Though most of the profits for Premier Collision Center in Pocatello, ID, come from insurance claim repairs, owner Mike Tolman’s real passion is obvious---renovating award-winning, souped-up, glammed-up, “violent” hot rod cars.
Tolman said he has won just about every award there is for his cars, from “Best Paint” to “1st in Class.” A few years ago at Reno’s Hot August Nights, one of the largest nostalgic car shows in the world, Tolman’s red 1955 Protouring red Chevrolet 210 won the “People’s Choice” award at the Grand Sierra Hotel.
What is more amazing, though, is that the Pocatello resident renovates these beautiful cars with only one hand.
Born without his right hand, Tolman said, “I was lucky enough that my parents didn’t cut me any slack. That’s hard to do as a parent. I remember my dad making me learn to tie my shoes. I didn’t move until I figured it out. That’s how it’s been. They just didn’t do it for me. Nobody’s ever done it for me. I figured it out.
“In working with cars, there have been things that I’ve struggled to do for a second until I figure out another way to do it, but not many. I can do anything anyone in the shop can do, and I can do it as fast or faster now---but I’m 53 and I’ve been doing it a long time. My favorite saying when I see these guys (his employees) struggling with stuff is to ask them if they want a guy with one hand to do it for them ... Having only one hand has been challenging a bit, but I don’t know what it’s like to be on the other side so I just do what I do. I wouldn’t change it, though. It’s made me more determined to make my work stand out.”
And stand out it does. Tolman said that at this past Chrome in the Dome car show in Holt Arena, he was asked to bring in his red ‘55 Chevy as a showcase piece to attract patrons. At the event, patrons are each given a ticket to cast their vote for their favorite car by placing it in a jar next to the car. Tolman didn’t even have a jar next to his car, yet he found the interior full of tickets when he went to take it home.