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Bud Meyer - A Celebration of Life

Bud Meyer - A Celebration of Life
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Story by Richard Parks with Ken Berg, photographs by Reece Moore, and photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz.  March 1, 2014.

     California is a nice place for auto racing.  No one knew that better than the Meyer racing family.  Louie Meyer won the Indianapolis 500 three times.  His older brother was Eddie Meyer and they worked out of the shop in Redlands, California to build some great Model-T racers.  Eddie and his son Bud went racing out on the dry lakes of Southern California.  Together they built their own line of Ford V8 manifolds and heads.   Bud drove his father’s car and set the roadster record in 1939 and held it until Vic Edelbrock Sr took the record away in 1940.  Bud later went into boat racing and held numerous records and championships, surviving a crash that almost tore off his arm.  When they weren’t boat or land speed racing you could find the Meyer family on the oval tracks of America or winning at Indy.   The Meyer V8-60's were consistent winners on the water and on the midget tracks.  When Bud passed away the family decided on holding a Celebration of Life for him at the Auto Club of Southern California Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, in Pomona, California.  It hadn’t rained in months and the winter was unexpectedly warm and dry.  Who would have guessed that an immense storm was headed our way on that March day in 2014?  Friday the storm hit with a vengeance and we wondered if Bud’s event would even occur.  The next day my wife and I set out for the hour drive to the museum and the weather was perfect.  Racers simply weren’t going to let the impending weather spoil a good party.

     Bud’s widow, Joan Denver Meyer, asked Doug Clem and Debbie Baker to help organize the party and they did a wonderful job.  The museum staff set up round tables and chairs in a section surrounded by racing artifacts.  Doug Clem came from northern Nevada and was the emcee for the party.  He was a long-time friend of the family and created his own museum honoring Bud, which he called the Eddie Meyer Museum in Sparks, Nevada.  Debbie handled negotiations with the museum and catered the food.  She is also the organizer of the Cruisin’ for a Cure car show that is held every September at the Orange County Fairgrounds, in Costa Mesa, California.  Debbie and a group of her friends organized this car show to raise funds for prostate cancer research when she found out that her husband was stricken by the disease.  Sadly, he passed away, but Debbie still continues to keep the car show going and to raise funds to find a cure for this deadly disease among men.  Anyone who knew Bud was welcome to attend the party; the food was delicious, there was no cost to attend and anyone who wished could grab the microphone and pay their respects to Bud.

     Friends of the family who came to show their support were; Brad Hartsung, Russ Faulkentz, Steven Housman, Randy Dubb, Bill Hollingsworth, Doug and Chai (CHAR for Charlotte?) Clem, Richard and Epi Parks, Debbie Baker, Linda and Jack Streckewald, Ed Warnock, Dewayne Lacy, Scott Cunningham, Herb Deeks, Laurence Deutsch, Susan and Hayden Harris, Eric Hatfield, Bob and Margie Leonhardt, Michael Michelek, Bruce Huntley, Tim Smith, Mark and Sandra Ketenjian, Lance Baumberger, Stan Chersky, Dennis Lockwood, Marisa Rendall, Paul Brodsky, Doc Halvorsen, and Dick Messer.  Those who came from the boat racers were: Harlan and Mary Orrin, John and Betty Sherin, and Ron Armstrong.  Those who came representing the dry lakes racers in the SCTA were; Jim Miller, Jerry Cornelison, Reece Moore, Bill Harris, Reese Adam, and Jack Masson.  Those who came representing the auto racers were; Tom Grueser, Chet Knox, Lou Senter, Bob Leggio, Ed Iskenderian, Ed Pink, Dave Martin, Doug Stokes, Harry Hibler, Don Weaver, and Vic Enyart.  Family represented were; Rick Denver (stepson), Renee and Tim Denver (stepson), Peyton Reese Denver (stepgranddaughter), Madison Denver (stepgranddaughter), Jim Denver (stepson), Joan Denver Meyer (Bud’s wife), Madeline Patterson (niece), and Mark and Pam (Meyer) Iungerich (daughter and son-in-law).

