History of the Maserati
THE BILL KIMBERLY INTERVIEW
by Willem Oosthoek
(reprinted from the Spring,
1998 iL TRIDENTE)
Read any Maserati or
Aston Martin book on the market and you will notice that Bill Kimberly is
either confused with his uncle Jim Kimberly or that the family name has been
misspelled. For that reason alone iL TRIDENTE is glad to have a chance to
catch up with Bill and discuss his 10 year racing career during the late
fifties and early sixties. Although he seldom raced professionally, Kimberly
drove a marvelous range of Maseratis for Briggs Cunningham, often as the
co-driver preferred by Le Patron. The works Aston Martin team under
John Wyer also used his race talents, during their last effort in international
long distance racing in 1963. An in-depth coverage of the career of this
affable and self deprecating personality is long overdue. None of the racing
magazines of the sixties ever made the effort, so we are glad to be able
to print the following interview with Bill which took place in McLean, Virginia
during November, 1997.
WO: Bill, what lead to your
involvement in sportscar racing?
BK: Probably because I saw the
cars that my uncle Jim had. I got interested when I was old enough to have
a car myself. I saw the Jaguar XK-120 at a local dealer, who happened to be
a friend of my father. He said he would sell me one at his cost. Since my
father had given a car to my brother and sister when they became 18, he wanted
to do the same with me. I had a choice between a Ford, a Chevrolet, and a
Plymouth. I said "How about if you give me the money, so I can do with it
what I want?" I told him what I had in mind and that's how I got the Jaguar
XK-120. After having it for a year and a half I thought it would be a
good idea to get a racing license and that's how it started. I got my license
at the Wilmot Hills track just north of Chicago. My first race was at Milwaukee
in September, 1955.
WO: You grew up with Augie
Pabst and Jim Jeffords, didn't you?
BK: Augie and I got to know each
other in college and we stayed friends. I did not know Jim until we started
WO: Fred Chaparro, who crewed
for Jim Kimberly in the early sixties, told me that your father Jack
had to take care of the family business but that Jim was more the playboy
type, although a very nice one.
BK: [Laughter] On the face of
it! Jim enjoyed life but he also worked very hard for a long time. He retired
early from Kimberly-Clark and went on to do other things which he enjoyed.
That would have been around 1950. My father chose to make his career with
Kimberly-Clark, eventually becoming Chairman and CEO.
WO: Your dad was never interested
BK: Not in cars. He enjoyed cars
but he raced sailboats.
WO: Just like Briggs Cunningham.
BK: Yes, he studied naval architecture
at M.I.T. and later on he shared ownership in a yacht design company here
at Annapolis, Maryland. So his racing was slower but no less competitive.
WO: And then you have a brother
Richard who was briefly involved in racing.
BK: I think he raced only once
or twice, when he was in the Marines in California. He had an XK-140 that
he raced at Bakersfield.
WO: When was your first full
BK: That must have been in 1956,
with a Triumph TR3. I also raced an AC Bristol and an Austin Healey 100S in
1957. The Healey belonged to a friend of mine. When I was in the Navy in
Pensacola, Florida he actually let me trailer it up to Wisconsin and race
it in the Road America 500 at Elkhart Lake. Another friend of mine, Peter
Bunn, and I finished 22nd overall, 5th in D-modified. Not bad considering
that the car was very old and not maintained as a race car.
Sebring, Mar. 1958: First International
success for Bill with the works TR3.
From left: Mike Rothschild,
Bob Oker, Louis Heuss, Bill Kimberly, Jim
Roberts, and team manager Ken
Richardson. (photo: Bill Kimberly collection)
WO: Your stint in the Navy
explains a lot of your entries in out-of-the-way race tracks like Miami and
Mansfield, Louisiana during 1957 and 1958.
BK: Yes, I raced a lot in the
Southeast. There was an independent car dealer in Pensacola called Jerrard
Motors and some of the cars they imported were Triumphs. They had a great
manager in the service department who was from Wisconsin. We got along real
well and I would just go over there to hang out. To make a long story short
they sold me a TR3 at cost. Their service manager was Roy Howlett and he would
tune the thing up and we'd spend the weekend at the races. We had to be careful
with the SCCA rules so that this was not some factory sponsored Triumph racing
in amateur races.
WO: Did the Navy make weekend
racing easy for you?
BK: I was pretty careful. We
would leave the base at 4 o'clock on Friday afternoon and drive all night.
Roy and I would share the driving chores. We'd be there for practice on Saturday,
race on Sunday, and then drive all night to be back on the base by 1:00am!
I had no special privileges.
WO: I suppose your stint in
the Navy was part of compulsory military service?
