Jacobs was into 8 1/2-inch-wide...
Jacobs was into 8 1/2-inch-wide wheels and tires (all around), which made steering his Model A pickup a bit of a strain for the Corvair box. He engineered a power-assisted steering system using a stock '58 Chevy power-steering pump/generator unit, which included mounting the Chevy ram to a draglink of his own design. He fabricated and welded a bracket on the frame and, voil, power steering in a street rod. Nothing new, you say? But, wait-this was in 1966.
"I was being introduced to Isky (Ed Iskenderian) as 'Jake of Pete & Jake's' at a local gearhead function," began Jim "Jake" Jacobs. "Isky asked me, 'Are you the welder or the one behind the desk?' I took 'welder' to mean the one in the shop."
Isky's inquiring mind has a way of cutting to the chase, while Jake is known for telling it like it is. Without hesitating, Jacobs replied, "I'm the welder."
Jacobs was a key figure in the design and fabrication of street rod suspension components for 12 years-truly a mover and a shaker in the industry. His knowledge and creativity made him a true Renaissance man in the field. "Jake brought the talent to Pete and Jake's and did the engineering," said Blair's Speed Shop alumnus Eric "Real Wheels" Vaughn, who subcontracted the machining for Pete & Jake's. "He prototyped the parts and was the main guy who figured out how to make that stuff."
Ultimately, Jacobs' innovative suspension designs became a lightning rod for countless imitations. He recalled the time when a copycat competitor told its customer to call him with an installation question; the competitor had copied the Pete & Jake's part, but couldn't answer the consumer's technical question. "I was tired of designing parts for the competition," Jacobs declared. "I was no longer passionate about the business, and if I'm not passionate, I'm not creative."
Jacobs' desire to continue the equal partnership, which began in 1974, slowly ebbed to the point when he called it quits. Jerry Slover purchased the company in 1986.
Jacobs had a life before Pete & Jake's Hot Rod Repair, and after. This is about that life.
Former R&C publisher and creator of Stroker McGurk, Tom Medley coined the phrase "Street is Neat" during the first Nats. Medley might have been referring to Jim Jacobs, because Jacobs drove the bejesus out of hot rods he built for the street. "It's always been about having fun with cars as far as I'm concerned," Jacobs said. Gone is the Grizzly Adams beard. Gray rules the roost up top, but "Jitney Jake" still dons his hillbilly hat on occasion and isn't above a brodie or two. Jacobs' passion for old tin is as strong as ever.
A lot of rodders are following Jacobs back in time as well, with traditional street rods making a comeback. He, however, has never strayed. He loves 'banger motors and Flatheads as well as small-blocks. He builds his own frames rather than buy one. The only trailer Jacobs concerns himself with is the one that follows his '34 sedan to Death Valley with camping gear.
Jacobs has operated in a time warp ever since he sat in a '29 Model A woodie as a kid in front of Jake and George's 5 & 10 on Compton Boulevard-not a dime store, but a car lot in which his dad was a partner. Buyers could drive off by plunking either $5 or $10 down on a used car.
Jacobs was born in 1945 and grew up in Compton, California, which was the mecca for hot rods and customs. He was just a bike ride away from Art, Lloyd, and Jack Chrisman's garage, and not far were the Barris Brothers. He would stand behind a rope to watch the masters as they created those Kustom City eye poppers.
Father Knows Best
"One man's trash is another man's treasure," were words by which Jacobs' father, Garrett, made a living. On more than one occasion, a metal commercial building in the area was slated to be demolished to make way for new construction. It was free for the taking. The task was left up to Jacobs and his brother, Gene, to take the dilapidated structure apart, bolt by corroded bolt (which they recycled), after school; later, the pieces were moved to a new location. The brothers reassembled the building, which their father rented out.
Jacobs painted his high school...
Jacobs painted his high school pickup in a dirt lot (which he watered to keep the dust down) next to his house in Compton.
His parents, while not poor, were frugal. His father had invested wisely in real estate, while owning a number of businesses. At one point, Mr. Jacobs owned the Hesperia Airport in the High Desert, yet he was not above holding a menial job at a local dairy to provide for his family as a milk bottle washer.
When his mom wanted to return to Iowa to visit her sisters for the summer, Jacobs offered to drive her in his Model A pickup he bought for $200. Back in 1968, street rods were something one took to the local drive-in or to a car show, but from California to Iowa? Never! However, Jacobs' mom was an adventurer, having come to California from Iowa in a Model T in 1929. Besides, he had installed a modern Chevy engine (the 283 was a freebie), so Mrs. Jacobs thought nothing about riding 1,800 miles to the Hawkeye State in her son's rod, and packed sandwiches for the trip.
"I wanted a set of slicks...
"I wanted a set of slicks so bad. I had steel rims and bald tires that I found behind a gas station. I wanted fancy wheels and slicks," Jacobs recalled. "My dad said, 'You're on your own,' so I got a job at the Shell station.
"I was at an Early Times [formed in 1965 with the late Bill Booth being member number one; Jim is number two] meeting in 1968 when I overheard Jake mentioning he was going to drive his mom to Iowa in his truck. He was going to turn around and come home," said Mark "Hop Up" Morton. "I was going to college at the time, and talkin' macho with no money to do it, but I told him I'd ride back with him. My sister bought me a plane ticket to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. When we pulled out of the airport, Jim looked at me and asked, 'Which way do you want to go?' I just pointed to my right. We drove half a day before we realized we were going north. Jim said that maybe we should kinda go west.
"We ate chicken fried steak in little country towns all across the Western United States for a buck and a quarter a plate," Morton continued. "I spent two weeks coming home in that cracker box truck. That's what got me interested in touring. That's why I'm obsessed with it now."