It was the holy grail to visit the El Mirage Dry Lake with Project 29. This has been the location for land speed racing in
California for over 60 years.
Hot rodding for me is all about the history and heritage and how that inspires us moving forward. Living all my life a whole world away from the USA motherland of hot rodding in Auckland, New Zealand my influences and inspiration first came from my dad and his rodding buddies. Wherever he went, I went with him and could not ask for a better upbringing.
I read magazines and books and built model cars. I was 8 years old when Jim “Jake” Jacobs’ brush-painted tub and the late Pete Chapouris’ Limefire were on the cover of Rod & Custom—I thought wow! I remember being in high school when I bought Tony Thacker’s Hot Rods by Pete & Jakes book. Jake’s cars and the fun attitude of it all spoke to me deeply and I started to collect old Rod & Custom magazines and read all I could about Jake. His Model A’s, especially his closed-cab pickup made me want one badly.
Nearly 20 years ago I bought a rough but complete ’29 Model A closed cab from Kiwi Geoff Mitford-Taylor when GMT was in Huntington Beach. Geoff got it from Jay Fjastad of Deuce Company. Over the next 10 years I rebuilt it in fenderless form three times before settling on the military green guise pictured here. This truck was the direct result of my Model A fun with cars inspired by Jake.
Around 2009 I drove it into a shipping container and sent it to its new owner in Utah and I never looked back. Ten years on, in 2019 I was called to join the judging team for America’s Most Beautiful Roadster at the Grand National Roadster Show and that particular year was the incredible 90th Anniversary of the Model A exhibit that included four of Jake’s cars.
Jake was hanging out most of the weekend at the back of his panel truck. Despite getting to know the late Pete Chapouris over the years, I had never met Jake. I knew if I didn’t introduce myself there and then, the opportunity might never arise again. Shaking like a leaf and cautious to not be a dick and say something foolish, I moved forward to talk to him.
Jake worked at Roth Studios, Rod & Custom magazine, cofounded Pete & Jake’s Hot Rod Parts and had his hand in some of the world’s most bitchin’ hot rods and custom cars. We hit it off immediately and quickly talked all things Model A Ford. I said how much he and his cars had inspired me and showed him a photo of my pickup. “Oh yeah. I know that pickup, I have seen pictures of it and thought about building something similar—its bitchin man,” said Jake. You could have knocked me over—talk about the ultimate compliment from the best!
A light went on in my head and I wondered where my little old pickup was. One day a few months later the daughter of the owner at the time listed it on Facebook for sale. Over the following year we talked off and on a lot about the pickup and late in 2021 we closed the deal. Good friend and fellow Kiwi, Squeak Bell of Bakersfield collected and stored the pickup for me as well as changing the exhaust back so I could fit hood sides again.
May 19th, 2022 was the first time I’d seen my pickup in 13 years when I arrived for a trip which would include the Antique Nationals, the RPM Drags at Barona, the Early Times Picnic and the LA Roadster Show—all bucket list stuff with your own car built on the other side of the world. It was quite surreal to see it for the first time after all those years but I had work to do. I had painted some hood sides in New Zealand and had the lettered “NZHRM Project 29” just as it had when I built it as a project car for the NZ Hot Rod Magazine.
After a fun day at Irwindale for the Antique Nats, I went and stayed with Jake for the night and then cruised to breakfast with him and his pals. What a time it all was hanging with my hero who is now a great friend. This kid from New Zealand could never have dreamed all of this. On my way back to Bakersfield I went to El Mirage and to be at the holy grail of land speed racing in my hot rod was a really moving experience. This is all what dreams are made of and it could not have happened without my parents, Mark & Janne Stokes, my partner Tania and last but not least Squeak Bell.
Hot rodding for me is all about the history and heritage and how that inspires us moving forward.