1 of 4
Photo by David Colburn
Mike Dixon stands next to one of his antique vehicles.
2 of 4
Photo by Mike Dixon
One of Dixon’s warehouses houses a variety of vehicles, from his Ford Model-T’s of the 1920s to his 2010 Chevrolet Camaro.
3 of 4
Photo by David Colburn
Mike Dixon, owner of Dixon Heating & Cooling, poses in front of his model car collection at his Granite City office.
4 of 4
Photo by David Colburn
Framed photos show a few of Dixon’s car purchases over the years.
GRANITE CITY — Local residents probably know Mike Dixon as the owner of Dixon Heating & Cooling, a business he’s owned with his wife, Charlotte, for 32 years. They may also know him as the owner of Speedy’s Old Fashion Car Wash & Detail Shop or Dixon’s Tradin’ Post Auction House. They might not know quite as much about his collection of — and affinity for — antique cars.
“I’m just drawn to it like a moth to a flame,” said Dixon, 64, fresh from a job for his “bread and butter,” Dixon Heating & Cooling.
When you step into his main office, your eyes instantly are drawn to a wall of 130 model cars behind his desk — including a 1965 Chevrolet Chevelle, 1959 Cadillac, 1969 Volkswagen bus and 1936 Ford Deluxe Convertible, among many others — and framed photos of just a few of the full-sized cars he owns to the right. He recalls childhood rides in the family car with his father and playing “what’s that car” to relieve the drive’s doldrums.
“If I were to be injected with a truth serum, I’d say that’s how my love of cars started,” he said.
His collection spans a few warehouses and he’s lost count of how many antique cars he owns.
“I say it’s a disease and I’m terminal. There’s nothing they can do for me,” he jokes. “I’ve got five Corvettes; it’s a sickness.” Beyond his decade-spanning collection of Corvettes are sedans, vans and pickups, including a 1964 King Midget, a 1959 Rolls Royce, a 1932 Duesenberg, a 1932 Ford Roadster, a 1980 Ford limousine, a 1941 Dodge panel van, two 1950 Ford pickup trucks and a multitude of Model-T’s from the 1920s.
What separates the automobiles of today from those of yesteryear? Quite a bit, Dixon says.
“Where are the Bill Mitchells and Harley Earls today?” he rhetorically asks as he studies a model car in his office. “In the 1940s and 1950s, the design of a model would change drastically from year to year. That creativity has been lost today. Most of the modern cars I see are little European jelly beans.”
Dixon reminisces about the annual unveiling of new models on Friday nights at Moody’s Chevrolet throughout his adolescent years.
“It was a big extravaganza for the community,” he said. “It was the gala era of automobiles.”
The 1950s remain his favorite era of car design.
“When the space program began, it influenced car designs,” he said. “You can see that in the tail fins on cars from that time period.”
Among his many makes and models sit his two personal favorites, a 1939 Ford pickup and a 1972 Chevrolet Corvette.
“The truck is my absolute favorite because I’ve owned it for 45 years,” he said. “How many people get to say they’ve owned a single vehicle for 45 years?
“My second favorite is the Corvette because I lowered the body in the Corvette plant in 1972. I helped make it,” Dixon proudly proclaims.
“Money don’t buy happiness, but I’d rather be crying in a Corvette than on a bicycle,” he chuckles, recalling how he was not able to buy the Corvette when he was “22 and broke” but is much more fortunate to be “64 and almost broke.”
The collection has nothing to do with “collectibles.” His connection to each car becomes personal, as evident from the two vehicles he values the most.
“They become part of me,” he said. “They’re like members of my family.”
Dixon confesses an instance in which he reluctantly sold an antique car, then traced it down to re-purchase it.
“Selling one of these is like a death in the family,” he said.
The car collection serves as a release of sorts for Dixon in his down time.
“Some days, I’ll go down to the warehouse when I get off work, put a battery charger on one of the cars, start it up and let it run. It’s soothing,” he said. “It makes me feel good.”
Dixon offers tongue-in-cheek advice to anyone looking to begin an antique car collection: “Buy something inexpensive, put your heart and soul into it, have the nerve to sell it, make money and buy something new. If you don’t have the nerve to sell it, you’ll have two or three warehouses in your future.”
The search for his next purchase won’t be determined by sheer availability, but the heart beneath the hood.
“Cars have to be interesting by my standards,” Dixon said. “I don’t know until I see it, but when I see it, I’ll do what I can to make it mine.”
Dixon Heating & Cooling is located at 2401 Delmar Ave. in Granite City and can be contacted at (618) 877-3378 or online at www.dixonheatingcooling.com/contact. Speedy’s Old Fashion Car Wash & Detail Shop is located at 2301 Madison Ave. in Granite City, and Dixon’s Tradin’ Post Auction House is located at 1735 Grand Ave. in Granite City.
Follow @NewsAdVantage on Twitter