Jeff Milburn Racing / Dallas, TX
We first heard of Jeff through his publicist's persistent e-mails. We were about to dismiss him until he sent this picture-the shop is just too cool. As a bonus, Jeff is a down-to-earth guy who worked his way up in the business starting as a mechanic in a dealership, not a playground for some trust fund kid. After putting his time in at the Dodge dealer, Jeff spent four years as a clutch guy for a Top Fuel team. His break came when a producer spotted his motorcycle one night at a bar and asked if he could use it for a music video he was shooting. "That's how my career as a stunt driver started," Jeff says. "He asked me to drive it around the set for the video. After that, I started getting more calls to do precision driving and stunt work." His location helps, too. "There are a lot of stunt drivers in Southern California, but not many in this area of the country. But a lot of car commercials are filmed in Texas because it's cheaper and less crowded." Jeff says that stunt driving and camera car work are the bread and butter of his business, and as his business grew he needed a place to build and maintain his camera cars. He moved into this 5,000-square-foot shop about three years ago.
This '52 Mercury is Jeff's personal ongoing project. He bought it in 1994 for $500 from a guy who had been working on it forever and had no chance of ever finishing it. It was delivered to Jeff in three trips out of the back of a pickup truck. It's one of only four vehicles Jeff owns-he also has a '65 Chevy pickup in addition to his two Harleys. Not one to buy and sell cars, Jeff gets attached to his projects. "I want to die with them," he says. The Merc is almost done. He's getting ready to put the flathead in it.
Jeff and his crew build the cars themselves in between filming jobs. "It's taking us a while," he admits. Jeff plans to compete in them during the 2008 season.
Jeff is trying to get into the Craftsman Truck Series campaigning this #76 Silverado driven by Chris Wimmer. "We've only run one race so far. It's too expensive for us to do any more than four races, and we're still trying to get more sponsors," he says. Most teams have three assembled racers ready to go at all times, but Jeff's still building his backup trucks.
Anyone who's spent more than two minutes watching the NASCAR pre-race crap on TV has seen the tech inspectors checking all the cars over with aluminum templates like these. Jeff says each team must have a set in order to build the race car bodywork to the proper dimensions. The two on the wall are to measure the profile of the truck and the nosepiece. Jeff had to buy 28 templates for a total of $8,000. No, racing's not cheap.
Jeff does a lot of point-of-view footage for commercials and TV shows, so he built these two cars to be his rolling camera mounts. The car in the foreground began life as a Pontiac Fiero. Jeff says he built it like a road-race car, stripping it down and adding a chrome-moly cage. "I can mount a camera anywhere on it-it's really versatile," he says. "It was cheap to buy, and it's small enough to fit in really tight spaces." It is still powered by the stock 2.8, V-6, four-speed automatic combination. His second camera car was originally a '72 Chevy Blazer Camper Special (complete with camper shell) that he dragged out of some old guy's backyard in Nebraska. He says there was 10-year-old food still in the refrigerator. It was stripped and fitted with a tube-steel cage like the Fiero. It's faster than the Fiero, though, with its 400-inch small-block and manual transmission. Jeff can mount his gyroscopic stabilizer camera heads to this vehicle.
Jeff is building these to go into his two cars. The Chevy is a 540hp 383 that will be going into his '65 pickup. The Ford is a 0.120-over flathead destined for his '52 Mercury.
The purple bike in the foreground was the one Jeff rode in the first music video. "I don't even remember what band it was!" he quips. It's mostly an '86 Sportster he built in the late '80s. Jeff likes piecing old Harleys together, as evidenced by the other two bikes-he built the Panhead in the middle for his friend Oliver, a tattoo artist, and the third bike is his FLH Shovelhead.