Sunday, March 3, 2024

In Memory…Hector Honore (1905 – 1983)


Hector Honore with Pete Folse at Des Moines - 1960 

By Larry Sullivan

Thomson, Ill. (March 3, 1983) – Born in Belgium and coming to this country as a small boy, Hector Honore settled with his family in Pana, Ill., a southeastern Illinois town commonly referred to as “The City of Roses.”

As a small boy at the age of 10, Hector told this writer that he decided he wanted to be an automobile mechanic and every night after school and on weekends, worked in various garages and filling stations.

In the early 30’s, Hector started his own automobile repair business and for the next 40 years or more, specialized in truck repair and his shop was known as “Hector’s Congress Alley,” where the race clan would gather.

Honore’s first race car was a Rocker Arm Cragar in a Hillegass chassis which he purchased in Penna, Ill., for the 1936 racing season and drove himself for the first two years. He finished ninth at Franklin, Ind., in a feature won by Joie Chitwood. Honore stated that his success was mediocre competing with the Midwest Dirt Track Racing Association at tracks like Salem, Ind. (Fairgrounds), Franklin, Ind., Columbus, Ind., Evansville, Ind., and Huntington, Ind.

In 1938, Hector chose “Wild Charley” Sczcendy of South Bend, Ind., to pilot his brand-new D.O. Hal and the duo won a feature at Huntington, Ind., the first day out. Hector stated that Charley was “Wild” but if he finished, he usually won the race. Sczcendy crashed multiple times during the season and was upside down five times but was never injured.

During the 1938, ’39, and ’40 seasons, Vern Trestor of Indianapolis drove for Honore and won several races as did another drove who drove occasionally, Frank Weirer. Ott Butler of Indianapolis drove the Honore Hal in eight race meets and won four times in the car known as the “City of Roses” with large red roses on each side of the cowl of the cream-colored #2. Spider Webb and Bus Wilbert also drove a time or two for Honore in the early 40’s.

Hector Honore with Bill Puterbaugh at Knoxville, Ill. - 1966

Hector came out of retirement in 1940 and drove for himself and competed in four race meets with him winning three features and finishing second in the other. Harold “Stagger” Shaw of Indianapolis took over as pilot in 1941 and won his first nine features in succession and the tough MDTRA championship for the season, but ironically on the last day of the racing season when he was to be crowed champion at Franklin, Ind., a water sprinkling truck pulled onto the track while Shaw was hot lapping, and he couldn’t stop or avoid the truck and hit it head-on at top speed. He received serious injuries from the accident and passed away 24 days later.

Honore came out with a new machine in 1946 with Cliff Griffith of Indianapolis as his driver, and the car still a D.O. Hal dubbed as the “City of Roses” #2 and Cliff won the MDTRA championship two years in a row, 1946 an ’47. During the ’46 season, Griffith had an appendix attack and had to have surgery. Don Turner was chosen to drive the Honore machine at Franklin, Ind. Being that the car was leading the point standings for the season, the car was handicapped to start last in both the heat race and feature event. Turner, starting last in a field of 13 cars on narrow county fairgrounds track originally built for horse racing, moved quickly up to second place after only three laps. But, while attempting to take the lead, ran over the wheel of the car he was passing, went end over end crashing, and died four days later from the injuries he received.

In 1948, Hector switched to Offy power, a 220-cubic inch engine with Bobby Grim of Indianapolis as his driver. In his first time out, Grim set fast time and finished a close second to Jimmy Wilburn, who was also a driving a Offy, a 270-cubic inch engine, at Bloomington, Ind. On Grim’s second outing with the car at Celina, Ohio, he set fast time and won the feature, defeating Wilburn. Both of the meets were sanctioned by the Central States Racing Association.

Hector Honore with Bobby Grim at Belleville, Kan. - 1955

For the next 11 years, Grim continued to drive for Honore mostly under International Motor Contest Association sanctioning, winning 183 features, setting over 150 track records, and winning the IMCA national championship four years in succession, 1955 to 1958, and was runner-up for the title five other years.

Pete Folse from Tampa, Fla., took over the wheel of the Bardahl Black Deuce after Grim moved to greener pastures and won his first four features driving the car, en route to winning the 1959 IMCA national title. Folse would be Hector’s pilot for the next five years, and win the 1960 and ’61 titles, giving Honore seven consecutive IMCA titles. He finished runner-up two other years.

Folse’s best year with the car was 1961 when he won 31 features in 42 starts. Grim’s best year was 1955, winning 27 main events in 32 meets.

In 1964, Jerry “Scratch” Daniels of St. Paul, Minn., took over the Bardahl, now powered by a Chevrolet engine. Daniels won seven features that season and finished third in the point standings. In 1965, Gordon Woolley of Waco, Tex., took over the driving chores, winning five features and finishing third in the point standings.

Bill Puterbaugh of Roxana, Ill., took over for Hector for the 1966 season, won four features, was runner-up another seven times, and placed third in the final IMCA point’s chase.

Jim Moughan of Springfield, Ill., started as the driver for the Black Deuce in 1967 and won the annual Hawkeye Futurity in Des Moines in June. Later that season, Don “Itch” Daniels took over and won two feature events. If my memory serves me correctly, Tom Custer of Rock Island, Ill., also drove the car a time or two during the ’67 season.

Hector Honore with Jerry "Scratch" Daniels at Tampa, Fla. - 1964

It was after the 1967 season that Hector Honore decided to call it quits. He claimed he traveled over 1.1 million miles during his career and raced in 35 states as well as Canada.

As told to me by Hector himself, his cars, the R.A. Cragar, the D.O. Hal, the Offenhauser, and the Chevrolet, won 434 features, 704 heat races, and set 216 records.

The Offenhauser powered cars had only three drivers: Bobby Grim, Don Branson, and Pete Folse. In 1954, Grim was injured in an accident at Belleville, Kan., with Bob Slater and lost five weeks of driving in which he was replaced by Branson, of Champaign, Ill., who won three of five features he started.

For 19 consecutive years, the Offy and Chevy powered cars ran under the sponsorship of Bardahl Oil products out of St. Louis. The car was known as the “Black Deuce” during this same time period. During Honore’s entire career, all of his car carried the #2.

From 1948 to 1967, the Bardahl cars, both Offy and Chevy, won 284 features, of which 266 were Offy-powered victories and 19 were Chevy-powered wins. Honore said he probably won in the neighborhood of 150 features with his R.A. Cragar and D.O. Hal from 1936 to 1947.

This writer saw such drivers as “Wild” Charley Sczcendy, Harold Shaw, and Cliff Griffith winning features with Honore’s cars and it was a potent Hal which won the MDTRA championship three successive years, 1941, ’46, and ’47. The association ran no races from 1942 to 1945 because of World War 2.

Honore’s 434 feature wins is a record for a car owner and may be topped only by the great Ralph DePalma or Gus Schrader.

May he rest in peace. Adios.

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