Sakowski Motors History
Sakowski Motors Classic Car and Motorcycle repair and Sales History
About Wil Sakowski / Sakowski Motors / Ride Free
#History in progress
Wil Sakowski started off in the 1980’s modifying his go carts and whatever he could get a hold of. In high school I scored a 1974 Bronco which I worked on and modified.
In 1989 started working for a place called Royal Windyne in Richmond, VA. A private car collection of about 35 cars and an independent dealership. Located hidden away in an old indoor parking garage from the 1940’s in the then crime ridden downtown Richmond. One of the first things I did was work on a restored award winning Aston Martin DB4. My friend Patrick and I would have 2 cars maintained, detailed, ready, and running everyday for the owner of the business in his parking space at the end of his day. His main business was next door, where they modified and sold commemorative firearms. He would walk outside at 5pm and choose which car to drive home. Aston Martin or XKE 12 cyl? Maybe a drag race prepped Sunbeam Tiger or modified Pantera? An old American classic or Triumph Bonneville chopper? This was the start / spark if you think about it of this whole journey…
The owner, Bob, would let us take the cars out on dates! We were only 18 driving these cars! It was amazing. We loved to pull up next to people in a vintage Jaguar, my friend with a punk rock mohawk before most people had ever seen this before, and me not looking so refined… and roll the window down and ask if the people next to us had any Grey Poupon.
I had my own shop in the corner of this collection that I ran nights and weekends, and Sakowski Motors has been going strong since.
I slowly and with many errors and tribulations started learning my craft and skills as a welder, fabricator, mechanic, painter, and bodyman. Painting, repairing and building daily drivers to show quality custom bikes and cars as a 1 man operation. I would do my shop during the day and at nights I would be a bouncer at the local punk rock music club and venue that had about every band at the time come through town. I would often work on the band vans as they were on their US tour and get paid in cash for parts, and merchandise for labor. And at times travel for a few cities with the bands afterwards. It was a fun time for sure. Around this time I was riding around on my GSXR 750 and road racing it at the track on occasion. I was also restoring, modifying, and racing my 1967 black Camaro which could pull a front wheel off the ground and was my daily driver. When I blew the big block engine up with nitrous oxide, I built a bigger and stronger engine. I spent most every weekend at the 1/4 mile local drag strip testing what work I had done the previous week. In my spare time, almost daily I was training full contact karate and doing a little boxing for many years.
In 1995 I was looking to move into a larger shop, but I didn’t have the $400 for the first month’s rent. Danny at Coastal Towing gave me the first month rent free to get me into a section of his complex and also let me borrow tools I did not yet have, and taught me to weld correctly. I also picked up much info as they built 18 wheel tow trucks. Much appreciated! In that shop I had a few employees. In 1998 I took the big plunge and went from craftsman to business man. I had no idea what I was doing at the time and what I was getting into. Sakowski Motors moved into a 10,000 square foot building: Late model and classic paint and collision repair from heavy hits and rollovers to repaints. A lot of the body and paint work we did was for mechanic shops that worked on late model Mercedes, BMW, and Porsches. But we would also do the restoration work on those classic models also. They sent me all of their customers’ body and paint work for years until I moved to California in 2000. Thanks Import Autohaus!
We also did all the body and paint repairs for the Ducati Motorcycle Dealer, lots of old BMW bikes and vespas… and some Harleys…. as well as mechanical work on American Classics and customization and restoration of these. I was also going to and learning how to buy and sell at the car auctions, and wholesaling cars to dealers also. We also did general mechanical work on people’s late models daily drivers.
In 2000 when I moved to Los Angeles, California, I took a break from being a large shop that was about the size of a city block, where I mostly ran the business. And learned about running businesses, to a 1 man operation again for a year or so. Painting custom Harleys for different motorcycle shops, doing some classic car work in my 1 stall shop, and working piece work at some classic car shops in Los Angeles. I also worked at a movie studio that specializes in movie cars. I pretty much just immersed myself in California hot rod culture and surfing. Going to the Paso Robles Car Show, Mooneyes Show, Grand National, and some other car event at least once a week, and going to The Derby and other places at night to see big bands, rockabilly, and swing music. Great times.
I heard about the So Cal Speed Shop in Pomona, California and called them up about getting a job there. So I put my photo album of work in my bookbag and drove my drag race street fighter 1977 KZ 1000 from around the cool climate of Venice beach area to the searing desert of Pomona in the summer. By the time I got there after splitting lanes for an hour or so… the bike and myself were about to melt. After an interview I was offered a job and was excited. But by the time I got back to the cooler temperature beach area after about 2 hours splitting lanes in afternoon traffic… I realized I would have to leave my morning surf sessions and odd friends by the beach behind and move to Pomona if I was to take the job. I decided to keep on my own odd path.
After about 2 years doing my own thing in LA, I decided to move back to Richmond, Virginia when I ran across a vintage farmhouse and farm for sale that was such a contrast to the LA sprawl. Sakowski Motors was buying and selling classic cars and motorcycles, and working on some classics. As well as wholesaling and retail selling some late model cars, and filling orders for classic car lovers all over the world, then shipping them worldwide.
