5 Minutes With Will Posey
Will Posey is a second-generation hot rodder who grew up helping his father Jimmy wrench and race, and who knew from a young age that he wanted to build hot rods.
“My parents told me I had to go to college; I knew I wanted to play with cars,” Will says. “I was watching TV and I saw Dennis Gage from My Classic Car was at McPherson College and I was like, ‘that’s where I want to go! I want to build cars for a living.’ So, we scheduled a visit, and I submitted my application, knowing that’s what I wanted to do.”
His education, combined with his hot rodding background and a lot of determination, started Will on the path toward pursuing the hot rod craft. After stints working for guys like Jesse Greening, Alan Johnson, and Neal Lea, Will opened Big Oak Garage with the help of his father. A steady stream of top-quality rods and customs have come from the shop since then, earning Will accolades like the 2022 Goodguys Trendsetter Award, plus a recent role on the Ride of Your Life With Courtney Hansen show on MotorTrend.
We caught up with Will recently to discuss his hot rod background, influences, trends, and dream cars.
Goodguys: What is your first memory of old cars?
Will Posey: My dad built a ’56 Chevrolet in 1985 and we drove it to Orlando to the Classic Chevy Club International convention. It had a 327 with two four barrels and Fenton split cast iron manifolds, so it had four exhaust pipes with four glasspacks. You can imagine the sound because we didn’t have Hushmat back then! Dad won third place in the custom division.
GG: Who were the builders you admired as a kid?
Posey: Boyd Coddington was the hero of pretty much every car guy my age. And then Troy Trepanier, Alan Johnson, Bobby Alloway. Alan is not much older than I am, and he just lives 15 minutes down the road, so he was always one of those guys I looked up to.
GG: Did you have a specific build style in mind when you started Big Oak Garage?
Posey: I had my style in my head, but I never really thought I’d get to where I could build a car exactly the way I envisioned. I was just hoping to stay busy working on my dad’s buddy’s cars! I knew I wanted them low. I like big wheels, big power, big tires, big brakes. I come from a drag racing background, so performance has always been big. It’s gotta sound good.
GG: Who have been your mentors in the hot rod industry?
Posey: When I first graduated, I went to work for Jesse Greening for a while. Then I went to work for Neil Lea at Rod and Restos. He is the person who influenced me most after graduation Man, what an extremely talented dude. Steve Cook is someone I’ve looked up to since I started Big Oak. He’s the definition of showing me what you can do, not telling me what you can do.
GG: What’s the best piece of advice you remember getting early on?
Posey: The single piece of advice came from Alan Johnson. It was ‘boy, you need to listen!’ My dad had been telling me that for years, but hearing it from somebody like Alan made it sink in.
GG: What was it like doing the Ride of Your Life show?
Posey: We had a good time. There were parts where it was extremely stressful. The biggest thing was basically running two shops at a time, because I didn’t stop running Big Oak. I would run Big Oak four days a week, and then I would go over there on the weekends and film.
GG: The South has a big concentration of notable hot rod builders. Why is the scene there so strong?
Posey: This is pure speculation, but it’s probably the heavy influence of dirt track racing back in the ’50s and ’60s. Back in the day, every backyard in the south had a dirt track car in it. Just in Gadsden, Alabama, there were three dirt tracks. And then not far down the road you’ve got Talladega.
And I think you can put a lot of it on Alan Johnson. He was the first one from this area to kind of be a national name. When you see somebody local do that, you think, “well, I can do that, too!”
GG: What is your favorite part of a build?
Posey: The final assembly is probably my favorite. Putting it together and seeing what was in your head come together right before your eyes.
GG: What have been your keys to success?
Posey: My parents. If it wasn’t for them, there’s no way I’d be where I’m at right now. Pushing me to go to school. Teaching me a good work ethic. Teaching me to concentrate on where you want to be.
GG: What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in hot rodding since opening Big Oak Garage?
Posey: I hate to say it, but pre-’48 cars have dwindled. We’re not seeing them being built like early in my career. I wish we were building more.
And technology. Holy cow! When I first started, everything was done by hand. There wasn’t everything CNC-machined and CAD-designed and punched into a computer. Nowadays, a lot of building is done sitting at a computer.
GG: What emerging trends do you like to see?
Posey: I really like the current trend of the trucks just exploding, and later-model cars that I grew up driving in high school. It’s keeping it fresh and keeping the younger crowd involved. And I’m an OBS truck freak. And squarebodies. I still have my first vehicle, which is a two-wheel-drive squarebody Blazer.
GG: What dream car would you like to build for yourself?
Posey: A ’36 Ford three-window coupe traditional custom. Most beautiful car ever made. Chopped, skirts, taildragger. I’ll have one someday.