"Big" Steve Bovan, who worked in the engine room, traveled the country becoming a national drag racing celebrity by putting a lot of match racing competitors on the trailer. The Blair's Speed Shop Chevy II, and later the flip-top Camaro, put Blair's on the map against the likes of "Dyno" Don Nicholson and "Jungle Jim" Lieberman.
"When I was 14 or 15, if Bovan and his crewmember Ralph Jackson didn't have enough help, he'd ask me if I could go to the drags with him. He would tell me to go home and have my mom call the speed shop and tell Don it was OK. Bovan would load me in the truck with him and Ralph and go to Irwindale. Of course when we'd get to the strip, Bovan would sneak me in so he wouldn't have to pay for a pit pass."
"We both worked at Blair's, but at different times," began Doug Robinson of Horsepower Engineering in Pasadena. "I worked for Don Blair from '56 through '60. Both Pete's dad and his uncle Warwick were into the horseless carriage-type cars. Pete is a different type of person. He's respected for his hot rod knowledge and his classic, vintage, brass-era cars. Very few people do well in both."
Robbie Robison of Vintage Race Car Restoration who started at Blair's in '64 remembers, "Pete was involved with a lot of classic vehicles. It takes a lot of talent to fix these projects. He's never been a mail-order guy to just go out and buy the parts and put it together. He's always got out and found it, or recreated it. Pete learned from his dad that there was only one way of building a car, doing it right and doing it methodically. You just didn't take an old greasy car and chop into it. Pete's never been that way, he couldn't work that way."
Which explains why so many high-profile owners have trusted Pete with their prized vehicles: "I've probably touched more of the 75 Most Significant '32 Fords that Ford Motor Car Company had listed than anybody. Six or seven had my chassis under them, plus I worked on 12 or 13 of them," says Eastwood.
"There are very few people like Pete that can cross over from the mega-dollar classic cars and go right back to the vintage dragsters, street rods, or Bonneville cars, there's nothing he can't work on," underscores Vaughn. "But working at Blair's was the key for our vast experience because we got to work on everything. When P-Wood worked in the muffler shop, he could look at the tubing bender for the first time and in a week make it talk to you like a Stradivarius violin."
Let's just say the two Petes worked well together at Blair's, becoming close friends, so why not have another go at it? Chapouris and Eastwood that is. Chapouris, Eastwood, and Vaughn had honed their craft at Blair's while Jim "Jake" Jacobs had sharpened his skills working for Ed Roth. When they all came together, it was an unbeatable combination.
"When we started Pete & Jakes," continued Vaughn, "we wondered would enough guys even buy this stuff? Eastwood was never a money partner, but he was really the guy that made stuff happen. Chapouris was the jaw...the mouthpiece; Jake engineered the stuff and P-Wood was the execution guy, and I did the machining. We were like a band and each guy played an instrument. All of that falls into place between the Blair's and the Pete & Jake connection. Peter has the raw talent-he's got the head talent...he makes it happen. He just loves them cars," laughed Eric.
"I kinda did everything at Pete & Jakes," explains Eastwood. "I built chassis and complete cars, I did the entire hookup, the linkage, all the exhaust work. Remember, at first we weren't manufacturing parts, we were working on cars doing engine swaps and suspension work. We would take the pieces that went into a customer's car and adapt them to a kit component. Whenever we had something clever to do, Eric did the machine work."
Looking back, Pete states, "I don't know about anybody else, but I never had any money as a young guy. Every nickel I made went into my cars. I don't live high on the hog today. I drive a 10-year-old Chevy Tahoe. I've never owned a new car, never taken a vacation to Hawaii, I don't do that. I do cars. I bought my three-window for 500 bucks, which was a lot of money back then, but you could come up with 500 bucks. Now you've got to pay $50,000 for a basket-case coupe. They're just freakin' old Fords."
Besides, it's not the car that makes Pete a hot rodder; it's the love of the build, the road, and the track that sets guys like P-Wood apart. He's passionate about Model Ts with a top speed of 45 miles per hour, or tickling 200 in a '29 roadster. Yeah, he loves them cars.