Every car tells a story, but when it’s covered in decades of rust, it takes a craftsman to carefully restore the car so it can return to the road ready to make more memories.
“I like to make something out of nothing and bring a car back to life from junk,” said Bill Nicolas, a master mechanic who restores classic cars.
He started working on cars at his shop at his Copperas Cove home in 2005.
The Nebraska native grew up tearing cars apart at his father’s junk yard and garage, teaching himself the nuts and bolts about cars.
Nicolas applied those skills in the U.S. Army from 1993 to 1996 as a mechanic on the Bradley Armored Personnel Carrier. Since 2001, he has worked in computer networking for a defense contractor at Fort Hood, but his first love remains cars.
Some of his recent projects include a Nova, Monte Carlo and a 1949 GMC truck that he owned and sold.
“It’s fun to do and see the people who are passionate about it, because they trust me with something that has a lot of meaning to them,” he said.
Nicolas’ current project is a 1970 Duster he estimates will require 400 to 500 hours to complete.
Rick Engrav, the original owner of the 1970 Duster, dropped by to check on the car’s progress recently.
He is rebuilding the car’s drive train while Nicolas restores the body.
“I’ve seen Bill’s work and it’s really impressive, but I’m still flabbergasted at what he’s done with this car so far,” Engrav said.
He has invested about $14,000 in parts with another $13,000 for the body work. To Engrav, it’s worth every cent because the car is for his wife.
Nicolas doesn’t accept just any car restoration project and is just as picky about the owner. He won’t cut corners on quality and has turned down many requests.
“It depends on what the owner wants to invest in money, time and effort, because when I do a car, I do it right,” he said.
The restoration of Nicolas’ 1978 Camero gave him a chance to do a project for and with his son, Trevor Nicolas, 16.
“Working on cars now will help me later in life when a car breaks down, then I’ll know what to do,” Trevor Nicolas said.