Ask Lt. Col. Michael P. “Spike” Solovey, a 1st Theater Sustainment Command logistics planner, about his passion for drawing and restoring cars and you will know more about him in 10 minutes than most who have known him for years.
Solovey, began drawing in kindergarten and started collecting and restoring classic cars in 2005. This year, those two passions came together.
During the spring of 2005, when Solovey found an old rusty, burgundy Chevrolet pick-up truck in Fayetteville, all he could think about was how perfect it would be for his dad.
Solovey’s dad, Garrick, of York, Pa., owned a truck in 1972, just like the one Solovey bought in 2005. Garrick’s truck was initially purchased by his brother, who then sold it to him.
“Dad ended up getting rid of the truck at my mother’s request but had always kicked himself and wished he had kept it,” said Solovey.
The 1969, one-quarter ton, Stepside Chevrolet meant a lot to both father and son. Solovey recalls running errands, picking up firewood, trips to the lumber yard and other fond memories of riding with his dad in the truck. He knew if he could pull-off restoring the truck he bought to replace the one his dad once owned; this would be something special for the Solovey Family.
Solovey found the 1969 Chevy truck on the side of the road and bought it for $4,000. At the time he had no way of knowing the extent of the restorations that would ensue, but said he would do it all over again.
“It was a true ‘frame-up’ restoration using serviceable parts from three different, like-model trucks,” said Solovey.
From top to bottom, the truck was brought back to its original condition.
The restorations included a new frame, cab and bed, replacement doors, extensive rust removal, chrome revitalization, a fresh coat of paint and more. As with most of his restoration projects, the work was completed in his garage or other body shops.
One of those friends is Benjamin “Max” Stecker, a retired chief warrant officer 4 maintenance officer from Angier, N.C. Stecker, who joined the Army in 1988 as a mechanic, and Solovey met eight years ago when they were both assigned to 7th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg. They first began discussing the restoration project during a deployment to Afghanistan.
“We worked on the truck when he was home but when he was gone, I worked on the frame, cleaned the engine and got the truck ready for paint,” said Stecker. “I would do it again in a heartbeat. It was great knowing that it really made his dad happy.”
In the end, Solovey made sure it was just the way his dad would want it. He credits Stecker and several of his good friends who are also “car nuts” with the completion of the Chevy truck project. Solovey said that his secret to balancing his 16-year career in the Army, the completion of hundreds of sketches and paintings and the cars he has restored is a combination of time management and late nights.
When the project began, Solovey decided he would give the truck to his dad for his birthday. But when the truck was finally completed and ready to give to his dad, Solovey was stationed in Germany. No stranger to planning or logistics, he quickly found a solution.
In early 2010, the truck was shipped from North Carolina to Pennsylvania and stored in the garage of one of his parents’ neighbors. When everything was in place, Solovey flew home on leave. Keeping the project a secret required Solovey to not only lean on friends, but also a few Family members. With the help of his mother, Nancy, they planned the surprise party of a lifetime.
After a full day of refusing Garrick’s requests to just go out for a Family dinner in Baltimore to celebrate his birthday, Solovey’s sister, Robin, invited their dad to go shopping and pick up Chinese food on the way back home. Not exactly how he had planned to celebrate his birthday, but he went nonetheless. When they returned, his Family and friends were gathered at his home and the fully restored Chevy was en route as the party began inside.
Within 15 minutes Solovey tapped the wine glass to get everyone’s attention. After a brief speech, he then led the entire party outside into the driveway where he gave his dad his new set of old keys.
“There was lots of cigar smoking, joking, wine drinking, hugging and crying. We even had our priest bless the truck for good measure,” said Solovey.
For most surprises, the grand reveal would be the end of the story — but not this one. Solovey has one more surprise up his sleeve for his dad. This time, he will present a drawing of the truck to his father in April for his 65th birthday.
So far, Solovey has completed three car and truck restorations since 2005 but this one he said is his favorite because, “it was not for me.”
Eventually when he retires, he hopes to focus on classic car restoration and finding a World War II Jeep and Harley Davidson to work on.
When asked about his inspiration, Solovey said, “I love giving back and breathing life back into old things.”