But I couldn’t get that LA and California draw out of my heart and wanted to move back around 2004. To do so I needed to liquidate my cars for sale and get a chunk of money to be able to get set up in LA again. There was a winter storm approaching and about a few weeks left on my lease, so I sold all my car inventory at the auction and bought all the 4×4 jeeps I could, as an all in risk to go out on a high. The storm dumped so much record snow that most car lots were closed for about a week, except me. I lived day and night at the shop answering the phone and selling all my inventory which was now 4×4 Jeeps in a few days for top dollar. I opened up my large shop in the Hawthorne area of Los Angeles, while living in Venice. Great times. My real specialty became and has been taking good classic cars, and making them “real cars”. I do this for customers, and for my dealership. As well as for other places in the past like The Chequered Flag in Marina Del Rey. I go though the cars top to bottom, and make them reliable drivers again. Sometimes adding modern steering, disc brakes, seatbelts, and other things. This location was also the Ride Free Tours location for motorcycle tours. We also were doing picture cars, which is supplying classic cars and motorcycles for photo shoots, tv shows, Ice Cube videos, and more. I was also buying and selling some really neat cars as well as putting air ride suspension on Tommy Chongs daily driver so it would go up and down.. and working on his electric classic car, and selling Xhibit’s Mercedes SL500, and some of the cars from the movie The Fast and Furious. Most of the cars and motorcycles I was buying and selling were classics, but I always have something unusual and different going on. I also was selling cars for some really neat collections of cars, like selling P38 belly tanks and other cars for The Old Crow Speed Shop. I got an old Bonneville race car with a 1952 turbo charged Buick in it and joined The Rod Riders SCTA Bonneville race team with the goal of going 200 miles per hour at Bonneville and joining the 200 mph club. I didn’t get too far with that dream, but am looking forward to getting back to it in the near future.
My wife and I have driven classic cars all over the country that I have kept as our daily drivers for years. My first daughter came home from the hospital in Santa Monica in my wife’s daily driver, an updated 1950 Ford. And she drove this car on the LA Freeways with an infant and when she was pregnant. No breakdowns ever. We also drove this car cross country, and everywhere with no breakdowns since we kept it maintained by Sakowski Motors.
I visited the beach town of Wrightsville Beach / Wilmington, North Carolina and fell in love with the laid back lifestyle, the warm waves, vintage homes, and an amazing 6,000 square foot 1940’s warehouse. So we took off for more adventure and experiences. My second daughter came home from the hospital in a 1963 Oldsmobile 98 with the Ultra High Compression stock motor option. This was our 4 door daily driver since we had a larger family now. We enjoyed living there for a few years, but I wanted to put all my skills of buying and selling classics and motorcycles, and running a shop. And connect that to the growing Ride Free Motorcycle Tours business we owned also with a dream to move back to Los Angeles for the reason to start our own motorcycle rental fleet, but even more so to start a classic car rental fleet.
We did do this. I had a fleet of classic mustangs and vintage Cadillacs we were renting from Chicago to LA on Route 66, Seattle to Los Angeles, Vegas, San Francisco, and more. The 6,000 sq foot shop was right next to the LAX / Los Angeles Airport. It was a blast. We also had the hot rod shop, classic car sales, motorcycle sales, worldwide shipping, Ride Free Motorcycle Tour, and all going on at the same time. What a ride. After a few years we put the classic car rentals on hold, except for supplying classics for tv, magazines, etc… See the vintage land speed race car we organized for the cover of Esquire Magazine in the Picture Cars page on the website. We are still doing the RIDE FREE 2 week guided classic car tours around America, Route 66, and California. Where you drive a classic car we supply, or your own on an adventure of a lifetime. A well known production company made an episode featuring Sakowski Motors as a car show, and it was in the final running to be a show on The History Channel and Discovery Channel. We were supposedly the 2nd choice from being a national tv show. That is okay though, it documented a time and moment in our lives and shop. Lots of fun. The shop was in Ray Evernhams’s tv show Americarna where I sold him an historic Bonneville land speed Race Car ( the one at the top of this page ), and I have supplied other cars like a chopped 1934 Ford Hot Rod. Having stopped the classic car rentals I did not need to be in LA solely anymore. So I split time in Los Angeles and North Carolina, but I am often traveling across the country hunting classic cars and motorcycles, or on a Ride Free Motorcycle Tour.
I decided that I would be going back and forth my whole life between North Carolina and California. And in today’s virtual word, it is possible. People say where are you these days? North Carolina? California? I am pretty much on my phone with work and projects going on on each coast. When you call I might be on The Bear Tooth Highway by Yellowstone in Montana leading a guided motorcycle tour. Life is a journey. I pulled back from doing so much work in the shop that took my time, and just have a small shop now. But we will see how long that lasts being small… I stay busy doing all the things you see on this website, and doing the motorcycle tours and rentals Ride Free Tours, www.ridefree.com I meet really neat people around the world on tour or helping them with a rental, then I sell them a car or motorcycle and ship it to their country. Take some time and go through this website and see all the things we do. From doing classic car and motorcycle buying consulting, finding classics or motorcycles for people all over the world and USA and shipping them to them, selling a few classic cars and motorcycles, a little work in the shop, and our virtual classic car and motorcycle repair consulting where I help people virtually with their rides and act as a general contractor to get work done they need at shop near them that are partners with us. While giving advice and helping plan and decide and educate on options along the way. We help our great customers in Los Angeles and all over the world with all of the things above. I also dedicate part of a day weekly to give back and serve the community. Thanks for reading. I hope this gives you some insight into Sakowski Motors. I would love to help you however I can.