BK: Yes. I was at the University
of Wisconsin in Madison, studying chemical engineering. Madison was a great
place to be, not necessarily to study! My grades were not very good and one
day the draft board of the little town I was from advised me that I would
receive my draft notice within the next two months. Since I did not want
to go into the Army I decided to join the Navy, intending to become a pilot.
But they did not have any spaces in the pilot program for about six months.
The Navy recruiter said they would put me through boot camp and assign me
somewhere afterwards. So they sent me down to Pensacola to do all these tests
and they found out I had a head injury from high school football. The Navy
doctors called it a borderline case, but left the decision up to me. By then
I had only a year and a half to go as a seaman compared to five years as
a pilot, so I opted out. They let me stay in Pensacola and I got a job as
a chaplain's assistant. The chaplain said "Kimberly, let's make one thing
very clear. Cleanliness is next to godliness. In this office, if you cant
be godly, by Jove we are clean. So you'd better start sweeping the floors!"
WO: This must have been around
the time that you bought that little 2-liter Ferrari Testa Rossa from Lucky
BK: Yes, that was August 1958.
I recently came upon the invoice again, a hand written note by Lucky - $4,250
plus all agreed equipment, less the deposit of $100 I had paid him! He let
me pay him in six equal payments.
WO: Like a true car dealer!
That year also saw your first international event, the 12 Hours of Sebring,
sharing a works TR3 with Mike Rothschild. How did that come about?
BK: The way I heard the story
was that the Triumph factory wanted to race a team at Sebring. They asked
3 dealers in the U.S. for driver recommendations: one West Coast dealer, one
in New England, and one down South, which was the man that I got my Triumph
from. He recommended me. Mike and I finished 20th overall, 2nd in class,
and first of the team cars.
WO: Then in October, 1958
your name shows up as Chief Steward at the "Peanut Capital of the World":
Dothan, Alabama. Jesse Coleman was the starter. How did you get that position?
BK: I had been in the SCCA from
back in Wisconsin. When I was stationed in Pensacola I transferred my membership
to the Gulf Coast region. Some members asked me to run for the position of
Regional Executive. Nobody else wanted it and sure enough, in the absence
of good judgement they left it to me! It was a very small region. Dothan was
the first race the region ever ran. We later had a National race at Corry
Field in Pensacola where I was Chief Steward and raced as well. Around that
time Frank Falkner asked me to be a member of the SCCA National Competition
Committee - four people responsible for SCCA racing, rules, and regulations
- which I did for 3 years.
WO: On to the 1959 season
where I could not find you anywhere on the Sebring charts.
BK: E.D. Martin and Lance Reventlow
were driving E.D.'s 3-liter Testa Rossa and E.D. said "Come on and be our
relief driver. You probably wont get to drive but I'll let you practice and
you'll get a pit pass and do whatever you want." So I was hanging out with
them all week. I practiced the car but I never drove it in the race.
WO: I have a picture of that
car with the front all smashed up. Who had that little mishap?
BK: [Laughter] Must have been
Sebring, Mar. 1959: E.D. Martin's
damaged Testa Rossa with Lance Reventlow at the
wheel. Bill Kimberly was the
reserve driver but did not drive the car until Le Mans.
(photo: Flip Schulke)
WO: One of the reports of
the time mentioned that you loaned your 2-liter Testa Rossa to E.D. Martin.
Why was that, since he had his own, more powerful 3-liter?
BK: That must have been Boca
Raton or Miami in 1959. His own car was being repaired or something and I
let him have my car for one of the preliminary races.
WO: Your Testa Rossa typically
carried the race number 5. Jim Kimberly used to carry the same number. Was
this practice in reference to your uncle?
BK: Yes, but it goes beyond that.
My father, my brother, and I used number 5 on all of our sailboats. Jimmy
also used it when he started racing cars. And when there would be more than
one of us in a particular race, somebody would use number 15.
WO: That reminds me, motorsports
historian Jim Sitz asked me to request your date of birth, to update his records
on driver profiles.
BK: March 19, 1933.
WO: He will be very pleased.
By the way, what was your regular transportation in those days?
BK: I had a Renault Dauphine,
bought from the same Triumph dealer in Pensacola. I actually raced it a couple
of times, like at Courtland, Alabama in 1959. I have a funny story about the
Renault. The dealer let me use his trailer. It was a flatbed for two cars,
one after the other. We went to the races for the weekend with my AC Bristol
and the Renault to be used in a sedan race just for fun. On the way back,
just before coming into Pensacola, we had to make a left turn at a big intersection.
I was driving and we had gone about half a mile when Roy looked around and
said "Bill, you'd better stop-the Dauphine is missing!" I pulled over, made
a U-turn with the trailer, and the Dauphine was sitting right in the middle
of the intersection, all by itself! The chains had come off and when we started
up it had just rolled off the back of the trailer. Traffic was coming by
and going around it. There was not a bit of damage so we just put the ramps
down off the trailer and drove it back up.
