Feature

Center Snapshot - Frank Mayhew
08.18.08
Frank Mayhew. Image above: Frank Mayhew, Metals Fabrication Technology Section, with his customized Dodge Magnum sport wagon. Credit: NASA/Sean Smith.

By: Jim Hodges 

 

Frank Mayhew calls the souped-up, customized Dodge Magnum sport wagon his "retirement car."

"When I finish paying for it, I'll retire," says Mayhew, laughing as he stands in black slacks and vest and red shirt alongside the striking red station wagon, which has its doors up like a Lamborghini, and the back open with Elvis Presley music blaring out.

"That's all I play," Mayhew says. "Country and Elvis."

Mayhew has been a sheet-metal worker at Langley since 1987. His primary job now is in the Fabrication shop on Pathfinder, the next version of Constellation's crew module.

Away from Langley, he's a car guy. Always has been.

"I've had 17 new cars since 1992," Mayhew said. "Don't have a wife, so I change cars."

His affinity with cars started with a 1956 DeSoto. "Had a pushbutton drive," Mayhew said. "That's what started me on really liking Chryslers. I fell in love with them."

It was the perfect machine for cruising the Rebel Drive-In and Smitty's in Hampton. And, he admits now that the statute of limitations has passed, for racing on Mercury Boulevard, Old Buckroe Road and Mallory Street.

From that, generations of cars passed through his garage. Like so many of his generation, he used to work on them before computer sensors and fuel injection demanded specialized care.

Mayhew saw his latest ride being constructed on television for a rap artist whose money ran out before the car was finished. Mayhew fell in love with the image on his TV screen and stepped up with a check.

"Before I bought this, my credit was up here," he said, laughing and leveling his hand at eye-height. "After I bought it, it was down here."

He hand dropped to his waist.

Hence the retirement designation.

The car is a 2005 Dodge Magnum sport wagon with a 5.7 liter engine that produces about 390 horsepower. Riding on 22-inch rims, the car will do anybody's speed limit without breaking a sweat, and its Lamborghini front doors along with its leather interior are eye-catching.

Ears are caught with JL Audio amplifiers and speakers.

And Elvis.

It's a car with a term limit. Once retirement comes, "I'll buy another car," Mayhew said.

It will be a car that's is more in line with a retiree. Probably won't do much more than 100.