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BILL’S BACK IN TIME
By Bill Ladabouche
IT’S STORIES LIKE RACER BILL THAT KEEP ME GOING
For the majority of this particular blog, I am going to “turn the microphone over” to Bob Spencer, who sent me a wonderfully – written piece on his friend, Bill Frederick. I may add a few words after, but there is no need for anyone but Bob to be credited for this one. Thanks, Bob.
The hero of these early stories is my friend, Bill Fredrick. Otherwise known as "Racer Bill," he provided insight and solutions into life's problems. His inspiration and hilarious remedies are indeed fond memories. He was involved, or had knowledge of most of the situations mentioned. The 1954 picture shows him in those halcyon days proudly standing next to his engineless racer dreaming of a future as the champion of the tracks.
The West Brattleboro Experience
Stock car racing was in "Racer Bill's" blood. New England in the 1950's had some well-innovated stock cars. Some of them had features that were to become the racing standard nationwide. Bill found a 1938 Buick coupe at Emmons Motors, the local Cadillac Oldsmobile dealer. I think he maybe paid $25.00 for the car. He had visions of creating the ultimate stock car.
Courtesy of John Bourgeois and Family
This shot of Beaver Dragon’s first stock gives the reader the idea of what a 1938
Buick stock car looks like. Below – An unaltered ’38 Buick.
Serious Wheels Website Photo
This car had a faded gray finish. The interior was in almost perfect shape, and it ran like a sewing machine. I don't remember it having any major dents. It was in good enough condition where it could have become an excellent means of transportation. It might have even been better that what Bill was driving day-to-day. Instead, a trio of fledgling mechanical aces planned to convert the Buick into an awesome dirt track racer. The third member of the trio was Bill Koch if memory serves me right. Jesse James and the Monster Garage on the Discovery channel only think they can build awesome machines. We set the standard more than 50 years ago.
We started the disassembly process. We removed the fenders, as they constituted excess weight. We ripped the immaculate interior from the car and discarded it. All the windows except the windshield were scrupulously removed with a sledgehammer. Welding a proper seat to the frame and installing an aircraft seat belt was next on the agenda. The roll bar material we scrounged somewhere. The weight of the pipe used for the roll bar probably exceeded what we had gained by removing the fenders. Crash bars in the front and the back protected the car from any potential danger on the track.
D L Collection Photo
Bill may well have competed against Flash Gordon at the “Brattleboro Speedway, about that time.
It goes without question that the exhaust had to breathe free, so the muffler came off and the header pipe directed to the side of the car. The engine was in excellent condition. Because of its raw power, we surmised it would take care of any Ford or Chevy. We changed the oil and put in Wolf's Head 50 weight. New plugs and points and a timing light tuned the engine to perfection. Our chassis ability at that time was less than adequate. A logging chain welded to the frame and around the rear axle would prevent too much role in the turns. We knew that victory was a few short laps away.
The entourage towed the car to West Brattleboro, Vermont, the location of a ¼-mile dirt track called Brattleboro Speedway. Time for the heat race came and "Racer Bill" donned his crash helmet and went out for warm ups. The car had adequate power on the straight-aways, but did not like turns. To make matters worse, the dirt track suffered from gigantic potholes, both on the straight-aways and turns. The Buick, with its coil suspension bobbed up and down. It was hard to look at the car it bobbed so much. If only the track had been smooth and the car would turn, victory would have been ours.
Courtesy of Joe Crowley
Joe Ryan’s X struggles through a bumpy turn four, in the lead,in typical mid – fifties Brattleboro Speedway action. Ryan was no slouch; I think I have seen him in Langhorne footage.
Bill lined up for the heat race. The pack made a few laps and the green flag dropped. If nothing else, the Buick could scare those driving around it as it bounded its way around the track. The track proved too much for the front suspension and in one of the turns, it ripped the "A" frame loose. The right front wheel folded under the car and that was the ignominious end for the day.
After a survey, Bill determined that he could fix the suspension. He replaced the "A" frame with one from another Buick found in a junkyard. The solution to the problem was to chain the right front down to prevent too much coil spring action. It worked and the car ran on many a weekend. The weekend races became great fun. Of course, we had to take our girlfriends with us to witness such memorable events. It indeed is a pleasant memory of my youth.
Courtesy of Bob Spencer
Still young, Bill Frederick ran this car at the Rhythm Inn Speedway in Miller’s Fall, MA. He knew a lot more by then. According to Bob, this car was waiting for a motor.
I do remember Bill Koch driving the car one time. To add to the situation, he had cigar crammed in his cheek. The race started and in his excitement, he swallowed the cigar on the first lap. I think this also ended his short-lived career as a racecar driver.
After I left Massachusetts, Bill built a Ford and placed 5th in the New England Dirt Track Championships in 1956 or 1957. He continued to race for a number of years. I was in and out of racing and ended up in the late 1960's building six cylinder Fords with a friend of mine. After that, I became a spectator.
The Rhythm Inn Experience
After the Brattleboro Speedway experience, Bill ran there and at nearby Rhythm Inn Speedway, a track named after – and located by – a honky tonk in Miller’s Fall, Massachusetts. Allegedly, after a long evening of stripping parts off wrecked cars, guys could watch something else stripped off and lose all their winnings on beer.
From Racers Bored Website
Action at Rhythm Inn Speedway could be pretty hot before and after races. #12 is future national champ Rene Charland.
I have a huge file of early NH/VT/MASS drivers from the 1950’s. Bill Fredericks appears once, identified as being from Agawam, Massachusetts and driving a car #7. Judging from the vintage of the car below, he was at the craft for a number of years – at least into the early 1970’s.
The picture below was Bill’s car that had been in a barn years after he raced it. This was after his funeral services in May 2004. The hearse taking his body to the cemetery had a temporary sign on the back door “In Memory of Bill Frederick, Number 44.” That’s me with my hand touching the car.
Courtesy of Bob Spencer
What is likely Frederick’s last car, a state of the art coupe for that time.
Please email me if you have any photos to lend me or information and corrections I could benefit from. Please do not submit anything you are not willing to allow me to use on my website - and thanks. Email is: firstname.lastname@example.org . For those who still don’t like computers - my regular address is: Bill Ladabouche, 23 York Street, Swanton, Vermont 05488.
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