WO: How was your red 2-liter
BK: It was really fun. Roy took
care of it and he was a damned good mechanic. I had one different rear end.
Other then that we would clean the Weber carbs, put new spark plugs in and
brake pads, and change the oil. That was about it. But Roy could really make
that car sing. We finished 2nd to Casner's 3-liter Testa Rossa at Boca Raton
and 2nd again in the preliminary race at Miami after Joe Sheppard's Porsche
RS. Unfortunately, I dropped out in the main event on Sunday.
WO: I have a race report of
that event published in the SCCA magazine called Sports Car in which reporter
Fred Gamble describes you and your car as follows: "A tired old 2-liter Testa
Rossa entered by an unknown, warming up for his Le Mans ride with E.D. Martin,
and having a real show of very able driving."
BK: There are two parts to the
story. The fun part was that the Miami course was an airport course and there
were two main intersecting runways, used for straightaways. They had the
usual rubber cones to mark the 45? turns. I went out for a few laps during
practice and the car was perfect. We were at the end of one set of tires
so we knew we had to change them for the next day. I loved coming up to that
big wide 45 degree turn and Id crank it a little bit, break the rear lose
and just slide it across that runway. I was having a ball!
WO: Enough margin for errors
BK: Yes, if you made a mistake
there was plenty of room on each side of the course. I could have driven for
a quarter mile without hitting anything. Apparently the race announcer was
having a field day following my antics, but I was just having fun. Unfortunately
the main race on Sunday was a different story. I had put the metal tonneau
over the passenger seat to improve our streamlining. It turned out to be
a mistake as it was a really hot humid Miami day and I got as far as two
thirds into the race.
WO: Fifteen laps according
to Sports Car, with you being carried out of the car.
BK: I don't remember that but
I know I was beat. It was really hot. There was no ventilation. When I missed
a shift somewhere I decided that discretion was the better part of valor.
WO: Then you had your first
race at Le Mans in June 1959, with E.D. Martin. How did that materialize?
BK: E.D. Martin had asked me
at some race if I wanted to go to Le Mans. I said I had never thought about
it and that my little 2-liter would be no contest. E.D. said "We'll take my
3-liter Testa Rossa. Do you want to co-drive? I'll provide the car and mechanic
and we'll split expenses." I suggested my friend Frank Falkner as crew chief
but we also needed some guys to man the signaling post atMulsanne and they
had to be there for 24 hours. Either E.D. or Frank suggested putting an ad
in a London paper and so we did. We received 50 applications and we picked
4 guys who were friends. They were thrilled to go down there for 24 hours.
All we did was pay for 2 hotel rooms for 2 nights, while they came over from
London at their own expense. They did a great job.
WO: Quite a deal.
BK: Yes, and they were nice young
guys. Same age that I was - mid-twenties.
WO: During the race you dropped
out after 8 hours.
BK: We were very careful not
to overdo it and we stayed very close to our set lap times. It was gearbox
trouble that did the Ferrari in. We were up to 8th overall when it happened.
WO: Then I noticed that in
the 1960 entry list for Sebring, you were listed as residing in Milford,
BK: New Milford! I had gotten
out of the Navy in December, 1958 and in the Fall of 1959 I started working
for Kimberly-Clark. The company said they wanted me to work in their new training
program in the factory in New Milford but they could not take me until sometime
in the Fall. So I hung out with friends in Pensacola for a couple of months.
At Sebring I raced the Ferrari 250GT with GeorgeArents. Someone of the North
American Racing Team had called me to ask if I wanted to drive with George.
I said "Sure, but I don't know George." I thought he would be some kind of
a stuffy old guy but he was a gentleman and a good driver.
WO: He was one of the founders
of N.A.R.T., wasn't he?
BK: I think he was. In the race
we did about equal distance and our lap times were pretty much the same. With
about an hour or so to go, when we were first in GT and 4th overall, we ran
out of brakes. The stop to change pads dropped us back to 7th overall at
the finish. George was driving that last 2 hour segment and it happened to
him. Actually, I was glad it did not happen to me!
WO: Who owned the 250GT, was
it George or Chinetti?
BK: I honestly don't know, but
at the time I thought it was George's car. After Sebring I raced my 2-liter
Ferrari at Lime Rock (1st overall), Thompson (4th overall, 2nd in E-modified)
and Bridgehampton, where I dropped out due to engine problems. That was when
I named my Ferrari "TTL" - Tired Two Liter!
WO: The next phone call must
have come from Briggs Cunningham, inviting you for the 1960 Corvette effort
at Le Mans. Apparently you made quite an impression on him at Sebring.
BK: [Laughter] Yes. Briggs said
"We are putting together the Corvette team and we are looking for drivers."
I had to double-check with my employer and make sure I could get vacation
around that time. That's where it started.
