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Info needed on Lou Brero Sr.


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#1 Joe Fan

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Posted 29 May 2001 - 20:23

He shared a Ferrari 290S with Masten Gregory in the Sebring 12 Hour race on March 23, 1957, scoring a fourth place finish. He was later killed in a crash in Hawaii somtime in 1957. My guess it was on April 20th or 21st in an SCCA race. Does anyone have this information, the details of his crash or anything more about him or his career? If anyone has the Motor Trend magazine from July of 1957, there is an obituary of him on page 59.



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#2 Milan Fistonic

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Posted 30 May 2001 - 10:00

From Road & Track

No date is given for the meeting in Hawaii, just late April. The venue was Dillingham Field, Mokuleia, Oahu. There were six preliminary races on Saturday and four one-hour events on Sunday.
The California contingent of drivers were invited by the Associated Sports Car Clubs of Hawaii.

"However, the untimely death of Lou Brero, Sr., cast a gloom over the scene. Lou's D-Jaguar had blown up earlier and on Saturday he was practicing in a Chevrolet-powered Maserati. Booming along at 130 mph, the car suddenly caught fire. The driver slowed to about 40 mph and leaped out, tearing off his burning clothing. He died that evening. Later reports from qualified observers indicate that a broken U-joint had split the gas tank and flooded the cockpit."

#3 Joe Fan

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Posted 30 May 2001 - 17:09

Milan, thanks for the information. I was told by Masten's brother that Lou steered his car away from a crowd of spectators while on fire. To have the presence of mind to do something like this, while on fire, says a whole lot about the individual. I am going to have to find out more about this gentleman and make sure that he doesn't get forgotten about.

#4 theunions

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Posted 27 December 2002 - 20:46

At work now...but have microfilm printouts at home of the local papers' coverage of the accident. Would be interested in other (mainland) sources.

#5 cabianca

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Posted 28 December 2002 - 07:08

Crash details are that Brero knew driveshaft broke. Did not know that it split the tank. When he braked to stop the car, the fuel sloshed forward and ignited on hot engine parts, engulfing him. He had a lumber company in Arcata California. Was quite a good driver with some fine results in both amateur and professional racing.

#6 Ron Scoma

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Posted 28 December 2002 - 16:55

His son, Lou Brero, Jr., use to live in Acadia, California.
I tried for years 1973-80 to buy his Hill-Ginther Mexican RR 375 (the one with the fin). Every time I met his asking price he backed out. The car was stored in a trailer back in the forest on his property. He was always concerned about theft. He also buried the engine...
Had a D-Type too as I recall.
A lot of people considered him a flake but seeing ones father burned to death would affect anybody I guess, so I cut him some slack. Never got the car, I think some guys from Slymbolic finally persuaded him to sell it about 4 years ago or so.
All in all a pretty pleasant guy to talk with, just couldn't do business with him.
Cheers,

Ron Scoma

#7 theunions

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Posted 28 December 2002 - 17:37

Article by Bob Cole, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, April 22, 1957

VETERAN RACE DRIVER, 52, DIES OF BURNS AFTER CAR BLOWS UP

The tragic death late last night of veteran racing driver Lou Brero, Sr. 52, the aftermath of a spectacular leap from a speeding, flaming sports car, today cast a pall of gloom over the otherwise successful conclusion yesterday of Hawaii's first International Speed Week.

Brero, long regarded as one of the nation's finest drivers, died at 10 last night at Queen's Hospital from third degree burns and injuries suffered when his speeding Maserati-Chevy caught fire during the second race at Dillingham Field.

His son Lou Jr., who drove in Saturday's races, and his wife were at the track when the accident occured.

Brero's body will be flown to California at 5 this afternoon. His family will follow on a 7 pm flight.

A crowd of more than 20,000, on hand for four one-hour Easter Sunday races, the climax of a three-day show which for the first time represented top-notch racing in the Islands, witnessed the tragedy.

Brero, whos own D-Jaguar had been sidelined Saturday by a broken connecting rod, was to have driven Bob Gillespie's $16,000 red Maserati Chevy in the feature Gold Cup event Yesterday.

SON RACED SATURDAY

His son had won a qualifying race Saturday in the same auto, competing with novice drivers.

Having never raced Gillespie's Maserati, Brero had driven onto the track following the start of the second race to drive practice laps.

