Raymond Lee Fox, Sr.
Lee Fox, Sr.
made many significant contributions to auto racing during his career,
and what a career it was. Fox was a major player, not for just a few
years, but for an entire generation. From then on, he earned a
reputation as a master builder of both cars and engines, an outstanding
crew chief and someone willing to give a young driver a chance.
in Pelham, New Hampshire, but Fox left
the cold New England Mass. winters in early 1946 and took a job with
various automotive shops including Studebaker, before going with Robert
Fish of Fish Carburetor in Daytona. After driving
modifieds in Florida and
for five years against such notables as
Glenn "Fireball" Roberts and Marshall Teague, Ray discovered his true
talent Ė building cars and fast engines.
He built and raced
with Fireball Roberts and Larry Flynn of Holly Hill in winning
Modifieds, most notably the Fish Carburetor 'M' cars.
Ray Fox in the early 50's when
he and Fireball Roberts, along with Speedy Spiers, were burning up the
Modified racing circuit in the southeast where the cars were faster than
"Stock cars" and they could run several nights per week.
More money, more speed. That's
what the Fox/Fireball combination was all about.
Here he is with the Fish Carb
Fireball Roberts helping Ray Fox build an engine
one of the amazing Fox stories was about the '55
Daytona Beach race. The night before, Ray built an
engine for Fireball's 1955 M-1 Buick Century
owned by John Fish. "I started at 8:00 p.m.
and finished at 4:00 a.m., " recalls Ray. Roberts started fourth and led
every lap of the 160-mile event. He cruised under the checkered flag one
minute and 14 seconds ahead of Tim Flock, the only other driver on the
NASCAR disqualified the car 24
hours after the race because the push rods had been shortened 30/100ths
of an inch. Flock, who had been disqualified the year before under the
same rule, won the race by default. Neither Fireball Roberts nor Ray Fox
ever forgot the crushing loss. To this day, it is the last race to be
taken away from the winner. All others haves fines and points loss now.
hired Ray and Herb Thomas. "He hired us because we were the only ones
who could outrun his cars," remembers Ray. With Ray's mechanical
expertise and the driving skills of Buck Baker, Herb Thomas, Tim Flock,
and Speedy Thompson, Kiekhaefer's cars won 22 of the first 26 races, and
Ray was named Mechanic of the Year. Ray opened his own engine shop the
In 1960 John Masoni asked
Ray to build a car for the Daytona 500. In another last-minute effort,
he built the car in seven days and put Junior Johnson behind the wheel.
"We had a smaller engine than the Pontiacs, but as the race went on we
just kept getting better and better. That car really drafted well, and
Junior did a great job. It really amazed us," says Ray.
David Pearson won
three races in his rookie year in a Ray Fox Pontiac.
Junior Johnson, Marvin
Panch, and Jim Paschal drove for Ray in 1961, but when the Charlotte
World 600 rolled around he was without a driver. Bud Moore and Joe
Littlejohn recommended a young driver from Spartanburg Ė David Pearson.
David started third, but took the lead in the first lap, led most of the
day, and won the race. Ray and David went on to win the Firecracker 250
at Daytona and the Dixie 400 at Atlanta Ė the first grand slam before
there was a grand slam.
Ray became a car owner in
1962, and over the next eight seasons his cars won 18 poles and 14 races
in 172 starts. It is said that in 1963 alone Ford Motor Company spent
over 1 million dollars trying to catch Ray's No. 3 white Chevy. Over the
next few years Buck Baker, Buddy Baker, Earl Balmer, Fred Lorenzen, Cale
Yarborough, Marvin Panch, Fireball Roberts and LeeRoy Yarbrough drove Ray's cars.
In 1965 LeeRoy drove Ray's
Dodge Coronet to a new world speed record for closed courses. The
Coronet was powered by a 426-cubic-inch Hemi-Charger engine with
four-port Hilborne fuel injection and a 617 GMC blower. Before the test
run the crew gave LeeRoy a bathtub stopper in case the car was too fast.
LeeRoy put the stopper on his key chain, but forgot to use it when he
ran the second lap at a record-breaking 181.818 mph. He was gaining
speed for the third lap when NASCAR officials saw smoke and gave him the
black flag. The crew later found a quarter-inch machine bolt in the
right front tire.
late 1960's, Fox acquired Holman-Moody's old Airport shop in Charlotte
and moved his family to North Carolina for a while.
