Ewald Penner was eight when a passion for cars first took hold.
He said it happened when “a Chevy exploded outside our house” while he and his brothers were growing up in the area of 57 Street near Fraser in Vancouver.
The driver of a classic 1957 Chevy Bel-Air missed a shift and blew the clutch, sending a piece of metal through a window in a house across the street.
No one was hurt, but the incident made a lasting impression and ultimately led to the business founded by Ewald and his brother Kurt, Jellybean AutoCrafters.
So why Jellybean?
The brothers were getting ready to launch a custom car and restoration business, working out a business plan and taking brush-up management courses, but when it came to picking a name, they got stuck.
“Call it Jellybean Hot Rods,” Kurt finally suggested.
That happened to be the nickname of the 1960 Ford Falcon two-door Kurt built for his wife, Lu.
“You’re an idiot,” Ewald said.
But the next day, when Kurt phoned to ask Ewald if he had a better idea, they agreed to call their company Jellybean, with the stipulation they would change it if something better could be found.
Years later, it’s still called Jellybean, a name that has become synonymous with unique and awesome cars.
The only change was switching “hot rods” to “AutoCrafters,” which better reflects the reality of a shop that handles everything from rusty old trucks to sleek Ferraris.
The Jellybean design team has built vehicles that placed in the top ranks at races like the Peking to Paris Rally and harvested trophies at top events like the Grand National Roadster Show and Pebble Beach.
The work they perform ranges from restoring rare classics to custom one-off rides.
“We’ve never done two vehicles the same,” Ewald said.
“Basically, it’s a hobby gone bad.”
On the day a Times reporter visited, Ewald was working at his office desk, a repurposed cab of a 1927 Hudson found in a Saskatchewan field, while Kurt was in the back, working on a car.
“He’s stuck in the office, I’m out here,” Kurt said, grinning.
“This is supposed to be temporary,” Ewald said.
Ewald would clearly prefer to be in the back getting his hands dirty, but a busy company needs someone to stay on top of the paperwork, and Jellybean is the busiest it’s ever been.
The 4,400 sq. ft Jellybean premises on the Langley Bypass had several projects on the go on the day the Times dropped by.
Four “full builds” were in progress, along with two smaller projects.
The brothers are building one car just for themselves, a 1927 chop-top Ford Model T named “Infraction” because the specs go “to the brink” of violating transport regulations without going over.
Photos on the office wall showed off some of their many creations, like the 1959 Mercedes 190 SL with a corvette engine, the 1965 Beaumont convertible and the 1938 BMW 327/328, all taken without any photographer’s model draped on the hood because Jellybean feels the cars are beautiful enough by themselves.
Jellybean moved to No. 208 at 19435 Langley Bypass near the Langley border from the Sullivan area of Surrey about a year ago.
“We were looking for a place closer to the car community (in Langley),” Ewald said.
Some examples of the company’s work will be on display at this years’ Good Times Cruise-in Aldergrove, both from the company itself and from clients who drive their Jellybean projects to show and shines.