History of the Maserati Marque

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 racing.

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 in racing?
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 season?
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 Casner.
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 Lance!


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)

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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 Testa Rossa?
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 too.
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, Connecticut. 
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 Beroul)

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 spectacular crash.
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)

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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 Goddard)

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 aerodynamically? 
BK: Yes, it seemed to be. It was just a very nice handling car, even at the sustained high speeds of Le Mans.

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 Coupe. 
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 straight.

WO: The 1962 24 hours race was the first time you took the traditional Le Mans start in a major endurance race. What 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: Henri Beroul)


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 Schulke)
 

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.
I 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 went wrong?
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 out.

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: Jesse Alexander)
 

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: Kimberly
leaning against the Maserati-engined Cooper-Monaco.
Co-driver Roger Penske in the background.
(photo: Bill Kimberly Collection)

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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 list prices on iL TRIDENTE page.)
 
 

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