Posted 02 June 2010 - 13:40
I understand that Ralph had been in poor health for a long time.
Ralph Salyer was a fixture in midwest sports car racing in the 1960s. He ran a fine operation out of Hammond, Indiana, with his friend and head wrench Gene Crowe. They called their operation "Cro-Sal Racing". Ralph's cars always were dark blue with white trim, all except for his last car, which was white.
I first became aware of Salyer in 1962 when he ran a Corvette in class B Production. He was quite successful, with a string of class wins.
Salyer stepped up to an A Production Corvette Stingray for 1963. Success eluded him, however, as that was the year that the Cobras were unleashed on the racing world.
The next year Ralph made the step up to the sports racer ranks as he and racing buddy Budd Clusseruth bought Cheetah coupes and raced them together as a loose team. Salyer scored a somewhat fortuitous overall win in the 1964 Road America June Sprints, taking the lead on the last turn of the last lap as Roy Kumnick's leading Cooper-Ford broke down. Salyer complained of the intense heat buildup in the cockpit of the Cheetah, so Crowe got out the hacksaw and off came the top. The now "Cro-Sal Special" Cheetah roadster continued to race that season, with Salyer scoring his second overall SCCA National win, taking the August Lynndale Farms National.
Salyer continued into 1965 with the Cheetah roadster, but during the year took delivery of a McLaren Elva Mk I (M1A). This was powered by a small block aluminum Oldsmobile V-8, starting a relationship with Oldsmobile which continued for the rest of his racing days. Ralph has some success with the McLaren, but not as much as hoped.
At Riverside in early 1966 Salyer had a 'big one' with the McLaren, destroying the car. Thus began his association with Bob McKee, which lasted the rest of his racing career. Salyer took delivery of a McKee Mk VI and won the SCCA Class C National Championship, winning the Runoffs at Riverside that November.
Midway through 1967 Salyer traded the Mk VI to McKee for a new Mk VII. At this time Ralph stepped out of the cockpit and hired Charlie Hayes to drive the car in the Can Am. They had some decent results, but were outpaced by the latest from McLaren, Chaparral, et al.
The Mk VII was converted into the wedge shaped Mk X for 1968, and Hayes again drove the car. Results were mixed. The following year was the last for Salyer in racing as he attempted to run the somewhat outlandish Mk XIV, a twin turbocharged, 4wd McKee. Alas, funding did not come through as anticipated, and the operation was shut down.
Salyer was a plumbing contractor in Hammond, and all his cars and vehicles carried the "Salyer Plumbing" logo. A good man who added a lot to the sport in his day, a fine competitor, and someone on whom I will look back with affection.