Holton Secret Lab

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photo by Gwen Shoemaker

When hot rod cowgirl met Wild Bill, sparks were bound to fly. The two met in Pendleton in 1976, when Bill Holton was on an Oregon road trip, driving an iridescent yellow 1966 Corvette Coupe with pearl flames. Marcy was driving her silver 1964 Corvette Coupe. “I couldn’t help but notice the cute redhead in another Corvette,” Bill said.

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photo by Gwen Shoemaker

Bill grew up in his father’s auto body shop in the small northeastern Oregon town of Vale, and painted his first car in 1968. At age 13, he traded a Harley-Davidson scooter for a 1941 Chevy truck. He continued to trade up. “My first really cool car was a 1967 Camaro,” said Bill. “Cars, engines and mechanics—it’s all I’ve really ever done. I spent every cent I had as a kid making a car go fast.”

After they married, Marcy and Bill settled near Helix, between Milton-Freewater and Pendleton. They farmed and ran cattle with her family. At the same time, they were building what would become Holton Secret Lab, their hot rod, muscle car and classic car restoration business.

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photo by Gwen Shoemaker

Despite its remote location on their “field of dreams,” the century-old family farm Marcy inherited, Holton Secret Lab is built on the pursuit of perfection. They often do what is called “resto-mods,” meaning the cars will look original but are completely modified to include state-of-the-art features that weren’t available when the cars rolled off the assembly line, such as GPS or air conditioning. “We design the cars however the customer wants them, and often that means Bill fabricates the parts himself,” said Marcy.

Bill’s workshop, in the property’s original farm shop, is lined with the hand tools he bought from his father. Bill crafted the rotisseries himself, which allow him to completely rotate a car’s frame or body to get at every nook and cranny. The cars he works on, such as the 1928 Dodge Coupe, 1957 Chevy Gasser, 1928 Oakland or 1952 custom Chevy pickup, don’t look like much on the rotisserie, but once Bill adds the bells, whistles and a custom paint job, they look completely original, or better.

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photo by Gwen Shoemaker

Marcy and Bill no longer have the Corvettes they had when they met. Marcy’s pride and joy today is a 1955 fully restored red Thunderbird named Lola. The cars they’ve built and restored repeatedly win awards at car shows. Bill recently completed a 1970 SS Chevelle that left the factory floor with a 454/360 horsepower engine. The owner wanted more power and asked Bill to ramp it up. The Chevelle now runs a 570 horsepower engine. When that engine revs, Bill and Marcy both smile. “There’s nothing that sounds as good as a car with a good cam and a little zoom,” she said. Bill added, “That’s  why I do what I do.”

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