When Ambition and Perseverance Intersect

During the early 1990s, I was traveling between McFarland, Inc. in California and Chevrolet’s Tech Center in Warren, MI.  At the time, we were developing an MPFI intake manifold that was intended to fit under the hood of a production Camaro.  Chevrolet claimed to be planning several dozen of these “special” models to be sprinkled about the country in their new vehicle dealerships.  Somewhat as a sales promo and to further popularize the brand, so we were told. Truth be known, Chevrolet was working on perfecting a reverse-flow cooling system and needed a low-profile MPFI manifold that would fit under the production hood-line of a Corvette; a manifold without a crossover water passage at its front.  But that’s an entirely different story.

It was during one of these trips that I learned from a long-time drag racer friend of mine living in the Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas, area about a friend of his he thought I would like to meet, also living in that location.  So I made arrangements to interrupt one of my return trips to do that.

Based on the instructions I’d been given, I found myself in a semi-rural area outside Ft. Worth, on a warm and muggy summer afternoon.  Arriving at the address I’d been given, I parked in a dirt driveway and proceeded to the front porch.  I immediately noticed that next to the steps up the porch was an inclined ramp.  When I knocked on the front door, it was quickly opened, screen door pushed aside and a friendly hand extend, along with a “Hi, I’m Mike.”  He was sitting in a wheel-chair.  “You’ll notice I’m crippled but not handicapped.”  I was a bit stunned because I’d been told by my friend that Mike was a drag-racer.  Maybe I’d misunderstood… but it turned out I hadn’t.

We sat and chatted on Mike’s front porch for a time and he laid out his story.  I reckoned he was somewhere in his early-to-mid thirties.  Turns out he’d been injured in a motorcycle dirt bike accident, a number of years prior.  It had left him paralyzed from the waist down.  It wasn’t long until his wife appeared, blonde and very attractive.  Finally, Mike asked if I’d like to see the shop and race car.  Of course I did, and my third surprise unfolded.

Upon entering what I’d thought was a large garage apart from their house turned to be, in fact, his shop and race car.  Sitting at one end of the shop was what appeared to be a Pro Stock Camaro.  OK, I thought.  But who built it and how in the devil can he be the driver?  Then I noticed that all the workbenches were at wheelchair height.  “I built them that way so I could work on stuff from my ‘chair,” he offered.  “Alright, but who built the car,” was my next question.  “I did.”  So I asked for the full story.