BILL'S SOMEWHAT WEEKLY BLOG
Since I seem to have lost my forum, Mark Thomas' "Racin' Paper", I will apparently enter the 21st Century and start doing my column as a
blog. In certain times of the year, this may not be weekly; but I promise to keep it regular. Many of the site regulars have only been able to
get my columns via this site, anyway, and representing the very newspaper that was given out at Thunder Road gave me no press courtesies.
So, I might as well do it this way and reach some different readers. Let me know what you think. -Bill
Week of June2, 2012
BILL'S BACK IN TIME
REMARKABLE NORTH COUNTRY CAR BUILDERS: NORM SCARBOROUGH
[A Follow - up to the Previous Column]
Some of the eccentric, low budget Northeast car builders and owners are the stuff of legend among the informed stock car enthusiasts of the Northeast. Lennie Boehler comes to mind. Those horrible – looking blue coupes were made famous by Carl “Bugsy” Stevens and by Fred DeSarro. Boehler, one of the creative geniuses of the modified world in his era, was quite capable of looking almost as scruffy as those #3’s he fielded. But his results were unimpeachable.
But, further North, there were some others just as accomplished in their own racing classes and locales – as Boehler. And, like Lennie, these were far some the high – spending, flashy individuals that got of the ink in the newspapers of their time. Their paths would actually cross a few times, at places like Fairmont Speedway, Saranac Lake Speedway, Otter Creek Speedway, Rebel Speedway in Granby, Quebec, and in the very early years at Devil’s Bowl.
The Boehler car at Catamount Stadium
[Courtesy of Chris Companion]
As mentioned in the column before, Shirley Wallace was such a man, and his racing efforts crossed paths with the second man on at least a few occasions. While Wallace was from the Saranac Lake, NY area, a racing hub in that region, Norm Scarborough was from the tiny Addison County Vermont town of Whiting – a racing center across Lake Champlain.
Scarborough was a huge, intimidating man – at least when he thought it suited his purposes. The red-haired, curmudgeon looked like he would be more at home in a milking parlor than in the pit area of a busy race track. I imagine a great many competitors’ teams mistook the cover for the book, in Scarborough’s case, and lived to regret it.
As far as I can determine, Norm Scarborough’s first cars appeared in 1962, when a certain “Vincent” Quenneville showed up at Otter Creek Speedway with a very basic – looking 1936 Chevy coupe, painted a plain red, and numbered 00. Spectators at the bucolic pasture track were familiar with the last name of Quenneville, as Orewell, VT farmer John Qunneville [distantly related, at best] had run there the following year in Phil Russell’s #Checkmate. It would be Vince who would make the last name prominent in stock car racing, and a lot of help for that came from Norm.
Vince wins a heat at Fairmont around 1962, with Norm’s Chevy
[Courtesy of Norm Vadnais]
That 00, and Vince, would run the dusty, bumpy Otter Creek half mile, and – later – Fairmont Speedway, as well. Those first years were run with no great notoriety; but, when Scarborough purchased Bob Hoffer’s unique-looking and underachieving 1940 Ford in 1963, things started to heat up. With that car, also painted the same plain red but sporting Hoffer’s trademark exhaust pipe extensions sticking out of the trunk, the team would be feature winners by year’s end.
The Bob Hoffer – built 1940 Ford at Fairmont.
Scarborough and Quenneville parted ways after that season, for whatever unknown reasons, and Norm now acquired a three window coupe from Bruce Willey of Bellows Falls, VT. He had watched the car perform at the CVRA stock car show that C.J. Richards staged at the Vermont State Fair at the end of the 1962 season. And he liked what he saw. Norm put the veteran Roger Gauthier behind the wheel of the newly-painted blue Moonlight Gambler car. The combination of Gauthier, a seasoned driver who had run places like Fonda and Victoria, and Scarborough’s automotive genius was lethal. The 107 was one of the most dominant cars at Fairmont that year.
The car Gauthier and Scarborough tore up Fairmont with in 1964.
Scarborough was aware that the following year was to usher in the track’s featuring V-8 sportsman cars as the main division. With the 107 then sold off to Charlie McMahon in 1965, Scarborough now built a V-8 sportsman with a sedan body for the upcoming season, which would turn out to be one of Fairmont’s best. The de-emphasized flathead cars were still allowed to run in the top class but competing became more and more of a struggle. Scarborough had seen Gauthier move over to the A. G. Ryan Hay and Straw #28 team, belonging to some of his neighbors. Gauthier and Al Ryan would take the track points championship that year, after points leader Howard Stevens had his car sold out from under him in midseason. Norm put precocious rookie driver Russ Shaw at the controls of the red #24 and proceeded to have a most rollercoaster season.
