This 72-year-old retiree is enjoying life in the fast lane. Selling A&B Welding in May 2015, Arlin Kiel has been taking time to play.
“After 46 years in the welding business, providing general contracting services in the liquid fertilizer and chemical construction industry, we thought it was time for a change,” he said. “When I left, we had 55 employees and had completed work in 14 states. I was blessed with really great employees and a lot was accomplished, but it was time for a change. I’m going to play hard as long as I can.”
Arlin and his wife Betty moved from Thompson, IA to Spirit Lake 12 years ago. They built a house along the lake and Arlin began crafting a home for his toys. From the front, the shed is deceiving at what hides within.
The first car Arlin collected was a 1982 light blue Corvette. “I always really liked the look of the car,” he shared.
Then he had to get a 1957 Chevy because that’s what he drove back in the day.
In the past 20 years, Arlin has collected close to 32 vehicles, ranging from a 1925 Chevrolet Superior Landau Coupe to a 2022 C8R Corvette. His favorite cars are his Vipers.
The cars are showcased in a shop he built over the course of three years. With his welding background, he welded steel gates and crafted electric hydraulic lifts that easily move a vehicle along the two-level storage space.
“I’ve been welding as long as I can remember. My dad taught me on the farm, and after high school, I gained mechanical drafting experience in Sheldon. I was then the shop foreman at Honey Bee in Everly, and Betty and I started A&B Welding in 1979 in Hartley,” he shared.
Arlin really enjoys collecting cars, but he equally enjoys working on them – and then racing them. He has a list of races he visits throughout the year, with his favorite being the track in Hastings. However, he really enjoys Brainard, MN but has raced at NASCAR tracks in Las Vegas, Charlotte, and Detroit. Before a race, Arlin spends considerable time tuning up the vehicle, whether it is mounting tires, checking wheel alignment, adding radios or completing any repairs.
“It usually takes me a whole day to get a car ready, which right now I’m working on the Ford Mustang,” he said. “We will be racing that in Hastings, Sept. 9-17.”
Arlin does all his own repair work on his vehicles. His son Chad and him have also rebuilt cars and fixed engines and vehicles after a race.
“Each car is special, whether it’s Chad’s 1967 Mustang he rebuilt or my wife Betty’s 2009 Dodge Viper, we finished right before she passed away seven years ago.” he shared. “I finished it five days before and she got to see it. When we drive that, we are reminded of ‘My Angel Riding with me.’”
Arlin fell in love with Vipers twenty years ago. His wife and him were staying in Las Vegas and enjoying their hotel. Suddenly, Arlin heard a loud noise and more following it, as cars came racing down the nearby parking ramp.
“I told her, ‘Hurry! We need to go down there and look at those cars!’” he remembered. “I had never seen a Viper before.”
They raced down to the road and one of the cars had broken down on the side of the road. He was able to get a good look at the car and that’s when he fell in love with how the Viper was put together.
“I told Betty that my dream was to have one of those cars someday,” he said. “We didn’t know there was a Viper Convention going on, so that’s why all the cars were in town. But in 2001, three years later, we purchased our first Viper.”
Arlin owns one of the first Vipers created, a 1992 red car with 8,000 miles on it. Nearby is one of the last Vipers built, a 2017 Dodge Viper.
“It’s really neat to look at them side by side, as you can see how much changed over the course of time.” he added. “I was really impressed when I was able to meet the Viper Engineers and hear the back story of how the cars were built.”
Besides loving how the Dodge Viper races, Arlin enjoys taking Viper parts and welding or building tables, chairs, and lamps. He uses items like engines, cranks, pistons, hub caps, and tires to create furniture for family and friends.
“One of the $10,000 cranks we had just put in, the pump went out and blew the crank. It turned the normally silver crank to black, as oil backed into the crank,” Arlin shared. “So that crank became a part of a table!”
Arlin also enjoys his 2006 lime green Lamborghini. “It’s crazy wild to drive,” he said. “We had some pictures taken of it in Minneapolis that are really neat.”
Another favorite car is the Ariel Atom 3, which is one of 40 cars built. In 2014, he went to the factory in Kentucky and ordered one special for his collection.
He also has fun with a formula Mazda Car, which is similar to one he learned how to race with at Racing School in Phoenix, AZ. Arlin was one of 40 racers, who learned racing techniques with Vipers, skid plates, and stop and go experiences on road courses.
“It was a really neat experience and I really liked how the racing car drove, so I found one like we trained with,” he shared.
While the 2005 Ford GT and 2014 Cobra Jet are favorites, the Richard Petty 2015 Mustang has memories. “We got to meet Richard and spent 20 minutes talking to him. He only makes so many of these cars and he signed under the hood and on the dash. He was a really neat guy,” he said.
The Thrill of the Race
The rush of excitement fills the air. Cars noisily pull into starting position at the Motersports Park in Hastings, NE.
Arlin’s goal is to maneuver his 2009 white Viper Camp Coupe around the 2.15-mile racetrack in a minute, 25 seconds.
“I’ve made it in a minute, 28 seconds. Not sure if I can get it down a few more, but that’s my goal,” Arlin shared.
His favorite track has 13 turns. Between markings 2 and 3, he races to speeds of 140 mph. The curve at 3, requires shifting down to 90.
“When you’re going that fast, it definitely gives you a rush. There’s a lot of stuff going through your mind and those corners come up quick,” Arlin said. “You have to have a feel for your tires; to keep them underneath you.”
On June 20, at a race in Hastings, Arlin competed against 70 other cars and came in fifth place. He’s raced to numerous trophies throughout the years.
Despite being retired, Arlin doesn’t spend a lot of time twiddling his thumbs. Whether he’s crafting a new Viper table or building a wooden picnic table, he doesn’t ever get bored. He’s always working on a car or spending time with his girlfriend Bonnie in Lake Mills. He enjoys their annual Viper trips with his three kids and their families: Chad, Shelly, and Tonja.
“We travel to a different spot every year, enjoying a vacation with the kids and running the Vipers,” Arlin shared. “We always have a good time.”
He spends a month in Phoenix during the winter and takes the Jeep off roading through the Sand Dunes. He also loves racing the side-by-sides out in Lead, SD during the year. However, the holidays are always spent in the Iowa Great Lakes, enjoying family and being on the lake.
“I enjoy playing! It’s fun to work on the cars and race them, but really the friendships created at the track is the real rush of the experience. That is why I do it,” Arlin said. “I just appreciate every day I can live my dream.”