What a devastating blow. It's always tough to hear a AMC Friend passes away, but doubly tough to hear Houston SWAT shot him eleven times. (from early local news reports) It's another thing to get killed in a car wreck or drown, but another thing to get blown away because of a foreclosure on one's home.
James Hahn was a friend of mine. I first cross paths with him in the mid 1980s, a big fellow, looked like a football player who towered over me. And wore a eternal smile. He liked Gremlins. Didn't care for AMX, Ambassador, anything except Gremlin. You probably saw me write about him being "the gremlin god" as he owned about 13-16 of them, and his dad was just as enthusiastic about those little cars. Together, they seemed to snap up any Gremlin that needed a home; and in the 80s, many of the Gremlins were usually bought at police auctions...one step from the crusher.
Who was James Hahn? This is a neat video of him on youtube in happier times put there by a friend after this incident.
One Gremlin in particular I need to mention. I was driving along Washington avenue here in Houston in the late 1980s and had it down to science to where I could drive slowly and look at the back rows of cars in the many used car lots on Washington, Harrisburg, Shepard, Durham and even College; as the back rows is where the AMCs sat. On this day there was a small lot with about 20 cars near Sawyer and The Pig Stand, and one front row was a little white Gremlin, so I whipped around and stopped.
It was a 74 Gremlin X, white with 304, AT and beautiful Levi's interior. I talked to the salesmen and they wanted $1500 for it. When I made my rounds and went home, the first person I called was James Hahn. Not that he needed another, but this car was sweet, ready to show with little detail. He thanked me and went and bought it next day for $1250 cash.
That car he, along with beautiful wife Jaime, would proudly show at many meets here in the east Texas area for years to come including AMC Regionals, and ISCA Astrodome. The little 74 Gremlin made the big guy with the big smile have a bigger smile, especially when he would win a trophy! His dad had another show Gremlin, a red 76, but this one they really liked.
I talked to James just 2 years ago....and his work number at Blentech was on my desk here as I was going to call him to see if he needed anything off the 74 Hornet I am parting out.
Last night (October 24th) I was watching the news about a SWAT standoff in NW Harris County in Spring. Nothing unusual there, SWAT standoffs are way of life in big city. But unusual about this was the announcer said that 'the man on Covington Place' had 'a chemical belt with explosives, and had told the officers that they knew what he does for a living and to back off'. I thought that strange, but that was end of it.
This morning, I found out the SWAT stand off ended as it was first thing on Houston news. The name seemed familiar, James Hahn. The firth thing you think of is how many people named James Hahn in Spring, Texas that are chemists and 39 years old. No, can't be. So I went to office closet and started pilfering thru AMC Club of Houston rosters, as he had been a member on and off for years, not steady, just occasionally. There is his name, and Covington Place, Spring. No, not this big happy bear Gremlin guy.
I told my youngest son, Jacob, who is 4 now, to watch cartoons of which he happily obliged. On my desk, I called Blentech, the work number I had for James since 1980s. The lady who answered the phone sounded tired. I'm not at a loss for words but stuttered thru it something like this:
"Hi, good morning maam, my name is Eddie Stakes." "Hi Eddie." Yes maam, I saw some news report about a SWAT standoff in Spring and the fellow's name is James Hahn and I his number is on my desk here and I just wanted to make sure this is not my Gremlin buddy who works there." She said "Hi Eddie, I remember you, and yes, this is his mother, and he killed himself last night. He had gotten a divorce from Jaime about 5 years ago and had been depressed as they mortgage company was foreclosing on his house." Insert stunned silence here. "He had been depressed, and as you know, we are a family run business here." "I stuttered (for lack of better word) WHY? He is only 39 years old dammit!" But then quickly realized nothing I could say or do would easy this mother's pain. I told her that Paige & me would pray for James, and also strength for his family at this time and if there is anything I could do (their ain't) to please call me 24 hours. She said she was thankful for all those friends who had been calling expressing sympathy. I told her that James was just a big nice fellow and I could not even comprehend what her or daddy are going thru.
I also told her about finding the Gremlin on Washington and how he was like a kid with new puppy when he bought it years ago. On my wall I have a framed 8x10 of my 68 Rebel convertible Machine at the ISCA 5 star Auto Rama at the dome from possibly 1990 or 1991. Next to it....is James' little 74 Levi's Gremlin!
She laughed as only a mother could do, especially under the circumstances. No mom should have to bury son. And all the questions. I just wished he had asked for some help. I honestly don't know what goes thru one's mind but I have been depressed before, just not to that pushed to the wall/no return I guess James was at with deputies serving eviction notice to him and he barricades himself in there. The kid had so much to live for and nothing to die for, but again, no one knows what goes thru a person's mind battling demons.
This is the article in the Houston Chronicle:
I'm sure in coming days there will be more on this strange story that sadly, involved a long time AMCer, and dammit, just a good man I had watched grow up the past decades.
This is a photo of James' Gremlin I mentioned above at the Houston AutoRama behind my Rebel. Man, was he proud of this car!!!
I probably have photos here of James, and chances are he is with or in......a Gremlin, and well, wearing a big smile. Too upset to look thru cases of photo albums right now however, eventually after the funeral, if there is one, will do it and make copies for his momma of her son, as usual, smiling. Ya'll say a prayer for this young man, he was a joy to be around, and at any AMC meet, even non AMC meet, ws usaully first one there and one of last to leave, and would always lend a hand, unloading parts, picking up trash in park, judging, selling sodas to benefit chapter, you name it, he was all that. God Bless You James, you will be missed by everyone you crossed paths with in this life.
UPDATE APRIL 2008. I attended a 'rememberance' his family had for him up in Spring, Texas, drove what else, my 68 Rebel convertible Machine which had proudly sat next to Jim's Levi's Gremlin at the Astrodome decades ago. I was particularly touched by the warmness of his family who is still coping. They had photo boards up from when he was born, to elementary school, cast on leg, working on Gremlin, marraige, school, one could walk along and view his life from baby to abrupt and tragic end. It was a beautiful day, in mid 70's warm sunshine and there was folks there he knew from school, work, and thru his life, even NASA astronaut. So quite a few people miss him!
most of which will be for sale as soon as I get them over to my place.
In 2011 I got this from anger management guy from some place called Denton Arc Race Cars.
You guys think this stupid ass was cool? He was a fuckin moron, and cheated on his
wife. He made drugs
and tried to sell them. This fat piece of shit was a low life as bad as they come! He lost his house because he was a loser, and fucked himself by thinking he was cool and something special. Didn't y'all notice how much
weight he lost? He fucked over his parents stealing thousands of dollars
from them. Writing about how nice and cool he was is misleading news about such a waste of skin like Jim. He was a loser to the highest degree from him buying those fuckin junk crap cars to burning his parents house to the ground. And you say you were friends with this stupid fat prick? He still owed
Kevin Thomas and others alot of money for work done on his and his fathers cars. His dad would give him money to pay for work done on cars only to have this fuckhead you call friend, pocket the money and do horrible things. You don't know him at all. If I were you, concentrate on real friends and family that really matter to the world. He got what he needed, and that was to die.
Denton Arc- Heli Arc Welding Co http://dentonarcracecars.spruz.com/