Le Mans, June 1960: The Cunningham
Corvettes of Cunningham/Kimberly (#1),
Thompson/Windridge (#2), and
Fitch/Grossman(#3). Only the last pair would
finish the race. (photo: Henri
WO: Briggs took the start
at Le Mans and you took over the Corvette after 2 hours. What happened next?
BK: Disaster struck! It was one
of those typical days at Le Mans. The weather is coming out of the West and
you could see this huge dark cloud. You know there is a real rainstorm coming.
The Corvettes had special 50 gallon gas tanks installed. Briggs finished
his stint and came in after 2 hours. It was not raining yet. I was getting
ready to get in and there is this huge argument between the Firestone tire
guys and John Baus, Briggs' team manager, about whether to put rain tires
on. I am standing there listening to these guys arguing and the cars are
going by! The Corvette was ready but still had the dry tires on. Alfred Momo
said "Put the rain tires on, it is going to rain before too long - and the
Firestone guy says "We don't have enough rain tires and if we put them on
while it's dry we'll run out when it's really raining!" After what seemed
to me like 5 minutes of arguing - it was probably more like 30 seconds -
they finally decided to go with the dry tires. I was very distracted by this.
Now when you get out of the pits there is a steward standing there who will
let you know when you can enter the race course. I was so distracted that
I started racing down the pit lane. A race marshall stood near the start/finish
line with a folded up flag and when I passed him he whacked the roof of the
car with it! He was serious and I was even more distracted!
After Arnage, you go up the hill and then down into White
House. As I was going up the hill everything was still perfectly dry. Remember,
this is still my first lap. I had just passed the top and there was a wall
of rain on the other side. I lifted that very moment. I did not want to put
the brakes on because I did not want to lock it up as I went into the rain.
The Corvette went sideways down the hill, then backwards and then it went
off the road, still going backwards. I put both hands on the wheel, pulling
my legs up underneath. We went end-for-end twice and came down the road on
its side, to finish finally right side up across the road from a fire truck.
Flames came out from under the hood.
WO: You had seat belts?
BK: Oh yes, with shoulder straps.
I remember those were some pretty good G-forces when that thing went end-for-end,
then came down on the back end and then did a complete 360!
WO: That must have been a
BK: It was pouring rain. With
a full 50 gallon tank I got out of the car real fast, waited to calm down,
then ran across the track. The car was on the outside of the track. I was
walking in a field halfway down from White House to the pits when I got stopped
by two Frenchmen. They asked me in which car I had raced. Then they took
their programs from under their raincoats, only to put a heavy black line
through the Corvette with race number one!
WO: A real sympathetic gesture.
BK: Yes, but when I got back
to the pits, Briggs came running up and he could not have been nicer, making
sure I was OK. Frank Falkner was there as well, just as a friend. Frank and
Briggs talked for a minute and told me to go to the trailer to get checked
by the doctor. Fortunately I had nothing broken so Frank took me to the Shell
tent where I had a couple of big Cognacs. Later Lucky Casner stopped me in
the paddock. He said he had been in the next car behind me and had never
seen a downpour and wall of rain like that in a race.
WO: I guess Briggs didn't
blame you for the accident as he invited you later that year to drive the
brand new red Baby Birdcage in the Bridgehampton Divisional race. This lead
to a 3rd place finish, behind Walt Hansgen in the experimental E-Type and
Bob Grossman, for once not in a Ferrari, but in Briggs' Lister/Jaguar. The
Bridge was followed by a near victory in the Tipo 60 at the Road America 500,
with John Fitch, and by a ride in the Watkins Glen National race. According
to different sources you either substituted for Briggs himself or for Phil
Forno at the Glen.
BK: Most likely for Briggs, since
he was planning to drive the Tipo 60. Walt Hansgen was there in Briggs' Tipo
61. The Road America 500 in the Tipo 60 with John Fitch was a great experience.
John stalled at the start and was last after one lap. When he came in for
fuel and driver change after about two hours, he was up to 4th overall! During
my stint I passed Walt Hansgen in the experimental Le Mans Jaguar, which
had a full load of fuel, and got up to leading the race for several laps.
After stopping for fuel and John to take over, we finished 4th overall, on
the same lap with the big cars, the winning Tipo 61 of Stear/Causey, the
3-liter Testa Rossa of Augie Pabst and Bill Wuesthoff, and Walt in the Jaguar.
John was great. We won the Index of Performance award.
Bridgehampton, August, 1960:
The 1st U.S. appearance of Cunningham's
Tipo 60 in this divisional
race-a dry run for the Road America 500 two weeks
later. Bill finished 3rd at
the Bridge behind teammates Walt Hansgen (E-type Jag)
and Bob Grossman (Lister/Jag).
