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During the late 1940s, Hap Jones raced six nights a week for a living. He even competed in NASCAR races at Daytona Beach on the old 4.1 mile beach and road course before the construction of the Daytona International Speedway.
"My father, Hap Jones, started working with fiberglass in 1953," said Dave Jones, current leader of Jones Performance Products, Inc. "His first product was corrugated panels for roofs." But his love for auto racing was still in his blood, so he soon got into building fiberglass components and bodies for race cars."
Hap Jones made the nose for the Indy car around 1970 when the sport was beginning to explore ground effects. He built bodies for several cars such as the USAC Watson Roadster which competed at Indy in the early 1970s.
When Dave graduated from high school in 1972, he started working with his father at Chautauqua Manufacturing, making everything from race cars to industrial molds, out of all types of thermoset plastics - urethane, polyester, carbon fiber, Kevlar, and epoxies. In 1978, father and son decided to start their own company, and Jones Performance Products, Inc. was born. They manufactured a variety of products like the ones they made at Chautauqua, and continued to expand into other products - from things as small as motorcycle trip trunks to ones as large as satellite dishes.
"We made motorcycle trip trunks for about four years, starting in 1979," Dave said. "And my uncle Glenn was in cable TV, so we made satellite dishes that were 5 meters in diameter. They were for both download and uplink." They also made precision, heavy duty components for foundries. The polyester core box was made for an ingot mold foundry, had to be accurate within 1/32nd of an inch, and had to be strong enough to be rammed full of sand. The walls were 3/4" thick and weighed 4 tons. "You take fiberglass and make it 3/4" thick and try to hold dimension on it . . . it's a pretty tough deal," Dave said. The crane bumper was molded out of urethane elastomer. This castable substance is used in industrial applications where high abrasion is a problem. In factories such as ingot mold foundries, tube plants, and steel plants, urethane elastomer will survive ten times longer than other plastics. It can also be cast in the form of patterns. Jones produced such patterns for china manufacturing
Jones Performance continued making race car bodies and components. They built bodies for sprint cars, sports racing cars, and formulas.
"We built the bodies for all the local Pennsylvania sprint cars - the hoods, the noses, the seats," Dave Jones said. "Floyd Trevis used to be the car builder, and we built all of his bodies."
Floyd was inducted into the Sprint Car Hall of Fame the first year it was opened, along with other true legends of the sport - pioneers such as A.J. Foyt, Wilbur Shaw, Arthur and Louis Chevrolet, August and Fred Duesenberg, and Barney Oldfield.
About 1979 Jones Performance Products started making fiberglass components for a local trucking company. They went on to develop a broad line of production fiberglass replacement hoods for all the major brands. By 1982 they were making a dozen different hoods and discovering broad new markets for them. They dropped all other products to focus on their expanding line of truck hoods.
But making "only" truck hoods doesn't mean they abandoned their drive to make advances in both design and technology. From the beginning they experimented with applying aerodynamic principles to truck design.
About 1985 Jones Performance designed and produced an over-the-cab hauler for Porsche. It tipped forward to open, and the car was driven through the trailer into the unit. They made about 50 of them for Cottrell, Inc. the largest manufacturer of over-the-cab car hauling equipment in the world.
Okay, so trucks are big, but how fast can they really go? Bob Motz consistently drove his jet-propelled Kenworth over 200 mph in quarter-mile drag exhibitions. Jones built the hood for this behemoth way back in the 1980s.
"We've been sponsoring that truck ever since," Dave said. "Over the years we've done Bob Motz's truck bodies. We first got involved with Bob because the nose on that thing, from the original equipment, was made out of a urethane. The bumper wouldn't withstand 200 mph, so we built one for him that would. One thing led to another, and we started building hoods for him. The truck will actually go 240 mph, but the drag strips are too short, so he can't go full throttle."
Jones Performance will be building another hood for Motz, because he crashed the truck last year at Thompson Drag Raceway in Thompson, Ohio. When he popped the 'chutes at the end of a run, they detached from the truck and he couldn't stop before the pavement ran out. Motz wasn't hurt, but the truck most definitely was.
In 1989 Jones Performance started making hoods for HME, Grand Rapids, Michigan. The original hood was made from three separate pieces. Jones redesigned it so that it could be molded in one piece. Jones is still supplying HME today.
