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Gone Racin'... Will Moore

Gone Racin'... Will Moore



Story by Richard Parks, photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz. Photos courtesy


Will Moore was an unselfish and generous hot rodder.  I had the pleasure to meet him some years ago, and his humble nature left an indelible mark on our friendship.  You may not find his name on Hall of Fame ballots or a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but he belongs there, probably more than most recipients. Will passed away on Jan. 23, 2017, just a few days short of his 81st birthday.

William “Will” Condon Moore was born in Portland, Oregon on Feb. 7, 1936, but lived in Orange County for nearly seven decades.  He graduated from Newport Harbor High School in 1953 and entered the Navy that same year; he was assigned to the USS Orleck, destroyer class DD-886.  After discharge from the service he opened Dunlap Appliance Service, which he owned and operated for over 40 years.  After he retired from the repair business he opened Dunlap Hot Rod Auto Service and specialized in 1932 Ford hot rods.

He built over twenty customized ’32 Fords in his lifetime and was well-known and respected for his skill.  As J. D. Tone remarked to Gene Barbee, “Will would take on a project with rusted metal that none of us would try and he would turn it into a car of beauty.”

Doug Wilson added, “Will would buy the worst junk cars that he could find; cars that nobody else would touch and then he would turn them into masterpieces.  He was a simple and humble man.”

Will was a member of many organizations, some of which were: Gear Grinders car club (in the Southern California Timing Association), Outriders car club, Lucky Devils car club, Manx Dune Buggy club and Sons of Saba motorcycle club.  The Gear Grinders are a land speed racing club and have been in existence for some seven decades.  The Outriders are a large hot rod and car club that holds many charitable events and keeps the car culture alive.  The Lucky Devils are a small car club, begun in the 1980’s; as a younger club, they appreciated the wisdom and knowledge that Will brought to their group.  He also belonged to an informal group, Jack’s Garage, which is just that: a garage at the home of Jack Underwood in Fountain Valley, California.  All the well-known hot rodders, drag racers, land speed racers and other car guys meet there on a regular basis, and Will Moore was on an equal footing with the best of them.

He was an avid hunter, fisherman and outdoorsman who knew a great deal about the old West and the history of our country's pioneers.  He was a collector of guns, antiques, artifacts and Western memorabilia and frequented gun shows and flea markets all over the Western United States.  Will could find beauty and history in the ugliest object; he'd pick an item up at a dump site, old western ghost town or swap meet and he would uncover its history.  He had a great number of stories which he relished telling people, some involving legendary people and many about his own adventures.

Will married twice and had two children, Bill and Catherine, during his first marriage.  His family, friends and faith were the most meaningful things to him.  He left behind his brother, Harry “Skip” Milne; his wife Cean Moore; his son Bill and daughter-in-law Kelly Moore and her children by a prior marriage, Niki Becker, Chris and Destiny Martinez; his daughter Catherine and son-in-law Mark Hilde and their son Davin William Hilde.  Davin was given the middle name of William in honor of his grandfather.  Will dearly loved Davin and gave him his first hot rod, a black pedal car with flames.

Will had been going through some tough health issues, so a pastor came and prayed with him; he accepted the Lord and that changed his life and gave him purpose to go on.  He was also a frequent worshipper at Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa. He often went an hour early in order to sit on the front row and welcome others to the church.

Will Moore was a people person, and after a leg injury kept him close to home, he would open up his garage door and invite neighbors and friends to visit him and hold bench-racing sessions, talking about any and all subjects, but especially ’32 Fords.  He never let a stranger pass by without a friendly hello.

At Will's funeral service, Pastor Elver Mendenhall said, “Will was a man of God, who affected other people’s lives.”

David Hilde told us, “Will liked to eat well and his favorite restaurant was Norm’s.  All the waitresses knew him by name.  He also loved the seafood at the Crab Cooker in Newport Beach and the El Ranchito for Mexican food.  He loved early Ford cars, especially ’32 Fords.  He was a very thoughtful person.”

His daughter, Catherine reiterated her father’s love for food. “My dad loved food.  When we went out to eat we all had to order what he ordered because he said that was the best food choice on the menu.  One day I rebelled and ordered something different.  Dad was right - his choice was better.  My dad was a self-taught gourmet cook. He loved to cook for people and loved watching them enjoy his food. He was constantly recreating recipes he had eaten at a good restaurant, from shrimp scampi to sword fish.  You will be missed, Dad,” she finished.

His son Bill spoke next. “My dad loved to go to gun shows and wheel and deal with other collectors, but he also just liked to swap stories with people.  He found this old, beat-up Western Stetson that looked just like the hat that John Wayne wore in his movies and he talked somebody into believing that it could have been “The Duke’s” hat and sold it for a huge mark-up.  He had photographs of Wayne’s cowboy hat and it did look exactly alike.  He talked the guy into buying it for $300.  He was very creative with his investments,” Bill smiled as he told this story of his father.

He loved to go to Jack’s Garage in Fountain Valley and meet his friends there and bench-race, which guys never confuse with gossiping, which is what the gals do.  I first met Will Moore at Jack’s Garage.  One day I asked the guys there if anyone knew a good appliance repairman, since these men had a wealth of applied knowledge in how things work.  They pointed to Will and told me, “He’s the best at fixing appliances.”

When I explained what was wrong, Will didn’t hesitate - he said, “Let’s go,” and within a day after finding the parts he had my stove top working again.  He also noticed that my kitchen oven wasn’t working that well and before I knew it he had it replaced.  That was the way Will was; he didn’t have to be asked, he stepped right in and offered his help.  One time we were going somewhere, probably to a Gear Grinder’s meeting, and Will said, “Do you mind if we stop by my friend’s house?  I made him some soup that’s his favorite, because he can’t get out much anymore.”  It was fascinating to hear Will and this elderly man talk about the Old West.  Will made sure the man’s animals were fed and did some small chores for him.  The old man was in the end stages of cancer and Will’s friendship meant so much to him.  When we left I could see the old man’s face glowing after our visit.  That was the effect Will Moore had on people; he served those who needed help without asking for anything in return.

Besides his family, other people who attended the funeral service at Harbor Lawn Memorial Park in Costa Mesa were; Doug Wilson, Epi and Richard Parks, Pastor Elver Mendenhall, Willie Tata, Dan Hart, Steve McElroy, Reverend Scrub Hansen, George Steele, J. D. Tone, Gene Barbee, Richard Deleon, Dave Gorges, Bill Brown, Ed Duffy, Mike Chiavetta, Chris Unger, Jerry Vasquez, Rick Holland, Chip Buckley, Augie Esposito, Dick Wade and many family friends.  Attending from the Lucky Devils car club were; Buddy Dughi, Chuck Johnston, Bill Freni, Bill Brown and Van Hasewinkle.  Pastor Mendenhall led the services and Willie Tata played many old church hymns on his guitar.

After the funeral, the family invited the guests to attend the internment, and Will’s casket was transported by his 1933 Ford Panel truck to the gravesite. Pastor Mendenhall gave a short service and prayer at the graveside and then a military honor guard presented the widow with the American flag after a touching ceremony.  Willie Tata sang a song called "Heaven is my Brand New Home."  We then returned to the Mortuary, where the family graciously provided refreshments for those in attendance.



Gone Racin’ is at [email protected].