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Women on Wheels: Jennifer Gardner

Women on Wheels: Jennifer Gardner


"Growing up Petersen" shared by Petersen 3rd generation "Lady Rodder"

Petersen generations who have contributed to that legacy that is this '56 F100 Pickup :Jim Petersen (Grandpa), Tim Petersen (Dad), Jenny Petersen-Gardner (above), and maybe even someday Brody Gardner (currently only 3.5 years old)

Jennifer Gardner's dad Tim and her Grandpa Jim were mechanics who loved working on old cars and street rods. When Tim was about 15 years old, her Grandpa Jim decided that Tim needed to find something productive to do with his time, a hobby that he could enjoy, something to keep him out of trouble. So, one afternoon, Jim took Tim down to the local junkyard where they found parts to begin building a '56 Ford Pickup.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and this soon became the father and son's first project truck. Tim worked on the truck, drove it all through high school, and it was his pride and joy.

Throughout the years, Jennifer's dad had a lot of different project cars. He was constantly fixing up Chevy Novas and selling them, however he kept his first love, the '56 Ford. Grandpa Jim, during that same time period, built a '56 Ford Pickup and a '40 Ford Coupe which is still in the family and belongs to Jenny's Uncle Mike.

When Jenny was young, her Grandpa Jim was the president of the Twin City F100 Club. She and her family would do a lot of truck runs down to Des Moines. There were a lot of memories made during those trips, but it was a memory of the club that Jenny was not a part of that had a lasting impression on her. Make a Wish contacted the club about a young man named Brad from Annandale who had Hodgkin's disease. Brad was 17 and his wish was to have the 1953 F-100 he had been working on restoring when he became ill so that he could take it to a show. The club worked day and night in her Grandpa Jim's garage to finish it. They got it running, and Brad was able to show it off at the Coliseum before he passed away.

Grandpa Jim's garage was a place where Jenny spent a lot of time over the years. Because her dad and her grandpa were so close, Jenny and her family were at her grandparents' home in Lake Elmo at least twice a week. Time spent at her grandparents' home often revolved around family, food, and being in the garage with her dad and grandpa. The time that Jenny spent with them was more precious than she ever could have imagined, as little did she know, she would lose all of them within a 3 year period of time - and all far too soon.

Jenny's grandma Diane passed in April of 2006. Grandpa Jim passed June of 2008. February of 2009 Jenny lost her dad Tim to depression. The pain of losing all of them meant the truck would stay in storage where it had been since Jenny's dad had stowed it away. The reason it was put away to begin with was because prior to losing his dad Jim, Tim had purchased an interior kit for his '56. He had a friend install the interior in Wisconsin. The night he was trailering it home a big buck jumped out in front of him and hit the truck he was using to tow, the front end of the '56 and the trailer. Tim was pretty disgusted with the incident and lost interest in the hobby he loved so much.

Waking up from a 5 year nap

The F100 remained in storage for several years after Tim passed away - in a friend's pole barn. It was difficult for the family to look at it or to even think about fixing it up. Three years went by and Tim's friends reached out to Jenny's mom Linda. They told her, "It's time. We want to do this for you. It's time to get it back on the road." A large group of Tim's closest friends (including his brother Mike) dusted it off and got to work in one of their garages. From time, skills, labor, parts, to the paint, most everything was donated. These were all Tim's friends and repairing the '56 Ford was healing for them, too. The day came when the project was complete and it was time for them to give Jenny's mom, Linda, the keys. Jenny said it was a very emotional reveal. Jenny and her sister Katie, as well as their mom, cried when they opened the garage door and saw the truck. One of their friends who worked on the truck had even designed a special logo "For dad" that they had put on the front bumper of the truck.

As they were standing there, overwhelmed, they had their backs to the street and they heard a honking noise. When they turned around, up the driveway came her Grandpa Jim's '56 Ford Pickup! Even though her Grandpa had sold his '56 (lovingly referred to as the Step-A-Side) many years ago, Jenny's Uncle Mike tracked it down in Michigan and he bought it back. He had kept it a secret until the day of the reveal to make it extra special.

Found in MI and brought home

Since the truck was brought back to life, Jenny has been coming to Back to the 50's again. This was something she had done from the time she was very little with her parents and grandparents.  Now she attends with her family and her Uncle Mike and his '40 Ford Coupe or '56 F-100 so it remains a family affair. She is very sentimental about her relationships with her grandparents and her Dad. She had a strong bond with her Dad and says she was and is a "Daddy's girl" so being in the truck and being at Back to the 50's is part of who she is now as it makes her feel closer to them. But it's also very special because it is the one time of year she gets to reconnect with her grandparents' friends. She enjoys seeing them every year and getting to listen to all of their stories of her loved ones passed. "There is something about being at Back to the 50's with their friends and the stories that are shared - it brings them all back to me again." At the 2015 Back to the 50's Jenny's '56 broke down. Having her father's and grandfather's friends stay with her and her Aunt Wendy until late into the night when the tow truck came was a special gift to her - one from generation to generation. She thanked them over and over again and their reply was, "Your Grandpa and your Dad would have done this for us, we are just repaying the favor now."

The '56 used to have a CB Radio in it that Tim used to talk to his Dad Jim who had one in his '56. It has since been removed. The truck also used to have a significantly smaller engine. That was until Tim decided he needed more power in true "Tim-the-tool-man-fashion". Now this little pickup boasts a re-built automatic 460-fuelie out of a Ford Econoline. Jenny thoroughly enjoys popping the hood at shows and sitting near the truck so she can read people's expressions when they realize what's under there. "That engine is way too big for that truck," someone recently commented. Jenny cracked a smile, thinking of her dad and the epic burnouts he used to do leaving the neighborhood. It may even be a little true, but boy it sure is fun.

Married, Jenny's hubby David works for the Dept. of Revenue and is an officer in the National Guard. He is very supportive of her love of old cars. Their very active toddler, Brody, keeps them busy and Jenny says Brody loves riding in Grandpa's truck. Brody just may be the 4th generation trucker. Their family loves fishing all year round - yes, even in the MN winter they are out ice fishing. The photo of Jenny with her largest fish she ever caught is one that was a "catch and release". Jenny is currently employed as a Senior Buyer at QualiTech in Chaska, MN, and she also volunteers for MSRA Back to the 50's in helping with social media.