Is It A Garage, Home, Or Heaven?
Photography by Yoav Gilad for Petrolicious
Most people take the same path to work every morning, see the same signs, buildings, and landmarks. And we know what they are: that’s a shopping mall, a park bench, a warehouse. But these observations are limited to what is immediately observable and here at Petrolicious we’ve seen enough collections hidden in plain sight to know that the more mundane something appears, the greater the treasure inside. When give the opportunity, it’s best to have a closer look.
We recently received an email titled “Hope you have a sense of humor…” from Mr. Mark Jarel about his collection and garage. Attached were photos of scale GT40s, Porsches, and Lotuses as well as a “night” shot of a slot car track with all the track lighting illuminated. It turns out that Mark built the track over a year’s time (while working on a few other projects) with his son, Haven. And since they’re local, Mark challenged us to try to beat them. It was on.
Mark sent us an address that had a suite number in it, which confused me a bit as I thought we were just headed to his house. Pulling into a light industrial complex, I scanned the numbers painted on the roll-up doors looking for his, but the overriders on an early ‘50s Ford bumper poking out of a barely open door caught my attention. I decided to park and have a look since Petrolicious producer Mr. Aaron McKenzie and I were late already (a couple more minutes won’t hurt, right?). As we approached the roll-up door with the Ford poking out, Mark and Haven happened to emerge from next door.
They welcomed us inside and as it turned out, the Ford was a project that Mark was working on. Walking into the space we first entered a small room decorated with vintage albums (featuring car art on the jacket), old radios, and a various period signs. Very cool. But continuing through that into the main shop area was amazing. To the left, the slot car track, to the right a small row of theater seats, the ‘50s Ford, a 1929 Flathead-powered Ford, a custom built motorcycle, and a restored travel trailer. Rows of tool storage interspersed with slot cars, trophies, and a couple of chairs from a beauty parlor. Even a personal hovercraft! It took some time to let it all sink in.
Mark and Haven gave us a brief tour, explaining that it is their home. There was actually a loft built in the unit where their bedrooms are and when friends visit, the travel-trailer serves as a guest room. But the most interesting thing about their home, as an American, is that they don’t have a central hearth—a television. Rather, the shop floor serves as living room and the focus is clearly on building things that provide interactive entertainment. Mark has three motorcycles on lifts (that he fabricated himself) awaiting rebuilds, some just a bare frame. He proudly displays plans for a 1950s cracker-box hydroplane (which were raced fairly actively back then) that he’s going to build too.
Skate- and surfboards line the walls as well, many of which are homemade. And Haven doesn’t just watch, he’s learning alongside his dad, fabricating skateboards (he used to be sponsored by a major manufacturer) and is handy with a welder too. The collection of helmets displayed includes some that ten-year-old Haven welded himself (more of a knight’s helmet than for crash protection). And as mentioned earlier, they built the slot car track together and race against one another with no quarter given.
Sharing a story about Haven whooping a blowhard ex-Marine in a slotcar race, Mark just smiles and laughs, “If you’re not having fun, if you’re getting angry at the people you’re competing against…” and becoming more emphatic, “in a slot car race!… what are you doing there?!” Clearly, Mark is driven, but he’s driven by the desire to create and to enjoy his creations. “Why do it if not’s fun?”
And observing Haven, the same intensity is clear. He wants to race and mix it up, but you get the impression that it’s all fun for him too. At some point during the slot car racing, he mentions a camera collection, sprints upstairs to his room and returns, arms filled with classic cameras including a particularly cool vintage Polaroid. “I just shoot with my iPhone now,” he says nonchalantly, as if paying respect to the past while acknowledging the iPhone’s photographic versatility.
Before heading back to the office, Mark rolled the large door up and fired up the ’29 Ford Highboy to give us a ride around the block. It was loud and fun, and when I remarked that I had to get one, Mark corrected me, “You have to build one.”
As Aaron and I left, Mark rolled down the door to their warm home, amusement park, learning space and once more it was just another boring, concrete and brick industrial building. Hundreds of people pass it every day, maybe some look and wonder, a couple perhaps would notice the ’50s bumper. Most pay no mind. Make sure you peek when you get the chance.