Pete Eastwood lived a mere hubcap toss away from the goings on at Blair's Speed Shop and eventually punched a time card there along with the "who's who" of hot rodding.
Blair's was a "must destination" for not only the locals like Eastwood, but out-of-staters as well. Starstruck tourists went to 77 Sunset Strip and 6925 Hollywood Boulevard (Grauman's Chinese Theater) while rodders with a project on jack stands back home made a beeline to 2771 Foothill Boulevard.
Blair's wasn't just a place you bought speed equipment-Blair's was speed equipment. It became a small factory that could churn out damn near anything because of the talent that worked there. The place was cookin' six days a week from the minute Blair unlocked the place till o'dark thirty.
Every once in a blue moon, shakers come together that make the organization they work for: Robert Petersen had it with Ray Brock, Tom Medley, Eric Rickman, and Wally Parks. George Barris had it with Sam Barris, Bill Hines, Dean Jefferies, and Von Dutch. And Don Blair had it with...well you'll see.
And while this story is about the eternally youthful "P-Wood" it would be impossible to tell it without weaving in Blair's Speed Shop in the process. The "University of Blair's," as Eric Vaughn of Eric Vaughn Machine in Monrovia calls it, was as much a part of Pete's life (plus the dozens of alumni over the years) as high school, one's first girl, or first hot rod...you get the picture.
"When I was 7 or 8," smiled Pete, "I'd go to Blair's front counter where they had a big board with nickel and dime speed equipment decals. I'd save up my money and buy decals. I had a huge decal collection. Later, when I was 11 or 12, the guys at Blair's would put me to work. The thing that nobody wanted to do was polish Halibrand wheels on the race cars. On Saturdays when the guys came through, I'd polish their wheels for them. Then they taught me how to do the letters on the sidewalls so the race cars looked sharp. Blair sold spray paint and one of the guys sprayed a big gob of paint on a piece of cardboard and went out to the parking lot and picked up a cigarette butt. He tore the filter off the cigarette, dabbed it in the paint and started blotting the butt on the raised part of the lettering of the tires. I'd take that butt and dab that fine edge with silver paint. So I was the tire and wheel detailer at Blair's.
"I got the name P-Wood in high school. Steve Vandevere was always shortening and abbreviating everything. He kinda had his own language; he always shortened everything down to the minimum. He took Pete Eastwood and shortened it to P-Wood. How it stuck, I don't know, but it stuck. Steve worked at Blair's as well."
Pete's first role model was his father Doug, who not only imparted in his son the love of antique automobiles that has stayed with Pete to this day, but also included him in his hobby: "We had a little Radio Flyer wagon and my dad would load pistons, rods and flywheels in it, and we'd walk over to Blair's to get them balanced, towing the wagon. My dad was restoring cars until the day he died," reminisced Pete.
Imagine the young theater buff by the Playhouse watching Richard Burton or Marlon Brando at work and becoming their understudy; that's the impression Mike Hoag had on Eastwood. When Pete was polishing Halibrand wheels in the parking lot at Blair's, Hoag was building all of Blair's chassis. He was the first high-grade chassis builder Pete had ever seen in action. Watching Hoag work motivated Pete to become a fabricator and chassis builder.
"I've been a Sprint Car and drag race fan for a long time. I'm more a fan of chassis builders than engine builders, drivers or owners. I'd go to the drags, stand in the pits, and look at how the chassis were built. Without a good chassis, they have nothing to race."