Clayton Ryan checks out Scarborough’s sedan, driven by Russ Shaw. [Ladabouche Photo]
When on all fours, the team was likely to win. The long – framed car with the body set back became a Norm Scarborough trademark. I can recall Shaw letting off at the end of Fairmont’s long front straightaway and the car would poof out a huge blue flame out both sides. The rookie with the volcanic personality spent the year on equal footing with the track’s established stars, in terms of speed. Dependability and finishing races in one piece still needed work.
When Shaw dumped the sedan off turn one once too often, the team came out with a coupe body which lasted through most of the that season and into the following season – the remainder of Fairmont’s life span. For Devil’s Bowl and 1967, Scarborough arrived with a striking white Mustang – bodied car. He started the year with Shaw and then, for unknown reasons, replaced Gauthier in the car before the inaugural D Bowl season was over. The Mustang was fast and good – looking enough to be often used in Devil’s Bowl promo photos. This was unusual for Scarborough cars, as Norm was not much for showiness.
The tempestuous rookie, Russ Shaw, with the replacement coupe in 1965. [Shaw Collection]
Quenneville had dropped out of sight, for a spell, but returned to Norm in time for a very interesting time period in D Bowl racing lore. The Mustang was eventually sold, wrecked, or something and no one saw Norm for a while. Sometime later, Norm and Vince re-appeared at Devil’s Bowl with the former Dexter Dorr # Super 29, painted red and white and re-numbered 38. Scarborough added a Dutch Hoag – style periscope rear view device on the roof, and Vince went back to his old winning ways.
Roger Gauthier and the Scarborough Mustang.
Bob Frazier Photo Courtesy of C.J. Richards]
The following year, with the Dorr car sold off to Bob Harrison, Norm built another of his won cars – another long chassis with a standard ’36 Chevy coupe body. This car was a rocket, and it probably would have completely dominated Devil’s Bowl at that time had not management brought in Wily Will Cagle, the professional Tampa, Florida transplant who had been racing on the New York/ New Jersey / Pennsylvania circuit for years, Cagle, driving a sedan, proceeded to run roughshod over the Bowl much the way Kenny Tremont, Jr, does it now. It is open to conjecture and not for me to guess whether the Wily one’s sedan had an advantage over the competition, but Norm and Vince were becoming pretty disgusted. They quit their bitchin’, decided to take action, and rolled up their sleeves.
Vince in the former Dexter Dorr car. [Ladabouche Collection] Below - The infamous Scarborough
Rutland Auto Parts clone sedan that beat Cagle. [Courtesy of Norm Vadnais]
At any given Sunday evening, the massive Scarborough could be seen around the periphery of Cagle’s pit area, pacing back and forth. It has been said that he was actually pacing off measurements of the Cage car. Now Cagle would leave the car, during the week, all covered up at one of the Spafford Well Drilling garages near Castleton, Vt. According pretty reliable witnesses, Quenneville and Scarborough would often “visit” Johnny Spafford at that garage. Sometimes, the cover on the Cagle car didn’t sit on it quite the same afterward
At any rate, one week, the 38 team arrived at Devil’s Bowl with a sedan – a sedan that looked a great deal like Cagle’s. The red #38 Rutland Auto Parts car ended up soon beating Cagle, head – to – head, in a thrilling Devil’s Bowl feature. While the vast majority of the Bowl’s frustrated faithful cheered and cheered, there were some grumpy faces. But Cagle could never prove a thing.
Norm oversees work on the last coupe he built for Vince. Likely, that is Phil Russell, at left.
[Courtesy of Ed Fabian]
Scarborough and Quenneville did some racing in Canada, too; but soon Norm retired out of the sport. He could still be found telling racing stories in his inimitable grumpy manner at Dickerman’s Motor City, near Brandon, where “Money Talks and Nobody Walks” – for years to come. We have lost Norm now. He passed away in that unfortunate string of years when he, Charlie LaDuc, Tom Perry, and several others in that Devil’s Bowl racing scene all died in a row. But, nobody who ever saw Norm’s cars in action will ever forget him.
Vince and Norm receive awards from C. J. Richards as 1968 track champs. [Courtesy of Norm Vadnais]
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