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Driver Profile: Cokey Williams

As remembered by Nan Robison

My first recollection of Cokey Williams was in 1972. My brother Rick had decided to try his luck in the Montana 500 endurance run. My Mom and I had been enlisted as pit crew.

When we arrived on check in day, the multitude and variety of T's amazed me. There were T's of every color and condition, but one really stood out. That was Cokey's. Cokey hailed from Hayward, CA. This was his second race, having entered in 1971. That year he placed 9th, and swore he would come back and win the 1972 race. He drove a 1924 and, he said that he was going to chrome everything if his car didn't win in "71". It didn't, and he did.

Cokey stood out in a crowd. He was a very confident man, and while racing, always wore stylish coveralls, and a very natty chapeau. I constantly marveled at how his coveralls were always immaculate. I saw him in and under his car's engine as often as any other driver. How he kept them so spotless is still a mystery to me.

His car in 1972 was a beaut! It was a sleek silver-gray and black 26-7 roadster, with Model A wheels, and lots of chrome. He had purchased the car at the Reno swap meet about 2 years before the race. It was a mass of rust and the turtle deck was riddled with bullet holes when he bought it. Cokey stated that "It looked like Bonnie and Clyde's car". You could see the filled bullet holes if you looked in the turtle deck. He estimated that he had spent about $1400.00 and 3000 hours restoring it to virtually mint condition. Rumor had it that he said it had somewhere between 21-47 coats of hand rubbed lacquer.

How many it actually had was never known for sure, but that car positively glowed. At that time, race rules required that you have a sign on the side of your car that stated your name and where you were from, but Cokey did not want to put one on his car as he was afraid it would mar the finish. He had made many of the parts he couldn't find for the car himself. The car had a chrome Model A bumper, and both a brake light and a tail light, of which he was inordinately proud.

The race that year was 540 miles long. It began and ended in Miles City. Twenty-five cars were entered, with twenty-four starting. The first leg ended in Sidney, where Cokey led by nine minutes over Dave Ratzburg. He did have some sort of trouble outside of Plentywood, but still managed to come in ahead.

At the end of the race, Cokey came in first with a time of 10:39:54. He averaged 50.63 mph. After teardown, his car was found to have a cast iron head with a combustion chamber like a "Z" head. Whether it was legal or not was put to a vote of the drivers, and after the votes were counted, President Rich Armstrong said; "Sorry Cokey, it didn't go your way". His car was disqualified. He did not return in 1973.

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