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McKim’s Had Lot Of Brushes With NASCAR History

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, February 24 2013

Tiny Lund was the driver of this Wood Brothers Racing Ford. (Photo courtesy of Wood Brothers Racing)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Sitting on a carpet of grass, barely 100 yards from Victory Lane at Daytona International Speedway, is a replica of the 1963 Ford Galaxie that Tiny Lund drove to victory in the Daytona 500 on a Sunday afternoon 50 years ago to the day from this year’s 500.

The car, while not the original, is as close as one gets. The wheels are period correct Holman-Moody steel jobs, and the tires are vintage Firestones, purchased on e-Bay by the current generation of Wood Brothers, who built the car as a tribute to their uncle Leonard Wood and his recent induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

But one of the most impressive aspects of the car is the hand-lettering, which was done by Albert “Buz” McKim, better known in the sport for his work as an archivist for NASCAR and historian for the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Even Eddie and Len Wood were unaware of McKim’s talents as an artist until they were well under way with their ’63 Ford project.

“We had no idea,” Len Wood said.

So an appointment was made, and on the last Saturday and Sunday of 2012 (McKim still had to work his day job at the Hall) McKim showed up at the Wood Brothers shop with his trusty, hand-made wooden paint box and a new set of brushes.

Working free-hand, he replicated every bit of the original lettering.

“I’d say it took him about 20 hours, and I watched him for about 18 of them,” Len Wood said. “It was something to see.”

Wood said that since McKim is left-handed, he’d start at the back of the car and work his way forward.

Buz McKim has had a colorful career.

The end result is picture-perfect.

For McKim, it was nothing new. And it isn’t the only car that will be in the Hall of Fame with McKim lettering.

A replica of the 1954 Hudson Hornet driven another inductee, the late Herb Thomas, was lettered by McKim nearly 30 years ago, and the paint job has stood the test of time without any issues.

“Maybe I should have charged them more,” he chuckled.

It all began back in his youth, when he attempted to be a race driver on the tracks around Daytona Beach, where his family moved from his birth home in New Jersey. Going to the tracks was a family affair as his father was the track announcer at several tracks in central Florida.

“I got my first race car when I was about 14, a 1955 Chevy that we paid 50 bucks for,” McKim said. “Of course I didn’t have any money. The thing ran, but we had to paint it. I couldn’t afford to have anybody do it, so I did it myself.”

He spent about a week on the project, but the finished product was impressive.

“Somebody saw it and said, ‘Hey, that looks pretty good, how about doing mine?’” McKim said. “Now, 1,200 cars later I’m working on the Wood Brothers’ car.”

McKim drove for about six seasons before deciding that he had a better future painting cars than driving them.

“And it wasn’t helping attract girls like I’d hoped,” he said. “But my folks knew exactly what they were doing [by allowing him to race] because it kept me, my brother and all our friends busy and broke all through high school.”

From there, McKim ventured into painting cars at Daytona International Speedway.

“I’d go to the speedway during Speedweeks every year and go through the garage area with my paint box, and if anybody needed anything I’d take care of it,” he said. “And I handled most of the work for the guys in the Daytona Beach area.”

He also helped design paint schemes back in the 1970s.

He designed the King’s Row Fireplace Shops paint scheme on Benny Parsons’ No. 72 Chevrolet and the Purolator scheme on the Wood Brothers’ Mercury, although he didn’t do the actual painting on the cars.

“Those cars wound up being back-to-back Daytona 500 winners,” McKim said. “I thought that was pretty cool.”

Interestingly, the younger Wood brothers were unaware that McKim had a hand in the design of the Purolator scheme on their car at that time.

McKim also has done racing artwork, designed race program covers and even done drawings for cartoon characters including the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Ren and Stimpy.

McKim eventually began making his living as a racing historian, working for NASCAR in Daytona Beach before joining the Hall of Fame staff in Charlotte.

Through it all, he kept his paint brushes handy, and was ready when the Wood Brothers needed someone to put an old-school paint scheme on their car.

“I hadn’t done much painting since I came to Charlotte, so it was like getting back on course to do the Wood Brothers’ car,” he said.

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, February 24 2013
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