Volume I, Issue 3, Page 12

I don’t quite recall when I first met Jim Hairston. It was probably while he was still promoting Hooker Headers at least a decade or so ago. I do remember liking him right from the start. Not only did he exude passion and enthusiasm for his product line and the performance aftermarket, he always showed me a great deal of respect. As a mainstay executive in our industry, he has always provided journalists with a level of comfort that makes it easy to do a story or find out what’s new and exciting. Jim has always been easy to talk to -- and listen to!

Amid an industry that was born from enthusiasts, there are a few executives who have garnered success in a pivotal role at more than one major company during their careers. Jim is one of those who has seen the hobby grow from both the inside, at companies such as Hooker and Pertronix, as well as the enthusiast side as an avid racer and street machine enthusiast.

I was fortunate to catch up with Jim the day before he was heading out to California Speedway for the PSCA event where he was competing with his family’s awe-inspiring twin-turbocharged small-block Camaro. Pinning him down on the eve of such an outing was a tribute to his dedication for his job and the great relationship he shares with those of us in the editorial business. -- Terry Cole

MC- Jim, I know that you have been an avid car enthusiast since you’ve been in the business, but were you a hot rodder when you were a teenager? What type of vehicles did you have?

JH- Yes, starting at 16 years old. My dad helped me buy a 1966 Mustang 4-speed car from Russ Davis Ford in Covina, CA. At the time Gas Rhonda was the sales manager and was racing a SOHC Ford AFX car. Through Gas I met Les Ritchey from Performance Associates who sold me a variety of parts; cams, carbs, rearend pieces etc. I starting racing at Irwindale that same year. As you know, Les was killed in a racing accident at the

old Fontana Raceway not long after I met him. His sons Jack, Chris and Randy and I went to the same high school. Randy and I still see each other often. His shop, the original Performance Associates, is located around the corner from my office.

In 1967 my dad helped me buy a Plymouth GTX Belvedere Hemi car from West Covina Chrysler Plymouth. The sales manager was (Firebird Raceway’s) Charlie Allen’s dad. Charlie was racing a funny car at the time and helped me get started with Super Stock racing. The first add-on part to this basic factory race car was a set of Doug’s Headers. I actually took the car to Doug’s shop because they used our car to design the first 2 1/8” primary tube header for the street Hemi engine. Brad Anderson, at that time worked for Doug’s, and actually helped Doug with the design. Who would have known the importance all these people would eventually have on our industry? I really got started in the right circle of friends.

MC- As you were growing up what were your career aspirations? Who were your heroes? Mentors?

JH- I was very involved in high school sports lettering in football, wrestling, and baseball. I wanted to play college football but just didn’t have the size. I loved racing but even with my Dad helping we just didn’t have the funds to compete with the factory teams. On the west coast, we raced against Dick Landy, Bill Bagshaw, Bob Lambeck, and Wiley Cossey holding our own most of the time.

My Dad, Jim Sr., was and still remains my hero. I lost him to cancer in 1999 and still miss him terribly. He was a very successful business and family man with impeccable honesty and an incredible work ethic. I’ve been blessed to have had several mentors during my business career including Dave Spangler, past President of Hooker Industries and Gary Hooker, past CEO of Hooker Industries.

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