Chris Desrochers was 13 years old the day he stood on his neighbours property and helped pull an old wreck from the tall grass. It was red and brown with rust, the head lights broken, doors crinkled, and tires flat. They pulled her up on the flat that morning where they could get a look at what she was gonna need. What a wreck Chris thought to himself as he looked inside at her rotted out interior. He ran his hand over the fenders and stuck his fingers throught the holes in her rusted out quarters. She was beautiful he thought to himself. She... was a 56 Chevy!
Chris had a predisposition for making things run and through his teen years he worked on friends dirt bikes in his Dad's garage. At school Chris excelled academically and he often surpassed the expectations of his shop teachers. Chris had intentions of pursuing a career in robotix after graduation and at 19 had secured a position at the local cycle shop in Prince George. It was there that he was headed the morning a black Chevy S 10 turned left infront of his motorcycle. A unexpected and random event. One that would change the shape of his future.
Chris met with both mental and physical challenges through his rehabalitation. It was through his family's support that Chris gradually regained his independence and with that found himself venturing out into his own shop. Engines became therapeutic and his shop became an environment that would stimulate him. For Chris the question in his mind was no longer why won't it run, but instead, what do I do to make it run!
Through the 90's Chris's knowledge of engines grew and so did his business. Chris found himself in a joint venture with older brother Jules and together they were running North Country Cycles. The brothers were buying salvaged parts and building dirt bikes up until 2001 when they made an unusual purchase, five salvaged snowmobiles. It was this $400.00 dollar investment that returned them $1500.00 dollars on one machine. That got the boys attention. They realized their was money to be made with sleds and that got them excited.That spring Chris and Jules piled up every bit of cycle salvage they owned. They started a bidding war between the 2 remaining salvage companies, they sold their inventory for the best dollar they could get and they started a new venture that would later come to be known as Twisted Tunnels.
With the creation of Twisted Tunnels the pair got into hill climbing. Its a sport that involves running high powered snow machines up vertical slopes on either a timed course or in an attempt to make the highest vertical mark on the hill. They wanted to race but they knew they couldn't just show up with some old junker they'd thrown together. They lacked experience and their knowledge of the sport was somewhat naive so they went to Smithers to watch a sanctioned hill climb... and to see what the competition was like. The question was what did they have to build to be competitive?
Upon their return from Smithers the boys went to work building a machine that they believed could place in the top 3. They built their own chassis out of chrome molly tube stock and added other light weight parts to reduce weight. They used a Polaris power plant that Chris had made some " SPECIAL" modifications to and just 2 short weeks later they had built a machine that was ready to race at Sun Peeks. Twisted Tunnels didn't place in the top 3 that race like they had hoped. In fact they didn't place at all. Their Mod suffered engine failure on its final run up the mountain. The catastrophe took them out of the standings and dropped them to last place. What's important to note is had the head gasket on Chris's engine not failed that day Twisted Tunnels would have been on the podium and finished 3rd place over all.
Over the next several years Twisted Tunnels' chassises would gain popularity and even more so appear on the US market. They would be used in competition at the world championship hill climbs in Jackson Hole Wyoming, and Twisted Tunnels would receive recognition from the Big 4 (Polars, Bombardier, Arctic Cat, and Yamaha) for the strength, performance, and design of their chassises. Twisted Tunnels would give Chris Desrochers the fabrication skills he needed to pursue future aspirations.
As Twisted Tunnels met with success on the racing circuit so to were the goals Chris and Jules had set for the company. Twisted Tunnels had outperformed the expectations of its 2 owners and the pair were looking for a new challenge. The hillclimb circuit in British Columbia was breaking down internally and that meant any team that wanted to keep racing would have to do so across the border in the United States. This would be a serious commitment for Chris and Jules. They would have to commit to racing 9 of 11 events and they would have to drive 2000 miles to compete. Racing in the USA would also mean the additional expense of accommodations as well as extended periods away from family. Their intent would be simple. To compete at the professional level on the U.S. Pro Hill Climb Circuit and to complete the year. Over the next 3 years Chris and Jules would form a partnership with Arctic Cat Racing, they would team up with a factory rider from Polaris, and they would establish themselves in the USA as a professional race team. They would rebrand themselves and Rebel Racing would compete in the USA for 2 complete seasons.
Through the racing season Chris was focused on the task at hand; winning races!
But in the spring of 2008 the brothers had to discuss the operating cost of their race team. Racing costs money and the fact that Rebel Racing was traveling 18hrs to make race dates was too much. They had met their mandate for two consecutive years. Their commitment to Arctic Cat Racing had been fulfilled and they had exceeded their own expectations. Chris and Jules dissolved Rebel Racing in May of 2008 and separate interests led them to unrelated ventures. Chris again found himself at home in his shop with an eagerness to be occupied.
It was Byron, a client of Twisted Tunnel that fueled Chris Desrochers next endeavor. Byron had been stopping by the shop talking cars. Old cars to be specific. Byron was a car enthusiast who's appreciation for quality workmanship had brought him to Chris's shop years earlier for a custom snowmobile. Byron... owned a 55' Chevy!
Stories were numerous when Byron visited and Chris' desire to own one of those old cars was quickly rekindled. Having made several attempts to avert Byrons' prodding in the past, Chris finally gave in to the incessant story telling that summer. Chris was no longer concerned with where he would store the car, or how much space it would take up in his shop. He didn't even care weather it was a 55,56 or 57. The only thing he was focused on now was getting one.
Chris looked for the ideal car and his search took him all the way to Saskatchewan. There in a derelict field he found his 55 Chevy. He purchased it from a farmer and trailered it home. For next 11 months Chris spent his time diligently working in his shop. The 55 became his obsession and expenditures quickly got out of control. "I out classed myself with my 55", Chris admits. "That was my dream car since I was 13yrs old and I got a little excited. It's ridiculous the amount of work I did to it but that's always the way with the first one."
That was 2008. "I learned a lot from my 55," Chris said. "Where to save time, where to invest more time, most importantly how to make a car affordable to a client." Chris now has 3 employees and his new 2400sq ft. shop is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2011. Chris also has 3 new builds all in various stages of restoration.
I asked Chris if he was planning to show his work at any car shows when he has them completed. This is what he said:
"I don't know that I want to go to the annual show and shine and just sort of try to fit in. Thats not really me. I think the next car show I go to I might just take 3 or 4 cars with me. You know, make a nice display of things. Put up a few new banners... maybe even a nice big race trailer.
One that says REBEL RESTORATIONS on it. What do ya think! "