A Story of the Long Journey of One Particular Race Car
In the first year of the promotion of C.J. Richards at the old Fairmont Speedway, Richards thought he could substantially enhance public awareness of his project by staging a stock car race at the Vermont State Fairgrounds, in Rutland, Vermont. After all, not two years before, the fair had successfully fielded a stock car show with cars from the well - established Lebanon Valley Speedway - to the south near Bennington - just over the border in New York.
The Ray's Auto Body car of Bruce Willey sits, ready for preparation, in the infield of the
track at the Vermont State Fairgrounds in September of 1962.
At this particular show, the field consisted mostly of regulars from Richards' Champlain Valley Racing Association; but; there were a few notable newcomers and guest stars who also appeared at the fair show. One such team was the 107 of Bruce Willey, from Bellows Falls, Vermont - a regular at tracks like Claremont, New Hampshire. The show had its share of problems, including multiple wrecks and two big pileups. Willey's car was in a wreck on the backstretch and eliminated.
Courtesy of the LaFond Family
The Bruce Willey car sits on the backstretch [in the circle] awaiting the wrecker. Sonny Hayes' 62 is also seen.
The following year, someone else apparently acquired the car, repainted it an azure blue, and dubbed it "The Moonlight Gambler". Larger wheels and tires were added, something most likely not allowed in Claremont. The car found its way into the ownership of Whiting, Vermont's Norm Scarborough, an intimidating giant of a man who was making a reputation as car owner for future legend Vince Quenneville, Sr.
Gauthier Family Photo
This grainy old newspaper shot shows Roger Gauthier, maybe with son, Chip.
Scarborough tooled the car into a truly unstoppable, fast, mean machine. Seeing as Quenneville had gone off with new car owner Gael Dundon, Scarborough acquired the services of Fort Edward, New York driver Roger Gauthier, a man with experience in the bigger time world of New York dirt sportsman racing. Also having driven midgets, the young Gauthier had had stints in cars like the #97 of Joe Romano, from Johnstown, New York.
The Moonlight Gambler tag appeared with car's emergence at Fairmont under the ownership of Norm Scarborough,
but I don't think he was the one who painted it blue or gave it that name.
Scarborough and Gauthier tore up the track for the better part of a season and a half with the low - slung Ford coupe - especially with the wider wheels. Then, as he was very apt to do, Scarborough sold the car to Granville, New York's Art Visconti - a man who had already bought two Scarborough cars previously. Visconti's son, Mike [who still races a Lebanon Valley sportsman now and again] was a small child during this time. He remembers Scarborough as " supposedly a big, mean guy who everybody was afraid of, but he was always nice to us kids".
Visconti Family Photo
Art Visconti stops on the streets of downtown Granville to do something to his car. Young Mike is also in the picture. The Moonlight Gambler tag
is seen, although it is spelled "Moonlite" on that car. This might have been the whim of the original owner's signpainter.
Visconti did not keep cars for long, either. He did like the number, and used several more times in his career. He ran it for a short while at Fairmont and eventually sold it to Rutland, Vermont's Charlie McMahan, who reworked the body to look really nice. Charlie was not much of a driver, but he did manage to wreck it at Fairmont during that track's last season before the operation moved up the road to its present Devil's Bowl location. Charlie would not drive again.
The Charlie McMahan version - at Fairmont Speedway around 1965 or 1966.
Visconti would field another car later that looked like most of his cars - orange and white - but would not carry his usual #001. It would be numbered 107. Whoever the original Moonlight Gambler guy was would build another car and , most likely, run it at Claremont. The first car would eventually be run at Bear Ridge, in Bradford, Vermont. It now belongs to car restorer and vintage racer Jeff Ackerman, out of New York - as #B29.
Courtesy of Jeff Ackerman
As the car looked, out of Bear Ridge, when Ackerman acquired it. The kid looks overjoyed.
Midstate Club Photo
Courtesy of Jeff Ackerman
The second Moonlight Gambler. Anyone know who originally owned these cars ?
Visconti Family Photo
The second Visconti version of
107 - at Devil's Bowl around 1967. It may have been built from the
former Checkmate car of Phil Russell. Check that out below.
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