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Drivers, designers, and dreamers: Remembering those we lost in 2017

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Bob Glidden. Photo by Autostock, courtesy Ford Motor Company.

As poet, singer, and lizard king Jim Morrison once observed, “no one here gets out alive,” a statement addressing the end we all must face. In 2017, we mourned the loss of many who helped to shape the sport of drag racing, or stock-car racing, or even the very cars we drive. Some deaths, like the passing of Hemmings columnist and muscle-car guru Joe Oldham in October, hit particularly close to home, reminding us to, in the words of the late Warren Zevon, “enjoy every sandwich.” While those profiled below may no longer be with us, our lives are richer because of what they left behind.

Bob Glidden. A member of the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, Bob Glidden had a Pro Stock career best summed up by Bob Frey, during Glidden’s induction as the number-four driver in the NHRA’s Top 50 Drivers list: “There never was, and probably never will be, a more dominant driver in our sport.” Though Glidden’s number of Pro Stock wins (85) has since been surpassed by Warren Johnson (97) and Greg Anderson (86), Glidden ruled the Pro Stock class for much of his time as an active driver. In 1979, he posted wins at seven national events, a remarkable performance made even more impressive by the fact that it was his second seven-win season in a row. From 1985 to 1989, Glidden took five consecutive championships, and even open-heart surgery in 1994 wasn’t enough to slow him down for long; he returned with a win at the 1995 Mopar Parts Nationals, his last before retiring as a driver in 1997. He died in December at the age of 73.

Bruce Brown. Without formal training as a director or filmmaker, Bruce Brown managed to capture lightning in a bottle—twice—with his skill in telling a story with a movie camera. In 1966, his surfing film Endless Summer launched an obsession with board-riding documentaries, and, in 1971, his motorcycling film On Any Sunday created a national interest in off-road riding and racing. At a time when motorcycling needed all the good press it could get, On Any Sunday painted the hobby in a favorable light, perhaps contributing to its explosive growth through the 1970s. Brown would revisit the topic twice more, with 1981’s On Any Sunday II and with 2000’s On Any Sunday: Revisited, though neither had the same impact as the original. A 1999 inductee into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame, Brown died in December, age 80.

Bud Moore. Before South Carolina native Bud Moore built championship-winning cars for the NASCAR and Trans Am series, he landed at Utah Beach on D-Day, ultimately earning five Purple Hearts and two Bronze Stars for his actions under fire through the Battle of the Bulge. Back home, he turned to repairing cars for a living, ultimately finding his niche as a crew chief—and later, team owner—in the newly formed NASCAR series. His reputation earned him ties to Lincoln Mercury, where Fran Hernandez relied upon Bud Moore’s talents to build everything from drag cars to Trans Am racers. Later in life, after his time as a NASCAR team owner, Moore served on the sport’s appeals committee, and was inducted into the Stock Car Racing Hall of Fame in 2002, the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2009, and the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2011. Moore died in November, age 92.

Joe Oldham. Long before he wrote a regular column for Hemmings Muscle Machines, before he was editor in chief of Popular Mechanics, and even before his time as a contributor to a variety of muscle car-centric magazines, Joe Oldham was a street racer with a passion for making fast cars go faster. As a reviewer, he pulled no punches—to the occasional dismay of automakers—but his smart “tell it like it is” style won him legions of fans. Few in the business these days can boast about being thrown out of a manufacturer’s proving grounds (and being banned for life from another’s), then going on to become president of one of motor journalism’s largest media organizations, but for Joe, this was just another day on the job. Oldham died at his home in Palm Springs in October, age 74.

Roy Lunn. Roy Lunn may be best remembered as the “Godfather of the Ford GT40,” but over an automotive career that spanned more than four decades, he achieved so much more. At Ford, he worked on a series of concepts that included the Mustang I, and after departing for Kar Kraft helped to produce the Boss 429 Mustang. American Motors was his next stop, and as Technical Director of Engineering for Jeep, Lunn was behind the development of the 1983 Jeep Cherokee XJ and the AMC Eagle, which accurately predicted a market for four-wheel drive automobiles, decades too soon. After retiring from AMC in 1985, Lunn leant his knowledge to AM General, where, as Vice President of Engineering, he headed the Pentagon’s HUMVEE military compliance program. In his later years, he remained active mentoring mechanical engineering students at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Lunn died in August, age 92.

Vic Edelbrock Jr. The Edelbrock name may have been familiar to hot rodders before Vic Edelbrock Jr., took the helm of his father’s company, but it was Vic Jr. that grew the business into the high-performance juggernaut it is today. Relying on the advice of company employees who knew the business, Edelbrock turned a 10-employee shop with annual sales of $450,000 into a dominant player in the aftermarket performance arena, which today employs hundreds and enjoys annual sales in the hundreds of millions of dollars. A founding board member of the Speed Equipment Manufacturers’ Association (today, the Specialty Equipment Market Association, or SEMA) Edlebrock twice served as the organization’s president, navigating it through a period when performance was an afterthought for manufacturers. He practiced what he preached as well, vintage racing his second-generation Corvette as his schedule allowed. Edelbrock died in June, age 80.

Tom Tjaarda. Though Tom Tjaarda studied architecture at the University of Michigan, his seven-decade career saw him design or influence over 84 automobiles, working for companies like Ghia, Pininfarina, Ital Styling (the forerunner of Italdesign), and Fiat. Most closely associated with the Fiat 124 Spider, Tjaarda also influenced the design of the De Tomaso Pantera, the Ford Maverick, the Ford Fiesta, and the Shelby Series II, to name but a few of his works. Styling elements employed by Tjaarda on the original Fiat 124 Spider live on today in the car’s rebirth as a joint venture between Fiat and Mazda, emphasizing the importance of his contributions to automotive design. Tjaarda died in June, age 82.

Other 2017 deaths of note include hot-rod parts maker Nick Arias Jr.;  collector and restorer DeWayne Ashmead; Indy Car builder Rolla Vollstedt; Funny Car pioneer Gas Ronda; SEMA vice president of governmental affairs Steve McDonald; NASCAR engine builder and team owner Robert Yates; “candy apple red” paint inventor Joe Bailon; father of the Plymouth Road Runner Jack Smith; MG marque authority Richard L. “Dick” Knudson; Motorcycle Cannonball founder Lonnie Isam Jr.; Hot Wheels logo creator Otto Kuhni; drag racer “Akron” Arlen Vanke; Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance author Robert Pirsig; National Motorcycle Museum chairman John Parham; AMSOIL founder Al Amatuzio; NASCAR Busch Series champion Sam Ard; 1970 Daytona 500 Champion Pete Hamilton; Covercraft Industries founder Robert Lichtmann; “the matriarch of early American road racing” Jean Argetsinger; car builder Jack Griffith; and hot-rod evangelist Pete Chapouris.