|Bill tells an amusing story of a time when Phil Hill, Richie Ginther, Jerry
Chesbrough and himself had made plans to meet near Reno, Nevada for a scheduled
SCCA race. This was about 1953, as Bill recalls.
Both Phil and Richie lived just west of Los Angeles, in the Santa Monica area and Jerry and Bill were about 60 miles east, in the Fontana area of California. The plan was for Phil to trailer his red Ferrari taking Richie with him and Bill said he would drive his 250MM Ferrari taking Jerry with him. Phil was to race in the Main-Event at the race, and Bill would race his Ferrari in one of the amateur events that proceeded the main event.
Scheduled for the same weekend and at the same race event was a movie crew to film some "Racing" for a Mickey Rooney film. Masten Gregory was going to race in one of the amateur races and the film crew would portray Masten as if it was Mickey Rooney in the car. Bill remembers that they had lights, cameras and cables all over the track areas.
Masten Gregory in the "64" car. That's Bill's 250MM on the left.
| When Phil, Richie, Jerry and Bill arrived, they off-loaded Phil's Ferrari and Bill parked his 250MM nearby.
Stretching their legs after the drive, they talked about the ride up and the usual car/driver stuff. It didn't
take long before some of the film's dignitaries approached Phil and started making conversation with the four travelers.
It finally came out that they wanted Phil to also enter the same race as the one Masten Gregory was driving -
this way, they could get more shots and make the race seem more realistic. Phil had a quick answer for them...
Bill, hearing the offer made to Phil, spoke up and told them that he was already registered for that race and he would gladly accept the money. "A dollar is a dollar", Bill remembers thinking to himself. But knowing Bill, it was more of an obvious whisper and a grin to go with the comment.
So now the day was set. Bill and Phil made preparations to their cars and had some time to kill after the preps were completed. Nothing more to do but to look around and watch the film-makers do their thing. Bill can't remember the name of the movie or if he ever saw it after it's completion. He has a vague remembrance that Mickey played the part of a race dirver with better than average skills, and that because of hard-times, turned to a life of crime as a get-away driver. So, this part of the movie being filmed was a preface to the movie and showed Mickey as a good guy before turning bad. Bill also remembers the film crew placing short crates on the ground for Mickey to stand on for some of the tight shots.
Bill's race was up first and he took to the track along with Mickey Rooney (Masten Gregory) and the race began. Bill's eyes and mind were fixed on the race so he can't remember much of the hustle around the track to capture it on film. He does remember the most important fact, he won the race. Phil wasn't quite so fortunate as to win but, he came a close second in the main and chalked up a few more points in the standings.
Now the trip homeward was to begin. Phil loaded his Ferrari on the trailer and Bill got his 250MM filled with gas and he was ready. Like a "Chinese Fire Drill" the seating/driving arrangements changed. Phil and Bill would take Phil's 1953 Plymouth pulling the trailer and Richie and Jerry would follow in Bill's Ferrari. Now everyone was ready and the trip south began.
|They were southbound on Hwy-395 nearing Mamouth Mountain. Phil was driving and all Bill can remember is that something darted in front of the Plymouth from across the road. Phil stopped the Plymouth and Richie pulled in back.|
Jerry was the photographer and Bill is checking to make sure it was dead. Phil lights a cigarette and Richie looks on at a distance... just in case.
|The all exited their vehicles to see what it was and if anything was wrong with the Plymouth. "It was a bobcat", Bill says, "and everyone knows who would win that battle." "Front wheels, back wheels, who knows?", Bill states the facts, "...we were attacked!!"|
Bill, satisfied that it was dead, now relaxes as Phil holds the cat by the tail for one last photo-op.