RM OF ROSEDALE — While some people use their man cave to showcase sports memorabilia, Gary Chopp wanted to carve out some private space for his classic car collection instead.
Of course, since the Westman retiree owns upwards of seven vintage vehicles, a renovated basement or standard garage wouldn’t suffice for what he had in mind.
So Chopp decided to build a 3,000-square-foot building from scratch on his property in the RM of Rosedale, which would serve as a proper monument to his lifelong hobby.
“Back about 40 some years ago I started working on a ’55 Chevy, so I had a little bit of interest in the cars way back then,” the 64-year-old told the Sun on Aug. 7. “And then not long after that I purchased a ’67 Camaro, and did a bunch of work on that and raced it at the Gimli dragways.”
In the years that followed, Chopp’s interest in cars had to take a back seat to his career in the construction business, which kept him busy with jobs in places like Winnipeg, Neepawa and Minnedosa.
But when Chopp eventually retired from that life at age 55, he finally had the chance to combine everything he learned from his multi-decade career and his favourite pastime with this automotive man cave idea.
“I always wanted to do it,” he said. “That was sort of my plan: to retire and start working on some vehicles, and it just started to happen.”
Luckily, Chopp didn’t have to tackle this project alone when he first started building the man cave around five years ago, since his wife Jean was also along for the ride.
“We didn’t sit and watch movies,” she said. “We were pouring concrete at 10 o’clock at night.”
Once the building was erected, the pair also went out of their way to give it an old, lived-in feel, littering the building with antique road signs, motor oil adverts and gas pumps that they’ve been collecting throughout their travels in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
However, the most valuable objects contained in the man cave are the vehicles the couple has been acquiring and fixing up for years, which includes a 1967 Chevrolet Camaro, a 1951 Chevrolet Truck, a 1947 Pontiac Business Man’s Coupe and several custom rat rods.
Chopp is particularly happy about finding a safe, heated space for the ‘67 Camaro, since it is the exact same car he owned as a young man more than four decades ago.
“Believe it or not, I had sold it 42 years ago,” he said. “And I had bought it back a year and a half ago. I found the same car, and it’s almost the same as when I had it.”
Jean said she is particularly fond of their custom 1935 Ford Coupe, which is very fun to drive on the back-country roads of Rosedale.
Lately, the pair is finding that they are spending more and more time driving these vehicles, especially since a lot of popular Westman car events had to be postponed or cancelled outright because of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.
“Every weekend we’re usually at a car show. We even go down to the States to car shows,” Jean said. “So it’s been a different summer, for sure, and we’re missing the community.”
Plus, Chopp said the closure of the United States border due to the pandemic is making any future projects increasingly complicated, since he sources a lot of his spare parts from south of the border.
But even with all this going on, Chopp said he is just happy to have his man cave as a place of refuge during these chaotic times, and encourages his fellow gear heads to create their own automotive sanctuary if they have the patience and resources to do so.
“No matter what project you’re doing, you’ve got to spend a lot of time and a lot of hours and have a heck of an imagination to do it.”
» Twitter: @KyleDarbyson