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McKim on lookout for Hall of Fame dream items

December 09, 2011, Rick Houston, Special to NASCAR.COM, NASCAR.com

Red Byron (white helmet) left precious few personal belongings behind. Buz McKim is looking for any of them, along with one special one from Red Vogt. (Smyle Media)

McKim has drawn up his Hall of Fame dream items; now he hopes for assistance

There's no way to put a value on Buz McKim's Christmas wish list, because so much of what he wants is utterly priceless.

McKim, the historian at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, is a master storyteller. It's who he is and what he does. That has allowed him to pull together hundreds of artifacts that trace the sport's evolution from its humble beginnings into the multibillion-dollar industry it is today.

Spirit of Giving


If you have a lead on any of the items on Buz McKim's NASCAR Hall of Fame wish list, contact him at buz.mckim@nascarhall.com or by mail in care of NASCAR Hall of Fame, 400 East Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Charlotte, N.C. 28202. Items may be either loaned or donated outright. The NASCAR Hall of Fame does not purchase artifacts.

The affable radio-voiced artist and historian jokes and calls himself the Indiana Jones of NASCAR memorabilia, but with the wide-ranging connections he's made during a lifetime spent in the sport, the finds he's been able to make really are incredible. McKim will say without hesitation that he got chills the day he discovered Fireball Roberts' jacket, complete with a cigarette lighter, pit pass and sticks of gum still in the pocket.

Roberts' jacket and its contents are on display in the Hall at this very moment, and that's just one of McKim's many success stories. Yet it's that wish list that makes his job so intriguing, because there's no way of knowing with any certainty that some of the items still exist. The cars he wants might very well have been reduced to scrap metal decades ago. Smaller items could be scattered to who knows where. A needle in a haystack? There are times when McKim could only wish his job was that easy.

McKim's wish list covers a wide range, from legendary superstars and infamous incidents to relatively obscure participants, yet he considers them all important holes to fill in the narrative of the Hall.

"These are on my personal wish list," McKim said. "You know, if Santa Claus has a little extra time, he might want to see if he can check into these for us."

So what's McKim after? Here goes ...

* Red Vogt's NASCAR gold lifetime membership card

This is an item McKim considers his Holy Grail. It was the first one issued by the fledgling sanctioning body, in recognition of the pioneering mechanic who had a rather tempestuous relationship with Bill France Sr. Vogt attended the famous 1947 organization meetings in Daytona Beach, and is credited with coming up with its name -- the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing.

Some credit Vogt and his longtime car owner, Raymond Parks, with providing the foundation -- both organizational and financial -- upon which France later built the NASCAR we know today.

There's only one problem. No one seems to know where the card might be. Charles "Little Red" Vogt, the son of the legendary wrench turner, says he's been told by his stepmother and stepsister that the card was stolen. According to "Little Red," it has never been recovered.

Jocko Flocko only made eight races, but he's a Hall of Famer for sure. (Smyle Media)

* Jocko Flocko's uniform

The story may seem completely unrealistic, but once upon a time in 1953, car owner Ted Chester put a live rhesus monkey in Tim Flock's car during eight races. The monkey -- called Jocko Flocko as a play on his co-pilot's name -- had a driver's suit and seat in the race car, the whole nine yards.

McKim has seen one still photo of Jocko and the briefest film clip of Jocko. Other than that, nothing else exists to document the colorful episode -- except, maybe somewhere, the uniform.

* Dale Earnhardt's pink 1956 Ford race car

Long before Earnhardt became "The Intimidator," he was just another dreamer struggling to make ends meet on and off the track. When it came time to paint his first car, he and friends tried to mix colors, but it turned out a decidedly unmanly shade of pink. Nevertheless, it was a car in which Earnhardt made his first tentative steps toward superstardom.

McKim would be satisfied, to a certain extent, with a restored replica despite the fact that just two others are currently located in the NASCAR Hall of Fame -- Lee Petty's Oldsmobile and Tim Flock's Hudson Hornet on Glory Road.

