One sign of a truly great gift is if the gift-giver fears that, upon the unveiling, his offering could send the recipient, er, shall we say, into another realm of existence.
Jimmy Scott had that kind of gift.
In spite of those "fears," and after two long years of planning, designing, crafting, welding, painting and, of course, a whole lot of elbow grease, Jimmy presented that gift to his father, Jim. It was a perfect re-creation of the elder's1970s-era race car - one in which he'd raced to much success at places like Eriez Speedway, Stateline Speedway, Talledaga and Daytona - and Jimmy gave it to him in front of family and friends at his 75th birthday party.
Jimmy and Jim Scott stand next to the re-created 1970s-era race car Jimmy presented his father for his 75th birthday May 23.
P-J?photo by Scott Reagle
The date was May 23, and the revelation, a two-year secret, turned out to be every bit as wonderful as Jimmy had hoped.
"He had had open-heart surgery and I was really worried about how he was going to take it," Jimmy said with a laugh by phone from his salvage yard in Abilene, Texas on Friday evening. "But he loved it. He was floored and just beside himself.
"He actually jumped in the car right then and there and drove it around."
Future gift-givers - Father's day is just around the corner, after all - take note, this is how it's done.
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The idea for the project came about by chance.
A few years ago, when Jim was in Abilene for a short visit with his son, the 2008 Warren Hall-of-Fame inductee mentioned in passing that he wished he had held on to at least one of the many cars he'd run over his 20-year racing career.
And why not? A car would have been the perfect reminder of a stellar racing career, one that had begun in 1956 on a bet.
And while Jim had raced a great many cars, along the way - he traveled to West Virginia; Bristol, Tenn.; Sulphur Springs Speedway near Findley Lake; and even at Texas tracks in Austin, San Antonio and Corpus Cristi as part of the ARCA Racing Series - it was his No. 3 car that stood out in his son's mind most of all.
"When I was growing up that was the car I remembered most," Jimmy said. "I was about 14 when he was racing it, and it was the car I liked the most."
Luckily enough, he had a few of that car model's bodies lying around the yard.
So over the next few years, in anticipation of his father's 75th, and with the help of Dennis Goggin - a member of Jim's original pit crew who'd worked on the No. 3 car - Jimmy went to work.
It wasn't, suffice it to say, an easy task to recreate a 40-plus-year-old car.
"The project was originally just something meant to be painted to look like the race car," Jimmy said. "Then I decided it had to be a race car, that everything had to be right. But not many parts are available from 40 years ago, so everything also had to be handmade.
"It was a one-man operation," he continued. "We had just two photos of the original car and I built the entire thing from scratch; only the sign painter did the lettering."
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Jimmy told his father he'd flown up from Texas when he arrived at Jim's birthplace, Garland, Pa., a few days before the big birthday bash. In reality, though, he'd hauled the car nearly 1,500 miles on his trailer.
Then, during the party, he snuck away to retrieve it.
"I had to hide the car and tell him I flew up," Jimmy said. "During the party we snuck it up to the house and parked it (out in front of the house).
"He said it was a birthday present like nothing else."
But the surprise didn't end there. For that Saturday, father and son, all smiles, stood proudly shoulder-to-shoulder by the picture-perfect racer and showed it off to admiring fans at Stateline.
"It was well worth all the trouble," Jimmy said, before adding with a laugh, "but I told him he's not getting anything from me next year."