to be proficient in subjects they will never encounter. Senator Bill Schuette told him he was glad to see someone as young as he was being active in politics, and thanked him for pointing out a problem they did not know existed.
When Governor John Engler signed the bill into law, in 1994, Sturim was 22 years old.
He no longer has to worry about appearing in congressional hearings, but he still has the spirit to do things the correct way in both auto repair and customer service.
As an authorized dealer for both So-Cal Speed Shop and Mooneyes, he plans to offer retail sales in the future. After repairs are done, he will also have a vintage coin-operated motorcycle ride for youngsters. Older customers can reminisce while looking at memorabilia filled display cases including many items not related to automobiles. A special 1966 Harley-Davidson Sportster is parked in the showroom. It was purchased at this location 57 years ago. The original owner decided it was the perfect spot for the bike and donated it to Sturim.
For more information on Steve’s Antique Auto Repair, contact him at 616-538-0441 or [email protected].