Roger A. Jetter’s previous three books, “Recollections, Regrets & Random Acts”, “Fast Cars, 4-Speeds & Fist-Fights” and “Bangin’ Gears & Bustin’ Heads”, all tapped into the experiences of his youth and the raucous adventures of some of the icons of the hobby. Fans of these entertaining and amusing tales have, on many occasions, offered tales of their own misspent youth to Roger when they have encountered him at rod runs or book signings. These, when combined with some from his long running “Bangin’ the Gears” column in the “Goodguys Gazette” comprise the latest book offering from Roger A. Jetter, “accidents & incidents (with assorted confessions!)” Teeth grinding stories of rod running adventures over the past 30 years and how the author and his brother avoided and escaped heart-stopping highway accidents. Plus assorted confessions from those who felt the need to say: “I’ll never do that again.” Here are a few excerpts from them to give you a sense of what these tales are like.
THE MINNESOTA INCIDENT
After saying our hellos and having a snack, I volunteered to lead the group to the motel. I backed my “57 (at that time, pearl-white with brown flames) out of the driveway, turned the steering wheel, heard a ‘pop’… and dismissed it. Ran over something…no worries. I straightened the wheel, gunned the engine and shot down the street—showing off. Something didn’t feel right. I slowed to make a right turn at the next intersection. The Chevy started to drift toward the curb, I tried to correct, it stayed its course. I braked. The right tire bounced against the curb. Stop. Turn the wheel to the left, feels “loose,” attempt backing up. Turn left and right. Nothing seems to work, not steering correctly. Give the steering wheel a spin. It made five complete turns before it completely stopped. The steering wheel was no longer connected to the steering box. I didn’t know it at the second I backed out of the driveway, but the ‘pop’ was the steering shaft shearing off inside the box. I started to shake…realizing just how lucky I’d been…I’d just driven 600 miles at 75-80 mph, with bursts of speed up to 100-110 mph as all of us played on the way.
It didn’t take long to punch the rod thru the 283” blok … about 10 seconds into the race. I heard it coming … and wham, braaaaatttttt, whooooooosh …!!! Oil smoke was all over, coming from under the hood and under the car as I coasted to the side of the road. I sure lost that one, and the 20 bucks. My pal, Kenny, had told me that a 283” and a three speed on the column wasn’t any kind of a racing engine / race car … but what’d I know …??? I was naïve enuff to think it was. “So now what?” I asked, as I stood next to the Impala, contemplating the walk back toward the starting line where Kenny was waiting. My competition surely would come back to collect the money, I’d wait and ask for a ride … humbly!
High speed always scared me in anything more than a quick burst. Common sense and an early respect for life told me bad things could easily happen the longer one went fast, especially on a highway … or local road. When I finally got my driver’s license, I tried to maintain the good common sense approach to it all. But, being a teenager … well … you know? I tried to control my own driving, but I’ve been along for the ride in a jacked up Nova for a zero to 60 sprint in the length of a short city block, and over 120 white-knuckled miles per hour in a Catalina that barely lifted off its suspension as we crossed the normally (at 55 mph, at least) smooth railroad tracks near the De-Hy Alfalfa Mill on highway 51. After we flew over the tracks, that Pontiac came down straight but bottomed out hard, bending a cross-member into the lower pulley, sparks shooting out from under the car for rest of the evening. I am embarrassed to say that I once piloted a late model Ford sedan, with 5 passengers, to what the Nebraska State Patrol told me was a blistering 82 MPH. I was in a hurry. Dumb. I got the ticket and never drove fast with passengers in any of my cars again. Lesson learned.
Roger’s books take us back to the days when we were young and foolish; doing silly things that we later chastised our own kids for doing. You will surely find here someone’s experience that seems like they are talking about you.
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