Ray retired in 1972 and
founded a racing dynasty when he turned the business over to his son,
Raymond Lee Fox, Jr. His grandson, Raymond Lee Fox III, is a member of
the Robert Yates team.
NASCAR asked Ray to return
a few years later, and the man who once built fast engines began
inspecting engines. He retired again in 1996 and now devotes his time
and talent to serving as president of The Living Legends.
Ray is a member of the
National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame, the Western Auto
Mechanics Hall of Fame, the Oceanside Rotary Hall of Fame, and the
Jacksonville (Fla) Raceway Stock Car Hall of Fame, and was inducted into the
International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2003. He lives in Daytona and
is President of the Living Legends of Auto Racing (see pictures below).
book has been written about Ray Fox
RAY FOX by Godwin Kelly
Ray Fox was a contemporary of Smokey Yunick and
many of the other greats of stock car racing.
He won lots of races building cars for
household names such as Junior Johnson and Fireball Roberts (pictured on
Mr Fox is one of the last
of the living legends from the early days of NASCAR.
Hard cover, 73 photos, 180 pages.
Legends Above: Marvin Panch, Ray Fox, 'Mad' Marion MacDonald, TBA
Legends of Auto Racing, Daytona Beach
Ray Fox, President
Board of Directors
Of note: Nascar
legendary scorer Joe Epton, lower right
Below: Fox, Bobby Allison,
Fox Related Stories
Legendary builder Ray Fox, with the help of fellow Daytona Beach, Fla.,
stock car innovator Smokey Yunick, debuted Chevrolet's "mystery engine," a
427-cubic inch engine that would replace the 409-cubic inch engine
previously used and often called a "boat anchor" because of its weight.
The new powerplant had other manufacturers worried, and for good reason.
Junior Johnson, driving Fox's 1963 Chevrolet, became a common fixture on the
front row most race weekends.
But as is often been the case when durability is sacrificed for speed,
there came more problems. In most cases the car would finish in the top five
or break while trying.
In 1961, Pearson entered 19 of the seasonís 52 events driving his #67
Chevrolet, Tony Lavatiís #66 Pontiac, and John Masoniís #3 Pontiac. Behind
the wheel of Masoniís Pontiac, Pearson won the World 600 at Charlotte, the
Firecracker 250 at Daytona, and the Dixie 400 at Atlanta. Pearson qualified
on the pole in the #3 Pontiac for the National 400 at Charlotte, but
finished 21st after having a fuel pump failure.
In 1962, Pearson competed in 12 events,
driving Ray Foxís #3 and #39 Pontiacs
In 1959, nobody had heard of drafting. Johnson said he discovered it
totally by accident in 1960. Johnson and crew chief Ray Fox were
about 22 mph slower than the top cars in the field. They kept trying to find
more speed but were failing.
While out on the track testing adjustments, a faster car passed Johnson.
As it happened, Johnson ducked in behind the faster car's bumper. He soon
realized he was able to keep up with the faster car, lap after lap.
''I figured out drafting dragged me along,'' Johnson said.
He went back to the garage. Fox thought he had found the extra
horsepower. Johnson didn't tell him of his slipstream discovery, in which he
only needed to run about two-thirds throttle when he was drafting. It saved
gas mileage and wear on a motor that really wasn't supposed to last 500
''When the race started, I started thumbing rides all day long,'' Johnson
``When the race was over with, I happened to be in right place to win
the story . . . .
As the start of the 1960 season neared,
Junior Johnson had no ride. Then
came a call from Ray Fox, a highly respected car builder/engineer/crew
chief based in Daytona Beach, Fla. He had a Chevy with sponsorship from John Masoni
through the Daytona Beach Kennel Club, the greyhound racing track he
owned near the first turn of the sprawling speedway. Fox needed a driver.
Was Junior interested? "I liked Ray, so I told him I'd come down and see
what we could do," says Junior. "It appeared that Pontiac had the best race
car, and several good drivers were in 'em, including Fireball (Roberts) and
Paul Goldsmith. I knew it was going to be a challenge."
