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Mikey McBryan, general manager at Buffalo Airways, stars on Ice Pilots NWT. (Dave Brosha For The Globe and Mail)
Mikey McBryan, general manager at Buffalo Airways, stars on Ice Pilots NWT. (Dave Brosha For The Globe and Mail)

My Car

Ice Pilot Mikey McBryan loves his cool cars Add to ...

Mikey McBryan

  • Professions: Stars in Ice Pilots NWT on History Canada; general manager of Buffalo Airways
  • Cars: 1973 Mercury Montego GT, 1972 Plymouth Barracuda, 1971 Chevrolet Camaro

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Mikey McBryan – featured on History Television’s smash reality series, Ice Pilots NWT – is the general manager of the maverick arctic airline, Buffalo Airways.

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His life has revolved around airplanes since he was a kid thanks to his dad, Joe McBryan, who founded the business back in 1970. But there’s more to Mikey than planes and open skies. He’s an avid classic car enthusiast who owns several vintage vehicles.

You’re only 30 and many of your cars are older than you. Where did this love of classics come from?

The whole car stuff comes from my father who probably has about 220 cars. He’s really into the old ’40s and ’50s Flathead Fords. In the hangar, we have a James Dean replica 1949 Merc, a 1951 Chopped Merc, which was built in 1982, and a 1940 Ford Coupe that is all original, unrestored from Edmonton that looks like almost the day it came out of the showroom.

Cars are huge and they never get to be talked about on television because they’re not an airplane. It’s a huge elephant in the room.

What did you spend your first pay cheque on?

When I turned 14 – my first real job working for Buffalo that I actually got a decent pay cheque – I blew it all on a 351 Windsor block that’s actually bored out to 392 for Motorsport. I spent my first $4,500 on that engine. It’s in an ’80 Mustang GT sitting in the hangar in Red Deer, Alberta, and to this day I still haven’t fired it up.

Do you share the same philosophy about planes as cars – classic cars are better than modern cars?

Yeah. I have a 2011 Super Duty truck with no options and roll-down windows so nothing would break. Its bare bones and no matter rain or snow I drive that and the Camaro. The Camaro is bright friggin’ green with black racing stripes and everyone knows it’s me. And I’m not even a Chevy fan. I’ve always been a Ford diehard. But the moment I saw that car I traded my buddy Cory Dodd, who is a mechanic and on the show, I traded him straight across for my 2005 Hemi Ram Sport truck.

My ’73 Montego is right out of Mad Max. It’s flat black with a Super Cobra Jet 460 with one seat in it. I don’t even have a passenger seat in it – no interior. The thing is just nuts. I bought the ’72 Barracuda and it sat for 13 years. I fired it up and my brother drove it every single day this year. We didn’t even check the oil. We’re slowly going to fix that one up. The one thing I really like is being able to drive my cars. I’m a driver 10 times more than fixing because the fixing is not my forte as much as my brother, Rod, who is a master at it.

Who taught you to drive – your dad or your brother?

My first time driving was a 1979 Ford Ranger. We still have it around. I smoked the ditch right in front of my house when I was about 10. Driving was what we did. There was always a lot of driving around the hangar. And I was always getting in trouble since day one from it.

When I turned 15, I stole my brother’s truck a year before you’re supposed to have your licence. I drove the truck for years. It was a 1990 F-150 2WD with a five-speed in it. That was my daily driver all through high school. Bare bones, roll down windows, the whole nine yards. For some reason, I owed him money and he repo-ed the truck back. And that’s his daily driver now. He drives my high school truck every day.

What was your first car?

A ’73 Montego GT. It’s the most ugly car ever. It’s a Torino-based car. I’ve only seen three of them in my life and I’ve owned two of them. It looks like a station wagon had sex with a Torino. It’s so ugly, but it had a 320 Cleveland Cobra Jet in it. I took that out and put the 460 out of my Lincoln and then I put all 429 Super Cobra Jet parts on. Everything I had went into that.

I was originally an aircraft mechanic doing work on firefighting airplanes. Every dollar went into that car. I just painted it flat black and its sitting in the hangar in Red Deer. It needs a bunch of work to it. I have $20,000-$30,000 into it. If someone looked at it, they’d be like, ‘I’ll give you $2,500.’ But I could never sell it. I have too much time, effort, and love into it.

The interview has been edited and condensed

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