Winning is a Family Tradition

Racing Brings Relief From the Weekday Stress

Randy Fish Apr 27, 2004 0 Comment(s)

The old saying, "like father, like son" proves itself to be true more often than not. In this example, the father is Jim DeFrank, whose hobby finds him building street rods and campaigning a few of the most successful NHRA Super Stockers in the country. However, his passion for cool cars goes way back to the '50s, as he was growing up in Pennsylvania.

While doing some research, we found a 1964 issue of Popular Hot Rodding featuring a car show from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, entitled "Stars of the East," which included a photo of Jim DeFrank's Corvette-powered, full-fendered, '29 Model A roadster. Several years after moving to California with his wife Loraine, Jim co-owned Beverly Hills Motoring Accessories, as well as the famous DeFrank & Cohen SS/AA Hemi Cuda. It wasn't uncommon for that car to bomb the NHRA National Record on any given Sunday. Now, as a sole proprietor, his race cars are lettered, Jim DeFrank & Sons, and carry the colors of his California Car Cover Company. Jimmy and Tony DeFrank are living proof of that old saying, "like father, like son."

Though Jimmy is only 25 years old, he's already claimed two NHRA Super Stock World Championships (1997 and 1999), and six consecutive NHRA Division-7 Championships (from 1996 to 2001). He began racing in 1995, and claimed an admirable 10th place finish in the National points standings (after winning the season-ending World Finals) in just his first season of competition. However, Jimmy knew he'd be sitting in the grandstands if he couldn't maintain mom and dad's prescribed goals for keeping up his grades in college. Please don't get the wrong impression. Jimmy's dad is by no means a tyrant. Quite the contrary, Jim and Loraine have both worked very hard to instill all the proper values in their sons. Over in the DeFrank family, racing is seen as a "perk" that must be earned (and respected).

For many years now, Jimmy has helped with his dad's traveling version of California Car Cover Company, attending events with the National Street Rod Association, Goodguys, and local swap meets. Having graduated from California Lutheran University in 2000, Jimmy works full time at CCCC, specializing in business development, inventory management, and overseeing just about every function of the business. As far as his racing endeavors go, inside the car Jimmy's one cool cat. His race-day routine is one that's focused, yet calm. One of the most interesting aspects of his race track habits is seeing him brainstorm with his dad, the master strategist, whose calculated observations, advice, and guidance could surely make a champion out of a novice. However, Team DeFrank has no novices.

Father and sons constantly study their competition to develop a game plan for each respective event, knowing full well that no round of competition is an easy one. During Eliminations, it takes seven straight win lights to capture an event crown --not exactly what you'd call a cake walk. More often than not, NHRA runs Super Stock at an ungodly hour of the day--sometimes before 8 a.m., and well after 8 p.m. Regardless, the DeFrank's aren't fazed, and always go to the starting line with a winning attitude.

In just 9 years of racing, Jimmy has finished in the Top 10 (nationally) on eight different occasions, having only missed by four points in 2002 to younger brother, Tony, who battled to the number 10 spot. Truth be known, a Top-10 finish in Super Stock Eliminator is a distinct honor, and quite an achievement. By the way, Tony drives a Pontiac Grand Am, so that's why he's being mentioned more casually in this story. However, his talents are not to be slighted, as he's an integral part of the team, as well as a key element in the future of CCCC.

In 2003, Jimmy finished second in the Division-7 standings, and 6th in the NHRA National picture, while brother Tony logged a 3rd (in Division) and 5th (on the National scene), respectively. It's obvious these young guns are here to stay. In a relatively short period of time, they've both gained a great deal of experience in a very difficult sport. But, whether they're at the helm of California Car Cover Company, or in the driver's seat of their Super Stock cars, we'd say their future looks bright.

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Most Super Stock cars are known to go several laps with little maintenance. However, it's important to check valve spring pressure on a regular basis. DeFrank relies on professionally built engines, as the rules in Super Stock are not exactly liberal. This small-block leaves on the bumper each and every time, and winds up really tight on the big end of the race track. The DeFrank cars always run well under their index.

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Jimmy also services the team radios, as communication is paramount when event titles (and Championships) are on the line. Team DeFrank doesn't tend to chatter as much as NASCAR teams do, but it's very important to keep the driver informed if an opponent red-lights (or breaks), in order to save the equipment for the next round.

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Even though it's a Super Stocker, there are some very trick pieces onboard. Weld Racing's new front wheels are some of the lightest and strongest on the market. Also, Lamb Components supplies the disc brakes and spindles, along with a trick set of front struts.

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Jim DeFrank (left) always discusses strategy with his sons in the staging lanes before each run. By the time this photo was taken, they had already figured out their dial-in, and knew which lane they'd be running in. Strategy, strategy, strategy!

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Most people don't realize just how much paperwork is involved in drag racing. Have you ever heard the phrase "black book" used in reference to drag racing? That's where information on every run is logged in - date, time of day, weather conditions, car set-up, and more. That information becomes invaluable to a racer, for comparison of conditions from one track to another, when trying to dial-in the car.

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In addition to spending time at the track Jim has built quite a few Chevy street cars. His pride and joy, a set of matching '56 and '55 Shoeboxes often make their way to the grounds of CCCC.

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The uncanny similarity is no doubt due to the two-tone urethane paintwork by George Gray.

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What says tradition more than a '55 Chevy?

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As the most recent addition to the DeFrank collection the '56 boasts coil over suspension and of course hidden gas filler, our personal favorite.

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Just a few years after completing the '55, Jim commissioned Bill Burton to build his "thru" car with the same feel as his '55.

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Built by Jim Hendricks the '55 was set up as a mild street car boasting a 12-bolt rear end, 700-R4 tranny and, of course, Billet Specialties rollers.

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A GMPP 330hp crate motor powers the '56 with simple touches like Vintage Air and power steering.

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Jim's '55 also boasts Vintage Air, power steering and a totally swingin' bench seat interior.

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