Leatherneck Hardware Inc. | The Wheel Man - Leatherneck's Jim Potter

Jim Potter is the kind of guy who tells it straight and isn’t okay with second place – in his work or in his years of racing modified Model T cars at the Newport Hill Climb in Indiana.

His Job at Leatherneck

Jim is something of a legend at Leatherneck – after 22 years with the company, he’s known as “The Wheel Man.” While he has worked in nearly every area of the company, he is mainly responsible for the large wheels the company designs and manufactures for aircraft hangar and heavy commercial/industrial doors.

“I work to be the best at everything I do,” he says. “I feel like my name is on these wheels at Leatherneck. I strive to make things that you can’t find anything wrong with.”

He and Randy Cessna were also highly involved when Leatherneck’s CEO came up with the design for what would become the popular Flat Track by Leatherneck Hardware line. “I remember Dale came to us and asked us to help him work on it. It was a really small project,” he says. “It is great to see how it has taken off. They have to work hard to keep up with all the orders now.”

His Passion

Aside from work, Jim and his family have a passion that consumes nearly every family gathering and conversation – racing modified Model T’s at the famous Newport Hill Climb. The event takes place on a ¼-mile hill in the middle of the small town of Newport Indiana. The contest, with cars racing one at a time, begins from a dead start at the bottom of the hill and climbs 140 feet of incline to the finish line. In 2016, over 200 cars raced in the event that is held the 1st Sunday in October. The event is the 3rd largest motorsports viewing event in Indiana, drawing over 250,000 people this year.

Jim races a modified Model T that had him winning in his class – Modified Model T- this year and many others. He is the class record holder and has the fastest car that has ever been over the Newport Hill.

Jim is the third generation of Potters to race at Newport and the family tradition isn’t over yet. “They tell me my first trip to Newport was in a basket in the car,” he says. “But my first memory was as a kid riding shotgun with both hands on the Ruxtel shift lever in my Dad’s modified T. Even though I was a little kid, I knew I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to drive myself at the Hill Climb. Just before my 16th birthday, I ended up with a broken arm. On the day of the race, it started to rain so I ended up putting a bread bag over my arm and won that race in 1984.”

The racing family that started with Jim’s Grandpa Edwin (1968 winner) and Jim’s Dad Russell (1969 winner), now includes Jim, his daughter Joselyn, sister Jane, brother-in-law Brian, and even his granddaughter. “My 10-month-old grandbaby took her first ride up the hill this year in a little basket, just like I did.”

Doing What He Loves

Jim has found the sweet spot in his work, in working in his garage at home, and in racing. “I like working with my hands,” he says. “I like my job and I really like being at Leatherneck.”

He has a bit of advice for the next generation. “If you like what you do, you’ve got half the battle whooped.”