Semi-retired car mechanic still passionate about cars at 68

Born in a small town 500 kilometers from Sydney, Australia, and coming to Canada in 1967, John Cattle was fascinated with cars right from the beginning.

Now 68 years old and working as a semi-retired car mechanic, Cattle’s face is framed by glasses and a trim white beard.

By nature, everything Cattle does is reserved. His sentences are kept short. His voice quiet.

Only when you see his eyes does it become clear that he’s simply humble. Modest.

It’s hard to believe at first glance that at one point Cattle raced rally cars for 18 years.

“I guess you could call me a car nut,” Cattle said. “Don’t know what the word is. Excited? My whole life is cars and it has been ever since I was a little lad.”

Produced by David Goldenstein

It certainly starts to make sense though, as his face animated when he started discussing his passion.

Starting out as a television technician, Cattle fell in love with tinkering with machines.

Before long he became a mechanic, simultaneously building cars and bringing them out to rally competitions.

To fund his passion for racing, Cattle owned a shop named Autotech, which had to be shut down at the end of the 80s due to the poor economy.

With a particular liking for German cars, the majority of Cattle’s races were done with custom-built Porsches.

“Porsches and Audis especially,” Cattle said. “They last and are well built. They last 24 hour races and they win, whereas other makes are always struggling to even finish the race. It boils down to the quality of the engineering that I like.”

Rebuilding race cars

Involved in some engineering of his own, Cattle is working on two Porsches out of his home garage at the moment.

To turn former street machines into race cars, Cattle fully strips them down in order to expose their metal frames where he can then repair aging rust.

From there, it’s a matter of restoring the car from the ground up, adding a fresh coat of paint, replacing some older parts, and adding new door seals and the like.

Cattle currently lives with his wife Joan King.

Their house is older than most, but gives off tremendous character.

Having raced in many competitions, Cattle has won his fair share of trophies driving his preferred car make – Porsche.

Photo by David Goldenstein

Slanted walls give the building a unique architecture you’re not likely to find elsewhere in the city.

Inside, a homegrown warmth resonates, a fireplace and chimney break through the center of the living room reaching to the top of the high ceiling.

Outside, old cars are practically littered across the property. Dozens of vehicles sit parked behind the house and garage, all different shapes, sizes and colours.

Though seemingly no longer operational, you can tell every single one had its moment of glory.

They nicely decorate Cattle’s home, providing a timeless feel of history.

The entire aesthetic of the place is inviting and kind. Unsurprisingly, the property is quiet and peaceful, much like Cattle himself.

A passion for cars

Not one to say any different, Terry Brown is familiar with Cattle’s quiet nature.

Having met on the set of AMC’s Hell on Wheels working as background extras, both men had plenty of time to get to know one another.

“He’s very reserved, and with John, you have to peel him back,” Brown said. “Once you get to know him a little better, you discover all the interesting avenues to who he is, even though he shows them off in his own John way.”

Cattle’s wife was pleasantly surprised with his passion when the two first met and has been supportive ever since.

“I have two boys and they were absolutely thrilled when I met John,” King said.

“What more could you ask than that? He does it for the fun and it’s with a good group of people.”

Though his passion for cars has been maintained throughout his life, Cattle finds this won’t change anytime soon.

“In about five years? I’ll still love driving performance cars and will hopefully still be working on them.”

dgoldenstein@cjournal.ca