Cool Collections! A Toy Shop Next to the Golf Course Keeps Jim Crets Busy with Projects
Retirement has its benefits.
For Jim Crets, the extra time found after stepping away from his full-time job has translated into an acceleration of hot rodding pursuits. Having multiple workshops and a good group of car enthusiast friends who like to stop by and help him simply adds to the fun.
Like many enthusiasts, Jim can trace his gearhead tendencies to his youth. “I’ve been a car nut ever since I was 14 or 15 years old,” he says, noting that he started by tinkering and tearing around on mini bikes and go-karts.
Jim eventually graduated to bigger and faster pursuits, starting with a Chevy II Nova. He got involved in drag racing and says he almost always had a fun street car in addition to a drag car.
“Drag racing was my passion,” he says, but a crash in in a Jr. Fuel car at Sears Point in the early-’90s put an end to that. “My wife said, ‘you’re done!’”
Jim eventually returned his focus to street machines and classics, starting with Chevelles and mid-year Corvettes. He rebuilt a ’64 ’Vette, returning it to street duty after it had seen years of road-racing action. Tri-five Chevys and other classics were also part of the mix.
The pace has picked up a bit since Jim retired a few years ago. “When you’re retired, you have all day long to work on cars,” Jim says. “You get ’em done quick!”
Jim and his wife Jan own a golf course in Loomis, California, giving him the benefit of multiple industrial buildings adjacent to the course in which he can work. There’s a dedicated garage for “dirty” work, one for bodywork and paint, and a main “clean” shop for assembly, general maintenance, and storage.
“I do everything here,” Jim says. “MIG or TIG welding. I do all the paint, all the bodywork.”
A network of hot rodding and racing friends – many of them retired like Jim – likes to hang out at the shop, too. Jim will often put them to work, which helps with both the productivity and camaraderie. He also helps them with their cars. Nearby engine builder Dave Riolo handles much of the engine work, while Bunker Motorsports takes care of specialty welding, like race chassis that require certification.
Jim’s current collection has a definite Chevy focus, with a trio of Corvettes and several Tri-five Chevys. But there are also a few early Ford hot rods (including a Model A pickup with an eight-carb Imperial Hemi!) and even a pro street ’68 Charger, which Jim bought as an unfinished race car and completed with a blown 426c.i. Hemi for power. For Jim, it’s less about brand loyalty, and more about making smart purchases. “You buy when the time’s right,” he says.
Jim has returned to drag racing in a sense, too, building and restoring vintage drag cars to use in cacklefests like the Nitro Thunderfest exhibits at Goodguys events. It’s a good way to relive some of those glory days and share that slice of time with other enthusiasts – some of whom never had the chance to see cars like these actually race.
If you’re ever playing golf in Loomis and hear a healthy V8 engine fire to life, you’ll know you’re near Jim’s shop. And you can also rest assured that he’s enjoying every minute of his retirement with his “toy box” of cars.
Photos by Steven Bunker