Welcome to this month’s edition of Ask a Gearhead, our Q&A series with enthusiasts and influencers in the automotive space. Last month we spoke with Alex Roy, and this month we are pleased to feature Jessi Combs!
Jessi is a motorcycle enthusiast, custom automotive metal fabricator, and a true Renaissance woman. As a driver, she has multiple podium finishes in the grueling SCORE Baja 1000 and other races and off-road rallies. In 2013, Jessi set a land speed record by averaging 398 mph in the North American Eagle Supersonic Speed Challenger, which is a Lockheed Starfighter jet converted for land use. This feat earned her the title of “Fastest Woman on Four Wheels.”
Jessi currently hosts Autoblog’s “The List: 1001 Car Things To Do Before You Die” and her past credits include “Overhaulin’,” “All Girls Garage,” and “Mythbusters.” She is the author of “Joey and the Chopper Boys,” and was even the Grand Marshal for the 2017 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally — the first woman to receive the honor in the rally’s 77-year history! Jessi is an all-around rad gal and you can catch her on Instagram and jessicombs.com.
WHAT WAS YOUR FAMILY CAR GROWING UP?
It was a blue AMC Eagle wagon. It was good because it would go absolutely everywhere. It was handed down from my mom to my brother, and then to my sister, so I wouldn’t say it was officially bad, but it was really undrivable by the time it got to me. It needed to be revved at idle to stay running, so it was a pain in the ass to drive with a clutch.
WHAT’S THE WORST THING YOU’VE EVER DRIVEN?
It was a retired military tank. It was probably the easiest thing ever to drive. There were two levers, one for left and one for right, forward and backwards. But it was just a giant metal box. There was no speed to it and there was nothing fun about it. There weren’t even any guns. I was just so excited to drive a tank that it was underwhelming.
IF YOU COULD OWN JUST ONE CAR FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
That’s a really difficult question. I’ve never been able to narrow it down to just one dream car — never. Okay, if the zombie apocalypse is here then I’m taking a 4WD trophy truck. You can take those bad boys anywhere and mow down anything in the way… at a very high rate of speed. I need something utilitarian, so it will always be a truck, and I am partial to Toyota, though a Raptor would be great too. Now, if I had to have one car right now for fun and budget wasn’t and issue, it would probably be a McLaren P1.
FAVORITE ROAD TRIP?
Can I say the next one? I love road trips! They’re the absolute best, every one of them presents something different and unique and special. The cross country trip in a 1927 Bugatti Type 35B was an epic one. It was very special to not only drive a car of that caliber, but to drive it from coast to coast… which has only been done once before in all of recorded history. You can watch some of it on Autoblog.
SAY YOU’RE DIRECTING FAST & FURIOUS 9, WHAT’S THE HERO CAR?
Ha! I’d love to see some pre-war cars. You know, that four banger power and extreme performance and handling. Haha!
WHAT WOULD BE THE BEST ANIMAL TO RIDE IF IT WERE SCALED UP TO THE SIZE OF A HORSE?
Most animals would look really funny overly large. I’m a Leo, so a lion seems to resonate the best. Don’t get on my bad side, or I will eat you in one swallow.
IS IT ACCEPTABLE TO WEAR FLIP FLOPS WHILE DRIVING? WHAT IS YOUR PREFERRED FOOTWEAR?
Most of the time I’m on my motorcycle, so I’m wearing my Red Wing Heritage women’s boots. If I’m driving then I like to just slip on some Vans. If I’m racing I’ll put on my racing shoes. I think flip-flops are totally acceptable if you’re going to the beach, but that’s it. I even drive barefoot sometimes, I feel more connected to the ground.
WHAT DO YOU KEEP IN YOUR CAR AT ALL TIMES?
Oh I bring everything and the kitchen sink with me. There’s definitely a standard list of things: jumper cables, basic tools, spare fluids, water, stickers, chapstick, eyedrops, and at least one hat if not like, fifteen. Kind Snacks, lots of snacks.
WHAT’S YOUR MARIO KART CHARACTER?
I don’t play video games. Pretty sure the original Nintendo was the last time I played video games. Does the gorilla have a car? Because I would love to drop bananas on everyone, especially in LA traffic. Is he part of Mario Kart? Sweet — I’ll take him.
WHO WOULD PLAY YOU IN THE BIOPIC OF YOUR LIFE? AND WHAT IS IT CALLED?
Charlize Theron, she’s kind of a badass right? The movie would have to be a mix of “Mad Max,” “Fast & Furious,” “Gone in 60 Seconds,” and “Something About Mary.” Actually we’re making a film right now about my land speed record attempts and it’s called “The Fastest Woman on Earth.” I play myself… it’s a documentary.
IF YOU HAD AN ICE CREAM TRUCK, WHAT SONG WOULD YOU PLAY FROM THE SPEAKER?
In the standard ice cream truck chime music? “Welcome to the Jungle” — Guns N’ Roses.
WHAT IS THE SINGLE LAST CAR YOU RENTED, ON ANY PLATFORM?
It was actually a Jeep JK [Wrangler] from Turo! It was a perfect adventure vehicle for our 3,500-mile trip. We used it as our production vehicle for filming the Sturgis Grand Marshall video, a pretty epic journey.