This procedure of trial runs during action competition violates no rules and is accepted practice in Mainland races.

Brero had driven onelap and was heading into the first turn for the secon time when his car was suddenly engulfed in flames and dense black smoke.

SPECULATION ON CAUSE

First reports indicated that fuel had spilled out of an open gas tank and had been sucked into the cockpit and onto the heated exhaust pipes by vacuum created by high speed.

The gasoline apparently drenched Brero, who was turned into a flaming torch when combustion followed.

It was reported today, however, that the cap was on the gas tank when the charred wreckage was removed from the course.

Herbert Komori, whose Kapahulu Fender tow truck removed the auto, said the cap "was still on but loose. Fuel and flames could easily have escaped," he said.

The gas tank is located behind the driver to his right.

Engulfed in fire, he fought free of the cockpit and leaped to the air strip's hard surface as the auto raced uncontrolled onto the track's infield.

Brero was on his feet stripping off his burning clothes when rescuers arrived.

The car, which finally careened to a stop 400 yards distant, was traveling at an estimated 40 mph when Brero was forced to jump.



There are a couple of front page photos of the accident, which I have no good copies of because of the microfilm, but the captions show how the car "bursts into flames with an audible whoosh" and "witnesses see(ing) Brero claw at his safety belt."

#8 theunions

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Posted 28 December 2002 - 17:46

Article by Tom Hopkins, Sports Editor, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, April 22, 1957

BURNING RACER ENDS LUMBERMAN'S CAREER

A run for practice ended in death for Lou Brero, 52 year old trucking firm owner from Arcata (sic), California, in the second race of yesterday's sports car racing program at Dillingham Field.

Brero died last night at 10 at Queen's Hospital from third degree burns and injuries suffered when the Maserati-Chevrolet he ws driving burst into flames on the second lap of the Silver Cup challenge race.

Brero was not an official entry. After the race was one lap gone, he moved out for a practice run in the Maserati owned by Bob Gillespie, a long-time friend from San Francisco.

Gillespie had plannd to drive the car himself but turned it over to Brero for a practice run.

CAR IN FLAMES

The Silver Cup race was barely under way when Brero's car, speeding down the mauka (mountain side) straightaway, burst into flames.

Brero jammed on the brakes, reduced the speed to an estimated 35-40 miles an hour, and leaped out. He landed on the coral base runway on his left shoulder, his clothes in flames.

As he peeled off his flaming coveralls, his car veered into the infield and came to a stop against a pile of tires in the first turn.

Brero was rushed to Waialua Hospital and from there to Queen's. His car was a total wreck.

Gillespie, 46, when asked to estimate the value of his car, said, "How can you tell? I know that I have at least $12,000 invested. Insured? No, you can't get insurance for racing cars. The premiums are too high.

"I can't say what happened. My version is that the cap on the gas tank came loose and sprayed gasoline over Lou and the car, with the gas igniting when it touched the exhaust."

Mechanics who checked the car after the mishap were of the opinion the fire ws the result of a broken fuel line.

Nick Czar, veteran car racing promoter in the Islands, said the salvage value was not over $200. The engine, he said, could be re-bored and made usable.

The accident was the first of a major nature to befall Brero, one of the nation's top drivers. He had been active in Mainland racing for five to six years after a spell of driving in Europe.

His wife and son Lou Jr. were present yesterday.

Lek von Kaesborg, driving a Mercedes-Benz, was flagged down as he neared the turn where Brero's car was flaming.

Firefighters made an effort to salvage the car but to no avail. They finally gave up and watched the fire burn out.

#9 theunions

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Posted 28 December 2002 - 17:58

Uncredited article, Honolulu Advertiser, April 22, 1957

LOU BRERO SR. DIES IN HOSPITAL

Lou Brero Sr., one of the nation's top race drivers, was fatally burned yesterday when he bailed out of a borrowed sports car that suddenly turned into a "zooming time bomb" and exploded during a Speed Week race at Dillingham Field.

The 52-year-old Arcata (sic), Calif., lumberman died at 10 o'clock last night at Queen's Hospital, with third degree burns covering 70 percent of his body.

Thousands of spectators, including Brero's wife and son, gasped in horror as the flashy red Maserati-Chevy burst into a solid sheet of flame and then exploded as the driver leaped out, his clothing ablaze.

