Dave Simpson was a young boy when his motorsports legend dad tooled him and his brother, Jeff, from one racing venue to the next across the U.S.
Bill Simpson and his then-wife Janice would give their sons a drawing tablet to keep busy during the long hours on the road.
Ever since, Dave Simpson has been an artist in his off hours. Now 51, he often has grinder and plasma cutter in hand late into the night creating another of his metal sculptures.
On Friday, he plans to unveil his best work yet, he said: "The Widow Project."
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Including its granite base, the polished stainless-steel sculpture of a widow spider weighs about 11,000 pounds, the spider itself up to 1,000 pounds.
The spider will grace the front lawn of Innovative Pest Management Inc. on Campground Road, near two-lane N.C. 16.
"It's going to be a landmark," said Ronnie Caldwell, who owns the pest control business with his wife, Rhonda.
Simpson proposed the idea when he ran into his pal Caldwell at the annual Denver Days festival several years ago.
He and Caldwell declined to disclose terms for the commissioned piece, but Simpson said if he made a similar one, he'd ask $30,000 for it.
He said he wishes he'd kept a log of the hours he spent fabricating the metal for the piece on the half-inch-steel-plated welding table at his 21-year-old Simpson Dockworks on Denver Industrial Park Road.
Simpson slipped in a couple of hours during the work day and many more hours at night since he started working on it full-speed in August.
He first researched the widow spider and found detailed pictures of it. The sculpture is to scale, he said. The grinder helped lend lifelike details, such as hair.
"I wore out a grinder doing this," he said, when I visited Simpson Dockworks last week.
He used a plasma cutter to create the abdomen, first making a wooden buck, or model, of his design. He made the spider from 30-40 sections he produced from 16-gauge stainless steel sheet metal. Martin Marietta Aggregates of Denver donated the granite base.
Simpson was no neophyte to metalwork when he embarked on the project.
In 1994, he led 22 employees in making 500 Legends cars for a subsidiary of Charlotte Motor Speedway called 600 Racing. His steel and aluminum art creations line the walls of his business, where he also displays "Blue Shark," a piece he made from wood when he was 9 using a band saw. He based the shark on the 9-foot one he caught at Point Vicente in California in 1967.
His dad, now 70, started in drag racing and SCCA Formula racing and eventually moved up to the USAC Championship Car series. Bill Simpson qualified 20th for the 1974 Indianapolis 500, but he's better known for his innovations in racing safety equipment. He created the first fire suit to be used in racing. He took the suit to the 1967 Indianapolis 500, where 30 of the 33 drivers wore it.
Bill Simpson isn't in Mooresville much anymore, where he still owns Impact Racing, a company that sells helmets and other racing safety gear, his son said.
But he visited his son's Denver shop for the first time in a decade recently to see the spider. Dave Simpson had completed only the abdomen.
"Son," Bill Simpson cracked, "you have a long way to go."
The journey ends Friday for all to admire.