We like the way Mike Williams thinks. When it was time to buy a house, he bought a big empty slice of farmland near Orland, California, and proceeded to build a huge garage on it. Oh, and he put a urinal in it, too. “I didn’t want to be sneaking around outside every time I had to use the bathroom,” says Mike matter-of-factly. And the house? Uh, there isn’t one, unless you count the trailer. We mention all this up front just to make sure you know Mike is a guy with his priorities clearly in order.
And like his castle, Mike’s 1969 Dodge Charger is perfectly prioritized. Marked on its voluptuous flanks with the universal biohazard warning sign, you might easily mistake Mike’s Charger as an homage to the boys from Hazzard county, but you’d be wrong. Mike is, in fact, a trauma nurse, and the familiar biohazard sign just seemed like a natural for a car with such a seductive carbon footprint.
The key to getting the stance right with any car is to choose the tires and set the rake,
Mopars, and Dodge Chargers in particular, hold a special place in Mike’s heart. Growing up in Louisiana, Mike’s grandpa, Talbot “Snake” Guillot, would often pick Mike and his brother up in his ’66 Charger and drive to NASCAR races. “Actually, him and his buddies would sleep in the back, and I would drive! I was only 13. We used to go to races in Mobile, College Station, Talladega, and Atlanta. I used to stand up against the fence and listen to the engines roar by.” (Think this could be the reason Mike is also working on a ’74 Dodge Charger Petty-themed racer clone?)
Mike’s upbringing in Baton Rouge might seem a million years and a million miles ago from his California life, but it still informs every bolt and every weld he touches. The silent, strong call from Mike’s youth has reached out like a hidden magnetic force, in spite of seemingly random life events. Check it out: While working as an assistant manager at a Domino’s Pizza in Baton Rouge in 1986, he got the chance to move to Paradise, California, and help open a new franchise. “At 20 years old, you think you’re going to the beach or something,” Mike deadpans. Unknown to the new franchise owner, Paradise was a retirement community, so the place went belly up in three months. (More deadpan: “Old people don’t eat much pizza.”) A girlfriend worked in one of Paradise’s many nursing homes, so Mike decided to go to nursing school. Upon graduating nursing school, Mike worked in the local hospital’s ER, then rode ambulances. And like a moth to a flame, the first time Mike worked the ambulance for the local bullring racetrack, life’s crazy karma came back at him full force. All it took was one sniff of race fuel, and the fuse was lit.
“I started working the ambulances at the track and got back into it,” Mike says. It wasn’t long before he was racing pure stock. “You know, two-barrel carb, stock motor, stock body, limited on tires.” They raced Chevelles and Camaros mostly, but Mike started out with a ’67 Belvedere, and then a ’69 Coronet that he built into a Richard Petty Superbird clone. “They almost didn’t let me run that car because of the wing!”