(photo: Bill Kimberly Collection)
WO: At Watkins Glen you finished
5th overall and 3rd in class behind two Porsches. According to Joel Finn's
Birdcage book there were some ignition gremlins with your car.
BK: No, I don't remember problems
with the car. I know that Roger Penske spun his Porsche RS right in front
of me at the hairpin on lap one or two. I was right in the middle of downshifting
and I overrevved the engine like mad, unintentionally of course, just getting
out of his way and trying to finish the race. Some 2 laps before the finish
I passed Bill Wuesthoff's Porsche RS for 4th place. Then I overdid it a little
bit on the last corner of the last lap. I got a little wide, enough for Bill
to pass again, and that dropped me down to 5th.
WO: How did you like the Birdcage?
BK: I liked it a lot. It was
fun to drive. It handled so well, especially compared to my Testa Rossa which
felt heavy in comparison. The thing that struck me was that the Tipo 60 was
so light to steer, almost like a plaything! It also had a very positive short
throw on the gearshift.
WO: You raced the same car
at Sebring in 1961, teaming up with Briggs again. You were pretty much the
standard copilot for Briggs by then. He must have been very comfortable with
your driving style.
BK: I guess he was, in spite
of the Corvette accident! If there is a definition of a gentleman, Briggs
is it, in every sense of the word. He never brought up that accident again.
Sebring, March 1961: Briggs
Cunningham at the wheel of his Tipo 60,
now painted in its American
racing colors, while Bill seems to be kicking
the left front tire! They finished
18th due to exhaust manifold problems.
(photo: Al Bochroch)
WO: Then, after a year in
Connecticut, you moved back to Wisconsin in 1961.
BK: Yes, Kimberly-Clark transferred
me again. I was a trainee at the mill in Connecticut and than I was in marketing,
actually market research, back in Wisconsin. Next the company decided to
open an European marketing office in London and I got assigned to help in
some research projects for our French and German companies. It involved the
coordination of product sourcing, based on tariffs and market requirements
in the various countries.
WO: Weren't you part of the
pit crew for your uncle's May, 1961 Indianapolis sponsorship of Jack Brabham
and his little Cooper/Climax?
BK: No, I never did. However,
I think I did introduce Jim to Frank Falkner who at the time had connections
with the Cooper factory and who played a major role in the effort to bring
that Cooper over.
WO: Then at Le Mans in 1961
with Briggs driving the long-tailed Tipo 60 to an 8th place finish and 3rd
in the under 2-liter class.
BK: That was a great drive.
A lot of fun because it was trouble-free in an easy, responsive car. Driving
with Briggs was always good too because he treated the cars so well and you
knew his top priority was to finish well, but finish!
Le Mans, June 1961: Chassis
60.2468 now with long tail and FIA regulation
windshield, with Bill at the
wheel. He and Briggs finished 8th overall in a
flawless race. (photo: Geoffrey
WO: I read somewhere that
the Birdcage spent an absolute minimum amount of time in the pits - something
like 12 minutes during the 24 hours - just for fueling and drivers changes.
BK: I don't remember how long
it was but I know the car just ran like a dream the whole time. All we did
was come in and put in gas, a little oil, and maybe some water. We changed
tires once or twice. And then off again!
WO: Was the long tail an improvement
BK: Yes, it seemed to be. It
was just a very nice handling car, even at the sustained high speeds of Le
WO: Then Courtland, Alabama
on July 4th weekend, 1961, in the Frank Harrison cars.
BK: That was courtesy of Jesse
Coleman, who was a friend. I had asked him to be Chief Steward for us at Dothan.
He was also the Chief Starter at Corry Fields for the Pensacola SCCA National.
Jesse told me about Frank Harrison and asked if I would like to drive for
him. I said "Sure, I'll drive for anybody you recommend." I came from
Wisconsin for that weekend and Frank turned out to be a perfect gentleman.
He had a Cooper Formula Junior, the Streamliner, and the 5.7 liter 450S.
There were about 8 separate races that weekend and for the main event I was
to drive the 450S. When it was not running right in a preliminary race Frank
let me drive the Cooper Formula Junior. I also won a preliminary race in
the Streamliner that Fred Gamble was to drive in the main event. Now I had
never sat in an open wheel car in my life and on Sunday I had to start dead
last. I got up to 3rd at the finish. It was just an absolute ball,
just fun sitting there, being able to look at the wheels!
WO: That is exactly what Frank
Harrison said. He preferred open wheel racing over sportscars.
BK: It was the only time in my
life that I have driven an open wheel car.
WO: What are your recollections
of that brief encounter with the 5.7 liter 450S and the Streamliner?
BK: The Streamliner was much
like the regular bodied Tipo 60 except that it was, and felt, a little larger.
