Inside the Manhouse
written by JACKSON HAYES
Sitting behind Cam Woolley’s unassuming red-brick bungalow is every meat-eating, over-testosteroned, gearhead’s wet dream. It’s a 2,400 square-foot building with green siding and two tall, roll-up doors scattered amongst a dozen ambulances bearing decals of major America cities.
Behind those tall bay doors is an ‘85 Rolls Royce, an ‘80 Porsche 928, an ‘82 Mercedes 380SL, a Canadian Forces M37 weapons carrier and a 1953 Ferret armoured fighting vehicle complete with a mounted machine gun and grenade launchers that are “functional enough.”
This is a fortress of solitude. It is the Little Rascals’ clubhouse on steroids. But to the OPP’s media dynamo, it is simply his “man house.”
It sits on a 10-acre property northwest of Toronto that he and his wife moved to six years ago. The cars inside and the plethora of emergency vehicles outside are part of Cam’s side business of renting vehicles to film and television productions - though only a fraction of the 150-strong total vehicles he’s owned over the years is here, just enough to scare the neighbours he insists.
“It all started when I pulled over a fake OPP cruiser. I just kind of fell into it from there,” he says in his unmistakable twang.
As we wind through the field of ambulances, some sinking into the soft April earth, his He Haw charm makes it seem like this backyard smorgasbord of four-wheeled machismo is normal.
There are white, red and yellow ambulances in styles marking the last four decades and nearly all are fully stocked with gurneys, [SI1]defibrillators and uniforms appropriate for the era.
His vehicles have been featured in shows including Due South and movies such as Bruce Willis’ 16 Blocks and 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Trying.
“This came back a little while ago from the new Hulk movie,” he says as he pats the hood of a camouflage military pickup vehicle built for the Canadian Forces.
Walking inside the man house I breathe deep the stench of diesel fumes and hear Whitesnake pounding through a classic power ballad on the radio. He admits he spends a lot of free time in the heated and insulated garage tinkering with his toys. Maybe more than he should.
Nearly every inch is covered with odd bits of paraphernalia and stocked toolboxes. Crumpled hoods, road signs, license plates and flags collected over the last quarter century adorn his man walls. Small oil slicks discolor his man floor and a rickety fan twirls from his man ceiling.
His massive hands bear faint grease stains as he points to various bits and bobs around the shop. Even though it is Sunday morning and his uniform is somewhere in the laundry room he still talks in sound bites.
Having been the OPP media guy unofficially for eight years, it is hard to tell if his cadence and vocabulary is natural or ingrained from a million interviews past.
Though his clubhouse is jammed with all things mechanical, it is still spacious enough to move around. Even Cam’s grizzly bear frame can glide between the vehicles while making repairs, most of which he does himself.
“It’s my hobby,” he says with a smile. “I’ve been tinkering with cars since I was a kid.”
As for his wife, it appears she doesn’t have problem with the man house. Or perhaps more correctly that she doesn’t have a say. “She doesn’t even have a key,” he says leaning over his man snow blower attached to his man tractor. “Besides, she’s got her own house.”
But in true Cam Woolley style, a 2,400 square foot garage is nary enough space for all his hobbies, forcing him to commandeer a room in “her own house” for his collectibles. Dubbed, of course, the man room, it holds his Canadian military antique collection including radios, medals, and other World War II bric-a-brac. It is also the location of his assortment of deactivated weaponry and police memorabilia.
The Woolley compound seems like another planet where boys rule. It harkens to the days of bygone masculinity. Though the vehicles are there for business, they seem more like toys for a big child.
As I drive away I can hear his laughter reverberate in the man house walls and I know we are all lesser men when cast in Cam’s man shadow.