Year In Review: Prominent Car People Who Passed In 2012

Philippe Bugalski; June 12, 1963 – August 10, 2012
Although he raced Volkswagens, Lancias, and Renaults, Bugalski is best known for his long liason with Citroen’s rally team, where he helped serve as a test driver for the successful Xsara WRC.
Chris Economaki; October 15, 1920 – September 28, 2012
Aptly dubbed the dean of American motorsports journalism, Economaki covered virtually every form of racing. Economaki started his career as a teenager selling National Speed Sport News on the east coast, wrote his first column for the paper at the age of 14, and ultimately became its editor and publisher in 1950. Economaki’s talents also extended to TV and radio broadcasting, as he covered F1, Indy, NASCAR, NHRA, and other race series for the likes of ABC, NBC, CBS, and ESPN.
John Fitch; August 4, 1917 – October 31, 2012
As the lone American to race for Mercdes-Benz, the man charged with honing the Corvette’s racing pedigree, and one of two men who gave the Corvette its first victory at Le Mans, John Fitch is certainly a racing legend – but his genius didn’t end at the finish line. Fitch was also known for tuning Chevrolet Corvairs into formidable sports cars, along with a sand-filled crash barrier designed to absorb the energy in a collision. The barriers became a common sight on highways across the country, even if his Fitch Sprint Corvair did not.
Jerry Grant; January 23, 1935 – August 12, 2012
Grant isn’t on the list of Indy 500 winners, although he would be had officials not stripped him of the victory in 1972 after an odd pit stop incident that led to a competitor’s fuel being pumped into his car. Regardless, he was the first Indy driver to break the 200-mph mark later that year.
Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins; December 22, 1930 – March 29, 2012
Although Jenkins began drag racing in the 1950s, he entered the sport on a full-time basis in the 1960s, after receiving his degree in mechanical engineering from Cornell University. Jenkins was methodical about building and testing his machines, and essentially birthed the NHRA’s Pro Stock class in 1974 with Grumpy Toy XI – a vehicle that looked like a stock Chevrolet Vega but boasted a tube frame chassis and MacPherson strut front suspension design. Jenkins retired from driving in 1976 to focus on engine and chassis engineering.
Dan Knott; November 1, 1960 – April 29, 2012
Knott’s last position at Chrysler had him overseeing the automaker’s purchasing organization and ensuring supplier quality, but he was a performance enthusiast through and through. Not only did he have a hand in creating the hot Grand Cherokee 5.9 Limited during his time in Jeep engineering, but he also led Chrysler’s SRT operations from 2002 until 2009.
Alex C. Mair, 1921– May 27, 2012
After 47 years with GM, Mair retired from GM as vice president of advanced engineering in 1986. An engineer’s engineer, Mair started at Chevrolet Truck, helping create the forward-control Corvair 95 vans and pickups, before advancing to chief engineer of Chevrolet. He stepped up to lead the GMC division in 1972, moved to Pontiac in 1975, and was appointed to lead GM’s Technical Center staff three years later. Unlike many of his colleagues, Mair was eager to analyze GM’s competitors and call out where his company lagged behind other automakers. His thinking led to the development of the Saturn small car, which ultimately birthed the Saturn Corporation in 1985, and the Saturn SL in 1990.
Gianpiero Moretti; March 20, 1940 – January 14, 2012
The name may be unfamiliar, but Moretti’s brainchild – Momo – is known to gearheads around the world. Founded in 1966, Momo’s early products consisted largely of purpose-made steering wheels, but eventually expanded to all sorts of automotive accessories, including seats, shift knobs, and so on.
Dr. Alex Moulton; April 9, 1920 — December 9, 2012
Moulton’s family made its fortune in vulcanized rubber, so it’s fitting that his best-known creation – the hydrolastic suspension for the BMC Mini – utilized little donut-shaped bits of rubber. Moulton later employed a similar trick for a unique bicycle design, that – also like the Mini – used wheels far smaller than any competitor.
Robert “Bob” Newton; March 25, 1927 – September 26, 2012
You may not know the name, but if you’ve ever attended a stock car/ drag/ oval/ kart race of any kind, chances are you’ve seen the name of the company he founded in 1957. Hoosier Racing Tire. Newton’s business literally started in the back of a barn, and initially involved simply re-treading tires with softer tread compound. Ultimately, the company grew into a stand-alone manufacture of motorsports tires, and even briefly supplied rubber to NASCAR drivers.
