Laramie businessman sees new potential in antiques
LARAMIE — It’s the larger-than-life wide eyes and goofy grin that first get your attention.
But it’s the mischievous curl to Gary McKim’s smile and slightly off-kilter twinkle in his eye that keep you asking about the collection and creations in and around McKim’s Upholstery and Auto Sales just off Snowy Range Road in West Laramie.
Immediately recognizable, those wide eyes are pinned up inside the windshield of Stanley, a 1924 Graham-Paige truck. The vintage machine has been turned into the character of the same name from the 2006 Pixar animated film “Cars.”
“Oh, he’s been out there for a couple weeks or so,” McKim said.
Over the past 22 years, the spot in front of McKim’s small shop has featured many of his ideas and creations. Most are like Stanley, something just for fun that doesn’t tinker with what’s underneath. And for the most part, they all have something in common.
“They’re all for sale,” he said.
But Stanley is just hook that most of the time is worth a head turn as people drive by. The lucky few who stop, however, can get a short tour of McKim’s eclectic collection of antiques.
“I just love unique stuff,” he said. “Anything that’s unique or oddball.”
That’s driven home right away when visitors are greeted by the friendly George, whose perpetual wave seems to beckon people in. George is the top half of a mannequin seated in a vintage snowmobile dressed in a sweatshirt, top hat and sunglasses.
A few more steps in and one of McKim’s projects draws the eye — a vintage dental chair. Made mostly of cast iron, it also has attachments that look nearly as sinister as any 5-year-old could imagine about a dentist. He’s reupholstering the chair for a customer.
In the back room, McKim is pleased to point out another treasure — a snappy yellow 1964 Indian motorcycle. It’s a small 50cc bike.
Below the motorcycle on a couch is the lower half of George, the disembodied legs seeming to lounge on their own.
Asked where he finds his projects, McKim simply answers, “everywhere.”
While a visit to his shop can seem like a stop at a museum or antique store, McKim also is an auto dealer. His small lot holds a handful of unique finds that could impress most any motorhead.
There’s the 1998 purple Chevy Corvette that was a pace car for the Indianapolis 500. It’s for sale, but McKim admits he hasn’t had many bites on it.
“Nobody here needs a purple pace car,” he said. “But I drive it around everywhere.”
Under the hood of a rusty 1963 GMC truck is “a pretty rare engine,” McKim said.
The 305 big block V6 is a workhorse of an engine, but what makes it rare is that it still has the original paint on it, red with plaid valve covers.
The next time you’re between errands and see Stanley grinning and waving at you, it’s worth a stop.