Don Edmunds 1930-2020
He was a hell on wheels in jalopies, modifieds and midgets, rookie-of-the-year at Indianapolis, a builder, a fabricator, a designer, a thinker, a dreamer, a instructor, an innovator and an enormous a part of the material of American racing for 5 a long time. He was additionally “Rotten Purple.”
Don Edmunds, who handed away Wednesday on the age of 89, needs to be remembered as some of the fascinating and influential racers of the ’50s, ’60s. ’70s and ’80s, and might be recognized extra for his artistic genius than his flip behind the wheel.
“He might do all of it, and he might do higher than most,” stated Jim Luebbert, longtime IndyCar mechanic and former dash driver who labored for Edmunds and raced in opposition to him again when Los Angeles was the hotbed of motorsports. “He got here from California Steel Shapers and discovered from Eddie Kuzma, and gave so many people a house and an schooling in race automobiles.
“It’s arduous to think about all of the issues he completed.”
Rising up in Anaheim, Ca., Edmunds turned enamored with automobiles, then the Bonneville Salt Flats, the California Roadster Affiliation and United Racing Affiliation. His ascension was fast – from jalopies to midgets to altering the right-front tire for Billy Garrett within the 1956 Indianapolis 500, to becoming a member of the beginning discipline a 12 months later.
“Indy was all we thought of again in L.A.,” stated Edmunds throughout an interview with RACER again in 2013. “However you additionally knew there have been a number of good guys who by no means bought an opportunity, so it was extra of a dream than the rest.”
However Doug Caruthers, whose sons would workforce with Edmunds to win USAC midget championships, favored what he noticed when Edmunds was wheeling a midget so he introduced him to Indianapolis in 1957.
“We simply didn’t have sufficient pace, so on the final day of qualifying at three o’clock I went searching for a trip,” recalled Edmunds, who hopped right into a Kurtis/Offy owned by Roy McKay and made just a few apply laps. “I feel we ran 138 or 139, and that wasn’t quick sufficient, and different drivers had been standing round ready to seize the trip after I pulled in. So I got here in and informed them to provide me two turns within the left rear, and I’ll put it within the present.
“I wasn’t positive what to do on an Indy automotive, however that’s why I at all times did in a midget to get higher traction – and it labored.”
Edmunds certified 27th and ran a gentle tempo till spinning out of lap 171, however was nonetheless awarded Rookie of the 12 months. In 1958, he returned to IMS and suffered a nasty crash in apply and missed the present. In 1959, his pal Bob Cortner was killed whereas working towards, after which Jerry Unser died from burns suffered in an earlier Could crash.
“I made a decision if any individual pretty much as good as Jerry Unser might get killed, I didn’t have to be on the market,” was Edmunds’ retirement speech.
What occurred over the following 20 years was that Edmunds modified the face of midget racing along with his modern, light-weight and modern creations. “Midgets had been tubby-looking again then and type of homely,” stated Jerry Weeks, one of many final nice metallic males for the ages who labored with Edmunds within the ’60s earlier than launching his personal profitable USAC profession as a driver. “Don had a way of design and good instincts about a number of issues, and his midgets had been a product of that. They had been quick automobiles, and I don’t suppose he ever made a homely automotive.”
Edmunds had early success with Parnelli Jones driving one in all his midgets, after which the Caruthers’ boys and at last Steve Lewis, Stan Fox and the No. 9 armada of victories. He additionally discovered time to construct sports activities automobiles, dash automobiles, Tremendous Charges, speedway bikes and add his contact to numerous Indy automobiles within the ’70s and ’80s.
He made pals all the world over of open wheel, brief observe and even helped Even Knievel along with his sky cycle.
So why was he known as “Rotten Purple?”
“I feel Slugger (Doug Caruthers) gave him that nickname as a result of he had pink hair and an unbelievable mood,” replied Luebbert. “When he threw a wobbly all of us hid below our work benches as a result of hammers can be flying throughout the store and he would go berserk. Then, three or 4 minutes later, he was effective and all of us went again to work. However he was an excellent man and I’m glad we had been pals.”