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Indy mystery cable - Jim Clark


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#1 Doug Nye

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Posted 26 June 2002 - 12:08

Fellers - I have a mystery cable which has just surfaced from the primeval ooze here - It's a Western Union Telegram and it reads like this:

WULOO1 NL PD TDL BURBANK CALIF 28
JIMMY CLARK, (DRIVER)
INDIANAPOLIS RACE TRACK INDPLS

PLEASE WATCH START. PARNELLI BEHIND MARSHMAN AND YOU AND ROGER TALK OVER. THIS TELEGRAM. HE KNOWS MY SON GORDON MCKENZIE REID MET WITH SABOTAGE, FOUL PLAY, PLEASE FOR GODS SAKE WATCH THE START. DANGER ON TRACK. REMBER (sic) LAST YEAR. HE WONT STOP FOR ANYTHING. EVEN DRIVER'S LIFE. THIS IS TRUTH. PULLING FOR YOU AND ROGER. GOD BLESS YOU BOTH FROM THE DEPTHS OF MY HEART. SLEEP AND EAT WITH YOUR RACE CAR

MOTHER REID

021A

Presumably not a Parnelli Jones fan, then? Can you chaps explain any possible background to this curious find?????

DCN

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#2 lynmeredith

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Posted 26 June 2002 - 12:30

Have you been drinking again Doug?

#3 Ray Bell

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Posted 26 June 2002 - 12:32

Buford's dad will know about this...

#4 Joe Fan

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Posted 26 June 2002 - 12:51

My guess is that it has something to do with the 1964 Indy 500 based upon starting positions that are indicated in the telegram and the fact that on the first lap, Dave MacDonald lost the control of the Mickey Thompson car and killed himself along with Eddie Sachs.

#5 Buford

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Posted 26 June 2002 - 12:53

Gordon Reid had one of the most gruesome crashes of all time. It was at one of the high bank Sprint Car tracks of the 1950s. Winchester I think. He was on a qualifying lap, hit the wall coming out of 4, rode the wall, hit a bridge and it took his head off. The car went into the crowd as well as a bunch of barrels of red paint, which split open and went all over the place too. So there were bodies, and blood and red paint all over the place. Even by 1950s Sprint Car standards that one was legendary. I read the account by the car owner in "Open Wheel" several years ago. Even the priest who went to the car to give the last rites threw up and it was such a mess nobody wanted to get what was left of him out of the car. The car owner had to go get a wrench and do it himself.

But I never read anything about sabatoge. The description was the guy was a maniac and just got too fast and high and took himself out. I can't remember if spectators were killed or not, but many were injured.

#6 Buford

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Posted 26 June 2002 - 13:00

Open Wheel October 1987
----------------------------------------------------------
THE TRAGEDY OF GORDON REID -- Terry Reed profiles Gordon Reid's career and its macabre conclusion.
-----------------------------------------------------------
I don't know where my copy is. Haven't got organized since moving almost two years ago. But if anybody has it, that is the issue.

#7 Vitesse2

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Posted 26 June 2002 - 13:31

From Richie's WATN thread:

Gordon Reid b. 11 August 1923, Portland, Oregon d. 20/4/1952. Dayton, Ohio; 1 DNQ (1951)
Killed in a sprintcar race.

#8 Buford

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Posted 26 June 2002 - 14:01

From Joe Scalzo's "Stand On The Gas".

"Dayton had the most spectacular walls (note he is talking about the high banked tracks, calling them walls). Jim Rigsby plunged over and off them in 1952 and died. And earlier driver and spectators alike were slaughtered when Gordon Reid's car left the track, ripped through the wire fence separating the crowd from the cars, and plowed up the main grandstand. Four people were killed, including Reid, and dozens were maimed and hurt."
--------------------------------

I suspect this telegram came from a nutty mother, still freaked about her son's death over a decade earlier, and somehow believing it was sabatoge, and thinking whatever had happened to her son was about to happen to Clark.