It was easy to drive fast and handled really well. I passed Art Huttinger
on the last lap when he missed a shift in his Lister/Corvette. The 450S was
wide and huge, so powerful with tremendous torque. I qualified on the front
row, but when they dropped the flag and I stepped on it, I only went about
20 yards. The differential broke. I felt awful for Frank but he told me they
had not torn it down after its prior race and it probably wasn't my fault.
I have no idea if it was true but I felt better. Anyway, I gave my trophies
for the Formula Junior and the Streamliner to the mechanics which I think
pleased Frank Harrison .
WO: Next, the Road America
500 with Dick Thompson and the V12 engined rear-engined Tipo 63. You finished
9th while Walt Hansgen and Augie Pabst won the event in the sister car.
BK: We had problems, carburetion
if I remember correctly. The Tipo 60 was fun to drive but the Tipo 63 was
not. I remember talking about it with Augie after he finished 4th in a similar
car at Le Mans that year. It was a tougher car to drive than the other Masers.
Plus, it was hotter than hell that day as well!
Road America 500, September
1961: Bill Kimberly shared this V-12 engined long-wheel
base Tipo 63 with Dick Thompson.
Unfortunately the car was plagued by carburetion
problems. (photo: Ray Boldt)
WO: In November 1961 you left
for London. I heard somewhere that you rented the old apartment of the late
Grand Prix driver Peter Collins.
BK: Close! Peter Collins was
married to actress Louise King and I had met Louise somewhere through my
uncle Jim. They were good friends. When I had to go to London I called Louise
to see if she wanted somebody in the house and she said she would rent it
to me. So I had this neat little 2 bedroom Mews house near Sloane Square,
fully furnished. I stayed there for about a year and when she needed it again
I got an apartment two blocks away. It was really convenient as I was able
to walk to work at Grosvenor Square.
WO: Didn't you share that
apartment with Richie Ginther?
BK: Yes, since it had 2 bedrooms
I asked Richie when he came to London to join BRM, "Why don't you stay with
me while you're looking for someplace more permanent." He did, and he lived
there on and off for most of the year. Phil Hill used the place as well,
when he was in town. Whenever I had time to go to a Grand prix they would
get me a pit pass.
WO: Did you ever contemplate
Formula One racing?
BK: Not necessarily. If
somebody had offered me a ride I am absolutely sure I would have taken it.
But I was working and I knew I wanted to work for Kimberly-Clark. Without
quitting it would be difficult. There were guys who did but they were "also-rans"
never very successful. I knew I could not do it and work at the same time.
WO: No Sebring in 1962?
BK: I must have been too busy
with work in London.
WO: In fact, the records show
you raced only twice in 1962. But what rides! The first one was Le Mans in
June, originally assigned to Cunningham's Jag E-type but ending up racing
the Tipo 151.
BK: Roy Salvadori was scheduled
for one of the Tipo 151's but he was uncomfortable in the cockpit due to his
height. So we switched cars. With my 5'10" I had no problems.
WO: How was that Tipo 151?
BK: Well, Dick Thompson and I
had different views on it!
Le Mans practice, June 1962:
Bill Kimberly coming in
after his first ride in Tipo
151.L to R: Ing. Alfieri, mechanic
Giancarlo Martinelli, Al Momo,
Gianpaolo Dallara, Walt
Hansgen and mechanic Afro Barani.
(photo: Flip Schulke)
WO: But Dick had a different
driving style than you, more aggressive and used to throwing cars around
corners, just like he did with those Grady Davis Corvettes. Your style was
smoother, undoubtedly better suited to the handling characteristics of the
BK: That is probably true. The
car was fun for me. It felt like the big car it was. Compared to the 3-liter
Testa Rossa and the Corvette the Tipo 151 was surprisingly stable for the
speeds developed on the straight towards Mulsanne. Its speed kept creeping
up. The top speed of our car was 281 km per hour in the race although we actually
did 304 during practice! When Walt Hansgen in the other Tipo 151 slowed early
at Indianapolis, I remember out braking and passing him without much effort.
I probably got some static about that from the team manager in the pits!
It was fun going through Tertre Rouge in third gear, just stick your foot
on it, and hustle through, then into fourth and down the hill into the Mulsanne
WO: The 1962 24 hours race
was the first time you took the traditional Le Mans start in a major endurance
was it like, standing there between Bruce McLaren and Maurice Trintignant,
waiting for the flag to drop?
Le Mans June, 1962 / 4:00pm:
1. From Right: Graham Hill,
Mike Parkes, Olivier Gendebien, Bruce McLaren,
Bill Kimberly, and Maurice
Trintignant take the start. (photo: Henri Beroul)
2. Kimberly (#3) and Trintignant
(#4) are slow getting away.
