More Wayne Kelly Stories

Several weeks ago I got an email from Denny Quirk who said that he would send me some stories about Wayne Kelly, fine Canadian racer, race car builder, and a Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame member. In previous posts over the years, I have included some stories and information about Wayne Kelly, so Denny knew that I would be interested in more Wayne Kelly information.  I was pleased when Denny sent me the promised stories.  I have included Denny’s email as he sent it:

“First, a bit about myself.  I’m a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, Communications Electronics specialty.  I was a member of Motorsport Club of Ottawa (MCO) from 1958 to 1973, President in 1971 and 1972.  I raced a Riley 1.5 from 1958 to 1963, and also did quite a bit of rally navigating, including five times in the Shell 4000 (1963, ’65, ’66, ’67 and ’68.  I functioned as a CASC Racing Steward for several years, including at two Formula 1 races in 1969 and 1970.

Wayne Kelly was a GCA Tech (Corporal rank) in the Air Force.  GCA stands for Ground Control Approach.  It is a radar system (now obsolete) which was installed alongside runways at Air Force airfields.  Using it, a ground operator would talk an aircraft down to a safe landing, even in impossibly foul weather.  Wayne was qualified in the repair and maintenance of this system.

Wayne was posted to 2 Fighter Wing, Grostenquin, France in 1957 or 1958.  (This was back when we had four fighter bases in Europe, two in France and two in Germany.)  He must have been about my age, which means he was only 22 or 23 when he was posted there.  As you know, he did some racing, and he spent a lot of his spare time at the Porsche factory.  He became fluent in German.  He was on a first name basis with Ferry Porsche.

He was posted back to Canada, to CFB Trenton or CFB Uplands (I’m not sure which) in 1960 or ’61.  While in France, he had a very close friend by the name of Don Hacker, who was a Flight Sergeant airborne electronics specialty.  Don was commissioned as a Flying Officer in 1961 and posted to Ottawa to an engineering position in Air Materiel Command HQ.  I had been working there since 1958, and the two of us soon became close friends because of our common interest in motorsport.  In fact, Don and I were in the 1963 and ’65 Shell 4000.  More importantly, Don introduced me to Wayne Kelly.

I remember seeing Wayne’s car (the one with the Porsche engine) while under construction some time in the period 1961 – 1963.  You describe it as “based on putting a Porsche engine in a Lotus 23”.  Sorry to have to correct you, but that vehicle never saw the inside of the Lotus factory.  It was built entirely from the ground up by Wayne.  The front half of the car was a more or less faithful copy of the 23, while the rear part, while adhering to Lotus design where possible, was customized to accommodate the Porsche engine.  I know the foregoing is hard to believe.  The fact of the matter is that Wayne was a mechanical genius.  Incidentally the car was known among the cognoscenti as “The Milk Shake Special” because of Wayne’s sponsorship with Dairy Queen.

A word about the Porsche engine.  I very much doubt that Wayne could afford such an engine on a Corporal’s salary.  Do not quote me, but my belief is that Ferry Porsche gave Wayne the engine as a gift.  Getting it across the Atlantic Ocean is another story.  Wayne could charm the tusks off a bull elephant, and I have it on good authority that the Commanding Officer of CFB Trenton was a great fan of his.  As such, he was apparently instrumental in bringing the engine to Canada as an unauthorized piece of cargo on an Air Force North Star aircraft.

My memory is a little shaky, but I have some recollection of Wayne campaigning the Milk Shake Special in the 1963 racing season.  In February 1964, I was posted to a Pinetree radar station at a godforsaken location called Pagwa River, in northern Ontario.  I had heard that Wayne was going to be competing at the Nassau Speed Week in December 1964, and so my then-wife and made plans to be there.  Apparently Wayne had been approached by a racer by the name of Grant Clark, who I knew well since we had gone through high school together.  Grant was well known in the racing world through driving with BMC sponsorship.  Apparently Grant made Wayne an offer.  If Grant was allowed to drive The Milk Shake Special in the feature race at Nassau, Grant would bankroll the transport the car to Nassau and back, and pay for accommodation for Wayne and his wife, not to mention their air fare.  Wayne could compete in a preliminary race.  Wayne insisted on bringing along a buddy technician by the name of Paul Wollner who was a fellow GCA Tech and who was very familiar with the car.  Grant agreed, but would not spring for an extra hotel room, which meant that Wayne, Paul and Wayne’s wife wound up sharing a double bed.  I never did find out what the source of Grant Clark’s funding was. 

Anyway, my then-wife and I showed up at Nassau on schedule, and found Wayne OK.  I got to tow the Milk Shake Special with my rental car on the end of a piece of rope from the barge which transported the race cars to an unused hangar by the race track, and we were able to assist in the pits during the races.  I don’t remember too much about the races – I seem to recall it raining off and on all day.  Wayne didn’t finish well – he may have spun out.  I do recall Grant Clark coming into the pits after about three laps, complaining that he couldn’t get comfortable – he was after all a big man.  We did an instant rebuild of the seat, replacing cushions with pieces of scrap plywood, and sent him out.  He finished the race without further incident and actually did quite well – I think he may have finished third overall.