In 1990 Jones Performance designed and built the Silver Bullet for HME (below). "We didn't have computerized coordinate math measuring instruments," Dave Jones said. _"We made it perfect using plumb bobs and tape measures." _The computerized measuring instruments Jones uses today are accurate to within .007" over a span of 12 feet.
Jones Performance always worked to stay at the forefront of thermoplastics technology. In 1990 inventor John Alanko worked with Jones's team to develop the Vacuum Infusion Process. "The process allowed us to build a complete hood in one shot absolutely, positively free of error," Dave said. "No error. Zero. Doesn't exist. We still use a variation of this process. It was developed here. It's in widespread use today."
"In 1993 we became a Ford Motor Company supplier for replacement hoods," _Dave Jones said. _"After we signed with Ford, along came International, Kenworth, Peterbilt, Freightliner, and Volvo. We have direct ship programs with all of them to the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico."
As their line of hoods expanded and their experience deepened, the quality of their products and processes continued to increase. Jones Performance achieved ISO 9000 certification in 1993 and Ford's Q1 quality award in 1996. Today Jones Performance maintains its ISO certification while producing a line 100 different fiberglass replacement truck hoods.
Convoy To California
By the mid-90s Jones Performance Products were delivering hoods throughout the country. Pictured at right is the start of a convoy to California that illustrates Jones's "whatever it takes" approach. "Those are one-ton trucks, each hauling 45 feet of hoods," Dave said. "In the midwest we drove through a snow storm that hit the whole country. It was very scary."
The Jones competitive spirit has passed on through the second to the third.
Hap Jones passed away on October 20, 2001.
Even before Rod graduated from high school, he started working with Dave at Jones Performance Products.
"Rod has been messing around with fiberglass since he was eight," Dave said. "We showed him everything we knew, and he is taking it a step beyond. He's a much better toolmaker than I ever was."
Dave emphasizes that Rod is just one member of a great team of exceptional people. "We have seven other toolmakers who are equally skilled."
Jones's team is long on experience. It includes Gary Antus, his general manager, with the company for 20 years, and product manager Rick Haywood, who has been around for 18 years. Dave's secretary, Cathy William, joined the company 19 years ago.
A couple of years ago Dave realized that this team was capable of doing much more than manufacture standard fiberglass replacement hoods. "We know fiberglass truck hoods," he said. "We've made more than 100,000 of them." So he set the team on a mission to create the ultimate truck hood in form, fit, and function. As a result, Jones Performance Products is entering a new phase in its history - by creating something that's never been seen in the trucking industry before. They've taken what they believe to be the very best engineering and manufacturing processes and combined them to create a new line of truck hoods called Truk-Rodz.
"Truck owners have told us over and over that they want something different," Dave said. "But until now, the only way to customize your hood was to cut into the structural integrity of the hood. Fiberglass cannot be cut like that. It must be a continuous molding. A Truk-Rodz hood is designed and built from the ground up. We design, model, and mold them in-house, using the latest CMM equipment as well as the latest CAD systems. If you have ideas about the design of your hood, we can make them reality. Our goal is to build your truck hood your way, to the highest level of quality."
"We at JP wanted to make it possible and affordable to make your truck totally unique," Dave said. "No two trucks ever have to look the same anymore. That's what Truk-Rodz is all about. Truk-Rodz is dedicated to developing alternatives to personalize your truck."
"It is imperative that all Truk-Rodz products represent the best of the best. We want your truck to look good, but we also want it to be efficient. Functionality and aerodynamics are the cornerstones for our designs."
Truk-Rodz includes a line of production Truk-Rodz hoods. But the epitome of truck design is incorporated into their one-of-a-kind Truk-Rodz Originals.
"Truck drivers have the hardest job in the world," Dave says. "I know, because I've done it. They're out on the road for days or weeks at a time. Their trucks are more than just a truck to them. It's their business, their home away from home, their pride and joy."
Truk-Rodz is not just about truck hoods. "Truk-Rodz originals focus on the complete truck to make it absolutely, positively one-of-a-kind," Dave said. "Drivers are passionate about their trucks. And we are every bit as passionate about Truk-Rodz - about transforming your truck into something that excites others as much as it does you."