Other cars: Dan Gurney in Count
Volpi's Testa Rossa (#15),
Ed Hugus in GTO prototype (#21),
and Chris Lawrence in
his Morgan Plus 4! (photo:
3. The advantage of an open
car: Gendebien (in cowboy boots!) is halfway into
his Ferrari while Maserati
drivers have yet to reach their doors. (photo: Flip Schulke)
4. Kimberly blasting past the
pits in Tipo 151 during the
opening laps. (photo: Flip
BK: Well you had a job to
do and you were concentrating on that. Bruce was a good friend but I did
not know Trintignant.
think I got the proper perspective in 1959 from E.D. Martin. Before the start
he took me for a walk halfway down pit lane and in that wonderful Georgia
accent said "Look around, soak it up, because in an hour from now you'll be
too busy to think about it!"
WO: That large aluminum bulge
on the hood of the Tipo 151 was replaced by a plastic version after practice.
Was that because of the drivers complaining about poor visibility?
BK: I honestly don't know. That
may be correct, but as you know I was so pleased to be part of that team that
the last thing I would have done was complain about anything.
WO: Your Maser went very well
during the initial stages. After a so-so start you moved up to 8th position
at the end of the first lap and from then on you and Dick Thompson were placed
3rd, 2nd, 6th, and 3rd at the end of the each of the first four hours. What
BK: Dick had just taken over
the car after a pitstop that included a change of brake pads. He went out
and spun in the Esses. Nothing too serious but he clipped the wall with the
Maser's tail which contained the oil coolers. They broke and the oil leaked
WO: Dick told me recently
that the car would not brake when he entered the Esses and that later investigation
revealed that unbedded brake pads had been installed during the pitstop.
BK: That's what must have happened
because we weren't pushing it and were comfortably holding in 2nd to 6th position.
It was a shame because the car was still driveable. But the regulations did
not allow oil refills that soon and consequentially we were out.
Le Mans, June 1962: Tipo 151
procession in the days before Armco.
Kimberly (far right) leads
Trintignant and McLaren, with a Porsche Abarth
about to be gobbled up. (photo:
WO: Your only other drive
in 1962 was in September at the Road America 500 with Briggs Cunningham's
Maserati-engined Cooper Monaco.
BK: My co-driver was Roger Penske.
He had qualified the car on the pole, but to my surprise Briggs asked me to
take the first stint. The race had a flying start with a pace car and everything
went perfectly. I took the lead when the flag was waved. Then I missed a
shift coming out of turn 2 and Harry Heuer's Scarab and some others passed
me. Within a lap or two I was forced to come in as the Cooper/Maserati had
suffered ring-and-pinion failure. Walt Hansgen told me later that there was
no sign of the transmission drain plug, which must have fallen off!
Road America 500, Sept. 1962:
leaning against the Maserati-engined
Co-driver Roger Penske in the
(photo: Bill Kimberly Collection)
WO: Come the 1963 season you
were back at Sebring sharing a Cunningham Jaguar E-type with Paul Richards.
BK: We finished a low 19th due
to the fact that a wheel broke. Paul was two-thirds out on the course when
it happened. He got out of the car, got the spare wheel, but had to run to
the pits to get a jack! He changed the wheel but we lost about 50 minutes,
dropping substantially in the standings. Otherwise the car ran well and Paul
was a good driver.
WO: Your only other two races
that year were for the works Aston Martin team. How did you get those rides?
BK: That was a fun experience,
kind of unreal. A year after Richie Ginther had stayed with me, I got a call
from John Wyer inviting me for lunch in the executive dining room at Aston
Martin. It was just the two of us having very formal conversation about everything
but race cars. During coffee finally Wyer asked me "Wouldyou like to drive
for us at Le Mans and some other races? Richie Ginther said you are a good
driver and that's all I need." They hired me without any testing or seeing
me in a car. I never stopped thanking Richie! At Le Mans I shared the DB4GT
with Jo Schlesser, a very good and consistent driver. After taking over the
Aston from him, you would find it in exactly the same condition you had left
it. In the night, during my 3rd stint, I was in 4th overall and 2nd in GT
behind Carlo Abate's Ferrari GTO. I passed him at Arnage I think, so we were
3rd overall and leading the GT class. Unfortunately, during Jo's next stint
between midnight and 2am a piston broke. John Wyer wrote me later on that
the pistons had been miscast by the supplier. I also tested the Aston Martin
215 Prototype and the GT cars at the MIRA test track in England. We were
testing various set ups and tires and in the process missed the lap record
by a second, the Aston people told me.
Another highlight about that year at Le Mans was a non-racing
item. Phil Hill and I were roommates at the hotel. Phil always had great
classical music tapes and a player with earphones with him. One night he
insisted I listen to the 2nd movement of Prokofiev's 5th Symphony - it was
incredible with those stereo earphones! To this day I still enjoy a recording
I bought the next week back in London.
WO: Your next race for Aston
was that Bank Holiday event at Brands Hatch for the International Guards
Trophy on the first Monday in August.
