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BILL’S BACK IN TIME

By Bill Ladabouche

THOSE REMARKABLE AGAWAM SEDANS


      I don’t know whether I was first aware of Rene Charland or first aware of that interesting semi late model division at Malta’s Albany – Saratoga Speedway. It had been fascinating to watch, first hand, the battle between two Northern New York drivers for the 1961 NASCAR Sportsman National Championship because the rustic Otter Creek Speedway [not too far from where I lived] was attracting prominent NASCAR sportsman teams vying for easy points.

      Then, of course, this guy named Charland came along and put an end to any reasonable competition for the aforementioned national title for the next four years. I didn’t pay much attention to Charland’s steady climb in 1962 because we were very tied up in the re – opening of the very – nearby Fairmont Speedway, in Fair Haven, VT. But, when my uncle and I made our first trek to Fonda Speedway that season, the whole NASCAR sportsman thing was brought back into focus; and Charland was apt to appear at Fonda.


Ladabouche Collection
My attentions were on other things but that Charland guy kept popping up in the background. [Below] We saw more of
 him in this familiar coupe in those days.

Ladabouche Collection


      Charland’s first appearances seemed to be with that white #3 MASS coupe with the checkered flags around the numbers. We know now that he drove a number of cars – at multiple tracks – to gain the huge points totals he amassed in winning those four titles; but, his appearances at Fonda in 1963 sometimes featured a gorgeous blue sedan that sported his familiar number 3. These particular cars, known as the Smith & Son Jewelers cars, were owned by Springfield, Massachusetts’ Sam Smith. More importantly, they were produced by the up and coming [soon to be legendary] Fred Rosner.

      Charland would eventually become just as known in cars like the Czepiel 888; but he was still often linked with that Smith car. The Smith coach went on to be renumbered 00 [probably in deference to Charland] and was then driven with reasonable success at places like Utica – Rome Speedway, Victoria, Fonda, Riverside, and more tracks by hired drivers Donny Wayman and Jim Luke. Both of those drivers were strongly associated with the glory days of Fonda; but, both had moved on to other venues as hired guns for various car owners.



From the HAMB Website
Veteran Jim Luke has the Smith and Son sedan at Riverside Park around 1965. [Below] Don Wayman, in the same car, possibly at Victoria.

 


John Grady Photo


      After this run with the two drivers, I have sort of lost track of the car. Smith may have continued to campaign a car – I just don’t know. However, the coach may also have been sold to Godfrey Wenzel, who I think had had stints as Charland’s crew chief. At any rate, Wenzel suddenly had two white, Rosner – built sedans, coming out of the Agawam area. The best – known Wentzel driver [usually driving the newer, lower – slung sedan] was the iconic Maynard “Cyclone” Forrette, the South Hadley Massachusetts man who was born near Airborne Speedway in Ellenburg Depot, NY.

     The Wenzel cars sported the number 03, and seemed to always be sponsored by Reardon’s Garage. The seldom – seen, older backup car was, very likely, the old Smith & Son #3Mass. The Wentzel cars and the mercurial driver attracted considerable attention and won a fair share of shows. The team was once featured in Gator Racing News paper with Forrette speeding along, racing with someone like Irv Taylor in the backup car. They looked reasonably identical.

 


Gater Racing News Photo
Godfrey’s cars, captured on the same portion of some speedway, with Forrette in the newer, lower car and
 Irv Taylor torquing the other. [Below] – Maynard works the newer sedan, at speed.


From the HAMB Site


      Forrette would eventually hook up with the Round Lake, NY - based Roehrig brothers who had fielded their familiar gold #99’s for Ken Platt for years. Cyclone raised hell with those cars for a few years before handing the wheel over to Charland, of all people. Wes Moody always had a grudging admiration for Forrette after subbing for Maynard once at Fonda. Slugger allowed it was the hardest car to drive he had ever sat in.

      The Reardon’s Garage sedans seemed to drift off into the sunset, although I think I recall a similarly – schemed coupe running somewhere in southern New England.
there also was a version of the white 03 sedans that ran on the dirt at Lebanon Valley with veteran Bob Tauscher. I am not clear on whether this was before, during, or after the Forrette era with the team; but there are a number of photographs showing this car running the high - banked track.



From the HAMB Si

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: wladabou@comcast.net . For those who still don’t like computers - my regular address is: Bill Ladabouche, 23 York Street, Swanton, Vermont 05488.

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www.catamountstadium.com

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