Mufflers into Masterpeices

Story by Matthew St. Amand
Photography by Michael Pietrangelo

Anyone who has met Peter Solly, second generation owner/operator of MacDonald Automotive Supercentre, has no doubt he will leave his unique mark on the world. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, it appeared he was destined to leave that mark in the entertainment world. Peter lived in Toronto at that time and was slowly carving out a career as a model and an actor. 

“I did well in my auditions,” Peter remembers. “I appeared in a few episodes of the CTV show Street Legal. I did some commercials for Molson Brewery and had a part in a kickboxing movie.”

The only thing more important to Peter than his art was his family. 

“I was just getting going—it was a great feeling—when my dad asked me to come home and help him with the family business,” Peter says. “So, I came home, worked in the business and started my own family.” 

Peter’s high-octane personality ensures that anything he sets his mind to is successful. Although he easily transitioned from the world of acting and modeling to that of business owner, his creative side remained watchful for the next opportunity to express itself. That came from an unexpected quarter.

“When my sister-in-law, Rhonda, was studying to be a hearing doctor,” Peter recalls, “she had to take a course in folk art—using scrap material from the area where you live to make art. In her textbook was an article about a guy in Walla Walla, Washington who was making art out of mufflers. My brother, Chuck, showed me that and said: ‘Why don’t you start doing that?’”

Peter did just that. His first sculpture was the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz, which he created using an old, discarded muffler and other scrap materials.

A life size moose for Peter’s mentor Al Martin with his wife Lorraine and Peter in the US.

“I made that one, and a few more, and displayed them out front of the store,” Peter says, “and people went crazy for them. They had never seen anything like that before!” 

In the past twenty years, Peter has created upwards of four hundred sculptures. Notable subjects include Prince, Elton John, the Blues Brothers, Taylor Swift and most recently Freddie Mercury, the late lead singer of the British rock group Queen.

“I was just getting good at it, honing my craft through trial and error, and people started telling me they wanted these sculptures,” Peter says. “I sold a few and then I got into donating them to charity and raffles.”

To date, Peter has donated between one hundred and two hundred sculptures. This is no easy or inexpensive thing. Each takes approximately forty hours to create, not including the time required to find the proper scrap materials. Then there is the cost of priming and painting each of them.

“The primer, alone, costs a hundred dollars and the paint is four hundred,” Peter explains.

The first creations Peter made, he tried his hand at painting the faces. Unhappy with the results, he enlisted the aid of Windsor artist Glen Hawkes.

“Glen makes children’s books and cartoons,” Peter says. “He and his wife, April, who’s an artist too, help me paint the faces. And they really nail it! It’s a gift to be able to paint on a propane tank, I’ll tell you! I’ve had other people try and it looked terrible. Paint on a muffler or balloon canister—it’s a big learning curve. They nail it. Freddie Mercury, it’s him! Taylor Swift. Elton John. Cat Woman. Wednesday from the Addams Family. Everybody went nuts for Prince!” 

After years of donating sculptures in support of a myriad of causes around Windsor, one of Peter’s most recent works finally received the attention and notoriety it deserved.

Peter joined forces with Mario Ricci and Jon Renaud, area events and concert organizers. On April 6, Mario and Jon staged a concert at the Olde Walkerville Theatre. The event featured the cover band Simply Queen and raised money for the Fight Like Mason Foundation, which supports children with cancer and their families. Peter donated his Freddie Mercury sculpture for the auction.

“I’m used to my sculptures going for $1,000 or $1,500 at charity auctions,” Peter says. “I almost fell over when I heard the bidding for the Freddie Mercury sculpture!”

When the auction portion of the April 6 event began, Peter wasn’t the only person who thought it would follow the familiar routine: the price slowly rising one hundred dollars at a time with each bid.

“This time the bids were going up a thousand dollars at a time,” Peter says. “I couldn’t believe how it kept going on—one thousand, two thousand, three thousand! Teddy Boomer—the Blues Festival founder—just kept raising the price!”

When all the other bidders fell away, Ted won the Freddie Mercury sculpture for $23,000. In a stunning plot twist, Ted gifted the sculpture to Rick Rock, lead singer of Simply Queen. In a further twist, Rick Rock said he could not accept the sculpture, but had an idea.

“Simply Queen is affiliated with an over-arching association of Queen tribute bands,” Peter says. “So, they’re trying to organize something through them—like a global auction to raise even more money. That would be tremendous, to keep this ball rolling!” 

He adds: “The people in Windsor are great when they come together to help for a charitable cause! We love Windsor people!” 

Despite his success, Peter has thought about giving up the sculptures. He has a family, runs a business. Life is busy enough. 

“A couple of years ago, I said I’m done, I need to focus on the business,” Peter says. “The art takes up a lot of time. But my staff said: ‘No, people love this stuff!’” 

When the rumour of Peter giving up the sculptures surfaced on Facebook, fans of his work were emphatic: “Don’t ever stop!”

Peter’s latest creation is a sculpture of Jay Leno. Peter has made several attempts at reaching out to Jay about this and is still awaiting a reply. In the meantime, Peter’s fans can see his work outside the MacDonald Automotive Supercentre on Howard Avenue at Eugenie Street.

To view more of Peter’s sculptures, including Jay Leno and Taylor Swift, visit MacDonald Automotive’s Facebook page, the Photos section, at

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