#9 David M. Kane

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Posted 26 June 2002 - 14:12

I wish I knew about this posting this weekend! I got to meet Parnelli Jones
and Les Richter at California at a Historic Race. I was stunned at how fit
Parnelli was. He is in fantastic physical and mental health. He was nothing
like what I expected given his reputation for being such a hard racer. He
is extremely open and friendly with a great wit and a ready smile. His demeanor is very open and very candid.

I remember seeing the Dave McDonald/Eddie Sachs on close circuit TV at a
major movie theatre in Washington, D.C. It seemed like the race was stopped forever. It was a total mess, there was debris everywhere. It too was a horrific accident, one of the worst I've ever seen. Poor Eddie Sachs had
absolutely no place to go! The Thompson cars were pretty radical for the time with their small rims and small tires and had been a handful all month. If I recall correctly they had been heavily modified throughtout the month, but I can't remember exactly what had been done to the wheels and tires. I believe the aero package was changed also.

I would have loved to have asked Parnelli's about his recollections.

#10 Buford

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Posted 26 June 2002 - 14:20

The photos of the Sachs-MacDonald crash are in the "Indy Details" thread currently on the front page down below this one. Reid died in 1951. None of the drivers this mother was talking about were racing then so I really don't know what she was babbling about.

#11 Barry Lake

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Posted 26 June 2002 - 17:00

Information originally from Steve Zautke in the USA says that Reid's crash was reportedly due to a "steering pin key" having been left out on assembly.

#12 Ray Bell

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Posted 26 June 2002 - 21:34

I think you blokes have now paid for Doug's subscription to this forum...

A 'steering pin key' missing would certainly raise eyebrows... if I am assuming correctly what it might be, something that locates some turning part in the steering gear... and also raise the adrenalin in the poor driver for that second or two before it all got horrendous.

I wonder what impact it might have had on Clark?

And who is the 'Roger'... was Rodger Ward up there?

#13 Vitesse2

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Posted 26 June 2002 - 21:58

Originally posted by Ray Bell
I wonder what impact it might have had on Clark?


Jimmy was a pretty level-headed chap - I don't think it would have spooked him.

Originally posted by Ray Bell
And who is the 'Roger'... was Rodger Ward up there?


Yep - he was third on the grid, behind Clark and Marshman, with Jones 4th, directly behind Jimmy. This telegram seems to me to imply that its writer was expecting Jones to ram Clark, which I find unbelievable - but equally I don't understand the allusion to 1963: is "Mother Reid" saying Jones was deliberately dropping oil?

#14 Ray Bell

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Posted 26 June 2002 - 23:14

No... not that he was deliberately dropping oil, but that the lack of a black flag showed a conspiracy against the Brits... or that's how I see it.

#15 Doug Nye

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Posted 27 June 2002 - 01:16

Originally posted by lynmeredith
Have you been drinking again Doug?


Nah - I said 'primaeval OOZE'...

Isn't it interesting - sounds like a case of 'Spot the Loonie' doesn't it, but I assure you the cable is genuine, actually intercepted by Andrew Ferguson, I think...

DCN

#16 FucF1

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Posted 27 June 2002 - 01:58

Sorry to hijack this thread but...

Bought a second-hand book called "Grand Prix: The cars, the drivers, the circuits" published in 1981.

Looks excellent...and the cars section is written by "Doug Nye"...one and the same? ;) :up:

#17 Barry Boor

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Posted 27 June 2002 - 06:17

It certainly is!

#18 Jim Thurman

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Posted 27 June 2002 - 08:54

Originally posted by Doug Nye


Nah - I said 'primaeval OOZE'...

Isn't it interesting - sounds like a case of 'Spot the Loonie' doesn't it, but I assure you the cable is genuine, actually intercepted by Andrew Ferguson, I think...

