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Published on 10/04/2018

Work and Play: A Look at GM Employee Mike LaBaere and his 1970 Chevelle

WORDS:

DAN HODGDON

PHOTOS:

ANDREW LARSON

In Michigan, working in the automotive world is a way of life for many, with generation after generation adding to their family’s lineage in the industry. Mike LaBaere’s family provides one example of this dedication. General Motors is the company they have served for decades.

 

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vehicles, events, parts, chevelle
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Published on 10/04/2018
vehicles, events, parts, chevelle
WORDS:

DAN HODGDON

PHOTOS:

ANDREW LARSON

Work and Play: A Look at GM Employee Mike LaBaere and his 1970 Chevelle

In Michigan, working in the automotive world is a way of life for many, with generation after generation adding to their family’s lineage in the industry. Mike LaBaere’s family provides one example of this dedication. General Motors is the company they have served for decades.

 

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“My dad worked here for 43 years, one of my brothers worked here, I work here, and my son and my nephew work here,” LaBaere says, who himself is in his 27th year at GM. “In our home it’s kind of the family business.”

LaBaere’s current title is Senior Manager/Global Math Leader - Electrical Design, meaning he oversees a design team responsible for all of the electrical content in the vehicles. This includes wiring components, brackets, modules and more.

“We’re responsible to package and make everything fit and make sure everything has the proper attachments,” LaBaere explains. 

Far from just being a GM employee though, LaBaere -- who lives in Shelby Township -- is also a diehard Chevrolet enthusiast. He fell in love with cars as a kid and has owned a number of GM vehicles over the years. Recently, his black cherry 1970 Chevelle has become a fixture during the cruising event on Woodward Avenue each August.

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LaBaere bought the car in 1985 when it was in “pretty rough shape” according to its owner. The car was then scattered between LaBaere’s parents’ barn and his house, a distance of two counties, from 1990 until about three years ago.

Today the Chevelle features a TH400 transmission, factory air conditioning and 15-inch wheels and tires for a more aggressive stance, upsized from the original 14-inch versions.

Under the hood lies a  Chevrolet Performance ZZ502 crate engine, which was installed shortly before the car was completed and got back on the road.

“It looked like an easy selection for durability, ease of maintenance, and the expectation of just dropping it in and [it] running,” LaBaere says about why he chose this particular crate big block.

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The car is one of many head-turners on Woodward each year, and in 2018 it was parked next to a 1971 Caprice with only 24,000 miles owned by LaBaere’s father.

LaBaere has been attending the event nearly every year since its beginning in the mid-’90s and has seen it evolve ever since. He also says that he always plans to start heading to the famous road at least a couple of weeks in advance to watch the traffic as it slowly builds momentum.

“Really the great thing is seeing what people are doing and the creativity of people,” he says. “It is just amazing. You think that everything possible has been done but there are always two or three things that stand out.”

Like so many others who grew up in Michigan (LaBaere graduated from high school in Romeo), he also spent many evenings on Woodward Avenue long before there was any type of sanctioned event there.

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Years later he still attends many local shows with a friend who also has a Chevelle, and is also part of the 900-vehicle strong employee car show at the GM Tech Center each year. He even once attended several stops on the HOT Rod Power tour as part of GM’s specialty vehicle group.

As for his Chevelle, LaBaere is quick to explain that he didn’t commit to the undertaking alone, as both his sons played an integral role in taking the car apart, and a co-worker friend helped with the final push to get it back together and in driving shape.

“It’s been a great compilation of support,” he says. “So definitely thanks to everybody.”

That’s just what the car family does.

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