Vile Gossip: You want Lindamood? I give you Lindamood.

When I married Tom Lindamood in 1979, I took his last name on the basis that it was the least I could do, seeing as how I was otherwise like a tidal wave in his life -- an overwhelming, all-conquering, suck-the-air-out-of-the-room sort of presence. And I was loud. Plus, Lindamood sounded much more exotic than my difficult to pronounce and spell birth name, Lienert.

I had no idea how magic the Lindamood name really was until I remarried and rightfully took the last name of my forever husband, Tim Jennings. Being Jean Lindamood was a pain in the ass. For one thing, everyone called me Linda, including people I'd known for years. Room reservations, wake-up calls, and dry cleaning were continually lost under the name Mood, Linda. It was a blessed relief after fifteen years to become Jennings, Jean. (Never mind the occasional slip of the tongue that occurs from marrying a Tim after a Tom.) I was Jennings, and I was happy.

What I hadn't bargained for was what that Lindamood name had meant in the greater scheme of my entire life as an automotive adventurer. Jean Lindamood had the time of her crazy little life, sharing every one of those wacky adventures with the readers of first Car and Driver and then Automobile Magazine. Jean Jennings has a mouth on her, but life has settled down considerably. Not that I can't still dress up in a pink tutu and high-top Converse All-Stars every now and then for a road trip in a creaky white stretch limo, but there are only so many times you can dive off a mountain in a rally car and live to write the tale. Still, based on the number of people who routinely ask me if I've ever met Jean Lindamood, I'd say the return of a Lindamood to the fold would be a good thing.

Well, good things come in threes -- in this case, Tom Lindamood's three teenage sons, who now live with their Uncle Tim and Aunt Cathy since their beloved father lost his battle with cancer. The impetus for their recent visit came from middle son Jacob, a.k.a. Jake the Snake. I'd picked that name for my fictitious son, the one I never got around to having, along with the other five kids I also never got around to having. Apparently, it stuck somewhere in his father's head and came out when son number two was born in 1995. It was my gift to the boy who is very likely to be the next automotive journalist named J. Lindamood.

His e-mail arrived last fall out of the blue. "This is Tom's son Jake," it began. "I love cars as much as my dad did. That makes me really want to do things similar to what my dad did. Aunt Cathy suggested I ask for your advice. I have no idea how to get into the auto business."

It seems that J the S had taken a precollege test that suggested potential career paths. His? Automotive journalist. It was fate. He is my new protege.

Jake's basic training began this past month when the family arrived for a weekend visit. I decided to run all three boys through the drill -- you never know if there might be three Lindamood writers coming down the pike, I reasoned.

I taught all of them to drive my irascible 1987 Jeep Wrangler, with its brick-hard accelerator, agricultural manual transmission, and tricky clutch that hates your guts. They passed with flying colors.

James Mason is the serious older brother, the handsome computer nerd who took my iPhone and blew my name into oblivion on the scoreboards of every game I thought I played well. He feels very genius to me; his senior class load is heavy on the AP math and science, with a minor in AP everything else. I love this boy fiercely, but cars do not interest him.

Harley is like a pinball machine with an extra ball in play. He has great athleticism, the most coordinated of the three, with that alpha-dog attitude you frequently find in the runt of the litter, scattering convention, politesse, and decorum to the winds, and with the smile of a 10-billion-watt lightbulb. I predict great wealth and fame for that one. I adore him.

But Jake is the entertainer, with a wicked sense of humor tempered by the caution of the kindhearted, a potential teller of tall tales and a fantastic natural writer who is obsessed with cars. The promise is there, and the desire burns hot.

He's your Lindamood.

(Above: Future engineering genius James Mason Lindamood towers over us all, including brothers Jake the Snake (left) and Harley Thomas. Top: Bringing our Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG test car home for the weekend was a bit of a heavy-handed ploy on my part, I suppose.)

Written by: Jean Jennings

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