Jessi Combs in Memoriam

Jessi Combs in Memoriam

Jessi Combs was more than just a TV star and an off-road racing fanatic. Her accidental death on August 27, 2019, cut short a life of creativity, ambition, dedication, and inspiration to many. Her career spanned a wide range from fabrication & metal artistry to racing to the entertainment industry. In the process Jessi became a hero and guide to many women looking to break out of gender-defined roles and discover their unique gifts and talents in traditionally male strongholds such as welding and motorsports.

Jessi Combs was born in South Dakota, where she participated in all forms of outdoor sports. Later, she attended the automotive fabrication training program at Wyoming Tech, which eventually led to her first TV gig on Overhaulin’.

In addition to that show, Jessi was known for her roles on Xtreme 4X4, All Girls Garage, The List: 1,000 Car Things To Do Before You Die, and filling in as a host and builder for Season 7 of Mythbusters.

Women in Welding

In 2015, Jessi co-founded The Real Deal Revolution, a non-profit dedicated to revolutionizing the perception of skilled trades – and women’s roles in them. The Real Deal is a dynamic collaborative of automotive and industrial women who empower and educate others by teaching the skilled trades through hands-on welding workshops, events, and adventures.

In addition to metalworking in her own custom fabrication shop, Jessi’s creativity found other outlets, including leather craft and photography. She also wrote a children’s book Joey and the Chopper Boys, to inspire girls to expand their horizons.

Jessi’s fame and experience in metal fabrication led to many sponsorship roles. IMS was proud to partner with Jessi Combs as her go-to metal supplier, providing her with tools and resources for her off-road racing projects. She was also a spokesperson for the American Welding Society (AWS) from 2008 to 2013. Beginning in 2008, Jessi acted as a spokesperson for Lincoln Electric and helped develop its line of women’s protective welding gear.

Love of Racing

But racing was her first love. Jessi entered and placed in some of the most grueling, multi-day off-road races, proving her mettle right along with the men. In 2011, she placed 2nd in Class 10 of the Baja 1000, considered the toughest race of its kind. Then in 2014, she became the first woman to place in King of the Hammers, the most brutal one-day desert race in the world. She was able to complete the entire Ultra4X4 season and won the national championship [spec class].

Jessi continued her winning spree in 2015 with a 1st Place in the First Participation category (10th Place overall) in the 9-day Rallye Aicha des Gazelles, an all-woman race through the Moroccan Sahara using only a compass and hand-drawn maps. In that same year, Jessi was part of an all-female driving team that took a 2nd-place Class 7 finish in the Baja 1000.

In 2016, a 1st-place finish in King of the Hammers re-earned Jessi the nickname “Queen of the Hammers.”

Fastest Woman on Four Wheels

Jessi was invited to be one of the drivers of the North American Eagle Supersonic Speed Challenger, a jet fighter remade into the fastest land racing machine in history. In 2013, Jessi drove the Eagle at a record 398 mph with a top speed of 440 mph, becoming the fastest woman on four wheels. Again in 2018, the team achieved a new top speed of 483.227 mph with Jessi in the driver’s seat.

Then tragedy struck. Thirty-nine-year-old Jessi was attempting to break her own record when the Eagle came apart and crashed in the Alvord Desert in Oregon.

A private memorial for family and friends celebrating the extraordinary life of Jessi Combs was held September 21, 2019, at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. A public exhibition to honor the “Fastest Woman on Four Wheels” followed immediately after. Any donations go to the Jessi Combs Foundation, with its mission statement: To Educate, Inspire and Empower the next generation of female trailblazers and stereotype-breakers.

Industrial Metal Supply and Jessi Combs were marketing partners for many years. Her diverse skills and determined desire to be among the best led to a mission of quality in everything she conquered.

Jessi Combs – We salute you!

Jessi Combs

Jessi Combs: The Real Deal

With a long, varied, and record-breaking career, Jessi Combs truly is the “Real Deal” in the world of metal fabricators and motorsports. Just who is Jessi Combs and why is she important to the metal industry?

Growing up in South Dakota, Jessi excelled at racing, snow sports, and especially off-roading. She also showed an artistic bent and found working with her hands to be quite natural and extremely empowering. All these talents came together when Jessi entered WyoTech, graduating with a degree in Custom Automotive Fabrication.

jessi combs working on motorcycle

Her first fabrication job was building a car from the ground up in six months for the school’s marketing department. The car debuted at the Specialty Equipment Marketing Association (SEMA) show, and propelled Jessi headlong into a career combining fabrication & metal artistry, racing, and the entertainment industry.

Since then, Jessi has co-hosted or guest-starred on hundreds of television episodes for shows like Overhaulin’, Xtreme 4×4, SEMA Show Special, All Girls Garage, and The List: 1001 Car Things To Do Before You Die. Among multiple guest appearances in automotive TV circuit, she also appeared in the entire 7th season of Mythbusters, filling in for Kari Byron on maternity leave.

Jessi’s Love for Racing

Jessi’s first love is racing, and she continues to build and race vehicles with her teams. After three attempts as a co-driver, her first year as driver of record and Jessi placed first in the spec class in the King of the Hammers (KOH) off-road race in 2014 – the first female to ever place at any Ultra4 event. Then in 2016 she won the Every Man’s Challenge (EMC) at KOH in the Modified class, and in 2017 took that car to a twelfth place overall finish. To level out the playing field, she followed that up with a 1st place win in the Stock class in 2018 – taking 3rd overall in the EMC. The brutal race, which combines desert racing and rock crawling, takes place on a dry lake bed in and around Johnson Valley, California near Yucca Valley.

jessi combs working on motor

In 2011, Jessi finished on the podium in the Baja 1000 in class 10, and again a few years later a 2nd in class 7. In 2015 she competed in the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles, a nine-day all-female rally race that only uses 1960 hand-drawn maps and compass, winning 10th place overall and 1st in the First Participation category. In 2017 she attempted to Iron[wo]man the 1300+ miles of the 50th Baja 1000.

The North American Eagle Supersonic Speed Challenger, a jet fighter turned into the fastest racing machine in history, added Jessi to the team for 2013. Their attempt is to break the 512 mph Women’s Landspeed World record made in 1976 by Kitty O’Neil. Jessi achieved a speed record of 398 mph with a top speed of 440 mph, becoming the fastest woman on 4-wheels. In 2018 the team achieved a new top speed of 483.227 mph with Jessi behind the controls.

One Of The Boys

According to Jessi, her love for building cars came as a result of her desire to be lighter, race better, race faster… to be just as competitive as “the boys.”

jessi combs welding helmet

“I have a natural desire to be the best and to win, and so I learned how to fabricate,” she said in an interview. “It helps me become a better driver because I understand what’s going on internally and externally with my cars.”

Jessi’s wide visibility and skills in metal fabrication opened up the opportunity to develop a woman’s line of welding gear (PPE) with Lincoln Electric. She also works with WARN Industries to spread the word about their off-road accessories. As a hands-on builder, aligning with establishments such as Industrial Metal Supply only help her mission to express to others what woman are capable of in the shop.

To that end, Jessi joined with Theresa Contreras to form the REAL DEAL, a non-profit with a mission to revolutionize the perception of skilled trades – and women’s roles in them. The Real Deal is a dynamic collaborative of automotive and industrial women who empower and educate others by teaching the skilled trades through hands-on workshoppes, events, and adventures.

This infographic illustrates the life and amazing accomplishments of Jessi Combs – Truly the Real Deal!