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‘Race of Gentlemen’ lands TV spot for WV man

Journal photo By Jeff McCoy Travis Hess poses in front of one of his race cars that he is custom painting and hand-lettering at Bucky’s LTD Auto Body.
Journal photo By Jeff McCoy
Travis Hess poses in front of one of his race cars that he is custom painting and hand-lettering at Bucky’s LTD Auto Body.

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Travis Hess is a quiet and humble man. He works behind the scenes doing custom painting, lettering and restoration work at Bucky’s LTD Auto Body, his father’s shop; day in, and day out, working on cars as if they are his own, and sometimes they are.

Bucky’s LTD Auto Body offers collision restoration to the public and has won The Journal’s Reader’s Choice Award for their outstanding work and attention to fine detail. Hess has been in the shop since he was 12 years old. “I grew up in here,” Hess said.

Thursday evening he will be stepping out of the paint booth and into everyone’s television set and streaming device on the show AmeriCarna, which is aired on the Velocity Network, Direct TV channel 281, at 8 p.m.

The show is hosted by NASCAR crew chief, Ray Evernham.

“We’re kind of friends now. I talk to him a good bit. He was crew chief for Jeff Gordon for years. They won three championships, so he’s like NASCAR royalty,” Hess said.

The show was filmed in New Jersey, where Hess entered his 1928 Model A, Ford Roadster in the Race of Gentlemen.

“The whole race is based on pre-war hot rods that we race on the beach; just like they did in Daytona back in the ’20s and ’30s. It’s an eight-mile car race in the sand. A flag girl starts it like they did in the 1950s. It’s really cool,” Hess said.

Hess said Evernham came to him with an idea.

“‘I’d like to interview you about the car,’ I?told him, and I ended up taking him for a ride in the car, on the beach. He enjoyed that,” Hess said. Soon after, a film crew was putting Hess in front of the cameras.

Hess’s father, Bucky Hess, drives in NHRA-sponsored races and travels a circuit across the U.S. Son, Travis, also races in some of those events, but really enjoys the “Race of Gentlemen.” That race draws an international crowd, with some coming as far away as Japan and Australia.

Travis Hess is a perfectionist and he added: “I don’t like stickers on race cars.” Computer technology has changed the way a sign shop works today, but Hess prefers the old fashioned way. His work is exquisite. Twenty-four karat gold lettering adorns the car bodies as if they were old European cathedrals.

Even though he will have his fame on Thursday night, he has not let it go to his head. He looks forward to his continued work in the shop, and not in Hollywood. He tells of another time that a TV offer was made.

“I had someone call about doing a paint show but I told them ‘Thanks,’ then gave them a friend of mine’s number in California,” Hess said with a laugh.

Their racing is all self-financed without major corporate sponsors. “We just work a lot and try to pay for it all,” Hess said.

Hess is an artist in rare form. He starts each day hoping to do even better work than his last. “I’m still learning, you never stop learning,” Hess said.

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