8.4 C
New York
Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Following in his father’s footsteps | Oconomowoc Business News

OCONOMOWOC – Josh Michels, 21, started building cars when he was just 13 years old after following his father, Mike Michels, who started at 14. The father and son duo have since founded Michels Auto Design, a custom car shop in Pewaukee and Josh recently won the 2022 SEMA Battle of the Builders Young Guns Championship in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Born and raised in Oconomowoc, Josh graduated from Oconomowoc High School in 2019. He then graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in May of this year with a bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurship and management.

As a child, Josh enjoyed building with Legos, working with his hands, and helping his father around the house. He turned to plastic models before saving enough money to buy his first car at age 13, a 1980 Jeep CJ7. Mike taught Josh how to restore the Jeep over the next two and a half years, laying the groundwork for the builds. Josh’s future.

“I always wanted to challenge myself, and I always loved working with my hands and building,” Josh said, adding that for his first car, he took everything apart except the frame, painted it, restored it, and got new parts for those who needed to replace.

Since then, Josh has continually worked to hone his skills and has become more comfortable with customization. When he bought his second car, he was comfortable enough to undo every bolt.

When Josh and his father bonded over their passion for creating high-quality, one-of-a-kind restorations, the two decided to open their own custom restoration shop in 2018 when Josh was 17 years old. Now a college graduate, Josh works full time at the store along with his father.

The auto shop at 600 Hickory St. in Pewaukee specializes in modernizing classics. Both modernize them by adding new engines and other modern technology, while keeping the same exterior appearance.

“So it will really drive, run and be reliable like a new car, but still look and feel like that old car we all love,” Josh said. “I really like the construction aspect. Being able to create with just my mind and really seeing all the hard work come together when the car is ready at the end is really rewarding.”

SEMA competition

Josh recently returned from a four-day premier trade show called the SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) Show. He competed in the Battle of the Builders Young Guns division of the competition.

The SEMA Show is geared toward helping small businesses thrive and succeed, and the Battle of the Builders competition gives builders the chance to gain global recognition in four different categories. The Young Guns category is designated for builders 29 and under.

Josh won a golden ticket to SEMA this year. After going through a zoom interview process, Josh was given a guaranteed spot in the booth, was paid for car transportation along with plane tickets and hotel rooms, and was given $500 cash as spending money.

“I really didn’t have any expectations when I went there because I was happy enough to get that golden ticket,” Josh said, adding that without that ticket, he never would have been able to compete.

Josh raced a 1966 Chevrolet Corvette, one he spent three and a half years building. He originally found the car in the mud for the last 30 to 40 years. Josh created a car that he describes as a modern classic by keeping its original look inside and out with updated internal technology.

“It has pretty much everything you want in a new car, but now it’s a 50- or 60-year-old car,” Josh said. “I thought that was really cool, and the judges thought that was cool, too.”

Not only did Josh win the Young Guns category of the national competition, but now, at 21, he has graduated to a professional class status of the competition, meaning he can no longer compete as a Young Gun.

“I’m now the youngest builder to compete in the pro class because I was the youngest to win the Young Guns Battle of the Builders, so it’s a surreal feeling,” Josh said. “The program was very helpful in advancing my future.”

The directors and producers of the competition told Josh that this victory will change his life and career forever. Josh is now looking for sponsorships after his national recognition, he hopes to expand his customer base in the auto shop and more importantly he hopes to build his future and his career.

A true inspiration for Josh’s passion comes from his father, Mike.

“I can’t be here without him,” Josh said. “He has been a great support. Starting to build my first car, teaching me the necessities and how to use the tools and that sort of thing and the financial support has been really crucial to my success. Having him be able to support me and let me follow my dreams is huge for me.”

Josh and Mike will continue their work at the auto shop, with Josh saying that his next goal is to be the youngest to win the Battle of the Builders overall.

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest Articles