Because for the
And nothing, not even losing his sight and almost all his hearing, was going to stop him from tinkering with his 1970 Boss 302 Ford Mustang and constructing a replica of a 1965 427 S/C Cobra.
“With my fingers I can construct in my mind's eye what it looks like,” he said. “For me it's analogous to someone looking at a new car for the first time.”
People can get a look at Simmons'
skills March 8-10 at the 61st Meguiar's Detroit Autorama at
Simmons, who has a degree in mechanical engineering, is the original owner of the Mustang, purchasing it in 1969 for $3,258. It has undergone quite a bit of work over the years, and was even stolen once. When he recovered it several weeks later, there was no transmission, engine or radiator.
In 1993, he stripped the Mustang down to its bare shell and put a 560-horsepower Ford Motorsports crate motor in it so it could be used for drag racing.
Now the vehicle has been upgraded to a pro-streeter, and he rides in his favorite position, “shotgun,” while his wife, Karen, drives.
“I kept it so I can show the next generation what can be accomplished despite my handicaps,” he said.
Rarely does a day go by that Simmons isn't in his garage tinkering with one of his vehicles, one of which, the Cobra, he has never seen.
Robert Beggs, who met Simmons when they worked together in 1986 at the GM Tech Center, said Simmons can tell nut and bolt sizes with just his hands and knows exactly what he is picking up.
“I think his determination is what makes him amazing,” Beggs said.
He was even injured once working on the Cobra, and cautioned to stop, but he said that would be like putting him in jail.
He recently became recertified as an Automotive Service Excellence technician, passing the test despite having to guess at all of the illustrations.
“You can't try to escape all risks because you won't accomplish anything,” Simmons said.
Simmons also is the president of the nonprofit Motown Automotive Professionals (www.map-n.org) that is working on creating an automotive vocational training facility for disadvantaged youth, including the blind.
He gives presentations to various student groups, many who don't believe he actually builds and works on cars.
“I would hold up a $50 bill and tell them if someone can ask me a question about the construction of this vehicle that I cannot answer the money would be theirs,” he said. “And I never once lost my money.”
He said his hope is that people are inspired by what he has done and continues to do.
“I want people to see that with virtually no hearing and no eye sight what can be accomplished,” he said. “I want people to say ‘if a blind person can do it I can do it too.'”
firstname.lastname@example.org | (586) 826-7209 | Twitter: @SOKEccentric