* A 1957 Ford driven by Junior Johnson, Ned Jarrett, Fireball Roberts and Glen Wood

Talk about a car with some history. Originally owned by Paul Spaulding, at one time or another, Johnson got his first victory in the car and Jarrett his first pole position and his first win. Jarrett tells a great story about writing a hot check to cover the cost of his first real race car -- and having to win three races in a weekend to make good on it -- it's this machine to which he is referring.

"This thing must have been bullet-proof," McKim said. "It ran dirt. It ran asphalt. It even ran Daytona in 1959. It just seemed to run forever. That's fishing ... but you never can tell."

Big weekend


NASCAR Acceleration weekend will be held Jan. 20-22, 2012, in Charlotte, N.C., and includes the Hall of Fame inductions.

* A picture of Dick Hagey's Volkswagen Beetle

Forget the car itself. McKim would dearly love to have even a still photograph of the Volkwagen Beetle driven by Hagey on June 21, 1953 at Langhorne Speedway.

Hagey started 32nd and finished 19th in what turned out to be the only Grand National event of his "career." It's not the result that intrigues McKim, but the car itself. The race was open to foreign cars, and in it were Jaguars, Porsches, an Aston Martin and Hagey's Volkswagen -- a full-fledged Herbie bug. If any sort of snapshot exists, McKim is yet to see one.

* Anything associated with Red Byron

Red Byron was both NASCAR's first champion driver, but also a veteran of air raids over Europe during World War II. A few of his trophies and maybe an autograph or two are still around, but nothing personal of any substance has ever been located.

"To find anything personal of his -- a helmet or maybe his driver's license -- would be really neat," McKim said. "Something that would really connect him to that actual artifact would be terrific. But some of that stuff just disappears. It's unfortunate."

* The 1935 Ford driven by Bill France Sr.

Much like Earnhardt, Bill France Sr.'s legacy is very much a rags-to-story. He owned a gas station and drove race cars early on to help make ends meet, and in 1936, finished sixth on Daytona's beach and road course. After his election to the NASCAR Hall of Fame inaugural class, a replica resided in its Hall of Honor. Still, McKim would dearly love to track down the real thing.

* Anything from the infamous fight following the 1979 Daytona 500

One of the coolest items in the hall right now is the helmet worn by Donnie Allison during the 1979 Daytona 500. Allison, leading on the last lap, blocked a move by Cale Yarborough as they approached Turn 3. They crashed, and then all heck broke loose afterward. It's the race in general -- the first 500 miler ever shown live from start to finish on television -- and the fight in particular that propelled NASCAR into the national spotlight.

Maybe there's a uniform out there, a fender from one of the cars ... something.

* Anything associated with Al Keller's win 1954 road-course victory

Never before had a NASCAR event been run on a road course, and never before had someone driven a foreign car to victory. That changed on June 13, 1954, when Al Keller won with a Jaguar on the runways of the airport in Linden, N.J. It's a rather bizarre story, but there are reports that Keller's widow and a subsequent husband sealed all of his possessions in a room of their home.

For all McKim knows, it may still be there.

* A 1962 Ford Starlifter

If the rules in NASCAR seem maddening now, they used to change on an almost constant basis. One week something might have been legal, and the next be completely outlawed. Take the 1962 Ford Starlifter, for example.

Fred Lorenzen drove one to Victory Lane at Atlanta on June 10, 1962 in its first and only NASCAR appearance.

"This is another one that I dream about that probably doesn't exist," McKim said. "The '62 roofline on the Fords was terrible. The '60 and '61 Fords were so gorgeous, with that flowing Starliner roof. For that one race, NASCAR let the Fords put a Starliner roof on the '62 Galaxies. Fred won, and then they were never allowed to race again.

"Most likely, the roofs were replaced and the cars continued to race through the 1962 season. But to find a real Starlifter would really be something."

To find any of these treasures would be something ... if not downright miraculous. Buz being Buz, however, he's going to keep trying.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

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