Brero was not competing at the time. He was practicing for the main event and following about a half-lap behind the cars racing in the day's second event.

He had just been clocked at 136 miles an hour as he zoomed through the traps. Then he started gearing down and braking for a sharp right turn ahead.

As the powerful sports car slowed down to an estimated 50-60 miles an hour, its gasoline cap came off. It sprayed fuel over the car and driver. Evidently some of the fuel sprayed onto the exhaust pipe and ignited, suddently turning the car into a solid sheet of flame.

The gasoline tank exploded and Brero leaped out of the cockpit, but not before he heroically steered the car away from the spectators lining the fence. The car was still going 35-40 miles and hour when he bailed out, his clothes aflame.

He rolled and stumbled, slapping and tearing at his blazing clothes.

Minutes later he was helped into a station wagon being used as an ambulance for the race and sped to Waialua Hospital. Dr. Thomas H. Rickert, whose wife is a sports car enthusiast and one of the contestants in the Speed Week race, was at the scene to treat him.

Later Brero was taken by ambulance to Queen's Hospital, accompanied by his wife. He arrived there around 4:30 pm.

The sports car, number 99-C, burned for about 45 minutes. Fire extinguishers were ineffective, and ther was no carbon dioxide foam available at the track.

The race in progress when the mishap occured - a contest for Class E production cars and over - was halted for about a half hour. The car was still burning when the race was resumed.

The $16,000 racing car, owned by Bob Gillespie of Tiburon, Calif., was a complete loss - a charcoal-colored hunk of scrap.

Gillespie had loaned Brero the car for the main event.

Brian Casey, assistant city editor of the Honolulu Advertiser, a spectator at the races, was standing along the rail near the scene of the spectactular accident.

"The car was just about 20 yards to the right of us when we noticed sparks all along the entire bottom of the car," Casey said.

"Then, within on second, the whole car was a sheet of flame, like a napalm fire bomb zooming down the track.

"We thought the driver was a goner. We couldn't see how he could get out. It still seems miraculous that he did.

"He went for more than 200 yards down the track and bailed out as the car exploded. He rolled and stumbled around like a crazy man, slapping at his burning clothes and tearing them off.

"His cool-headedness and guts averted a possible catastrophe. He stayed with the car and steered it over toward the infield. If he had let that car go into the fence, at least a dozen spectators lining the rail along there might have been killed."

Brero, a veteran speedster, has raced in practically all the top sporting events for years and has always placed well.

He was offered a place on the Ferrari racing team after he placed fourth in the Sebring International about a month ago.

His son Lou Jr. is also a racer. He won first place in the novice race Saturday.

Before yesterday's accident, Mrs. Brero was overhead to say she never worried about her husband racing, just her son. "He's the hot-head," she said.



There are assorted photos with this one too - of the burning car as it rolled to a stop, Lou being helped into the ambulance and the "molten wreck" on the shoulder of the track as competitors sped by.

#10 theunions

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Posted 28 December 2002 - 18:17

Article by George Remington, Honolulu Advertiser, April 24, 1957

RACE SAFETY GEAR DENIED
RIPPED GAS TANK CAUSED BRERO DEATH

Auto race promoter George Turnbull last night vigorously denied allegations of negligence and lack of firefighting and other safety equipment at last weekend's Dillingham Field auto races.

He said the death of driver Lou Brero, Sr. was caused by a broken universal joint in his racer that "flailed up and tore the whole fuel tank out, flooding him with about 23 gallons of gasoline all at once."

"It had nothing to do with the track or anything else," said Mr. Turnbull, who promoted the first Hawaii International Speed Week.

Numerous spectators have complained about a lack of foam fire-fighting equipment at the track, saying the hand-carried carbon dioxide extinguishers were ineffective in fighting the flames that turned Brero's Maserati-Chevy racer into a speeding fire bomb.

Mr. Turnbull said a foam truck, like those used to battle aircraft fires "couldn't have done any good" in Brero's case because the driver as well as the car was engulfed by the flaming gas.

"We had sufficient fire equipment normal at any race course," said the promoter.

"I also resent implications that we had no ambulances at the track," Mr. Turnbull said.

"There were two station wagons equipped as ambulances and three doctors in attendance. We had the same facilities as if we had ambulances painted white with red lights on top, and one was at the scene just as fast as an ambulance could have made it."

