Longtime Stock Car Racer Back Behind The Wheel


December 02, 1990|By Stanley C. Dillion

Roy Coghill, a longtime stock car driver from Sykesville, looked through a scrapbook of old newspaper clippings and photos taken during the 1950s.

"They were the good old days," he repeated as he reminisced about the races he won, the accidents he had, the mechanical woes he suffered and the friends he made as if it were yesterday.

They say once racing gets in your blood, you never get rid of it. Today, at 59, he has built a copy of his original 1950s race car and competes against other cars of that era.

Coghill's father, Rudy, had raced through the Virginia hills, running moonshine, until the family left Hartwood, Va., for Baltimore in the late 1940s. In the 1950s, he worked for Parker Fuel Co., hauling coal.

He was a race-car builder and owner, and Ray Kable was his driver in the early 1950s.

About that time, Roy Coghill started driving for a team made up of members of the old Baltimore News-Post composing room. Naturally, the paper carried race results and zeroed in on the car of Roy Coghill.

Roy's team eventually merged with the one owned by his father. When the elder Coghill retired, Roy became the driver and his brother, Edgar, became the car's owner. Together, they became one of Baltimore's most successful racing teams.

Every spare moment they had was spent working on the car. On weekends they hardly slept.

"We raced with the Free State Stock Car Association," Roy Coghill said.

"We raced at Dorsey on Friday, Delmar (Del.) on Saturdays and Marlboro, Ritchie and Hagerstown on Sundays.

"We would race, then work on the car all night after the races for the next day. Then on the way to the track, I would climb into the back seat of the car to grab a nap."

The Coghill team won many races. In 1953 they finished second in points in the Free State Association.

They captured 11 features in 1955. They were on their way to the Free State title when Roy and his brother got into a disagreement.

"I kept telling my brother I needed new shocks, but he wouldn't buy them," Coghill recalled. "So I wouldn't drive one week. He put two other drivers in that week, and they didn't win. So I came back the next week and won, and you know what, he still never brought the new shocks."

In 1957, the team quit racing. Coghill was unable to devote enough time because of his job in the demolition business.

But whenever he went to the track, he ended up driving someone's car.

Still, by 1960, he had quit driving altogether. He didn't drive again until the restored car was built.

When asked about his most memorable moment, Coghill had to pause for a while.

"Gosh, there were so many. But the one that stands out in my mind is when we won three races in one weekend in 1953. We won Dorsey, Delmar and Upper Marlboro. We won over $625 that weekend."

Race teams traveled as much in the 1950s as they do now, but had neither the superhighways nor the haulers they have today. More time was spent on the road, and the teams traveled together in case of trouble.

"We towed our car with a 1950 Chevrolet six-cylinder," Coghill recalled.

"Whenever we went to Hagerstown, the car would never pull the race car over the mountains, so we would get in the race car and push the tow car. Most of the time we would stop at South Mountain and have a picnic lunch."

During his racing career, Coghill had his share of injuries, but they never stopped him.

"I once rolled a car at Ritchie," he said with a smile. "Busted my ribs but came back the next week and won with the same car at Dorsey. Heck, the ribs hurt me more today then they did then."

Four years ago, Coghill and his brother decided to build a similar car and keep the memories alive.

But there was a major obstacle -- finding a car that resembled the No.

70 they raced. The last car the team had fielded was sold in 1957 and soon after destroyed in a crash at Lincoln Speedway in Pennsylvania.

The brothers searched all over the country looking for the frame, fenders, parts and motor. What they couldn't find they manufactured.

When they finished, the car was a 1939 Ford Coupe like the one they raced 35 years ago.

The motor is a Ford Flathead V-8 with three two-barrel carburetors.

What was the feeling when Roy started the car up after three years of hard work?

"It was nice," he said. "The only thing that is not original is the electrical system, which was switched to 12 volt, and the brakes. They are hydraulic now; they weren't then."

Now the two brothers and Roy's wife, Myrt, relive the good old days.

They race the car against other restored racers from the 1950s, bringing back memories to the older fans and showing the youngsters how racing used to be.

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