I Still Get Goose Bumps
"I kept hearing: Bonneville this and Bonneville that. I said, what is Bonneville? Where is Bonneville? A friend of mine from school and I went to see what it was all about. We packed up my '40 Ford coupe like we were going to the Gobi Desert. We had everything in that thing-spare tire, spare transmission ... I blew transmissions [LaSalle] regularly. That was the first time I had seen Mickey Thompson and his four-engine streamliner [Challenger 1]. I thought, 'Oh my God, look at that thing.' I'd read about it in magazines. They were pushing it to the start line, so my friend and I decided to hurry down to the 3-mile marker. We were waiting and waiting, pretty soon I hear this sound about three miles away. Here it comes ... I'm looking, I'm looking ... I couldn't see a thing. Pretty soon I see this dot. The next thing I know it was right in front of us. Mickey [Thompson ] just shifted that thing into high gear right in front of us. Full power, then maybe three seconds of silence as Mickey ... remember he had to shift four Cadillac transmissions. He was eatin' up a lot of real estate before he threw it into high gear. Then full power again. Man the sound was incredible. Look, I still get goose bumps right now talking about it," Jerry says, pointing to his arms. "The hook was in and boy I thought, I got to do this. I was there the whole week and I remember nothing else except that car."

Jerry's Garage
"I lived in Whittier, and driving to and from work at Miller's, I passed this vacant lot (just a few miles from Miller) on Whittier Boulevard that'd had a "For Sale" sign on it for years. One day I got out of my truck and walked it off because it always looked narrow.

"When I quit Miller's I rented a little place to start my business repairing cars. I bought the property for $17, 500. That was in 1970. I had it paid off in a couple of years. Then I went to the bank and borrowed $20,000 to build Jerry's Garage. By the time the bank handed me the key, I had $37,500 in the place. That would just about buy you a pickup today.

"It was an automotive repair garage ... tune-ups, brake work, that sort of thing. I kept a little section off to the side for the hobby stuff and, at the time, that is all it was-a hobby. I didn't figure hot rods would make me a living. It was fill-in work."

Giving Back
Jerry's Garage was unique for the time period. No greasy floors, dirty parts, or tools scattered everywhere. "I had a red cement floor and kept the place pristine," Jerry says.

He never forgot what an impact his shop classes had on him in high school and college. There was nothing to be ashamed of for wanting to become an auto mechanic. He invited local schools to organize field trips to his shop. He wanted students to see what they could become if they applied themselves. "I showed the auto shop students that one day they could have a shop like mine. I was very proud of it."

An Independent Thinker
Dating back to the '30s, the Deuce roadster was the only model worth its salt to most Bonneville and dry lakes competitors. The inexpensive model was being plucked off city streets at an alarming rate by racers like Miller. By the '60s, many who survived were returning to the boulevard. One '32 basket case came along that Jerry couldn't pass up.

In between customer work, he kept eyeing the bundle of parts in the corner of his shop. "What am I going to do with this thing?", he thought. Looking at the axles, he decided that was not the way to go-he wanted something better.

Miller considered the solid Ford axle the "dead axle" and was the first to stuff an independent frontend (Chevy) under a hot rod-his '32 Ford roadster. Miller fabricated an IRS under his radical '27 T rear-engined roadster ("Miller's Missile") from Ford U-joint parts in 1951. That bit of suspension cleverness on Miller's part stuck with Jerry.

"I found a Jag front and rear for a $100 ," Jerry says. "How am I going to do this? Learning from Ak [Miller] ...well, I just did it. I figured a way to do it, built the brackets, and so on. As I went along, I thought, 'This isn't so bad, this is pretty easy. Maybe I'll build a couple of them.' It took me about a year to figure it out. Got the '32 on the road a year after I bought it.

"I made several kits and then Bud Bryan [former Rod & Custom editor] did an article on it. In those days I had the parts flame-cut, crude by today's standards. To make the parts look pretty, they were ground and filed. I couldn't afford to do that today because of the time factor. We laser-cut the parts today.

"That's how I started in the independent frontend and rearend business (Kugel Komponents was the first in the industry) and got me started doing suspension work."