Calvin was an outspoken, honest but contentious lady who
devoted 25 years to off-road racing. Her early years were
the foundation for her personality. They were tough. She
attended an Indian school on a reservation through the
eighth grade, then worked her way through a Quaker high
school in Pennsylvania.
It was the way she earned that high school education that
formed the independent woman she became. To help pay her
tuition at the school, her relatives taught her to skate and
put her to work in their ice show. She thrived under the
Once through college, Jean moved to California and joined a
touring ice show. For years she skated with the Ice Follies,
the Ice Capades and the Sonia Henie show. She developed work
habits that never left her. She also developed a tough outer
shell that hid a kind-hearted core.
In 1953 she left the ice show and went to work for the Air
Force. She worked in Germany, where she met her future
husband. While there she bought a new MG, and that was the
beginning of her long love affair with fast cars.
In 1955 she left that job and settled in California and a
year later married John Calvin. They set up housekeeping in
In 1961 she began racing an Austin Healy Sprite. She
competed in SCCA events for about seven years, and early on,
started writing about racing. She worked for Peterson
Publications for five years or so. Then she became a free
lance automotive journalist, and with a wide range of
clients, stayed in business until 1983. Earlier, while
writing for Dune Buggies and Hot VWs, she interviewed Les
Choat about his VW salvage yard. They became great friends.
Les gave Jean a VW powered “buggy” to drive in the’70 Baja
500. She was hooked. Her writing shifted to off-road topics.
She built her own single-seat Funco and raced it for years,
always with great glee. She loved the pre-running, the
racing and the people. She continued as a freelancer until
she started the Dusty Times in 1983.
For many years Jean’s knowledgeable and forthright stories
of the sport spread the word about off-road racing through
circles that otherwise might not have noticed. She was
instrumental in the development of a fan base. Without her
creative output we might still be fighting for recognition.
(by Judy Smith)