DCN


It is...fascinating actually. Thanks for posting it Doug. With a name like Gordon McKenzie Reid, I think it's fair to assume that the Reid's were a might Scottish and perhaps his mother was even more so, thus the rooting interest for a man from the land o' heathers.

Or, one of the other drivers could have sent it as a prank, hoping to rattle Clark...or the team.

I would not have put the latter past some of the Indy drivers of the time.


Jim Thurman

#19 Jim Thurman

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Posted 27 June 2002 - 09:08

Originally posted by David M. Kane
I wish I knew about this posting this weekend! I got to meet Parnelli Jones
and Les Richter at California at a Historic Race. I was stunned at how fit
Parnelli was. He is in fantastic physical and mental health. He was nothing
like what I expected given his reputation for being such a hard racer. He
is extremely open and friendly with a great wit and a ready smile. His demeanor is very open and very candid.

I remember seeing the Dave McDonald/Eddie Sachs on close circuit TV at a
major movie theatre in Washington, D.C. It seemed like the race was stopped forever. It was a total mess, there was debris everywhere. It too was a horrific accident, one of the worst I've ever seen. Poor Eddie Sachs had
absolutely no place to go! The Thompson cars were pretty radical for the time with their small rims and small tires and had been a handful all month. If I recall correctly they had been heavily modified throughtout the month, but I can't remember exactly what had been done to the wheels and tires. I believe the aero package was changed also.

I would have loved to have asked Parnelli's about his recollections.


Ummm, no I wouldn't have recommended this particular subject (or certain other subjects) be brought up to Parnelli, no matter how gracious he is.

I think he might have shown you exactly how fit he still is and done a re-enactment of his response to Eddie Sachs at the Indianapolis Holiday Inn following the '63 Indy 500 :D

Seriously, Parnelli is remarkably candid and very open and gracious, but still, I'd be reluctant to bring up certain issues.

The Thompson cars were forced to switch to taller/wider tires by a late rule change. This is supposed to have contributed mightily to throwing off what handling they had.

Also, Buford mentioned none of the drivers were active at the time Gordon Reid died. Rodger Ward was already running in the Midwest and it's very possible (very likely) that the two raced alongside each other.

My favorite memory of Parnelli is of being a youngster at the 1970 NASCAR "Motor Trend 500" at Riverside. Parnelli set a new track record for Stock Cars using Firestone tires. Co-incidentally, Parnelli was a Firestone dealer. NASCAR disallowed the time, ruling that they had to provide enough tires for the field (Parnelli and some West Coast drivers were on Firestones). Parnelli got trucks full of tires there and lobbied the NASCAR officialdom, but to no avail. So he was placed well back in the field. He charged through the field and took the lead in something like 30 laps. The first time he came past the start/finish line in the lead, he stuck his arm out the driver's side window and raised a single digit toward the officials box, which caused the grandstand to erupt in applause and laughter.


Jim Thurman

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#20 Leif Snellman

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Posted 27 June 2002 - 10:02

Originally posted by Buford
None of the drivers this mother was talking about were racing then so I really don't know what she was babbling about.

I'm not sure that she implies there is a connection between the current drivers and the Reid crash. Excuse me if I mayby misses some of the finer points in the English language but to me the telegram should be interpreted like this:
I assume the first "he" means Roger Ward. She wants Jimmy to contact Roger and he will then confirm that there indeed was something about the Reid crash not generally known, proving that:
1) Mother Reid has access to inside information, thus the telegram is genuine and not the work of some maniac.
2) That such things has happen before and thus can happen again.

WATCH THE START.
Why only the start?

DANGER ON TRACK / SLEEP AND EAT WITH YOUR RACE CAR
Exernal or internal sabotage? She doesn't really seems to know.

Originally posted by Buford
I suspect this telegram came from a nutty mother, still freaked about her son's death over a decade earlier, and somehow believing it was sabatoge, and thinking whatever had happened to her son was about to happen to Clark.

That's the first thing that came to my mind also.

