British Columbia

Rust Valley Restorers star sells 'field of dreams' collection of 500 rusting vintage cars

After more than four decades of collecting classic cars, reality TV star Mike Hall of Tappen, B.C., says selling his collection is the right choice to make at this time in his life.

'A lot of cars I've had for 30 or 40 years. It's time for somebody else to take care of them,' Mike Hall says

On Saturday Mike Hall auctioned off the majority of his collection of classic cars which had ballooned to more than 550 rusting vehicles spread out on his property in Tappen, B.C. (Andrew Lee/CBC)

Mike Hall's mind is like an encyclopedia of vintage cars. He can list off and describe, in detail, the features of each of the 562 rusting vehicles spread out on his property in Tappen, B.C. — an area known colloquially as Rust Valley. 

"This is my passion. I don't remember faces or where I put my car keys, but the car stuff, it just sticks with me," Hall explained as he walked past row after row of vehicles lying in various states of repair in the field behind his home.

Last Saturday, Hall sold the majority of his cars at an auction that drew hundreds of people to Tappen.

The sale was necessary after Hall sold his property earlier this year. Family pressure also played a part, according to his son Conner, who works with his dad restoring vintage cars.

"We kind of tried to push him into an auction last year and he wanted nothing to do with it," Conner said. 

"And this year, I think he finally woke up and realized, 'Hey, I can't do this anymore.'"

Mike Hall's obsession with vintage cars and his reluctance to part with them is one of the main themes on Rust Valley Restorers, a reality T.V. series centred around his life in Tappen, B.C. (Andrew Lee / CBC)

Hall's obsession with vintage cars and reluctance to give them up is one of the main themes of the reality TV show, Rust Valley Restorers. The series, filmed in Tappen, documents Hall's adventures fixing up many of the vintage vehicles on his yard and selling them off. 

Hall said the last thing he thought he'd be doing in his sixties was starring in a reality TV series, but his boundless energy, self-deprecating wit and striking appearance — he's a giant of a man with blond dreadlocks hanging down past his shoulders — make him a compelling character. 

His obsession with classic cars dates back more than four decades. Hall started buying up cars in his early 20s, and has since sought out hundreds of cars and trucks from the '50s, '60s and '70s and hauled them home. Hall found many of the vehicles as he travelled around B.C., working as a rock scaling contractor, he explained.

Buyers from across North America were in Tappen, B.C., for a chance to bid on more than 500 vehicles Mike Hall put up for auction. (Andrew Lee/CBC)

"As a kid, I always loved them," Hall said. "I bought one. I bought two, I bought three, I bought 10, I bought 20. I mean, the last four properties I bought have been to move cars to."

The decision to sell his collection was not an easy one to make, Hall said, but it was the right choice at this time in his life. 

"I'm going to be 65 years old soon. I've already lived five years longer than my dad did," he said. 

"I've watched friends die and then their wives and their families have to deal with their problems. I'm going to leave my family enough problems. This is one that I think I should kind of tidy up while I'm still here."

Car buyer Cole Mayes with one of the four Buicks he purchased at the Mike Hall's auction. He plans to use it for parts. (Andrew Lee/CBC)

People came to Hall's car auction from all over North America to purchase vehicles.

Father and son Tom and Corey Little made the trip from Ontario mainly to see the vast vintage car collection before it's broken up.

"We thought we'd come in mostly to view the spectacle," Corey said. Tom added, "We are hardcore car guys, like Mike is."

Tom and Corey Little travelled from Ontario to check out Mike Hall's collection of vehicles and watch the spectacle of them being auctioned off. (Andrew Lee/CBC)

Some of Hall's cars sold for a couple of hundred dollars and others for more than $10,000.

Hall described it as a bittersweet moment watching buyers snap up the cars he's loved and obsessed over for decades.

"There's a lot of cars I've had for 30 or 40 years. It's time for somebody else to take care of them."

Old habits die hard however, and Hall isn't out of the classic car business just yet.

"I was supposed to keep ten and I ended up keeping 52. I still have a full deck to play with. I just don't have a full deck up here," he laughed, gesturing to his head.

A 1963 British Columbia licence plate hangs on an even older Studebaker on Mike Hall's property. (Andrew Lee/CBC)