I can’t leave the subject of the Nassau Speed Week without telling you about a racing incident which was funny beyond belief.  As you may or may not know, the feature race of the event was known as the Grand Prix of Volkswagens.  It was a 20 or 30 lap race of bog stock Volkswagens.  No modification was the rule, enforced by a compulsory teardown of the top three finishers.  This race (and indeed the entire event) used to get a huge amount of publicity in the racing world, and as such, attracted a whole bunch of VIPs.  Entered in the GP of Volkswagens were two very well-known luminaries, namely A.J. Foyt and Dan Gurney.  Given the light-hearted atmosphere surrounding the event, everyone wondered what they might be up to.  We soon found out.

During the practice sessions, it soon became apparent that Dan Gurneys car had been “breathed upon” since he was turning laps about 3-4 seconds faster than any other Volkswagen, including Foyt’s.  Came the race, and off they went.  Completing the first lap, Foyt and Gurney were nose to tail, with Foyt in front.  In fact, as we were quick to realize, Gurney was actually PUSHING Foyt down the straight.  This pattern persisted for the entire race, and so it wasn’t too long before the two of them were leading the pack by a wide margin because of Gurney’s extra horses.  Needless to say, Gurney was disqualified on teardown, and the organizers reluctantly had to declare Foyt the winner.  After all, he hadn’t broken any rules.

I was at Mosport when Wayne was killed.  I didn’t see it happen, but a close buddy of mine did.  Early in Wayne’s race, there was an incident on Turn 1 which caused the ambulance to be sent out.  The next lap, Wayne, being Wayne, apparently headed into Turn 1 at close to full speed, even though the white flag must have been showing at the S/F line.  The ambulance was sitting on his line, and he ran right into the back of it and was killed.

A few days later, I visited his wife in Ottawa.  (I’m having trouble with her name – was it Marlene?)  We had become good friends in Nassau.  I was astounded at how placid she appeared.  I had the distinct impression that she had felt for a long time that he wasn’t going to live to a ripe old age, and she felt thankful for the time that they had together.  I would love to see her again – do you know whether she’s alive or dead?  If the former, do you know how to contact her, and if so, could you let me know?

A word about Don Hacker, the guy who introduced me to Wayne.  Don is around 87 years old but still hanging in as far as I know.  He lives in Sidney BC.  If you would like to contact him regarding Wayne’s time in Europe, let me know and I will see if it’s OK with him.

I haven’t proofed the foregoing.  Hope there aren’t too many goofs.


Thanks to Denny Quirk for sharing these stories about Wayne Kelly.  Wayne Kelly seems like he was the type of person that everyone would like to know.

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3 Responses to More Wayne Kelly Stories

  1. Karen Routly (nee Kelly) says:

    Hi Denny,
    My mother passed away in 2004 in Germany, her ashes were bought back to Ottawa to be buried with my Dad. Her name was Marlene just like you remembered correctly. Thank you for sharing your story. Still to this day I hear so many different stories and friendships from people that can not forget my father and his love for racing. I have many memories and have the last thing he held in his hands.

  2. EvanG says:

    I enjoyed reading Denny Quirk’s contribution.

    Recently, I came across the following, and thought I’d pass it along in case Karen and others hadn’t seen it. After crediting the late Horst Kroll with building the first Canadian Formula Vee, ‘The Chequered Past’ (David Charters, Univ of Toronto Press, 2007) continues:

    “It was Kroll’s close friend Wayne Kelly who emerged as the most prolific FV constructor in Canada. A Nova Scotia native, Kelly took up racing while stationed in Germany as an RCAF radar technician. Driving his own Porsche 1600 coupe he came second in his first race. Impressed by Wayne’s driving, Porsche invited him to take a course at the factory and then sold him a Carrera at cost for racing. Kelly rewarded their confidence with two spectacular seasons in 1959 and 1960: five wins, one second and three third-place finishes in nine races. Returning to Canada, he later built the Kelly-Porsche sports-racing car, which Kroll drove to win the 1968 Canadian racing
    championship – the last for closed-wheel sports racing cars. Since the six-year old two-litre car was up against newer and more powerful Lola and McLaren Can-Am cars, Kelly said “It was a case of the turtle beating the hares”.

    “After seeing Vees racing in Nassau during the 1963 Speed Weeks, Kelly decided to build one. He then went on to found an FV industry. Over the next four years he built twenty Vees and sold them in Canada and the United States; the Kelly Vee dominated the class in Canada from 1965 to 1969, while Kelly himself won two class championships. Learning from the ‘harrowing experience’ of crashing his Kelly-Porsche, he focused on making his cars strong and reliable. He strived in his cars to emulate the stringent specifications applied to aircraft construction. ‘Reliability… is the key factor in the success of my cars’ he said. ‘If anyone has any doubts about the workmanship on them, I wouldn’t sell any. Word spreads very quickly in this sport.’ And the word from the ‘pros’ was good. Viewing the Kelly Vee in the paddock at Le Circuit (Mt Tremblant), Bruce McLaren described
    it as a ‘very professional job’, and Colin Chapman of Lotus said, “It’s alright, that car’.
    That was high praise indeed from those very much in the know.

    “Wayne Kelly had a dream: to become the ‘McLaren of Canada’, building racing cars for the whole
    world. But before that dream could be realized, his promising career and life came to an end
    in a crash during a preliminary race at the Canadian Grand Prix in September 1971.”

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