Alvin "Mousie" Marcellus of the famous "Winged Express" fuel altered Celebrates his 75th

 

Alvin "Mousie" Marcellus of the famous "Winged Express" fuel altered
Celebrates his 75th

Story by Richard Parks & Photos by Roger Rohrdanz


 

 

On June 1, 2006, family and friends of Alvin “Mousie” Marcellus gathered at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum in Pomona, California, 

tocelebrate the 75th birthday of one of drag racing’s greats. Approximately 150 people were on hand to cut the cake, sing happy birthday and hear Marcellus’ friends extol his life, and that of his partner, “Wild” Willie Borsch. Pat Berardini was occasionally their push truck crewman, and remembers a young John Force, who used to throw rocks at the cars. “Force was just a snot-nosed kid at the time,” reminisced Mousie, “but he idolized Willie,” he said. “Force told Mousie that no one could ever fill Willie’s shoes”. said Pat. Don Johansen, son of the legendary Howard Johansen, spoke about his long friendship with Mousie and Willie. “Mousie was my best man at my wedding,” said Don. Others who spoke of friendship and racing stories were Leslie Long, Ron Roseberry, Johnny Ryan, Norm Morrison and Cindy Gibbs.


Alvin “Mousie” Marcellus was born on June 1, 1931, to Mary and Art Marcellus, in Denver, Colorado. The family moved to 3rd and Lucas, in downtown Los Angeles, California, in 1934. Alvin attended Thomas Edison Elementary School, in Huntington Park, then transferred to John C. Fremont High School in South Los Angeles. He took all the shop classes offered but did not join any of the car clubs that were so popular at the time. He met Willie Borsch when they were both in grade school and formed a longtime friendship and racing team that spread out over nearly half a century. Alvin’s first car was a ’27 Ford Model T Touring car, which he sold to buy a ’30 Ford Model A Roadster, which a friend, George Thompson rebuilt and modified for a then sumptuous sum of $60. He raised the money by creating a monster paper route business with over 350 customers, and as the business grew he got rid of his bicycle, then his moped, and finally needed the car to deliver the papers. Mousie graduated in 1950, and in the same year married Dolores Young, and a year later their daughter Linda was born on May 18, 1951.
 

He went to work at Savage Boat Works making air plane gas tank cardboard molds. Alvin did not street race while in high school, but in 1951 he was seriously injured in a street racing accident, and this eventually broke up his marriage. This also set him back as a race car driver and propelled his partner, Willie Borsch into the drivers seat. Borsch had gotten into some trouble as a youth, was sent to a continuation school and couldn’t drive for some time, even though he was a year older than Marcellus. But by the mid-50’s, Willie was now making a name for himself, while Mousie took over the duties as car owner and crew chief. Mousie and Willie were like brothers, and their relationship became even stronger after Willie lost his mother when he was 19. Mousie earned the money for the Chrysler engine that they put into the ’29 Ford Roadster that they built to go drag racing. “It was the first with a solid rear end,” said Mousie, and they raced it through 1959. They began building the first Winged Express in 1959 at Jim’s Automotive, and raced it during the 1960 season. The car ran beautifully, but the shop was overcharging them for parts, and then claimed ownership.


Mousie dropped out of the team, and a short time later so did Willie. Howard Johansen encouraged Mousie to buy the Winged Express from Jim’s Automotive in 1965 and end the problem of ownership.


 
The car did very well but it was hard to handle, with the steering wheel placed between the legs, and the narrow cab causing discomfort. They reformed the team of Marcellus and Borsch and raced at all of the tracks, including Lions in Long Beach, Fontana, Irwindale, San Gabriel, Las Vegas, Sears Point, and anywhere else in the country that paid them to match race. By 1969 they were so popular and in demand that these short wheelbased roadsters, called Fuel Altereds, went on tour. Along with the Winged Express, there were Pure Heaven, Beaver Hunter, and Randy Bradford’s fuel altered. The tour continued into 1970, but in that year Willie crashed the Winged Express, and they remade the car into the Winged Express II. They built a Funny car and in 1972, the Revelle Company made a model of it. Fame attracted a lot of attention and put stresses on the team. Borsch listened to advice that led to his nickname “Wild Willie,” and Marcellus thought that weakened the reputation that they had built up, and they broke up for the 2nd time. Willie and Mousie would reunite in 1990 and stay together to campaign the car until Willie passed away. Mousie carries with him a trophy, containing the ashes of his lifetime friend and partner, wherever the car is shown, raced or exhibited.

 
   The Winged Express earned a great deal of appearance and prize money over the years, but Mousie subsidized the operation through his employment. After leaving Savage Boat Works, Alvin went to work for Hunts Tool and Cutter Grinding Company for a year, then got a job with Pacific Gage Company. After that job he worked for U.S. Electric Motors during the 1960’s and ‘70’s, then went to work for Advanced Gear and Machine. He followed that up by working for Walco Engineering and then Hughes Helicopter where he retired. Marcellus was a Quality Control Engineer for precision machine parts, and a master mechanic. Willie Borsch spent a lifetime as a dragracer. He married Darlene and they had five children; Willie Jr, Donald, Debbie, Ronald and Richard. Borsch was famous for using his right-gloved hand to steer the powerful fuel altered roadster, draping one hand over the side of the door, which the spectators saw as sheer bravado. In truth, it was to hang on to the car and keep from being thrown out. The fuel altered class was eventually disbanded, but the popularity was so great that tracks all over the country would pay appearance money for these wildly loved cars to match race each other.
 


 
 
 
 

 
 

 
 
   

 

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