BK: Yes, practice was a lot of
work since I had to qualify all three cars, including Bruce McLaren's and
Innes Ireland's. They were still at the German Grand Prix that weekend. At
the start of the race my brake pedal went right to the floor. I didn't want
to pull out so I raced in the middle of the pack. Something was definitely
wrong with the brakes. By the 20th lap I had no brakes at all and I stuffed
the car into the bank at Dingle Dell. Later on I was scheduled to race at
Monza but work interfered.
Nurburgring, August 1962: Bill
as European race correspondent for the
SCCA magazine Sport car, with
Denis Jenkinson and Jesse Alexander.
(photo: Geoffrey Goddard)
WO: That was virtually the
end of your racing career because 1964 saw no activity at all.
BK: That's correct. My only other
and very last race was in September, 1965 - the Road America 500. After 3
years I had returned from London. I bought a second-hand Elva Mk 7/Porsche
from Ed Weschler in Milwaukee for $6,400 and asked Denise McCluggage to be
my co-driver. I had met her in London once or twice when she was doing some
project with Ken Purdy. The car ran great and we finished 8th overall, 2nd
under 2-liter behind the 1965 USRRC winner George Follmer in his Lotus 23/Porsche.
We beat 3 other Elvas.
Road America 500, Sept. 1965:
Bill Kimberly just before the start of his
last race with co-driver Denise
McCluggage, mechanic Bob Lang, and
team manager Frank Falkner.
(photo: Bill Kimberly Collection)
WO: What happened next?
BK: I got married in November
of 1965 and quit racing. The Elva was sold via Augie Pabst's car agency.
Over the years my job with Kimberly-Clark took me to Argentina, Mexico, and
Australia. Altogether we lived overseas for 16 years.
WO: You raced a relatively
limited number of races during your race career: some 60 plus events in a
10 year period.
BK: I considered myself always
a true amateur racer. I was not the fastest but I was fortunate to have been
invited to drive a number of exciting cars.
WO: Any regrets?
BK: I sure would not have crashed
Briggs' Cunningham's Corvette if I had a second chance! Plus, I should never
have sold my 2-liter Testa Rossa! Today it would be worth a lot more than
the $4,250 I paid Casner!
WO: Do you still have contact
with the racing community of those days?
BK: Bruce McLaren and Richie
Ginther were good friends and we stayed in touch for years. Augie Pabst and
I get together often and occasionally I see Phil and Alma Hill, and Bill
and Carol Wuesthoff. I definitely see Briggs whenever I can, but I'm not
in California often. Jesse and Nancy Alexander are also good friends. And
Frank Falkner! He is my oldest daughter's godfather.
WO: Your favorite track?
BK: Elkhart Lake. It was close
to my home in Wisconsin and Jimmy had a lot to do with its founding. It's
a challenging, beautiful course and I like its four-mile length.
WO: Your favorite car?
BK: I never thought of it that
way. I would rather express it as a feeling or impression I had for certain
cars under certain conditions. There was my own 2-liter Testa Rossa at Miami
in 1959. Then there was the red Cunningham Tipo 60 in its maiden race at
Bridgehampton in 1960. The Bridge was a good course for that car. Also Le
Mans, 1961 with Briggs, in the same Tipo 60 but equipped with the long tail.
Then the big Maser Tipo 151 Coupe at Le Mans in 1962, going down the Mulsanne
straight at full blast. And last, the Aston Martin at Le Mans in 1963, a
very steady car. The Tipo 151 was a heavy car, while the DB4GT was light
but firm, very easy to drive, very fast, yet it gave me a special feeling
of being at ease with the speed.
I also like to remember the two occasions where my driving
was referred to as "brilliant." One was in the red Tipo 60 at the Road America
500 in 1960. Dic van der Feen wrote afterwards in Competition Press "Kimberly's
brilliant drive gave him the lead for 32 miles then a routine stop for Fitch
to get in dropped the car to fourth." The other was at Le Mans in 1963. I
had done two consecutive stints at night with the Aston - about 5 hours of
racing. When I came in we had passed the factory GT Ferraris and were third
overall. I got out of the car and Phil Hill was there on the pit wall. He
grabbed my hand, pulled me up and said "That was brilliant, Bill."
I liked endurance races because, racing intermittently as I did, they
gave me a chance to be more competitive. Sort of the first hour or so being
just practice and then I could get into it.
Today Bill Kimberly is Chairman of Naztec International
Group, a McLean, Virginia investment firm involved in private and public funding
of emerging companies and strategic business planning. He and Elena, his
wife of 32 years, have three daughters.
"But Augie, that Elva/Porsche
of mine is surely worth more than
the $3,000 you are suggesting!"
(photo: Bill Kimberly Collection)
(Note: Reprints of our Spring 1998 issue are available. See complete
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