Everyone has their ups and downs. It’s all part of our life process, and, oftentimes, it’s completely out of our control. Life’s lows are rarely predictable, let alone avoidable. What we do have control of, however, is determining how we rebound after being hit by a curveball, whether it’s losing a job or losing your business. Jason Graham has firsthand experience with both extremes, and as you can see from the features we’re about to present, he rebounded from the two blows with his chin bruised, but held high.
Jason’s business was and fortunately still is building hot rods—a rather distinct style of hot rods (and customs) at that. As it is with many car builders, he began working out of his garage as a teenager, but the transition to becoming a shop owner was not a direct result, as he tells it: “I started building cars full time about seven years ago after losing my regular job as a CAD technician. I had been building cars as a hobby, and had done a few along the way for other people, since I was 13 years old.”
Jason traded in punching time cards for punching metal full time by opening his own shop, Jason Graham Hot Rods, in Portland, Tennessee. Things were definitely on the up; he had established a reputation and a healthy clientele. With his business in full swing, life was good—but that was all about to change late one night back in February 2010.
Tragedy struck in the form of a shop fire that virtually wiped out the building Jason Graham Hot Rods occupied. Everything under the roof, from the project cars right down to all the tools and equipment used to build them, were affected to some degree or another. “Business was good before the fire and I did have a few months of downtime afterward, but I kept working temporarily out of my dad’s garage while I was dealing with rebuilding the business,” Jason recalls.
Fortunately, a number of the vehicles were not only salvageable, but over a period of time, reconstructed and eventually completed. The highly modified ’30 Pierce Arrow belonging to Joey Collins is but one of Graham’s incredible survivor stories (the gray Model A, ironically, fell victim to another shop fire before being rebuilt by Jason; the red coupe is a post-fire build). “Out of the nine cars that were in the fire, I have rebuilt six of them, including the Pierce. As for business now, it’s great and I have a fairly long waiting list—not as long as I would like, but really steady. I have done so much free work in the past year trying to do my part in helping the people who lost cars that it’s nice to finally get almost caught up and start working on paying projects.”