Shawn Driver learned how to weld as a 14-year-old boy on his family’s Swift Current, Saskatchewan farm.
“On the farm, you couldn’t get someone else to make you a part or repair equipment. You did it yourself,” recalls Driver.
“That’s the way we still operate sometimes – a lot of times – when we are working on the cars here at the shop.”
Driver’s current projects include work on a 1972 Dodge Dart (the Dirty Dart), a legendary car that won the 2017 drag week event.
“This is a very special car, and it’s really an honour to be asked to work on it,” Driver says.
He’s also working on a 1953 Studebaker that he’s modified with a 880 twin turbos. It’s a car he’ll be driving at the Bonneville Salt Flats Speed Week event in late summer.
“I was born driving, and I’m going to be chasing that 300 mph mark. I’ve gotten it up to 249 mph in the past, but I think we can go faster now,” says Driver, his face breaking into a grin.
But beyond fast cars, Driver has a passion for the classics.
“My dream is to open up a 1950s-style car lot, and the only rule will be that every car on the lot has to be older than me,” he says.
That passion is obvious as one wanders through the buildings at Driver’s Welding, located at 5536 Sooke Rd. In the main shop, a 1933 Dodge Humpback truck hangs from the ceiling, awaiting its turn for complete restoration. On the hoist sits a 1962 Chevy – his daughter’s car.
“She comes out and works on it and she just loves it,” says Driver, obviously pleased with his daughter’s shared passion for classic cars.
In another building, an all-steel 1934 Ford is in the middle of its renewal and in yet another, a 1939 truck is getting a new lease on life.
“We chopped the roof on this one, and we’re putting white oak in the box. We also rewired it, and it’ll have automatic doors that can be operated remotely. It’s quite the truck,” Driver says.
There are other classic motor vehicles as well, including a 1915 Harley Davidson, a Second World War parachute motorbike used in the Normandy invasion, a “snow bike” and more.
Driver first came to Sooke because he had family here and his pilgrimages to the West Coast built a love for the place that he always assumed would be his home.
When he arrived in Sooke, he built himself a mobile welding platform and went to work,
“We found this parcel of land and the spot where my main shop is now used to be the site of an old chicken barn. We had all kinds of animals here – llamas, donkeys, pigs, chickens and cows. I wanted my family to grow up surrounded by animals, just like I was,” Driver says.
But the animals gradually gave way to the expanded welding business, although it’s perhaps a testament to Driver’s love of the animals is that Oatsie, his last cow, is still boarded nearby, never sold.
“She gave me 12 calves, I couldn’t just get rid of her. She’s in retirement now,” says Driver with a sheepish laugh.
And despite some drama with the municipality and some neighbours who object to his business activities, Driver says that he’s passionate about Sooke.
“We do what we can to help, always have. We helped construct the lighthouse at the museum, built the Christmas tree in the roundabout, built the Lions club sign on the highway and help out with the school welding program when we can,” Driver says.
As he spoke, the phone rang. It was the Shell station across the highway asking if he could help a woman who had broken her key in a locking gas cap. Driver took a moment and sent one of his staff to take care of the problem, noting that there wouldn’t be a charge.
“I grew up in a small town and we always give back to the community; that’s how I was raised,” he says when he returned.
But Driver’s real hope is that he can contribute to Sooke by becoming a destination that’s associated with classic cars.
“We already conduct tours for people from all over and if we were able to get that lot built, I can see people coming here to check out the cars, and then staying in Sooke to have a meal, visit the museum or just check out the town. It would be a way that we could really contribute to building an attraction to bring people here.”