#21 Buford

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Posted 27 June 2002 - 11:10

Yes I thought of that later. Ward was probably racing in 1951. He was at Indy in 1955 because he was in the Vukovich wreck. Started it actually. So it is possible he could have been at Dayton the day of the Reid disaster, or at least had known Reid. Thinking back on the article that was in "On Track" and very detailed, I do recall something about a mention that there was a charge the steering wheel had come off in Reid's hand. But the car owner said that was total bunk. That to get his body out of the car, he had gone to get a wrench to remove the steering wheel and there were plenty of witnesses to that. None of whom are probably still alive or even were at the time of the 1987 article though. I suppose it is possible the car owner was covering something up. But certainly he did not sabatoge his own car and would want it known the car had been sabatoged and it wasn't his fault I would think, if that had actually happened. The mother probably heard the rumors and believed it was sabatoge all along and her son could not simply have made a mistake and gotten too high and into the wall on his own. Then, a full decade plus, she still had this belief and was trying to warn Clark of some sabatoge paranoia she had about his car.

In fact, USAC was indeed screwing the Lotus team in 1963. Dan Gurney came to my dad early in the month and asked that he to talk to Tony Hulman about interviening and getting USAC to back off. Tony did so and the harrassment stopped until race day in 1963 when they found a way to screw the Lotus team in the oil dropping incident. Harlan Fengler had the black flag in his hand and Aggajanian ran up and talked him out of it. I saw this with my own eyes because it was right below our front row upper deck Paddock seats. We went right to the Lotus garage after the 1963 race when everybody was furious and talking protest, except Clark who was calm. That is when he gave me the spark plugs from the second place car still sitting there crackling I have told the story of before.

So there is no doubt USAC was out to screw the Lotus team. But that in no way can be assumed they would sneak into the garage and do something to the car that could involve other people on the track they didn't want to screw, and could cause a disaster that would hurt the sport. They were major assholes. But they were not THAT evil!!!

#22 Ray Bell

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Posted 27 June 2002 - 11:29

It would seem to me that Ward was a friend of the Reids... he even seemingly knew of this telegram...

And for those who came in late... here's the bit about the spark plugs, well worth reading.

http://www.atlasf1.c...=&postid=315737

#23 Buford

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Posted 27 June 2002 - 11:38

It's too bad. Rodger Ward used to have a casino job here in Las Vegas with an office and open door to a public hallway. If he still did, I could go over and walk right into his office and ask him about this.

#24 Yorgos

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Posted 27 June 2002 - 12:06

Originally posted by David M. Kane
...............................
I remember seeing the Dave McDonald/Eddie Sachs on close circuit TV at a
major movie theatre in Washington, D.C. It seemed like the race was stopped forever. It was a total mess, there was debris everywhere. It too was a horrific accident, one of the worst I've ever seen. Poor Eddie Sachs had
absolutely no place to go! The Thompson cars were pretty radical for the time with their small rims and small tires and had been a handful all month. If I recall correctly they had been heavily modified throughtout the month, but I can't remember exactly what had been done to the wheels and tires. I believe the aero package was changed also.
........................


There is much info on Dave McDonald and his fatal crash in 'Calfornia Screamin', a book about the early years of racing Corvettes,up to 1963. I dont have it with me and I dont remember the Author(will check it tonight) but I remember that the Thompson car had a delicate handling and there was a late rule change imposing different size wheels. The car's designer had his objections to this change but he had to accept it. Moreover McDonald,although an experienced and succesful racing driver, was a rookie in single seaters and was not very happy with the Thompson's handling .

Yorgos

#25 Ray Bell

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Posted 27 June 2002 - 13:19

While on the subject, this has been posted before...

http://www.atlasf1.c...=&postid=730385

#26 Henri Greuter

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Posted 27 June 2002 - 14:44

Hi Doug,

Very interesting story, any mentioning in that telegram of the year in which that happened?
I know for fact that there were a number of American drivers initially were not that happy about Clark and Lotus coming over bhut that Clark won the heart of the Americans in the stands and at the track for being such a wonderful man and driver. But maybe this was the pre- `he's a nice guy`years?

