Today’s theme is All-American ingenuity and industriousness.
Let’s start with the Chrysler 300S with its V6 engine and Torqueflite eight-speed automatic, both made in the U.S. The car was assembled in Brampton, Ontario, Canada, and 21 percent of its hardware comes from Mexico, which makes it 100 percent American given the name of our continent, remember?
The ingenuity comes with its all-wheel drive and cornucopia of high-tech features that make driving a breeze. We needed that breeze during spring rain and snow storms that pelted us as we motored across Wyoming for business and pleasure.
Pleasure included, first, feeling that solid, weighty undercarriage carry us via all-wheel-drive through thick snow and fog on our way to Casper, an oil and gas town in the middle of the state. Great headlights and fog lamps cut through the curtain just fine. When skies cleared, the 300 passed truckers the way the Star Trek Enterprise went into hyperspace mode.
Later that week, we went the opposite way over to Hoback Junction, near the busy tourist town of Jackson and Grand Teton National Park, to visit a longtime friend who would cut a steel hoof-stand down to size for us. To go back 44 years for a second, after my pal-since-seventh-grade Steve Fontanini and I finished our summer jobs in the Tetons, he found a way to stay and make a living in one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
So last week we pulled up to his artist-blacksmith shop south of Jackson after a splendid drive through the just-awakening valley that is known as Jackson Hole. Steve welcomed us with an admiring word about the Velvet Red, 300hp 300S in which we arrived, and then set to work sawing and smoothing the solid steel post with three legs that holds the hoof when a horse’s foot needs trimming.
“Font,” as we call him, is an All-American original himself. His whole life has been in pursuit of difficult, admirable pursuits. He could always hit a baseball with power and precision and look relaxed while doing so. He learned to tame wild rivers such as the Snake and the Colorado with just two oars and water-sense, and mostly in rafts and dories that he either built himself or heavily customized. He served as a rafting stunt double in the 1986 TV miniseries “Dream West,” the story of American pioneer John C. Fremont starring Richard Chamberlain.
Years ago, when no one else stepped up, he took on the task of fixing the diesel engines that powered the town of Jackson’s school buses, and for years drove the route himself to make sure kids got there and back safely.
Today, when he isn’t aiming his Hasselblad camera at print-worthy subjects in nature, Font uses his Popeye forearms to slam hot metal into a variety of shapes that please both the aristocratic property owners who call Jackson home and the artist himself, who is also quite a teacher. During our visit to his orderly, cavernous shop he instructed us in the creation of aspen leaves, horseshoes and garment hooks, each from straight rods of hard steel.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is that I really like the Chrysler 300S for the fact that it is a solid and sure-footed sedan that swims against the tide of SUV crossovers. And that it comes from our own soil and our own people, north and south included, with a little Italian flair from the company named Fiat Chrysler America.
As for Font, he’s solid, sure and steady himself. And he’s got more than a little Italian owing to the side of his dad, the great retired LA Times photographer Stephen Fontanini, 82. Don’t get me started on Steve’s late, great mom, Grace Fontanini, from whom Font gets that Irish sensitivity and heart that is not at all well-masked by the blacksmith’s bravado.
Clifford Fewel’s AutoFewel column appears each week in the Tri-Valley Dispatch, as well as online at pinalcentral.com/opinion/columns.