I think it's interesting to mention that it was Paul Stender's mother who got him hooked on racing. She used to take him out of school to go see car races. Paul's grandfather was a well-known car owner back in the '30s and '40s, and built everything from scratch, from blocks to engines.
That's probably where Paul picked up his knack for building - except he rebuilds jet engines and attaches them to school buses and outhouses. And I thought my ass hurt after eating all of those ghost peppers. What a shit show. "I grew up on a farm and could work on anything- I wasn't going to let a jet engine kick my butt," Paul says.
So maybe now the outhouse contraption makes more sense - Paul grew up on a dairy farm in Big Bend, Wisconsin. When he wasn't shoveling cow poop, he was racing motorcycles and snowmobiles. At the age of 12, he used the farm equipment to make his own motocross racetrack. "It was wildly popular with the local kids," Therese, Paul's wife, who helps manage their business, tells me. Until the noise and crowds got him shut down by unhappy neighbors.
You might say he's still well-known by his neighbors. For this photo shoot, we pulled his UTV out of the garage - a jet-powered Polaris RZR- and rolled it near the street to start it up....during rush hour. (By the way, his garage is unbelievable; it has huge jet engines and all sorts of neat looking parts. I was looking through his shelves and found what I think was a nuclear consent arming switch. If any of you readers know more about this contraption, please post details in our comments section.) As soon as the RZR's turbines winded up and the flames started shooting out, cars just stopped. Some people had no clue what was going on and others drove by giving us the thumbs up.
Paul got into business for himself at a young age. At 13, he was buying and selling used snowmobiles. His business grew and grew, until he had a large yard of sleds - the biggest unfranchised operation in his area. He got kicked out of high school, but shortly after was approached by Polaris about becoming a dealer. He was standing in his shorts with no shirt on, working on a snowmobile, when two Polaris reps pulled in the driveway, and asked him if he wanted to be a dealer. Seven years later, Paul was one of the largest volume dealers in the country for Polaris.
I asked Donna Beadle, Sr. External Relations Specialist at Polaris, about what she thought of the jet-powered Polaris RZR, and she said: "I can't, because it's a modification and we can't promote a mod that isn't factory approved." I wonder what it would take for Polaris to approve such a modification...a free military grade Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting (ARFF) vehicle with your purchase? Come on, how dangerous can it be to put a rocket and a tank of rocket fuel behind your ass?
While Paul was running his snowmobile business, he started racing in the big leagues - he raced Badger and USAC Midgets, and later went on to pilot Outlaw Sprint Cars. He suffered his share of injuries. A particularly bad crash literally popped both of his eyes out. The pressure from the restraints hitting him when he slammed pushed the blood into his head - and POP! He lost a nerve in his left eye, which now drifts off center. He always jokes about how he can look in two different directions at the same time. From what I understand, you need both eyes to work to get any depth perception. I wanted to ask Paul how he can drive with his injury, but sissied out. Paul is a pretty burly dude with more balls than I will ever have.
After seven years of being a Polaris dealer, he got burnt out and decided to play with jet engines full time. He sold all his sleds, and he bought his first jet funny car just to see how they were made. He raced his first jet vehicle in 1995, the Jazz Jet Funny Car at speeds of nearly 300 MPH and was awarded the Pro-Jet Rookie of the Year Award in 1997. Not long after, he was building his own jet rides and began the most extreme motorsports entertainment company called The Indy Boys (http://www.indyboysinc.com). The projects got more and more insane as the years went on. He's built a jet snowmobile, jet motorcycle, jet ATVs, jet sea doo, jet beer truck, jet semi - and the legendary seventy mile per hour Port-o-Jet Jet Powered Outhouse, which has been on TV shows around the world and back. "The outhouse takes the cake - it's still the number one most insane thing he ever built," says Therese Stender, "At least twice a year, we get a call from a TV production in Japan. They can't quit laughing at the thing." I got to sit in the outhouse and was only able to see through the door by a little slit. This thing has to be totally insane to drive.
But the jet-powered school bus seems to be the most popular at shows - with 42,000 HP and a top speed of 367 mph, it races against airplanes. "We spend our year traveling to shows, mostly air shows these days, but we still do a couple oval tracks and the occasional drag race because Paul loves it," Therese says. Though they travel mostly within the US and Canada, they've also done many international events- and currently Paul is busy putting together a jet golf cart before they fly into Abu Dhabi this weekend for the Al Ain Air Show. The school bus is going as well, which will be shipped by sea. "He had to chop out about six inches of width to make the bus fit into the shipping container," Therese says.
Paul and Therese are working on some TV show pilots right now, with the hopes that Paul's insane contraptions and building process can find a home in a series of its own. Pauls' work has been featured all over the boob tube, on networks on all over the world, from Germany to Japan, and shows such as Monster Garage and Daily Planet. They recently shot with Discovery Channel Canada for a documentary about speed. And all the major network news has had spots on him - even Daniel Tosh from Tosh 2.0 poked fun at the jet-powered school bus. "People of all nationalities can enjoy the stuff Paul makes, it's very visual and needs no explanation," Therese says. "It's CRAZY and fun and will make you laugh."
I sat down with The Indy Boys for a few questions.
Why did you decide to build the RZR?
After having 3 or 4 jet ATVs, I wanted to do something different. With UTVs being so popular right now, and being a former Polaris Dealer.
We went down to Tom's Marine (http://www.tomsmarinesales.com/), the local Polaris dealership. We took the tape measure with and measured up a brand new 2013 Walker Evans 900 XP RZR to make sure the helicopter engine would fit, paid the man, loaded up, and went home.
Once we got home, we drove it around the house a few times to see what the performance was, took it in shop, tore out the entire drive train, engine, transmission, cooling system, electric system, and on and on, to come to the point of having a rolling chassis. Then I started cutting up the back half to make the engine fit, and after a few weeks, here we are.
How fast can you take it?
This has the same engine as my jet motorcycle - which hits 271 - and my jet quad, which hits 211 mph. If I slam this one to the ground and get rid of some aero drag and get some high-speed tires on it, I don't think 200 is out of the question.
How dangerous is this stuff?
It's never dangerous until the engine explodes, starts on fire, or spits you off at 200 mph. The speed never kills you - it's the sudden stop at the end.
What makes this bad ass?
2000 HP. It's an engine taken from a Sikorskey (http://www.sikorsky.com) helicopter. The sound is incredible, it literally sounds like a jet taking off in your driveway. We always have cars pulling over when we test it at the shop. Everyone wants to see what's going on at the Stenders.