As he expected, the Pontiacs were up to 30 mph faster than Junior in
practice. And they stayed faster in time trials ... Junior hinted for Fox to
get another driver. However, Fox demurred, vowing to improve his car's
speed. After a series of adjustments, Junior decided to try and run along
with a top Pontiac in practice. "Cotton Owens came by and I got behind him.
Right on his rear bumper. And I stayed right there! We came back to the
garage and Cotton walked over to me. 'Boy, you've sure got that thing to
running,' Cotton said. What he didn't know was that I had discovered the
aerodynamic draft at Daytona." ... "Once the race started, I got to the
Pontiacs ahead of me as fast as I could," continued Junior. "From then on I
did everything the Pontiac drivers did. If they pitted, I pitted." ...
Various problems began taking a toll on the Pontiacs ... Only the Pontiac of
Bobby Johns remained competitive, and Junior had track position on him.
However, the lapped Pontiac of Jack Smith gave Johns a tow and he passed
Junior for the lead on the 170th lap of the race's 200. "Then, coming off
the second turn with 10 laps to go ... the back glass popped out of Bobby's
car and flew into the air. I think our speed and the traffic circumstances
combined to create a vacuum that sucked that back glass right out." ...
Junior swept to the checkered flag 23 seconds ahead of Johns, who recovered
to finish as the runner-up. The immensely popular victory was the biggest of
Junior's great 50 win career.
February 26, 1965,
teamed up with Dodge and legendary engine builder and car owner Ray Fox to
set a new record at Daytona International Speedway. Driving a No. 3 Dodge
Coronet with a supercharged and fuel-injected 426-cubic-inch Hemi engine,
Yarbrough circled the fabled track at 181.818 mph. The pole winner for the
Daytona 500 two weeks earlier had lapped the track 10 miles an hour slower
at 171.151 mph.
Fox says Yarbrough could have set a faster time but track officials
black-flagged him when they thought he blew the engine. Yarbrough shut it
off between the third and fourth turn and coasted through the timing lights
when he said the record. What the officials actually saw, says Fox, was tire
Although the Chrysler teams were on the
sidelines for most of 1965, LeeRoy
Yarbrough made a special run against the
clock at Daytona International Speedway.
Driving a supercharged Dodge Coronet
prepared by Ray Fox, Yarbrough turned a
lap of 181.818 mph, establishing a new
closed-course record for stock cars.
Very unique shot of the famous 1965 Hemi Supercharged Dodge Coronet
looking west towards the old Seabreeze Bridge traffic circle at the
famous Ray Fox garages that once housed the Fish Car building
get any bigger or badder than this....
On pit road just before the record run
Leeroy Yarbrough has his head down saying a prayer....
Ray Fox and David Pearson in front of the Seabreeze - Ballough Road shop
with '62 Pontiac
Raymond Lee Fox, Sr. is the oldest living Pontiac NASCAR engine builder.
Starting in 1946 with a three-year career as a driver of NASCAR
Modifieds, Fox then turned his talents toward engine building in 1949.
"Smokey Yunick may have claimed to have had the best damn garage in
town, but I had the fastest damn garage in town!"-Ray Fox (2007)
In 1956, he received the NASCAR Mechanic of the Year award when he
achieved an incredible 22 First Place and 12 Second Place finishes out
of 34 races. By 1957, he had opened his own garage in Daytona Beach,
catering to auto racing. In 1960, he was approached by race car owner
John Masoni and hired to build-in seven days-what would become the '60
Daytona 500-winning Chevrolet driven by Junior Johnson.
Fox was a sly genius. The speed with which he was able to build
race-winning cars and engines earned him an infallible reputation. He
was recruited by Pontiac to join its list of stock car engine builders
for the '61 season, and his successes with the '61 No. 3 Pontiac
Catalina are documented in both this and the David Pearson interviews.
Meanwhile, Chevrolet and Chrysler had their eyes on Fox for their engine
programs. In 1963, he was one of several men hired, under top-secret
arrangements, to test Chevy's 427 "Mystery Motor," and from 1964 to
1966, Dodge's 426 Hemis for NASCAR. After a 13-year career as a NASCAR
team owner, from 1962 to 1974, and over 37,720 miles on his race cars,
he retired from the industry he helped build into a giant. From 1990 to
1996, he returned to auto racing as an employee of NASCAR, inspecting
its purpose-built motors for rule adherence.
