Volume III, Issue 9, Page 9

Beneath a rock...

There’s a little-known story that I’ll share with you and I have it on pretty good authority that it’s authentic. Were we to trail back about forty or so years, you see, there was an aspiring young whippersnapper (as my grandfather often liked to label unproven aspirants) who broke away from his family’s tradition and set out on a highly questionable career journey. In fact, even the way his opportunity arose was a bit off the charts.

It was initially punctuated by a chance to meet some of his heroes, people he’d either read about or heard about most of his teenage life. The fact that he had automotive interests, if we could call them that, provided him the motivation for moving forward with his dream. Some of the secondary opportunities provided by these heroes became rather remarkable. Chances to further his career continued, ostensibly leading to additional doors opening and opportunities to either make progress or mistakes. He made some of both.

Along the way, essentially because of the group of people with whom he was working at the time, he had occasion to become involved in some product development for specialty aftermarket automotive parts.  One the one hand, these were components for street-driven performance cars.  On the other, the parts found their collective way onto some of the country’s more prominent race cars, ranging from drag racing to NASCAR.  Visualize how it might have felt to be a part of these ventures, especially if never in your adolescent dreams would you have considered the possibility of being thusly involved.

In time, other opportunities arose. Some of them were deserved but many were not.  Regardless, our subject seemed to blend into the situations while offering periodic input to the completion of the tasks at hand.  And what were such tasks you ask?  Well, let’s say they ran from sorting out the intricacies of rather complex OEM factory relationships between aftermarket parts companies and the Detroit automotive community to working in the trenches with racers trying to be competitive, both on a budget and with comparatively unlimited funds.  It appeared to have been a pretty broad landscape, and this collection of career opportunities continued to unfold over decades.

Of course, no career that includes this breadth of time moves down a smooth, straight path. Were there speed bumps? You may be assured.  At least from my perspective, seldom does a career not experience detours.  But in the case of the whippersnapper we’re on a road to describe, the detours were addressed and the course was stayed.   And it’s probably fair to say that along the way, much of the “re-direction” came from people who’d early-on figured out that this person’s intentions were fundamentally honorable and tended to include benefits for others.

Who were the heroes?  Although they were never solicited as such, even a partial list is rather formidable and included Zora Duntov, Smokey Yunick, Bill Jenkins, John Lingenfelter, Benny Parsons, Jr. Johnson, Jere Stahl, Mark Donohue, Wally Parks, Don Garlits, Robert E. Petersen, Vic Edelbrock, and on and on.  For whatever the reasons, and by all available accounts, it was never really clear why a chance to meet, know, and work with such a range of people has ever been convincingly determined. They just seemed to happen, and more often than not, occurred when they were needed most.

At any rate, in all truth and fairness to those who have been and continue to be involved, what you’ve just read only scratches the surface of a career that still seems to be evolving.  One nice feature about this ongoing series is that it has provided an opportunity to give back to those on their own automotive path to learning about their interests, others just beginning, and still others who enjoy an opportunity to recall the past.  At some point, it’s all about nurturing those in the automotive enthusiast community either less fortunate or not positioned to move along as quickly as they’d like.  So it remains for those of who have been so blessed to provide whatever help you can.

And there’s one more point I’d like to make.  It’s not often that a person has a chance to sketch out even a partial draft of their autobiography.  In this particular case, you’ve just read mine.  

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