Story: Michael Crenshaw
Photography, Images 1-5: Michael Blackwell
Photography, Images 6-14: David Nickerson
You may not have heard of Jim Jonsin, but you’ve definitely heard Jim Jonsin. The fact is, most of his underlying work is deep within the tracks of your favorite musicians’ records. The beats you nod your head to are his compositions: “Crank That,” “Lollipop” and “Just a Dream,” to name a few, have garnered more than 360 million combined views and counting on YouTube. Though his track record is expansive, Jonsin is going off the grid for his next venture.
Racing to the top of the charts has fueled the fire of one of Jonsin’s other loves: motorsport. As a seasoned vet in the music industry, Jonsin is trying to diversify and start up a professional racing career. That could be considered a risky business move, but he swears by his live-fast attitude. Putting the wheels in motion, Jonsin has created Rebel Rock Racing, and with the help of family and friends, he’s looking to put the pedal to the metal.
Have you always had a passion for cars? My uncles from Long Island were into auto body and building hot rods or fast cars, so I learned to fix my own. The vehicles became a thing of passion, what I love, from the roots of my pops bringing me to the shop. So I understand them, I appreciate them.
So you had a pretty dope first car? My very first was a gold-and-black Chevy Chevette, and it had this really bad tranny, so anytime I’d go to a light, it would make this loud knock, and it was the most embarrassing thing. Not to mention the brakes were bad. But I had the sweetest subwoofers and sound system that you could possibly imagine.
We see that you’ve upgraded now. Do you wrench on the cars yourself? There are a couple of people I actually have work on the cars, and now I have started up a team—Rebel Rock Racing. It’s more about racing our personal cars. We don’t do work for everybody else, but maybe for a friend, we might. My dad, Jim, and my uncle Jackie do some of the paint and bodywork on the cars. I have been busy, but I do like to turn wrenches.
Other than the Bel Air and Mustang, what else are you driving? I’ve been going through Porsches like underwear. I drove a lot of cars trying to figure out what I like to drive, and I bought Porsches because I like racing. I didn’t buy them because I want to be on the street going to the movies and all that shit—it’s not my thing.
Anything in mind that you want to build next? I don’t have an everyday car right now, so it could be one of Cadillac’s supercharged cars or a Porsche Panamera. They’re crazy, but that might be a little too much. So I might end up in a Ford Focus. I don’t stress it. I like the Focus.
Seems like you’re fixated on Porsches. Any reason behind that? It’s more, “Let me get these cars so I can drive them and race them.” It became a passion, or a fever, or whatever you call it—obsession.
Why not race Ferraris? I just didn’t like having an automatic car with paddle shifters. I like to drive and shift and do all that. Secondly, I was faster in a Porsche.
Fair enough. When did racing become an obsession? My brother and I always followed racing: NASCAR and Indy Car. But I could just never afford it. So when I started making money, I went out there and started playing with it. I took my wife’s BMW 6 Series convertible to the track and got my ass whooped, but it was so fun that I went and bought a car a little more capable in July of last year. I don’t do anything slow, I go full-bore.
So this is what spawned Rebel Rock Racing? We started Rebel Rock Racing and were going to start branding a clothing line and apparel; just a new image and way of approaching racing. I’m teaming up with skate pro Bucky Lasek, who is also driving, as well as two of my other friends.
People outside the motorsport community aren’t very well versed in road racing. How do you expand the appeal? Road racing is an amazing sport, but it’s not hugely popular here, and it’s not branded the way NASCAR is. NASCAR has famous drivers, and they brand them, and the team names follow suit. I want to take some of these youthful guys and make superstars out of them. We bring out entertainers to the events. We just brought out Pitbull for a barbecue in Miami, and at our next Miami event, we’re having Nelly and Kelly Rowland perform, to keep bringing in a diverse crowd.
As team owner, are you actually racing? My goal is to suit up and compete professionally, racing alongside Lasek and my other teammates. I’m mainly trying to diversify. I have a few websites and a social game coming out called “Road to Fame,” which is like a Facebook game, with Pitbull as my partner.
Very cool. What insight can you give us into your future collaborations? As far as the record label goes, I just signed an artist out of Spain who’s incredible—I’ll give you that much. Right now I’m working with Yelawolf very closely, so I’m hoping to be a big part of a Shady Records project soon. Also, we have another artist named Nick, who is out of Pembroke Pines, Florida, and he is an incredibly talented 14-year-old artist, so watch out for him as well.
Spec The Technique: 1967 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500
Performance: 390 FE, bored .40 over making 550hp; port and polished heads; Crane solid roller camshaft and rockers; Victor intake; Holley 4500 Dominator carburetor; Tremec five-speed manual
Wheels/Tires: American Racing Shelby wheels; Michelin Pilot Sport A/S, 245/40/17 front, 275/40/17 rear
Spec The Technique: 2007 Porsche 911 Turbo
Performance: Werks One carbon airbox, race exhaust, intercooler system and GIAC software; modified VTG turbos; Champion Motorsport single-mass flywheel; OEM short-shift kit; custom coilovers with H&R springs; 997 GT3 Cup front and rear control arms; H&R 26mm front
and 24mm rear sway bars; front strut brace
Interior: Werks One front splitter, rear wing, rear diffuser
Exterior: Carrera GT fixed carbon seats; GT3 RS steering wheel; custom Alcantara trim
Wheels/Tires: 19-inch Champion Motorsport forged alloys; Michelin Sport Cup tires, 235/35/19 front, 305/30/19 rear
Spec The Technique: 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air
Performance: 434ci SBC dyno’d at 750hp; TCI three-speed automatic transmission; Wilwood brake kit; Moser 9-inch rear; Chassis Engineering ladder bars; 3-inch stainless-steel exhaust
Wheels/Tires: 20-inch Boyd Coddington Shadow wheels, 245/35/20 front, 275/35/20 rear; Nitto NT555 tires
Update: Photographer David Nickerson caught some video of Jim’s Porsche 911 Turbo running hot laps at Homestead-Miami Raceway during the shoot, and threw it up on YouTube; check it out below.