Part of a men’s lifestyle website or magazine is to encourage, motivate, and stir the imagination enough to turn out some goals. Those of us with goals often look towards those who have paved or walked the path before us: role models, heroes, leaders, teachers, anyone with experience to share. We recently sat down with one such individual, Mike Satterfield, often known as The Gentleman Racer in the world of both fashion and automotive media. Mike is a car-guy with a life resume that reads like a bucket list. He’s owned over a hundred cars, built and exhibited cars at SEMA, started a clothing line, traveled the world on his own timeline, and once rode a 250cc motorcycle across America. We interviewed The Gentleman Racer to find out how he started and managed a career on his own terms, and we found some inspiration along the way.
Mike’s childhood was spent on a dairy farm in California, surrounded by cows and old cars. His father worked as an automotive designer. Art and cars go hand-and-hand in sparking inspiration and creativity. By age 14, Mike was shopping for his first car and flipping cars before legally driving them. Being around vintage cars earned Mike his first job with California Mustang, a company that reproduced parts for early-gen Ford Mustangs. During the late 1990s, the internet was starting to gain its footing in the mainstream. Mike was always the youngest employee, which meant he was usually deemed the office’s IT guy. A position forced upon him turned into a skill that he would carry on throughout his career.
By age 21, Mike got tired of being stuck 9-5 on a beautiful day and took his savings to Europe.
By age 21, Mike got tired of being stuck 9-5 on a beautiful day and took his savings to Europe. His online sales skills helped fund his nomad-explorer lifestyle by selling and exporting aftermarket parts to the US. Modern-day has spoiled us into having access to most JDM and Euro aftermarket parts for our cars with a smartphone and a debit card, but 20 years ago, the internet was an entirely different landscape. (Anyone reading this born after 2000 should ask their parents what dial-up internet was.)
When he returned from Europe, he was drafted by a legacy Ford Lincoln dealership. The sort of dealership with deep roots in a community. Where a man can buy a 1963 Ford Falcon as his first new car, then a Country Squire wagon in ’69, and finally a Lincoln Town Car in ’99 at retirement. Mike quickly used his position in online sales to his advantage. When the dealership needed to send someone to train on learning marketing, advertising, and sales using the World Wide Web, Mike was always the go-to. Schooling is always more comfortable with a paycheck. Perks of the job included being the only sales rep certified to deliver high-end products like the first Ford GT and Shelby Mustangs to customers.
In 2002, Mike launched The Gentleman Racer site while working for various automotive companies, but it wasn’t until 2007 that he decided to become his own boss. Using The Gentleman Racer as a host, he launched a clothing line called M&S Speed Shop, designing vintage racing-inspired T-shirts and hats. Mike also brought along his mother’s clothing line Original Cowgirl, which features clothes inspired by their farm life and automotive upbringing. The key to the site is that Mike could promote one business using his own business and have full control over what products he wanted to advertise, support, or sell.
Managing his own website allowed him to write the stories he wanted to do. One of his most famous stories happened in 2017. A company called Cleveland CycleWerks based in Ohio was assembling Chinese manufacturing motorcycles. These were small 250 cc bikes that were street legal and built to be reasonably priced.
[In 2017] Mike was looking for a new scene to call home and wanted to explore the country looking for a new state to settle in.
At the time, Mike was looking for a new scene to call home and wanted to explore the country looking for a new state to settle in. When he found out about Cleveland CycleWerks he reached out to them and struck a deal to acquire a loaner bike to take on a two-week, 3,500-mile ride from Ohio through the south and across the West to California. The trip would serve as publicity for the bike, and a stress-test on its build quality with Mike taking the risk. The road West was littered with scheduled stops at motoring events he needed to cover as a freelance writer—a real adventure.
Like any road trip, it wasn’t without its share of obstacles. For starters, the 250cc bike maxed out at 65 mph. There was trouble when Mike reached the Texas state line as hurricane Harvey was about to hit. Rather than hunker down at a Motel 6, Mike decided to streamline his travel pack. He mailed most of his stuff home and was left with a change of clothes, a small drone, his camera, a small tool kit, and a waterproof poncho. Traveling superleggera, he rode across Texas battling the storm in time to arrive in Austin, Texas, for his next event. Upon reflection, Mike said it was definitely an experience riding through the wind and rain with an open-faced helmet and only vintage goggles and a bandana for cover. When he arrived in Austin, his face was completely numb, and his body felt like it had completed a triathlon in steel-toe boots. You have to be a little crazy to be ambitious.
Mike currently lives near Waco, Texas, and quickly settling into the Texan lifestyle reviewing cowboy pistols and rifles and writing about Stetson hats. Most recently, he is getting ready to launch one of his most ambitious projects yet. A motorsport festival called the Groesbeck Grand Prix. This event will be held on September 5th-6th in Groesbeck, Texas, a small town with big character. The Grand Prix will host a 1.5-mile time trial racing event for race cars Pre-1985 and a Concours antique car show. The finish line ends at a historic Old Fort Parker, where the festival will have vendors, live music, and food trucks catering to guests and racers. Visitors can even camp out at the fort to enjoy the two day festival under the Texas stars.
The Groesbeck Grand Prix aims at being the Goodwood Festival of Texas. A motorsport event designed to offer more than just old race cars so that gear-heads can bring their non-car family members without guilt. Best of all, the Groesbeck Grand Prix is run by volunteers with proceeds going to Drive Towards the Cure to help fund research for Parkinson’s in Texas. Tickets are being sold via the Groesbeck Grand Prix website.
It makes sense that Mike Satterfield picked Texas as the base for his headquarters. He lives by way of the maverick, with no branding other than his own. Talking with him for this exclusive interview, one cannot help but be inspired to try – at anything. His career is a testament to the motto “do the work, and let it build,” meaning that nothing worthwhile happens overnight. The only way to make your path in life is through consistent hard work and dedication. The Gentleman Racer lives up to the name by being a true car-guy and a true gentleman.