As the day comes to an end, Steveston Motor Co. owner Phil Ogilvie takes a step back to inspect his work. His co-owner, Marco Lii, approaches him with some interior design ideas. Though far from complete, the partially restored 1959 Mini Cooper is starting to take shape.
Steveston Motor Co. specializes in restoring and customizing classic Mini Coopers for clients. They also specialize in selling Mini Cooper parts and other merchandise. What started as just a part time side business born from a passion, has turned into a full time job for both Ogilvie and Lii.
Ogilvie and his friend Niko Myyrä founded the company in 2016. The two originally worked in carpeting, but both had a passion for old cars, specifically the Mini Cooper. Ogilvie came up with the idea for the business after buying his first Mini Cooper.
“For me, it was a bit on a whim that I bought a Mini. Once I got it, I was like, ‘Oh this car is pretty cool,’ and I started to make [modifications] to it, … and it went from there. It wasn’t a plan, it was out of passion for the car,” Ogilvie says
Lii discovered they had a shared passion for Mini Coopers after meeting Oligvie and Myyrä at the All British Field Meet, an all-British car event. Ogilvie started working at the shop full-time in 2017, and Lii joined full-time in 2019.
When Lii initially met Ogilvie, the mentality around restoring Mini Coopers was different from what it is today. It was all about rebuilding a car and making it look as close as possible to the original.
“It was not like the traditional way of classic car ownership where you go to a car show, and they want to do everything perfectly like a factory. I was very much into modifying, and so was Phil,” Lii says.
Due to this passion, the cars were restored to mostly look like the classics on the outside, but were upgraded substantially under the hood.
“We’ve done anything from classic Minis [with] very normal restorations and some [modifications]. We’ve done a lot of Honda swaps [so] we’ve put Honda engines [in these cars], that’s kind of our bread and butter,” Ogilvie says.
However, the company is more than just a business to Ogilvie and Lii.
“It’s about quitting our jobs to do something that we love, the business comes after. We show [this passion] to the world and people react, and they want to support us with their business,” Lii says.
Though the process of restoration may seem daunting, Ogilvie says the hobby is fulfilling. It’s also uncomplicated to learn these days thanks to YouTube. For people wanting to get into customizing cars, Ogilvie says the Mini Cooper is a great place to start.
“I think that the Mini is a great car, especially to start learning to work on cars, because they are so simple, … [but] they are still complicated and weird enough to be interesting,” he says.
“Everything is available for them, so you’re not stuck looking for parts, there’s a wealth of information online. In the long run, you can nerd out about them a lot.”
Lii says Steveston Motor Co. offers a lesson to everyone.
“If you find something that you like, go after it. If you’re passionate about something, someone else will notice it and they will support you.”