“I don’t want to talk about your Ferrari.”
I let that statement hang a little bit, wondering if by uttering it I had simultaneously offended my interviewee and taken my last commission for Speedhunters.
After all, why wouldn’t I want to talk about Mike Burroughs’ latest build? It is quite unlike any prancing horse ever built, and certainly the precursor to any similar that may follow. My reasoning for not wanting to discuss what could be considered groundbreaking is rather simple: the Honda-powered 308 GTBi project is neither the first, nor last, of the truly unique cars to roll out of StanceWorks Garage.
Mike has been shocking the automotive community for some time now. It would be insulting to call writing about his work old hat, but anyone can write solely about his cars. I should know, I’m of the many to have done it before.
Both Rusty Slammington and Mike’s Model A are known to a wide breadth of automotive enthusiasts. His prior hot rod, a BMW-powered Ford, still raises as many eyebrows today as it did with it was first built in 2013.
Builds with the S/W insignia consistently cause fevered debate. Yet, as Mike would mention repeatedly during our conversation, while controversy surrounds nearly every car he’s touched, controversy has never been the reason for their creation. Passion, a true uninhibited passion for automotive culture – refreshingly the culture at an all-encompassing level – is what drives his every decision.
Mentally, he continuously breaks cars down into their key components and rearranges them differently.
Mike’s mind is full of outside-of-the-box applications for existing auto parts. I don’t believe this to be exaggeration when I say his best project will always be his next project.
“I don’t have any other hobbies,” Mike said, a statement that might be sad to hear had it not been followed cheerfully by “it’s cars 24/7; I love it.”
His passion is nearly all-consuming (he does make times for his friends, girlfriend and his dog Chloe), but Mike wouldn’t have had his life shake out any other way.
On the topic of life, plenty has changed for Mike since we last spoke in 2019. During that interview he revealed a few things: the location of Rusty (he’s in a museum, public knowledge now, but then it was secret), as well as the build’s plight (Rusty became unusable for Mike in its final form).
At that time he also also hinted at the fact that he would be opening a shop of his own – Protomachine – with Riley Stair, a man cut from similar cloth.
Riley built the car you see above.
The two of them working together under the same roof seemed like a match made in heaven. Looking at what they accomplished it indeed was the perfect intersection of creativity and fabrication, until it wasn’t.
Two years into the gig clarity hit Mike like a brick; he didn’t actually want to build cars for other people. “I didn’t want to be 50 years old and still working on someone’s roll cage… something had to change,” he says.
If Mike was going to be awkwardly twisted and contorted within the confines of any vehicle, it had to be one he owned. More decisively, it had to be something he had complete creative control over. Calling Mike a control freak would be hyperbole, but he very clearly has a lot of ideas that would be hard sells to anyone else.
Despite having a great relationship with Riley and months of work lined up, in the end the same passion that drove Mike to start Protomachine pulled him away.
Vision refocused, Riley and Mike shook hands and Protomachine came to an end. The time they spent working together helped them both realize what their next chapter needed to be and the split was on both mutual and good terms. Today Riley has a new fabrication shop, and Mike fell back on another vocation he just so happens to be extremely adept at: content creation.
“Unfortunately, as you know, long-form written content isn’t what it used to be,” Mike remarked. Of course I do know this; the number of outlets that celebrate written content dwindles by the day. I consider myself very fortunate to write for the some of the few still standing tall.
Before I could spend much time in self pity, Mike continued: “I had to go back to square one and figure out how I could continue to build the cars I want, and eat.”
YouTube has been a successful platform for many car enthusiasts, and today there’s endless amounts of content available beside that red play icon. The platform makes it easy enough for anyone to throw their hat into the ring.
However, Mike’s goal wasn’t simply to create ‘eyeball fodder’ as he calls it. Nor did he want to churn out short-lived shock value content wrapped in heavy type stroke (thank whichever deity you prefer). Mike wanted to take his enthusiasm for automobiles, wrap it in the StanceWorks aesthetic, and present it to the world as episodic content.
The Ferrari might currently be the main topic of his YouTube adventures, but rest assured the car would have existed regardless. It would also likely be done by now had it not been for the video aspect. “I’m working at about a third of my speed documenting it on YouTube,” Mike says describing his day-to-day.
“I had to find some fulfillment in that process [of making videos] as well or I couldn’t do it. My fulfillment comes from capturing it in the best way I possibly can.”
Of course, watching his channel grow tremendously has also become a source of pride.
Releasing high quality video content twice a week requires a fairly regimented schedule. Mike works seven days a week – five from the shop and two at home.
Friday through Sunday are spent working and filming. Monday is a full day of editing, then the publish button is hit. Work recommences on Tuesday and continues until Wednesday afternoon when editing begins again until early morning Thursday. Publish is then hit for a second time. At this point Mike generally takes a small break, before starting the process all over again on Friday.
Just listening to this routine sounds exhausting. The devotion is admirable and Mike’s freedom to create is enviable. Outwardly it might seem as though things fall into his lap, but Mike has worked very hard for the opportunities that cross his path.
As Mike wades further into the YouTube ocean, he’s consistently relied on his existing partners to make the Ferrari a reality. As of right now, it’s destined to appear in long-time partner H&R Springs’ booth at the 2021 SEMA Show.
Regardless of the number of eyeballs on the project, Mike has paid for a large majority of the parts used. “I don’t want to take something just because it is free; integrity is far more important than a budget,” Mike says in regard to offerings that don’t align with his vision. Respectable to say the least.
It was around this point in the conversation that Chloe made herself known. “Excuse me, someone’s at my door,” Mike said. While he was gone I took a moment to check StanceWorks.com. Mike was being modest with the recollection of his days; surprisingly he still manages to update his website regularly as well.
It truly is cars all the time with Mike. Regardless of the medium, he’s going to share his passion as best he can.
When Mike returned, for a period we just talked to talk. We conversed about the forum era we both grew up in of course, and I briefly mentioned his friendship with Joey Lee from The Chronicles, another content creator I hold in high regard. As it turns out, they’ve been friends for some time now, but now that Mike has a Honda-powered product in the garage there’s a bit more crossover in their respective brand interests.
We also briefly dabbled in politics – something I rarely do given its volatile nature – but Mike’s sentiments aligned with my own and he shared just the right amount. He succinctly wrapped up his views regarding being occasionally outspoken as this: “If you have an audience you have an obligation to do what you can to make the world a bit better.”
It’s a refreshing take, and I’m honestly so impressed Mike still has so much positive energy for everything does, that I bring up the topic of potential burnout.
“Burnout is very real, but I’m fortunate to mostly avoid it.” I needed to know how, so I continued that line of questioning.
“Some days things don’t click, so I put the tools down and go home,” he says.
That seems somewhat easier said then done when this is all your bread and butter, and after a pause Mike elaborated a little more. “I stay focused on my dreams… the less you want the easier it is to get burned out. I put my heart in front of both logic and my wallet.”
Financial planners and guidance counselors would probably disagree with the above statement, but having watched everything Mike has accomplished since 2009, I would say he’s got the passion as a profession thing figured out in a way so many of us only wish we had.
Photos by Keiron Berndt