Friday, 22 January 2010


Whilst at school i used to read 3rd or 4th hand copies of Hot Rod magazine that someone had sent from the States, although i dont remember the rods of the time making a big impression i was left forever with memories of the fabulous photos of the fuel altered drag racers. One name always stuck in my mind, that of "Wild" Willie Borsch.
The late 60s was a boom time for US drag racing with people trying new things on almost a weekly basis and times came tumbling down as a result. The altereds in particular had motors that way exceeded their handling capabilities, other drivers used to say they Willie always drove 1/2 a mile on every run and always with only one hand on the wheel, he used to hold on to the side of the cars body with the other. These were proper back yard built cars, the original Marcellus and Borsch "Winged Express" used a model A steering box and front suspension designed for a car with a maximum speed of 60 mph. The rear wing they used was mounted on old steering rods. By the end of they 60s they were running mid 7s and in 1969 Willie actually qualified the car to run in the Top Fuel eliminations at the Winternationals. He took out Don Garlits in the first round but then the other drivers refused to race him and threatened to boycot the event, Garlits was reinstated but Fuel Altered history had another paragraph to add.
If the whole wild Winged Express show wasnt enough the driver also suffered from narcolepsy and would sometimes be found in the staging lanes with fire suit and helmet on fast asleep ! just try applying for a competition licence now and declaring that on your application form.
After defying death at the track on a regular basis for over 15 yrs Willie finally died of cancer in 1990, his friend and car owner Alvin Marcellus restored the car he originally built in the 60s and displayed it at a major meeting in 1991. Everyone was intrigued by a small trophy fastened to the dash, at the end of the day it was revealed that it contained Willies ashes.
The photo was taken in 1970 by Bob Mclurg, he was given intructions by his then boss " i dont care who comes to the line, even if its Don Garlits, you photograph Borsch".


Rowan said...

a mate of mine ran a Willys coupe funny car in the uk.... called Slick Willie as a pun/tribute to willie borsch's success... i loved the slingshots/top fuellers and funny cars the most

Pete Stansfield said...

Bob West ?