A foam truck may have put out the fire in Brero's car after Brero jumped out, Mr. Turnbull said, but it couldn't have smothered Brero's flaming clothes.

"That was done by the husband of a nurse who was a spectator," said Mr. Turnbull. "He jumped over the fence and wrapped a blanket around Brero. It was a heroic act."

#11 Jim Thurman

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Posted 29 December 2002 - 04:58

Earl,

Thanks for posting those articles from the Honolulu papers.

Arcata (pronounced R-kait-uh) is correct. It's in Humboldt County, about 12 miles North of Eureka in far Northern California, a few hundred miles North of San Francisco. A lot of logging and fishing. Temperature rarely reaches 70, very Pacific Northwest-ish.

Not to be confused with Arcadia, located East of Los Angeles in the San Gabriel Valley and George Follmer's hometown.

There was a Sports Car race at the Arcata Airport. The date I have is August 18, 1956. Noteworthy that Pete Snell died in a crash there, leading to the Snell Foundation and improved helmets.

About all I can add on Lou Brero Sr. was that he won a race on the airport course at Buchanan Field, Concord, California in either 1955 or 1956 (August 21, 1955 and July 1, 1956 are the dates I have).

Perhaps someone else out there has some results for Mr. Brero Sr.


Jim Thurman

#12 fines

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Posted 29 December 2002 - 11:08

One would think so, if indeed he was

one of the nation's top race drivers

! :rolleyes:

#13 David McKinney

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Posted 29 December 2002 - 11:49

This is not easy, as reports tended to say “Lou Brero” without specifiying whether they meant father or son. However, I think the following relate to Lou Sr.
1954
Raced the ex-Sterling Edwards C-type Jaguar, finishing fifth at March Field 7/11 and then winning the Torrey Pines 6hr race in December
1955
Won at Salinas on 1/10 in a Kurtis-Cadillac, and took the same car to 2nd at Sacramento on 30/10. Seems to have raced two Ferraris in the Bahamas speed week, as he is reported as having placed fourth in one race in a 750 Monza, and third in another in a 375. Also drove an XK140 (or maybe an XK120) in the Jaguar race and finished second.
1956
Raced a D-type Jaguar. DNF Sebring 12hrs 24/3, sixth at Fort Worth 3/6. This race possibly qualifies him as "one of the nation's top race drivers" as he led the race, ahead of Hansgen, Shelby, Johnston and all the rest, until a spin in the closing stages. Then 2nd Road America 24/6 but DNF Beverly 7/7. At the end of the year finished third in the Governor's Cup race at Nassau and second in the Jaguar race but failed to place in the Nassau Trophy race.
1957
Raced Parravano's Ferrari 121LM at Torrey Pines 14/1 but disqualified after accepting a push-start. Won at Stockton 17/3 in the D-type

#14 thesabrina

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Posted 18 August 2009 - 20:51

This is not easy, as reports tended to say “Lou Brero” without specifiying whether they meant father or son. However, I think the following relate to Lou Sr.
1954
Raced the ex-Sterling Edwards C-type Jaguar, finishing fifth at March Field 7/11 and then winning the Torrey Pines 6hr race in December
1955
Won at Salinas on 1/10 in a Kurtis-Cadillac, and took the same car to 2nd at Sacramento on 30/10. Seems to have raced two Ferraris in the Bahamas speed week, as he is reported as having placed fourth in one race in a 750 Monza, and third in another in a 375. Also drove an XK140 (or maybe an XK120) in the Jaguar race and finished second.
1956
Raced a D-type Jaguar. DNF Sebring 12hrs 24/3, sixth at Fort Worth 3/6. This race possibly qualifies him as "one of the nation's top race drivers" as he led the race, ahead of Hansgen, Shelby, Johnston and all the rest, until a spin in the closing stages. Then 2nd Road America 24/6 but DNF Beverly 7/7. At the end of the year finished third in the Governor's Cup race at Nassau and second in the Jaguar race but failed to place in the Nassau Trophy race.
1957
Raced Parravano's Ferrari 121LM at Torrey Pines 14/1 but disqualified after accepting a push-start. Won at Stockton 17/3 in the D-type

I am looking for Video Footage of Lou Brero.
Anyone know where I can co?