BRISTOL – Steve Mensik’s passion for his hobby of restoring classic cars and pickups may have become his livelihood, thanks to the economic downturn.

“My friend, Phil (Warner) and I did contract work for Home Depot and, thanks to the layoff, what we had as a hobby may work itself into our work,” Mensik said.

Mensik, who hails from Ennis, has had an interest in classic vehicles since he attended high school at St. John’s and began, in earnest, restoring them in 1989. He pointed out his prize project that he recently completed – a 1966 Mustang.

“This car has been in our family since 1970,” he said. “My cousin drove it for a long time and then handed it down to his sister who drove it until 1988. It sat up for years and I just recently got it and restored it.”

Although he maintained much of the original look, he added a few subtle touches, including dual exhausts each encased in a horseshoe. And since his wife, Ginger, raises Arabian horses, he commemorated it by giving the pony insignia in the front grill of the Mustang custom paint with her brand embossed in it.

“It’s easy to find parts for Mustangs,” he said. “I usually get most of my parts from a company in Dallas called Dallas Mustang. They have everything from replacement chrome parts, grills, door panel upholstery – just everything.”

He also admits to being a regular customer at the Pate Swap Meet, once held in a field in Cresson in Johnson County, but has been moved in recent years to the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.

“Sometimes when I’m restoring a car, I have to buy a parts car in order to get the project finished,” he said. “In work like this, you’ve got to spend money to make money.”

Steve’s multiple-bay shop behind his home is filled with projects to be completed. In one bay sits a 1957 Chevrolet panel truck he is planning to customize. He cut windows into the rear part of the body to give it a Suburban look, and he’s rigged the hood with the twin bullets that came off of a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Aire. The back of the truck has late model thin, inset vertical Cadillac tail lights.

“I’m probably going to go with a white color on this – sort of like Moby Dick,” he said with a laugh. “In fact, that’s its name – Moby.”

The walls in the main shop where he does most of his work are lined with photographs of the many cars and trucks he restored, including a couple of Studebakers, several mid-1950s Chevrolets and Mustangs.

Mensik believes there could be a future in restoring classic cars for him.

“I’m really not interested in doing body work on late model cars,” he said. “But I love working with these classic vehicles and, you know, even with the economy being like it is, there are plenty of people around that love their toys and will pay money to have them restored.”

Mensik’s restoration projects haven’t just been restricted to cars and trucks. He refurbished a little 1950s-style pedal car for his 18-month-old grandson, giving it a coat of soft purple paint and covering the seat with black tuck-and-roll upholstery. He also customized its hood with an airplane ornament that came off of one his Studebakers.

“Whenever I can get this Mustang finished, I want to work on my 1950 Studebaker business coupe,” he said. “And, inside the shop, I have another Studebaker ‘Starlight’ coupe – the kind with the back wrap-around window glass. Now that one is going to be a ‘bad boy’ when I get it finished.”

He’s proud of the 1956 Chevy pickup that was his daughter’s ride during her high school days. He restored and painted it a soft purple – the same color as the pedal car.

“I love working with these classic vehicles,” he said.

For information about custom classic vehicle restoration, contact Mensik at 972-846-2037 or 469-383-9793.

E-mail Paul at paul.gauntt@wninews.com