Other European driver who wasn't very welcome at Indy: Rudolf Carraciola, read his biography...


Someone mentioned that he wondered how Jim would have reacted on that telegram.
I do remember having read Andrew Ferguson's splendid book that there has been a year (1965 if I am correct) that Jim was indeed scared to go to Indy again.

So.....

All the best,

Henri

#27 Buford

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Posted 27 June 2002 - 20:53

After seeing the Sachs-MacDonald crash, nobody but a lunitic would not be afraid to go to Indy again. And Jim knew it was going to happen. He followed MacDonald on carb day and pulled into the pits behind him, got out, walked up to the car and said, "Get out of that car mate. Don't even drive it. Just walk away."

#28 ghinzani

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Posted 03 July 2010 - 12:25

After seeing the Sachs-MacDonald crash, nobody but a lunitic would not be afraid to go to Indy again. And Jim knew it was going to happen. He followed MacDonald on carb day and pulled into the pits behind him, got out, walked up to the car and said, "Get out of that car mate. Don't even drive it. Just walk away."


You do wonder what drove him to ignore that and other sage advice


#29 rallen

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Posted 03 July 2010 - 12:37

After seeing the Sachs-MacDonald crash, nobody but a lunitic would not be afraid to go to Indy again. And Jim knew it was going to happen. He followed MacDonald on carb day and pulled into the pits behind him, got out, walked up to the car and said, "Get out of that car mate. Don't even drive it. Just walk away."



Hard to imagine Clark being concerned about the handling of a car - it must have been really bad. Anyone have the quote Clark said after the actual accident? I will try and find it.

#30 Bloggsworth

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Posted 03 July 2010 - 14:14

You do wonder what drove him to ignore that and other sage advice


That recalls a conversation between John Watson and Andrea de Cesaris after yet another lurid incident, de Cesaris just told Watson that God was looking after him. Racing drivers know that it won't happen to them, without the ability to deny the possibility, there would have been no racing after the 50s and 60s when drivers were dying at more than one a month. I was looking after Chris Moore's Lotus 42 F3, we were in the Paddock Bend grandstand when John Woolfe was killed in his Cobra. As we watched the body being taken away Chris checked his watch "Our practice in 10 minutes"....



#31 P.Dron

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Posted 03 July 2010 - 14:48

That recalls a conversation between John Watson and Andrea de Cesaris after yet another lurid incident, de Cesaris just told Watson that God was looking after him. Racing drivers know that it won't happen to them, without the ability to deny the possibility, there would have been no racing after the 50s and 60s when drivers were dying at more than one a month. I was looking after Chris Moore's Lotus 42 F3, we were in the Paddock Bend grandstand when John Woolfe was killed in his Cobra. As we watched the body being taken away Chris checked his watch "Our practice in 10 minutes"....


Was that before or after he died at Le Mans in the 917?

#32 Bloggsworth

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Posted 03 July 2010 - 15:10

Was that before or after he died at Le Mans in the 917?


Quick - You'd better tell him that he is dead, he's still wandering around under the misaprehension that he is still alive; indeed, in 2005 and 6 he drove a ghost car in the GP Masters series....

Cue for Frankie Laine revival of Ghost Drivers in the Sky

Edited by Bloggsworth, 03 July 2010 - 15:14.


#33 Tim Murray

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Posted 03 July 2010 - 15:13

... and the Lotus 42 was the Indycar originally intended to take the 4.2 litre vresion of the BRM V16, eventually hastily cobbled together around a Ford V8. :confused:

#34 Vitesse2

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Posted 03 July 2010 - 15:24

We're totally O/T here, but given the location and the car involved, I'd guess Bloggsworth is actually recalling the demise of Tony Flory.

http://www.motorspor...php?db=ct&n=692

#35 Jim Thurman

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Posted 03 July 2010 - 16:09

I've since come up with a lot more information on Gordon Reid (perhaps he needs his own thread?) and a bit more on his mother.