Everett “Cotton” Owens; May 21, 1924 – June 7, 2012
Although he later owned and fielded several NASCAR teams, Owens cut his teeth early on as a driver, winning nearly 100 dirt-track modified races in the 1950s before joining the growing Grand National series. His team won the 1966 Grand National series with David Pearson at the wheel, and Owens was later named one of NASCAR’s 50 greatest drivers in 1998.
Stan Ovshinsky; November 24, 1922 – October 17, 2012
The self-taught scientist is largely renowned for his work in the realms of amorphous semi-conductors, solar cells, and batteries, but Ovshinsky became tied to the automotive industry when General Motors contracted with his Energy Conversion Devices company to provide nickel-metal hydride batteries for the ill-fated EV1 electric car. Early examples did without Ovshinsky’s batteries, but the Generation II models, which launched in 1999 boasted his design – and, for that matter, improved range and performance.
Ferdinand Alexander “Butzi” Porsche; December 11, 1935 – April 5, 2012
Son of Ferry Porsche and grandson of the legendary Ferdinand Porsche, F.A. – or Butzi – was destined to work at his family’s namesake company, but in a little different tract than his father and grandfather. After briefly studying industrial design, Butzi honed his craft in Porsche’s design department starting in 1958, and remained there until 1972, when he founded the F.A. Porsche Design Studio. Butzi was quite fond of his design for the 904 Carrera GTS race coupe, but his 911 design had by far the most profound effect on the company.
Sergio Pininfarina; September 8, 1926 – July 3, 2012
Battista “Pinin” Farina was the one who launched the famed Carrozzeria Pininfarina, but it was his son, Sergio, who helped build the company into a global powerhouse. Perhaps his single most important task was nurturing the relationship with his firm and Ferrari, which led to Pininfarina essentially serving as Ferrari’s primary design agency.
Harold “Red” Poling; October 14, 1925 – May 12, 2012
Poling served as Ford’s chairman and CEO from 1990-1994, and helped lead a fiscal turnaround of the company. His most significant decision was to bankroll nearly $3 billion on all-new midsize sedans that boasted radically aerodynamic bodywork, and looked unlike any other competitor on sale in the U.S. Those cars were the 1986 Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable, which proved hugely successful, and helped reverse Ford’s sinking fortunes.
Eddie Russo; November 19, 1925 – October 14, 2012
At the age of 86, Russo was the second-oldest living person to have raced in the Indianapolis 500, but he never finished in the top ten. He retired from the sport in 1960, when a crash at Indy resulted in him losing an eye.
Roy Salvadori; May 12, 1922 – June 3, 2012
As a Brit who competed primarily in Formula One, Salvadori is perhaps best recognized by his native countrymen, but one accomplishment had an international twist. In 1959, he shared an Aston Martin with Texan Carroll Shelby, and the two won the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Salvadori died 23 days after Shelby passed away.
Carroll Shelby; January 11, 1923 – May 10, 2012
Is there any greater American motorsports legend than Carroll Shelby? After developing a taste for speed in the Air Force during World War II, Shelby entered the world of auto racing in the 1950s, and quickly proved himself rather adept – so much so he wound up winning the 1959 24 Hours of Le Mans with an Aston Martin. Shelby eventually turned his wandering eye to sports cars, and birthed the idea of stuffing Ford V-8 engines into lithe AC Ace roadsters. The result was the Cobra, and that car’s racing success prompted Ford to have Shelby transform the Mustang into a racer and manage its GT40 race program. Under his watchful eye, Ford won at Le Mans in both 1966 and 1967. Shelby went on to help create a line of performance models for Chrysler in the 1980s, before partnering with Ford yet again in 2004, where he served as a consultant for cars like the supercharged Mustang that bears his surname.
Martin Swig; February 8, 1934 – July 3, 2012
A dealer by trade, Swig’s passion for vintage automobiles knew few bounds. In addition to being an avid car collector and vintage racer, Swig was a big proponent of owners actually exercising their classic cars. In 1991, Swig helped organize the first California Mille, a domestic interpretation of the famed Mille Miglia vintage car rally. The success of that event helped spark the inception of several similar events across the country.
Dr. Sid Watkins; September 6, 1928 – September 12, 2012
Formula One was and is a dangerous game, but Watkins – a trained neurosurgeon who served as F1’s chief medic for nearly three decades – helped instill some safety in the sport. Watkins pushed for better seats, safety belts, reinforced cockpits, improved roll cages, and other equipment designed to reduce driver injury in event of a collision. He also advocated the expansion of on-site medical facilities, reducing the need to transport drivers off-site – or, more importantly, wait for medical transportation to arrive from far away.

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