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Sep 8, 2012

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Tribute to Bill Reeves

By Bud De Boer

Bill Reeves 73, passed away on August 26, 2012. He spent most of his life in Milwaukee in the automobile business. Eight years ago, he moved to Lehigh Acres, Florida, with his wife Cindy to live on a golf course and pursue his other love, golf. But it was his early years in drag racing where he made his mark driving cars owned and tuned by the late Mike Marinoff.

Switching from a Latham blower to a GMC in 1959 did three things for the team: quicker ETs, faster speeds, and more trips to the winners circle.

The first car Bill drove was a B/Gas '55 Chevy Bel Air that took home class honors in '59 and '60 at the World Series of Drag Racing. The car ran times in the high 11's and speeds over 120 mph.

It takes a strong team to make a winner. Left to right are Bill Reeves, Denny Sache, Dick Preeve, and Mike Marinoff.

In 1961, Marinoff decided to build a B/Gas Supercharged '41 Willys coupe. Once again with Bill Reeves at controls, the car was one to be reckoned with, running elapsed times in the high 10's and speeds over 130 mph. Not only was it a terror on the Midwest gas coupe and sedan match race circuit, the car also garnered another class win at the World Series in 1961.

Winning their class at the 1962 NHRA Nationals in Indy was an ultimate high for the Milwaukee drag racers.

1962 saw the team journey to the U.S. Fuel & Gas Championships in Bakersfield, California, where they suffered a rare loss in competition. The tow back home was a long one and probably gave them time to think of a new strategy for future trips down the quarter mile. It must have worked, because they not only won class honors again at the World Series, but also won the B/Gas Supercharged category at the NHRA Nationals in Indianapolis.

In early 1963, Mike and Bill were chosen to represent the Midwest as members of the elite "Top 20" group at Bakersfield, where they won B/Gas Supercharged in 11.10 seconds at 128.57 mph. But what started out as a good year took a turn for the worse two months later. On May 5th at the Don Maynard Memorial race in Oswego, Illinois, the Willys was totaled in a crash that injured Reeves to such an extent that he spent that he spent the much of the summer recuperating. It wasn't until 1967 that the two would team up again.

Prepared by Marinoff and driven by Reeves, this '67 SOHC Ford Mustang was a winner right from the start.

In 1967, the Ford Motor Company special vehicles division built two fiberglass Mustang bodies. One went to George Montgomery and the other went to Jim Wamser, who had Mike Marinoff set it up. Both cars would run in A/Gas Supercharged and be powered by 427 SOHC engines. Just as he'd done with other engines in the past, it didn't take Mike long to extract maximum horsepower from the Ford motor. In fact, with Reeves at the helm, the car set a new NHRA record for its class of 8.98 seconds at 169.00 mph. Shortly thereafter, Wamser decided to retire from the sport, ending the teams efforts in mid year. It was the end of a era.
Although Bill and Mike are no longer with us, their legacy lives on. The two friends were a major force in one of the most talked about categories in drag racing from back in the day.

Photos are from the Mick Marinoff and Bob "Slatts" Nelson collections


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