Though this veered into the MacDonald-Sachs incident instead of concentrating on the telegram from Reid's mother, apparently Eddie Sachs married Reid's widow...so there is an odd connection between the two.

Gordon Reid was showing great promise as a driver and likely would have found a ride at Indianapolis the next month.

#36 Bloggsworth

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Posted 03 July 2010 - 16:37

We're totally O/T here, but given the location and the car involved, I'd guess Bloggsworth is actually recalling the demise of Tony Flory.

http://www.motorspor...php?db=ct&n=692


I know my memory goes AWOL on occassion, but I was sure it was the Wolf (check the spelling), of Wolfrace wheels, in a 7 Litre Cobra in 1966. I don't know why, maybe polio or something of that sort, but he had an awkward gait.

But memories do sometimes tend to intermingle and come out with the wrong endings on the right beginnings nowadays!

Edited by Bloggsworth, 03 July 2010 - 16:40.


#37 bill p

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Posted 03 July 2010 - 17:14

I know my memory goes AWOL on occassion, but I was sure it was the Wolf (check the spelling), of Wolfrace wheels, in a 7 Litre Cobra in 1966. I don't know why, maybe polio or something of that sort, but he had an awkward gait.

But memories do sometimes tend to intermingle and come out with the wrong endings on the right beginnings nowadays!



I think you witnessed Tony Flory's accident in the ex-Shelby Cobra 289 FIA Roadster CSX 2301 at Paddock Bend

John Woolf of Woolfrace wheeels crashed his Porsche 917 at Le Mans in 1969 as detailed by Peter Dron above

Edited by bill p, 03 July 2010 - 17:14.


#38 Keir

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Posted 03 July 2010 - 18:00

Apart from John Woolf meeting his untimely death at LeMans in 1969, this whole thread reads like a work of fiction. Jim Clark would be the last guy to tell someone not to race a car.

#39 Frank Verplanken

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Posted 03 July 2010 - 18:19

I've since come up with a lot more information on Gordon Reid (perhaps he needs his own thread?) and a bit more on his mother.
Though this veered into the MacDonald-Sachs incident instead of concentrating on the telegram from Reid's mother, apparently Eddie Sachs married Reid's widow...so there is an odd connection between the two.
Gordon Reid was showing great promise as a driver and likely would have found a ride at Indianapolis the next month.


Very interesting indeed :up: . Also, Reid's mother talks about sabotage but does not explicitely link this to his fatal crash. Maybe she was refering to his 1951 AAA Big Car season in general, and/or his failed attempt to qualify at Indy ?

Edited by Frank Verplanken, 03 July 2010 - 18:20.


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#40 rallen

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Posted 03 July 2010 - 19:20

Apart from John Woolf meeting his untimely death at LeMans in 1969, this whole thread reads like a work of fiction. Jim Clark would be the last guy to tell someone not to race a car.


Apparently Graham Hill refused to drive it

#41 T54

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Posted 03 July 2010 - 19:43

Apart from John Woolf meeting his untimely death at LeMans in 1969, this whole thread reads like a work of fiction. Jim Clark would be the last guy to tell someone not to race a car.

Peter Bryant told me pretty much the same about that Clark/MacDonald story, that it was "bunk". Peter was there, I was not, but I have a tendency to believe what he told me about the whole month of May in 1964, as he had been hired by Mickey to sort out the cars.
As far as Mother Reid and her telex, sounds like a woman slightly deranged after tragedy hit her family.

#42 Vitesse2

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Posted 03 July 2010 - 20:25

Apparently Graham Hill refused to drive it

I think you'll find that was 1963.

#43 arttidesco

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Posted 03 July 2010 - 20:27

Is this the April Fools thread ?