     Ron Armstrong drove some of the boats for Bud and came all the way from Utah to be at the party.  Ron was also a drag racer and developed Race-Pak for use in racing.  Ed Pink built great engines and for a long time there were few racers who could win against his motors.  Ed Iskenderian is the dean of cam grinders and one of the first to heavily promote racing equipment in the old “advertising wars” of the 1940’s and ‘50’s.  Louie Senter created Ansen Equipment, ran Saugus drag strip and was a force in post WWII racing in Southern California.  Harry Hibler was an editor for many old racing magazines.  Doug Stokes is a PR man, promoter and one-time Go-Kart leader.  Dick Messer was the director at the Petersen Automotive Museum for many years.  Chet Knox owned Autobooks/Aerobooks in Burbank for many years.  Jim Miller is the director and curator of the American Hot Rod Foundation and the President of the Society of Land Speed Racing Historians.  Herb Deeks is an artist who helped Joan Denver Meyer on her publication Automotive Calendar of Events-Miss Information.  Laurence Deutsch is the editor of the WRA Newsletter.

     Mary and Harlan Orrin and John and Betty Sherin, assisted me in running the Boat Racers Reunion.  John and his brother Ron raced crackerbox boats; those fast and sleek little boats that packed plenty of fun and danger in their handling.  Harlan worked for his uncle at Mandela Boats and then built beautiful wood boats with that soft, wide Mandela look.  He still builds and repairs them at his Fallbrook, California home.  Don Weaver was an owner in many auto racing leagues and created and ran the Legends of Ascot Reunion.  It’s always fun to listen to the stories that Vic Enyart has to tell about Bud and Enyart’s own stories about his time working in the Panama Canal Zone.  Stan Chersky has a collection of car club plaques that exceeds 6000 different designs and he is one of the few experts in this interesting field.  Stan was the person who directed Joan Denver Meyer to purchase Automotive Calendar of Events.  Bob Leggio is the insurance agent for the SCTA and other racing groups.  Without Bob we would have a difficult time in holding dry lakes races.  Jerry Cornelison is the historian for the Road Runners car club in the SCTA.  He is one of the members in the Society of Land Speed Racing Historians groups and keeps the history and heritage of the club alive.

     Bud had three children; Randy who was the oldest, Pamela Meyer Iungerich and Melinda (Lindy) Meyer, who was the youngest by Bud and his first wife.   Pamela is the last one of Bud’s children.  Randy passed away just two weeks before Bud did and was a big shock for the family.  I enjoy hearing the stories that Pamela and the other guests tell about Bud.  Pam mentioned that Bud was involved in a boat accident that almost tore off her father’s arm and he lost most of his blood.  Bud was a fighter and very stubborn and he willed himself back to health.  He was also a very devoted father and husband and cared for his first wife.  When she passed away Bud was lost.  As the story goes, he went to the very last Gilmore Roars Reunion held at the Petersen Automotive Museum.  Stan Chersky invited Joan Denver to come to the event with him to see all the cars and meet some of the people.  As the guests started to eat there was an earthquake that shook the building and Joan didn’t want to go back inside.  She asked me if I would introduce her to some of the racers so that she wouldn’t feel so isolated.  The first person I introduced Joan to was Bud and his eyes lit up right away.  After about five minutes I asked Joan if she was through talking to Bud and if she wanted to meet some other people.  Bud raised his fist (jokingly) and said, “Go away kid, I’m not through.”  He wasn’t through and took her home after the event and proposed not long after that.

     I always liked Bud.  He was a teaser though and a man who would do anything for a friend.  I teased him back and told him he “owed me a matchmaker’s fee” for introducing him to Joan and the fee was he had to take me back to the Indy 500 with him someday.  We never made it, but knowing Bud he’ll have a reunion ready for me in the hereafter when I get there.  Ed Iskenderian and Vic Enyart had many stories to tell about Bud.  They told us about the drivers who raced Miller cars including “Bullet” Joe Garson and Manny Ayulo.  There were stories about Bud in his Avenger series 135 C.I. race boats.  “Bud used to come to my shop and buy my cams,” Iskenderian said.  “I would ask Eddie and Bud about what it was like when they ran the big cars at Legion Ascot, but Bud wasn’t about history, he was always about the present and what he could accomplish,” Isky continued.  Lou Meyer and Dale Drake bought Fred Offenhauser's engine shop in 1945, forming the Meyer & Drake Engineering Company.  Their Offy engines won at Indy and other USAC tracks for the next twenty years.  Eddie, Louie, Sonny and Bud were fixtures in the racing world for a long time and the stories and history that they compiled was extraordinary.  Doug Clem maintains a wonderful museum on the Eddie Meyer Racing Engines shop and if you want to visit him and see the artifacts at his place in northern Nevada you can reach him at [email protected]

Gone Racin’ is at [email protected]