It’s hard to tell where Jason Cramer’s house ends and his garage begins. Sliding glass doors in the industrial grey and black kitchen offer a clear view of his shiny black Buick with the “BBBBBAD” license plate and a turbo engine.
The line between Cramer’s hobby and his business is also blurred. “Race Jace” as he is known in drag racing circles, has gained fame as three time consecutive winner of the fiercely contested Turbo Street Modified class at the Buick Nationals.
He has also gained a loyal following with his business of custom built parts for the narrow market of Buick Grand National (GN) car owners. “You have to support your habit somehow,” he said.
Cramer’s 1987 GN is a comfortable ride with air conditioning and power windows. But the real power is under the hood in its turbo engine.
Only 6,000 turbo Grand Nationals were manufactured in 1986-97. But Cramer said the vehicle is the fastest car built during the 1980s. “Everybody who has one is fixing it up,” he said. When GN owners want new parts, they call Cramer.
The steady ring of a telephone attests to the popularity of Cramer’s homebased business. In his home office a tidy stack of shiny silver parts line one wall. Two computers — one for the financial end of the business, the other featuring a 3-dimensional drawing of his latest design — vie for space on his desk.
“Most of the money (from racing) goes into the cars,” Cramer says A Tooele native, Cramer was raised by a gear head, Tom Cramer, who introduced “Race Jace” to racing early.
As a child he watched his father built a turbo driven dune buggy from the ground up. The younger Cramer learned to drive the off-road vehicle at the age of 12, and was soon racing everyone who would accept his challenge, he said.
Jason Cramer bought his first car, a 1968 Oldsmobile 442, at the age of 15 and started counting down the minutes until he was 16 and old enough to get a driver’s license.
At 16 he started racing at what was then the Bonneville Raceway.
Cramer wasn’t just about cars; he graduated with an academic scholarship from Tooele High School and attended Southern Utah University where he studied to be a manufacturing engineer. Between classes he raced cars and dirt bikes. He met his wife, Cathy at college and found in her a companion who shared his love of racing.
Cramer began his serious research into the turbo engine after graduating from college when he bought a GMC Syclone truck. He was disappointed when the truck did not perform as he expected. But he met John Tadje from Alpine, Utah who helped the young gear head adjust his engine and boost the power.
In one week he shaved a second off his time, and Cramer “became thirsty for knowledge” and subscribed to GSXtra, a race magazine.
Cramer bought the 1987 Buick Grand National for his wife in 1994 for $6,000. He continued to race the Syclone while his wife raced the GN and he made modifications to each car. Soon the GN was outperforming the Syclone and the couple decided to sell the Syclone so Cramer could devote his attention to the faster car.
Meanwhile, he supported his drag racing hobby by working as a manufacturing engineer/ machinist at Loveridge Machine Co. in Salt Lake City. He wore a number of hats on the job, learning how to do everything from running the front office to designing programs and welding parts.
During down-time on the job he used some of the equipment to manufacture parts for his beloved Buick. His first invention was a billet aluminum ring to replace a fragile plastic part on his steering wheel.
But the big money invention was a racing block girdle.
Designed with one thing in mind, strength, the 3/4 inch thick billet steel part was designed for Turbo Buick enthusiasts.
He continued tinkering and racing. In 2002 he decided to try and sell some of his custom parts at a booth in the Buick Nationals, and he took his car along to give the race a shot. “I was racing against the best in the nation,” he said, “and I won the whole thing!”
In 2003 he tried and won again, and in 2004 his third win proved it wasn’t just a fluke. “I was going against the big money guys,” he says, still somewhat astonished by his accomplishment.
In drag racing, cars sprint 1/4 mile. The event is all about the how quickly the car can get off the starting line. The race starts with the “burnout” where drivers spin the tires until they heat up and start to smoke. On “go” the cars are “launched” and the front wheels come off the ground. Cramer said the force is so great it pushes against his chest and he has a hard time catching his breath.
Cramer was the first to travel the 1/4 mile in 9.89 seconds. His car was clocked at 136 miles per hour.
The big wins have upped demand for custom parts and Cramer eventually decided to retire from his machinist job to go into business for himself. He currently has some 40 parts in his line and is constantly adding more.
Tom Cramer has joined his son, now working full-time for his business. But demands on his time to design and sell the parts now keep him too busy to manufacture them himself. He has several small companies in Salt Lake City running the parts for his business, RJC Racing.
Race Jace has enjoyed the ride, but he said, “the best part of the whole thing is getting to know people across the United States.” It is a small, tight community, “a good group of guys.”
The hobby has helped bring his family closer together he said, and it has helped him make friends both far away and close to home. Not only has Cramer hooked his father on the business, he has also encouraged his uncle and his friends to buy cars. “It’s kind of a contagious thing.”
More information about his business and inventory can be found at his Web site, rjcracing. com.