In his own words, Jess as always been an automotive enthusiast who followed in the steps of his engine building father. While in high school Jess was active in the local car club, and by the time he graduated he was competing at the local race tracks with a carbureted V-8 Buick powered 1934 Ford roadster. Even though this car carried Jess to a series of class wins throughout Southern California, it wasn’t long before he wanted to go faster, quicker, and be more competitive. In 1959 he personally built an injected small block Chevy powered “B” modified roadster. It was in this car that he won his first national event in 1960 and set a new class ET record at the NHRA Nationals held at Detroit Dragway.
Jess continued his winning ways in 1961 by winning his class at the Winternationals in Pomona, California and the US Nationals in Indianapolis, Indiana. While setting new class MPH and ET records along the way. In 1962 Jess won the coveted NHRA World Points Championship Title in the “Hot Car” class and reset the MPH and ET class records while doing so.
1963 started out much like the year before had finished with Jess winning his class at the NHRA Winternationals. Later that year he built and test drove a blown Chevy powered B/Gas dragster, owned by Phil Parker, and set a new national class ET record at 8.95 seconds.
While Jess had to cut short his racing career to take care of family matters, between his introduction of the Modified Roadster in 1960 until he retired in 1963, he was never beaten. Among his many awards were “Best Engineered Car” and NHRA Class Champion at the 1961 Nationals, NHRA Class Champion at the US Nationals in 1962, NHRA Class Champion at the Winternationals in 1961 in 1963, and the NHRA Points Champion in 1962. Jess was also featured in editorial coverage in Car Craft Magazine, Popular Hot-Rodding Magazine, Modern Rod Magazine, Rod & Custom Magazine, National Dragster, and Drag News.
Upon ending his active participation in drag racing, Jess began working at a National City, California auto-parts/machine shop as a machinist. After purchasing the business with a partner, Jess became President and expanded it into a chain of seven stores. He sold the business in 1985 and entered the world of real estate development and construction as a General Contractor specializing in commercial buildings. In order to satisfy his desire to give back to the community Jess pursued politics. He served on the National City City Council for over 18 years, the San Diego Port Commission for over 12 years (serving as chairman twice), the National City Chamber of Commerce (for over 30 years) serving as President, the U.S. Bank Advisory Board (for over four years), and the Board of Directors for Sweetwater Authority (for three years).