#44 rallen

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Posted 03 July 2010 - 21:36

I think you'll find that was 1963.



I just got it from this paragraph on Wiki "MacDonald was driving a car owned and designed by Mickey Thompson, the #83 "Sears-Allstate Special".[1] It was a rear-engined car that first raced in 1963, updated with a streamlined body for 1964. The fuel was housed within rubber bladders inside of an enclosed tank that ran between the tires on the left side. The car also featured Sears "Allstate" tires, manufactured by Armstrong Tire and Rubber Co.[2] It was far ahead of its time, but was badly designed, poorly built, and difficult to drive.[3] It handled badly, a condition made worse when the body was modified to accommodate the USAC-mandated 15-inch (380 mm) tires. Graham Hill tested the vehicle before Indy, but refused to drive it in 1963."

#45 arttidesco

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Posted 03 July 2010 - 22:23

Obviously not ! (An April Fools thread)

Edited by arttidesco, 03 July 2010 - 22:30.


#46 Vitesse2

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Posted 03 July 2010 - 22:36

Well, that confirms what I said, but still isn't completely correct (but then it is Wikipedia :rolleyes: ). Graham had tested it on a road course - Riverside IIRC - and did run it at Indy. In fact he took and passed his rookie test in it, but was so unenamoured of the thing that he declined the opportunity to go on to qualify it and went home. He may be unique in having been named "Rookie of the Year" three years after taking his rookie test. There's one for the Indy stats nuts ...

#47 arttidesco

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Posted 04 July 2010 - 06:07

Not sure this adds anything to the debate but here is a pic of Graham in the #83 Sears Allstate Special not sure where or when it was taken, here is another of the car with it's restyled body.

#48 ensign14

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Posted 04 July 2010 - 06:20

Well, that confirms what I said, but still isn't completely correct (but then it is Wikipedia :rolleyes: ). Graham had tested it on a road course - Riverside IIRC - and did run it at Indy. In fact he took and passed his rookie test in it, but was so unenamoured of the thing that he declined the opportunity to go on to qualify it and went home. He may be unique in having been named "Rookie of the Year" three years after taking his rookie test. There's one for the Indy stats nuts ...

Bill Puterbaugh won it seven years after he took his test, but I don't think Hill won ROTY, I think that went to Stewart.

#49 arttidesco

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Posted 04 July 2010 - 10:03

Bill Puterbaugh won it seven years after he took his test, but I don't think Hill won ROTY, I think that went to Stewart.


Wiki confirms JYS won RotY in 1966 and that Graham Hill never won it at all.

#50 Michael Ferner

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Posted 04 July 2010 - 11:28

Peter Bryant told me pretty much the same about that Clark/MacDonald story, that it was "bunk". Peter was there, I was not, but I have a tendency to believe what he told me about the whole month of May in 1964, as he had been hired by Mickey to sort out the cars.
As far as Mother Reid and her telex, sounds like a woman slightly deranged after tragedy hit her family.


We talked about this before, and of course, it is "bunk". Also, all that stuff about the Thompson being "badly designed, poorly built, and difficult to drive" - oh yeah? A car that was blatantly one of the ten or telve fastest around that year??? Some "legends" die very hard indeed, it seems... :rolleyes:

More interesting than the apparent lunacy of his mother was Gordon Reid himself, the racing driver, and perhaps we should focus a bit on him, instead. Jim has already pointed into that direction (:up:), and I can add that he had, in fact, already secured an Indy "ride" for that year, with the very same car owner he drove for in the Sprints: Charley Engle. It was a brand new Kurtis Champ Car, and another Californian, Allen Heath got to drive it instead, but crashed during a time trial. A year later, Pat O'Connor was too slow to make the field, and after that Engle sold it to a fellow car owner from Dayton (Ohio), Pete Wales, and Ed Elisian finally put it into the '500' in 1955, stopping voluntarily to aid in the Vukovich wreck.

