Some restoration shops are in it for both fun and profit. But Angel’s Garage has a higher calling, as implied by its name. You see, Mark and Angela Babala not only restore all sorts of cars, but also donate their time and energy to raise money for charities such as PeaceJam, which mentors youth leaders to facilitate changing the world.
Angel’s Garage is the real-life story of a Midwest married couple who ran a mom-and-pop shop for several years (formerly named MAB Motors). They fixed up and restored cars for casinos, but decided to pack their bags and move their operation to sunny Southern California, near Barstow. From this remote location, they somehow got involved with celebrities and charities.
With some hustle and elbow grease, Mark and Angela worked the magic of celebrities to help push, move and endorse their high-desert operation. They even landed their own TV show, named after their company, which aired on the high desert’s WKVVB Channel 33.
“The show is about Mark and me, how we build cars for stars and once a year give away a car,” Angela explains. “We have the ups and downs of a husband-and-wife business. And we have celebrities stop by and each episode is real life, not scripted.” The likes of multi-Grammy Award winners such as Patti Labelle and Sir Barry Alan Crompton Gibb (of the Bee Gees) have lent their star power to the show.
“Patti Labelle’s band does the score for our show,” Angela notes. “And Patti helped get awareness out with posts and doing PR for the charity cars that we have done in the past.” In addition, comedy legend Tommy Chong had his 1968 Corvette restored by Angel’s Garage. Once done, a celeb’s project empowers their charity work. “Mark and I have been working together for 13 years and he and I donate one car a year after doing a car for a star,” Angela explains. “That allows us to make a donation, as we believe that we have to do our part in this world.”
With all this Hollywood glam and glitter on tap, the glittery paint job on the ’68 Corvette raffle car makes sense. But it wasn’t always that shade of shiny Hologram Chameleon green. The backstory of the car is the stuff of barn finds and restoration headaches to which so many other Corvette owners can relate.
Angela found the ’68 Corvette online, back in Connecticut, and the couple bought it sight unseen. About all they knew was that it had a 327/350 L79 engine, backed by 4-speed. The original paint was a much more subdued British Racing Green, and then later it was repainted with a more patriotic series of colors: red, blue and lastly, white.
In hindsight, even with the best intentions, it was not such a great idea to pay for the car before checking it out. That’s because a few surprises awaited them once it was delivered across country. There were no pedals for the gas or brake, chipped paint, it had been in an accident and the electrical system was on life support. And that was just the beginning.
Mark explains how it all went down, “Well, we open the doors and what’s that smell?” he wondered out loud. They decided to pull out the carpet, door panels, and console and still found no source of the fetid odor. Then he took out the heater core and discovered the source. “We found a mouse condo,” he recalls. “Complete with peanut shells, acorns, straw, sunflower seed shells, etc.” Yeesh. So Mark set to work, grabbing masks, gloves, scraping tools, vacuum, disinfectant, bleach, and so on. Not to mention a strong stomach, plus loads of persistence and patience.
Even after getting the heater unit cleaned and smelling fresh, there was still a foul aura surrounding the car. “All right, let’s lift the car,” Mark recalled saying. “Well, we see rusted frame rails with holes, so out comes the torches, saws, and welders.” Plus his wife’s compact makeup mirror—when she’s not looking. He proceeded to attach it to a coat hanger, as it makes a good tool for checking out the top and sides of the frame for rust and damage, since the body was not being removed.
Mark shared another useful tip from doing repairs on the frame, “When welding, make sure to use a copper spoon behind the metal for a better backside with less finishing time and effort,” he says. “I like to use a flat piece of copper about 1/8th-inch thick, which can be bent or shaped for accessibility in hard-to-reach places.”
We found a mouse condo… Complete with peanut shells, acorns, straw, sunflower seed shells, etc. – Mark Babala
In addition, he always makes sure to use a weld-through primer. It’s a zinc-based product that is applied to the mating surfaces prior to welding (so that when the weld is performed, the zinc liquefies and flows into the weld pool, protecting the weld from corrosion). Also, he adds a rust-erosion chemical, Evapo-Rust, to stop rusting and treat any surface rust. “Once those are done cleaning the metal,” he says, “a cardboard or paper plate can be used to draw out a template for pieces of metal to be fabbed from scratch and welded on.” Or at least that was what he hoped to do on this particular project.
Mark explains, “So as I’m welding, sniff-sniff, what’s that smell?” Oh no, the frame is smoking big time down the way, and he follows the path to the smoke. Then he finds even more nuts, straw, and bedding for the mice mansion. To clear it out, Mark tapes over the access holes on the frame and leaves one hole open at the front of the rail for compressed air to blow through, and attaches a vacuum at the other end of the rail. This improvised wind tunnel quickly blasted out all of the remaining rodent debris and droppings. Mark then proceeded to weld the fabricated pieces into the frame.
Once the frame was completed, the bearings in the steering column went south, and he discovered that the body mounts were rusted out as well. There were a few other issues, as different versions of the 1968 production came down the production line. This means the earlier ones have fewer available parts. Money was also tight on this build, since Corvettes are more expensive than the many Mustangs Angel’s Garage had done in the past. So, Mark decided to take the old, rusted mounts off and fab new ones. He then riveted them back on and they looked just like ones the car had when new.
He does all structural, welding, engine build, and suspension work—the tough stuff, and Angela handles the bodywork, painting of the engine, and interior upholstery. It was a build that tested both Mark and Angela’s fortitude and dedication. When he took off the oil pan, there were pieces of metal and chunks of the plastic timing gear, which meant tearing into the engine to install a new, more durable timing chain and gear. With new carpet, seats, and refurbishing everything possible, the project was completed inside with parts from Corvette Pacifica and Corvette America. Then Mark sprayed on the green hue with Pearl Hologram paint while Muskegon Brake had the hubs sent to them for final fitment.
Completed For A Cause
“We decided to give this car to PeaceJam and hope to raise a lot of money,” Angela says. “This Corvette is called the #VehicleforPeace.” They have also done a 1963 Corvette convertible and a 1976 Corvette, but the 1968 was the most daunting project, hands down. Summing up the project, “This car was a basket case,” Mark admits. “Yet we punched through.”
The ‘68 Corvette is currently at Century Chevrolet in Broomfield, Colorado. The family-owned dealership strives to be a leader in the community. To help champion that effort, Century partners with non-profits, leaders, and creatives who share its vision to advance their community, like the Broomfield Council on the Arts and Humanities, Downtown Louisville Street Faire, and the Good Times Corvette Club.
All told, this Corvette project was a labor of love for a worthy charity. And Angel’s Garage certainly earned its wings. Raffle tickets can be purchased HERE for $10 each until December 8, 2018. Soon after, someone will be the lucky recipient of all the hard work and late nights invested by Mark and Angela and will have the opportunity to drive this first-year shark on a daily basis.