My Father once told me, that when I was very young he had bought me a brand new Tonka Dump Truck for my birthday. He went on to explain that I played with the truck for about an hour outside that day in the back yard and when my dad came out to check on me, he found me with a “Bent-Up” butter knife in my hand and the Tonka Truck completely disassembled. Well, according to my Dad, that's when it all started. I had this crazy passion to find out how things worked. Everything from Tonka Trucks to Lil Red Wagons, Bicycles and Baby Carriages were all fair game if left within my reach. In the fifties along with the popularity of Rock N Roll came cool cars with cool paint jobs and loud “Twin Smitties” exhaust. During the late fifties as a youngster I honed my skills on model cars and became possessed with being the very best model car builder. By the early sixties I had won two state grand champion model car contests, and regularly won the top purple ribbon award at our County Fair contest as well. I was on my way!
I started high school in 1965 and Auto Shop, Wow what a trip, all the cars I could work on and all the tools to do it! I had the most awesome high school auto shop teacher on the face of the planet. He was tough, demanded extreme discipline and punctuality. In exchange I received instruction and training from a most knowledgeable teacher with the ability to transform me from a hands-on only person to one who could read a procedure from a shop manual then perform the task as if I'd done it many times before. He was amazing and to this day Mr. Carl Greenwell at 98 years old is still amazing and one of my closest friends.
I knew early on that I was going to become a Mechanic. After high school I enrolled and was sponsored by a Chevrolet dealership to attend the General Motors Acceptance Courses in Burbank Calif. At the same time I got my drivers license and was off to the drag strip with my first car, a 1955 Chevy two door wagon. My very first pass was at San Fernando Dragway in north L.A. (My knees didn't stop shaking for a month) I attended a couple of years of college while helping out on a top fuel car for a neighbor friend, who became my engine building hero. I often would go to the famous George Barris’s Shop on Riverside Drive in North Hollywood and simply drool. I watched as Sonny and Cher's Mustangs, the Munster Coach, The Dragula, The Bat Mobile and the Bathtub Mobile were built there. Again the urge to do something special just seemed to be right at my finger tips.
While living in Southern California in the late sixties and early seventies, I watched, listened and learned from everyone who had a wrench in his hand. One day while heading to work, taking back streets to negotiate traffic I passed by a home with a dragster in the driveway. As I passed by I could see in the back that his garage door was open. I quickly went back and introduced myself to the one and only famous "T.V. Tommy Ivo". What a lasting impression that made on me as young man. I stayed in Burbank for about three years working at Disney and drawing pictures for Petersen publishing company to make a little money on the side, and cruising Van Nuys Blvd. I worked full time at a Union 76 station on Burbank and Magnolia and moonlighted at a go-cart track over on Van Owen Blvd.
In 1969 man had landed on the moon and in 1972 I headed back to Arizona. Before I knew what had happened I was married with a child on the way and the passion had to take a back seat to my family. Some twenty years later and probably a half dozen cars built for friends, I was ready to open my dream Shop and start seriously building cars. As of today we have built no less than Two Hundred (200) full frame off projects, and have worked on countless others. I've attended every seminar possible that is automotive related. I've attended SEMA for the past twenty some odd years and keep up on every new piece of technology that I can possibly absorb. While being a mechanic all my life, I've never lost the passion to build cars. I still have the burning desire after all these years that makes it fun to go to work. When I see the reaction on a customer's face when picking up their car from my shop, it makes all the hard work worth it. The passion remains. I give all the credit to God, who has guided me through all of this. Now it is time to slow down and let my son Kevin take the wheel of this fast moving world of fun. I have made more friends than I can count and the Lord has truly blessed me with so many awesome customers who are now close friends. I want to thank our Lord, God almighty for bringing Jerry and Sue Janney into my life, if not for them and their kindness, Jims Rod Shop would never have prospered as it has. Thank you Lord.