Intriguingly, the Sprint Car in which Reid died at Engle's home track was rebuilt and driven to fastest qualifying time at Winchester Speedway by Troy Ruttman only a fortnight later! Pat O'Connor recorded four fast times and six main event wins with the car in 1953 to claim the Midwestern Championship, the first of his three titles. It was run for many more years very successfully on Midwestern and some Eastern tracks, and was driven by a host of excellent drivers including Larry Crockett (who died in it at Langhorne in 1955) and... Eddie Sachs! To the best of my knowledge, it was still being used in USAC sprints by 1964, when the unfortunate Mrs. Hazel Reid wrote this strange message!

As for her son, he was a very successful Midget driver in California back in the late forties, joining AAA during 1948. Two years later, he took his act to the Midwest and was a winner right away. He occasionally dabbled in Sprint Cars also, but without much success until he subbed for Troy Ruttman in the Malloy/Offy in the summer of 1950, taking a second place finish at the Minnesota State Fair while Troy was chasing National points at Milwaukee. Shortly, he became a regular on the "high banks" of the Midwest, doing very well with different car owners at Dayton, Salem and Winchester as well as the surrounding dirt tracks. Good "high bank" drivers were always a sought after commodity at Indy, and he secured his first '500' entry in 1951 already, with Californian car owner Bill Johnson in an outdated rail-frame stock block, replacing Bob Sweikert by the way. Unfortunately, he was too slow to make the field, qualifying 43rd in a last-day effort, but he must've impressed a few people because a few days later he had an Offy ride at Milwaukee, another old rail-frame car, yet he finished sixth on his debut in a National Championship event! After changing teams and getting behind the wheel of a more contemporary Kurtis/Offenhauser, he became a regular top ten qualifyer (with a best of 3rd on the grid!) and scored two more 7th place finishes to rank 28th for the season in National points as the second best "genuine"* rookie behind fellow "high banker" Gene Force.

During the winter of 1951/2, he competed successfully in California, and as a three-time top ten finisher in Sprint Car points he was considered one of the "hottest" comers in the sport, securing a top ride with Charley Engle's outfit for the new season. Engle had one of the few tube-frame Kurtis/Offenhauser Sprint Cars, and had had a lot of success the previous two seasons with drivers like Jackie Holmes, Andy Linden, Jimmy Daywalt and Mike Nazaruk, even Troy Ruttman on occasion. At the Eastern opener in Reading (Pennsylvania), Reid qualified 5th and won the second heat, but unfortunately missed the main event for unspecified reasons. A fortnight later, Dayton opened the Midwestern Championship and Reid was third in qualifying, behind Ruttman and Joe James, and just ahead of the exciting newcomer Larry Crockett, the only Hoosier amongst four Californians in the top five. Apparently, Crockett moved ahead of Reid during the early laps of the fast heat, and Reid was desperately trying to find a way past - only the first three would qualify for the main event. On lap 4, Reid lost it in Turn 4, the oddly shaped corner leading onto the start/finish straight, and the gruesome accident unfolded.

With this sort of an outcome, it's no wonder legends and myths have abounded over this crash. The story about the steering wheel coming off is the most persistent, even if long since disproved by photographs from the accident. The story about the decapitation, however, is apparently and sadly true - there are even supposed to have been pictures in some newspapers or magazines showing this, but thankfully, I haven't come across any yet. The story of the barrel(s) of paint is also true, but over time it has been modified to say it was red paint, perhaps to make it more gruesome - it actually appears to have been gray paint. And one more note from a local newspaper is that Reid circled the track just before the start of that heat race for some "action filming" with a movie camera - the note isn't exactly clear, but it's quite possible he was recording onboard footage!

* Other rookies that year finishing higher than Reid included Mike Nazaruk, Carl Forberg, Bill Vukovich and Jim Rigsby, but all of them had already tried unsuccessfully to qualify for a National Championship event in 1950.

Edited by Michael Ferner, 04 July 2010 - 11:33.