Jim Coons

My interest in fast cars and racing is founded in my pre-teen and early teenage years growing up in Great Falls where a lot of nice cars were driven by the airmen from Malmstrom AFB.  While I grew up through high school in the early 60’s, kids in the neighborhood had “hot cars” and drag racing on the streets was big.  It was the era of 406 Fords, 409 Chevys, 426 Hemis, Javelins, and lots of multi-carb ’55 Chevys, ’56 Fords (including my brother’s) and other not-so-hot cars whose owners thought they could win a late-night street drag.  Cruising the “drag” was our social venue.  It was the exciting era of the big, powerful American muscle cars and all the hoopla that went with it – music, racing, chicks, beer drinking, cruising, and cheap gas.  At the same time the Italian Ferrari exotics, although they were too expensive for most Montanans, and the British icon, the E-Type, emerged.   How could one not become an enthusiast?

My first car was a ’54 Ford coupe which I shared with my brother.  It was short-lived because he rolled it not long after we got it so I had to wait until I had earned enough money by my senior year to get a ’57 Ford Fairlane 2-door coupe with a 312 CID motor.  A couple of friends helped me convert it to a manual stick shift from an automatic after we burned up the transmission chasing jack rabbits with shotguns in the wheat fields north of Great Falls one winter night.  I did some of that late night drag racing mostly against Chevys to see if we could settle that Chevy/Ford rivalry.  I totaled the ’57 on graduation night, ending my car ownership days for several years until my senior year at MSU in Bozeman.

After a couple of successful summer jobs fighting forest fires on a hotshot crew the first summer and as a smokejumper the second, I accumulated enough money to buy a ’64 E-Type Jaguar in San Francisco the fall of 1967.  I still have the car which sports a new paint job but is otherwise original except for minor repair and maintenance issues.

My teenage enthusiasm for fast cars has been with me all these years but has been on the back burner for a lot of those years due to other priorities and interests – marriage, profession, kids, building a house and a business on the one hand, and skiing, hunting, fishing, backpacking, heli-skiing, and traveling on the other.  I nurtured it out as much as possible by attending a CART race, going to the Monterrey weekend, and attending many car shows and the Black Otter hill climbs.  I rarely missed a televised Indianapolis 500 or Formula One race.

My SCCA debut only occurred in 2004 when I bought the Suburu STi which I now autocross.  It’s been fun and I regret not having gotten involved earlier.  Car wise, since the STi, I’ve added two other “fun cars” – a 2005 Mini convertible and a 1972 Ferrari 365 GTC/4 coupe, which give me a lot of hands-on experience and fun driving and fixing.  There will be more autocrosses for me in the STi although it would be fun to run some of the others – we’ll see.

The photos of the Mini were taken on a one-day round trip from Red Lodge to Cooke City to Cody back to Red Lodge for an R-8 driving contest – I had hoped the Audi folks could envision their R-8 in the pictures instead of the Mini and let me drive the same route in their R-8. Didn’t happen. The drive is a fantastic trip – great roads, good places to eat, astounding vistas and some good speed circuits. And there isn’t too much traffic, starting early in the day (I did this trip on the 4th of July but was in Cooke City before 9:30 am).