SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Mustang. Corvette. Camaro. Names that are sure to pique the interest of people in the car community.
A select few even have the time and talent to make their dream car a reality.
Step into the garage of Tom Olsen and you’ll find his life laid out in pictures and memorabilia… and a lineup of classic cars.
A lifelong resident of Sioux Falls, Olsen was a police officer for more than 25 years but discovered his passion for cars long before picking up a badge.
“My folks had a duplex, and the upper level of the duplex was a widow with two sons, both of which were just a little bit older than me, and they were both car guys,” Olsen said.
Their hobby caught the eye of a pre-teen Olsen.
“I started looking at what they were doing and admiring the cars that were appearing out in front of the house all the time, so that kind of got it started I think,” Olsen said.
Once Tom had a driver’s license, he found himself behind the wheel of a 1953 Plymouth… though the ride didn’t last long.
“Because my grades plummeted as soon as I got the car,” Olsen said.
In 1964, Olsen bought what he considers his first car, a 1956 Chevy 2-Door Wagon.
“That was the car that I got involved in hot rodding with, started doing some drag racing even in 1964 with that car and building engines for it and really got involved in the hobby,” Olsen said.
Tom spent time at the drag strip until joining the Army in 1967. After returning from Vietnam in 1969, he married a Sioux Falls girl named Joyce.
“We started dating in hot rod Chevy’s back in 1966, so she knows her way around a hot rod,” Olsen said.
After tying the knot, the Olsens bought a 1969 Chevelle SS 396. It’s a vehicle they’ve owned on three separate occasions.
“We sold it in 1972 when she was pregnant with our first child and then I bought the car back from this friend I had sold it to. 1978 we had another baby on the way, so I sold it back to the same fellow,” Olsen said.
Tom tracked down the Chevelle again in 1985, but the new owner said it wasn’t for sale.
“15 years later, in 2000, he calls me up and had a fishing rig ordered, needed to raise some money and wanted to know if I wanted the car back,” Olsen said.
He did, and the Chevelle made its way home for a third time. Olsen doesn’t just buy cars, he rebuilds them into works of art.
“I’ll spend two to three years with one apart in the build process and then boy that day you finally have it all together and turn that key for the first time and fire it up, the sound of something you’ve totally built yourself, running and driving, it’s pretty rewarding,” Olsen said.
His most recent project was a ’56 Chevy Wagon.
“Every day of the week I did something on it. It might be a half-hour, it might be eight hours, but I touched it every day of the week for about three years that we were building it,” Olsen said.
Olsen likes to show off his finished products as a member of the Great Plains Street Rodders.
“At least once a week we’re off to a cruise night in the summertime. In the wintertime, we get together all winter long once a week, so you do establish a lot of really close friendships,” Olsen said.
“It brings people together, doesn’t matter what your personal opinion or political opinion is when we get together it’s about cars,” retired Sioux Falls Police Officer Jerry Miller said.
One of those friends is former Sioux Falls Police Officer, and fellow car enthusiast, Jerry Miller.
“My dad did all of his own work on cars back when I was just a little tyke and if he headed to the garage, I was right on his heels,” Miller said.
Miller is also a former auto mechanic and managed to purchase his dream car in 1985.
“He’s got his 1970 Boss 302 Mustang out here that’s just a phenomenal car,” Olsen said.
Miller owned the Mustang for more than three decades before completing a full restoration in 2016.
“Every nut and bolt in that car has been taken apart and put back together, replated, refinished, rebuilt, everything from one end to the other. It took me a year and two weeks to do it but that was my job in 2016 and ’17,” Miller said.
“Every car guy has their favorite brand and for Olsen and Miller it comes down to Ford vs. Chevy.
“We like poking each other about our brands of cars. He probably gives it back at least as good as I can dish it out,” Olsen said.
“We’ve got two cars staged out there, his new Camaro and then my Boss and you’ll notice even standing still my Ford is out ahead of that Chevrolet, so (laugh),” Miller said.
He’s a Ford guy, but Miller says Olsen’s 1963 Chevy Bel Air brings him back to his teenage days.
“I learned to drive on a ’62 Chevy Biscayne and that ’63 Bel Air is as close to it as you can get. While a lot of people would go no, I’d take this one or that one, that’s got the memories of me learning to drive,” Miller said.
Miller is currently building a 1950 Ford F1 pickup, while Olsen’s future is a bit hazy.
“I think I’m done with the big rebuilds, although you never know. I think my wife is pretty sure I’m done with the big rebuilds,” Olsen said.
That hasn’t stopped him from shopping.
“I did just buy a complete 396 engine and a four-speed and all the running gear so it’s sitting out there wondering what it’s going to find itself put in, so I don’t know, we’ll see how that goes,” Olsen said.
One thing’s for sure, he’ll never stop being a car guy.
“I get one of these guys out every chance I get and do some cruising and go to a car event and hang out with our friends and yeah, it’s a great time, good hobby,” Olsen said.
Olsen’s sons, Justin and Travis, are also passionate about cars. Travis owns multiple hot rods, while Justin works for a company that designs and manufactures instrumentation systems for muscle cars and hot rods.