Jesse’s Girl

On the way home today, I noticed my odometer indicating that it’s about time for an oil change. I made a mental note to call my mechanic and schedule an appointment. Then I got home and settled down with my newspaper, and realized I’ll probably have to wait a while for that oil change. It looks like Steve is going to be preoccupied for a little while. He has a hot date in Bonneville with Jesse’s Girl.

I first met Jesse’s Girl (although I didn’t know her name until today) several months ago in Steve’s shop. Amid all the usual clutter of Steve’s many projects, I saw something that looked even more unusual than usual: a long aluminum cigar-shaped object. I asked Steve if it was a boat or a submarine or what, and, in typical Steve fashion, he replied, “Yeah, it’s a boat or a submarine or what.” (His business slogan is “The Home of Customer Abuse”, and he lives up to it. I even have a tshirt and a beer-can cooler with the slogan).

He then went on to explain that the object had been the belly fuel tank from a B-57 bomber, and it was going to be reincarnated as a race car. Slice it in half lengthwise, drop in an engine and a seat, add some wheels and put a drag chute on the back, take it out to Bonneville Salt Flats and run it 200+ mph. Simple, right? Well, okay, it’s just a little more complicated than that.

Several of my co-workers are also customers of Steve’s, and we routinely share stories of customer abuse. (I get more than my fair share because my Celica shows signs of my rural lifestyle. Steve calls it “The Mudmobile”. He should see my truck). We’d all been entertained by Steve’s previous projects (widening a Crosley by 6 inches so he could drop in a V-8, turning a Honda Civic into a pickup truck, etc). And his paternal pride was touching as he showed off his son’s project, following in his footsteps, building a dragster from a Honda CRX (although I was a little nervous when the son drooled over my Celica and told me that engine was the one he would have put in his dragster if it would fit; I assumed he didn’t literally mean that engine, but I wasn’t sure). But we all agreed that Steve had finally lost his mind this time.

As I watched the car evolve at each subsequent oil change, the project seemed a little less crazy. Steve really is a craftsman, and this wasn’t some crude effort hacked together by amateurs (like the infamous Rocket Car, which I’m still not sure whether to believe). Almost as amazing as the car’s progress was its effect on Steve’s attitude. We agreed that he was going to have to change his slogan; he was getting downright jolly. On one visit, he even took me to a local bakery and bought doughnuts while his brother-in-law changed my oil. (I did check closely under the hood when we returned to make sure that wasn’t a ruse to get me out of the shop while my car became an engine donor).

On my last visit, the race car was still not finished, but it was actually beginning to look like something that even a relatively sane person would consider driving at high rates of speed. And the story in today’s paper made it seem even more plausible. Unfortunately, the online version doesn’t have as many neat pictures as the print version, which had a beautiful side shot of the car.

So I guess I’m going to have to wait another week for that oil change, but I’m sure the stories will be worth the wait. If he makes his goal of hitting 207 and breaking a record, there will probably be more doughnuts (or maybe even beer; he has a keg refrigerator in the shop, but I think that’s usually reserved for weekend visitors). If he doesn’t make the record, I might have to sweep the floor like one of my co-workers had to do a couple of years ago before he could get his carburetor adjusted.

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