5 Minutes with Mike Cook
Mike Cook might not be a household name, but his face probably looks familiar to many hot rodders. Whether it was on the TV show Monster Garage back in the day, on any number of stunt shows in the 2010s, or more recently on the Motor Trend TV show Ride of Your Life With Courtney Hansen, chances are you’ve seen Cook on the small screen, or maybe at a car show representing one of the top-quality rides to come out of his father’s Oklahoma City Shop, Steve Cook Creations, where he works.
A fourth-generation car enthusiast, Cook, who was born with dwarfism, has never let his small stature hold him back. He’s had a varied career in the hot rod industry and as a daredevil, and recently had an opportunity to film a part in an upcoming Martin Scorsese movie, Killers of the Flower Moon, due out this year.
We caught up with Cook recently to talk about hot rod builds, stunts, and how he came up with the “Evel Midget” alter ego. #evelmidgetapproved
Goodguys Gazette: You’re not supposed to be here right now, right?
Mike Cook: I was diagnosed with the wrong dwarfism as a kid. I had many surgeries. I had to get a tracheotomy because I had a cleft palate. They pretty much told my parents I was going to live, but not for very long, so don’t get too attached. Well, I just celebrated my 41st birthday.
GG: How did you get started in your dad’s shop?
Cook: When I was 10, my dad was buffing a motorcycle tank and having a hard time holding it. They didn’t have those little buffers back then. I was strong enough to hold it so he could buff it with a big buffer. He would give me a bigger allowance to go sit in the shop at night and hold parts to buff. I got good enough I could tell you what polish compound it was by how it tasted. Eventually I got to where I did other work.
GG: How old were you when you began riding motorcycles?
Cook: I was 9. I was trying to learn how to ride a bicycle. I don’t have very strong legs, so I had a hard time with it. Motorcycles were easier.
GG: How did you get into the daredevil business?
Cook: Because I was on Monster Garage, I went to a motorcycle rally for a guest appearance and met Trigger Gumm and Spanky Spangler and the Crusty Demons of Dirt guys. They did the MTV tribute to Evel Knievel. That’s when I did the backflip with Travis Pastrana and a tandem jump with Trigger and I made the cover of the video.
GG: And the Evel Midget persona?
Cook: My buddy painted me a helmet. As a joke, he painted ‘Evel Midget,’ spelled like Evel Knievel. I didn’t know it was a copyrighted name. In 2014 or 2015, I was to go and do a stunt for Evel Knievel Days for the Knievel family. I had met them and asked about it. They said I could use it. I’m one of the few people in the world endorsed by the Knievels.
GG: We understand you hold multiple records?
Cook: Yes. The first two-person tandem backflip with Travis Pastrana. The one with Trigger Gum was the longest tandem motorcycle jump of 113-feet. And I actually rode through 21 walls of fire one time.
GG: What’s the scariest stunt you ever did?
Cook: Probably the bus jump for America’s Got Talent. I’d never done anything like that. It’s so fast and so big, and we knocked two buses over. That was pretty scary. Also, I did a motorcycle jump where I landed in water. I don’t recommend swimming in motocross boots and helmet and gloves.
GG: You’ve worked behind the scenes on many top-level hot rod builds. What is one of the toughest aspects of those that observers might not appreciate?
Cook: One of the toughest parts is not getting too far from where you’re trying to go, like trying to add stuff just to add stuff. Just staying focused all the way to the end, you still have to be meticulous with every little bolt.
GG: Your latest on-screen adventure was on Ride of Your Life. What was that like?
Cook: It was like having to do a whole bunch of builds for a debut, and we had to do it so fast. The people that I got to work with were great. The show is pretty cool. Everybody likes the touchy feely stuff, that we gives the cars away. That’s the part I dig. I’ve had a lot of support in my life. It’s kind of like my way to give back.
GG: What dream car would you build for yourself if you had the opportunity?
Cook: That’s a hard question. I will probably never build a super high-end car. I want to be the world’s fastest midget. I’ve always kind of wanted to go 200mph in a ’46 Ford.
GG: You’ve overcome many obstacles. What advice can you give others about facing challenges?
Cook: Slow down and take your time to figure out a way to make whatever you’re doing work for you. It all has to do with the people around you. I know when I get pushed real hard, I get irritated, and that’s when I’ll do what I’m really capable of. That’s how all the daredevil stuff happened – I was like, “look, I can do this. Watch this!”