In Their Words - Volume 3 - *Courtesy of Chateau Speedway History Facebook Group Page

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March 19, 2019

“In Their Words”   Volume 3

In our 3rd visit with a member of Chateau Speedways Racing Past we catch up with Mert Williams of Rochester.  Mert, who is now 84, was a 3 time Track Champion at Chateau, 1974, 1975, and 1980.  As you will see his life still centers around Cars.  He was very interested in sharing what he does now to keep busy, Collecting Vintage 1930 and older Hub Caps (which he points out were more grease caps on those early cars) and customizing a 1931 Model A Street Rod.  Pictures are of a small piece of his Collection and  the work he’s doing on his Street Rod.  (Other Phots referenced in Article are in Photo Gallery)

 

 Webpage:  When did you start racing ?

Mert:  Oh Goll I can’t even tell you it’s been so long ago.  I think I was about 19, but I remember my dad had to sign for me to be legal to run.  That was the start of it.  (pauses)   A guy gets so wrapped up in those cars and the world just passes you by.  I always enjoyed working on them though.

Webpage:  Any thoughts on your first years ?

Mert:   I was just a tall skinny kid when I first started racing and we kind of went like heck from the first day.  That was just after World War II so there were a lot of old veterans there.  They didn’t want to take no crap from some little kid or anything.  You know that’s what I was.  So they use to knock me around pretty good (laughs) they threatened to tip me over and threatened me with this and that.

Webpage:  What did you start out running ?

Mert:  Everybody had Fords back in those days, and I had a Buick.  That was kind of an advanced engine in those days.  I kind of over powered most of them Fords and that, passed em and they didn’t like that very much.  I know it was fun, that’s all I can say.

Webpage:  You saw a few changes in the cars over the years.

Mert:  We had a little bit of everything; I had the Buick Straight 8’s for many years.  They were built tough in those days so they lasted a long time. 

Webpage:  Other than your Dad who helped you out ?

Mert:   Me and whoever came around, you know there was always somebody hanging around the garage you know.   A guy had a lot of ambition in those days.  Spent a lot of time on the car, always trying to figure out something better you know.  Every Saturday, or every other Saturday we’d go junkyarding for spare parts for em (laughs).  A guy didn’t miss all the wrecks.

Webpage:  You saw lots of tracks over the years.

Mert:  Ya raced a lot of tracks over the years.  We went to Shreveport Louisiana one time with it.  Around here we would just take off and go…some tracks you’d do good on and some you wouldn’t figure them out.  It was just a learning process I guess.

Webpage:  3 Track Championships at Lansing had to be nice.

Mert:   I kinda liked that track there, Chateau, it just….I learned how to drive it, the easy ways to pass, this and that.  It was a good track for me that’s all I can say. 

Webpage:  Still have many of your trophy’s ?

Mert:  I’ve got a lot of em, but I haven’t got room to show em anywhere.   There in boxes.

Webpage:  Should mention your big win up at the State Fair.

Mert:  Ya that’s when that track was dirt I won one state fair race up there .  That track they used for fill elsewhere in the fairgrounds.  Its history now, but that was one of the best tracks in the United States in its day, on the Minnesota State Fairgrounds

Webpage:  They went Asphalt shortly after that, did you do much Asphalt Racing ?

Mert:  I did a little, but that’s a whole different ball game.  I grew up on dirt, I had a lot of fun on dirt,   that asphalt was something new, I didn’t do enough of it to get decent at it. 

Webpage:  You had some success racing the different fair races and the half-mile tracks

Mert:   They were fun, it took a while to get use to them too, to get the car fixed up so it would run good on the half mile.  Seems like every track was different in some ways, so you needed to keep working on your car accordingly.  I did a lot of my own fabbing.

Webpage:  Ever get to any races yet ?

Mert:  I got enough stuff to do around here it seems like.  I get to a few races, been to a few NASCAR races.  It’s kinda fun.

Webpage:  You get to some of the Old Timer Reunions and see some of your old competitors ?

Mert:    I’ve seen a lot of em.  Some of em I hadn’t seen for 20 or 30 years you know, so they look different and you really don’t know who everybody is anymore.  Need to be introduced again.  It’s kinda fun.

Webpage:  You and Wendell Kuehn will be forever linked with your great rivalry.

Mert:   (laughs) We talk now when I see him.  We had our differences I guess.

Webpage:  You still tinker with cars ?

Mert:   I got a garage out back and I’m working on an old Model A out there.  Kind of a Street Rod is what I’m aiming for when I get done here.  I had a four door Model A and I threw the two back doors away and made a coupe out of it.  I’m putting a little pickup box on the back.  I’ve been working on it for quite a few years.  Sometimes I get a lot done and sometimes I do it over.   I draw pictures of what I want here and there; I was a pretty good welder.  A guy use to be able to go and go and go; now I go for a couple hours and I’m about worn out.

Webpage:  How long till you think you’ll have it ready ?

Mert:  I don’t know, but it’s further along than it looks, I’m kind of anxious to get back after it now.  The last snow storm took care of my shed out back so I’ve been working out there.  It’s hard to find time to be out in the garage all the time and work on stuff. But I have fun making stuff for it. (pauses)  You can buy a lot of stuff for Street Rods, I kind of enjoy just making my own stuff.  Then I l Collect hub caps from old cars, 1930 and older.   The hub cap really started out as grease caps, I’ve got 470 some different names on these hub caps.

Webpage:  You keep plenty busy.

Mert:  Ya.   I’ve got a lot of other parts around too, like for a Model T.  I’ve got enough parts to build a Model T if I ever get to it.  Me and some other guys go to swap meets in the summer time, around the state, I’m always buying something I shouldn’t (laughs).

                (Mert than invited us to go down his basement and look at his Hub Cap Collection)

Mert:   This is my hub cap collection, trying to get them sorted.  These are all 1930 and older I’ve got em scattered all over the place, trying to get them organized. 

      (Than he invites us to go out to his garage/shop to look at his Model A Projectand tell us about it)

Mert:  I’ve got a lot of stuff done for it.  I keep taking it apart and putting it back together.  I’ve got a little quick change under there.  Quarter panels over here, these are pieces for the box.  It’s kinda fun.   I’ve just been trying to clean this up the last couple days; I can make a mess so quick.  This was a 1931 Model A Ford with a Curvy body on it.  That was Fords Deluxe body.  This was the first car with the slant windshields; everything had been straight up and down in the old days.  So this is the first body they made with the slant windshield.  Getting ready to do some painting here but can’t do that until summer time.