Now over 93 years old, Fox is the president of the Living Legends of
Auto Racing Museum in Daytona Beach. He enjoys sharing his stories of
NASCAR's youngest days and preserving its history for generations to
come. High Performance Pontiac invited Mr. Fox to tell us about 1961,
his biggest season with Pontiac and a year when the word "Catalina"
meant stock car supremacy.
HPP: In 1960, your race car won the Daytona 500 with Junior
Johnson behind the wheel. Why did you move from Chevrolet to Pontiac in
Ray Fox: I got help from the Pontiac factory to build a Pontiac
NASCAR race car, and it supplied stock parts to me when needed.
HPP: What are your memories of your most successful season with
Pontiac race cars?
RF: I was the first engine builder to win three Superspeedway
races in one season (1961) and I did it with a Pontiac and David Pearson
as the driver: World 600 at Charlotte, Firecracker 250 at Daytona, and
Dixie 400 at Atlanta.
HPP: Who owned the race car? Were you its sponsor?
RF: The Daytona Beach Kennel Club owned it and sponsored it. I
built it for them.
HPP: Which Pontiac engine did it have?
RF: It had a Pontiac 389ci motor factory-rated at 368 hp.
HPP: Where did you build it?
RF: My crew and I built it at my shop in Daytona Beach.
HPP: How "stock" was the motor?
RF: It was a "stock" car from Pontiac, just like from the
factory. The engine had to be stock because that was the NASCAR rule. I
worked really hard on that engine, including changing the crankshaft
with a stock factory replacement right before the World 600 race.
HPP: Were there any secrets to your Pontiac No. 3 race car that
you can now reveal?
RF: I took the engine apart and saw the heads had thick gaskets.
I knew those would limit the engine's power, so I got some thin gaskets
Smokey Yunick had thrown away, and I put some copper wire on them to
keep them from blowing.
HPP: What happened to the No. 3 race car? Does it still exist?
RF: I'm not sure. I think it was sold to someone the next year.
That's what was usually done in those days. I'm almost sure it doesn't
exist anymore. The Living Legends of Auto Racing Museum in Daytona Beach
has a perfect replica of the original race car, built by my original
crew mechanic, Olin Hopes.
HPP: What was your toughest engine build for a Pontiac and why?
RF: All the engines were equally tough, but we had crankshaft
problems throughout 1961. That's why I had to change out the crankshaft
right before the Charlotte World 600.
HPP: What is your favorite Pontiac engine, the 389 or 421?
RF: My favorite Pontiac engine was the 389ci motor with 368
HPP: Did you ever race behind the wheel of a Pontiac?
RF: No. I just built them to win.
HPP: Are you still active in building engines?
RF: No. I'm over 93 years old, but I bet I probably could still
HPP: How may people learn more about your career?
RF: I don't personally have a Web site, but I am president of the
Living Legends of Auto Racing. We have a Web site, which is
www.livinglegendsofautoracing.com, or you can look me up on the
Internet or through the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in
Talladega, of which I am a member. I have a book out, Sly in the Stock
Car Forest by Godwin Kelly. It can be purchased by visiting the Living
Legends of Auto Racing Museum or calling them at (386) 763-4483.
Sly Old Fox - Nascar Legend Ray Fox - High Performance Pontiac Magazine
Ray Fox and David Pearson 50 years after winning three Superspeedway
races in one year. At the time tof the picture, Ray was a NASCAR engine
Help with this picture:
Ray Fox is running in the middle of these
men. Can you name them?
When was this picture?
1969 Dodge driven by Buddy Baker
Racing Trading Cards out of the Master of Racing Set
Replicar of the 1961 Pearson Pontiac on
display at the Living Legends of Racing show after parade at the old
drive-in movie theatre on A1A. Atlantic Ocean over the trees in the
background only a few miles from the old beach course. Built by Olin
David Pearson in Victory Lane after winning the '61 Charlotte race in a
Ray Fox Also teamed up
with Daytona's Marvin Panch
Marvin Panch and Ray Fox (2nd from L) in Victory Lane at LeHigh Memphis
Arkansas - .Marvin was driving for Herb Thomas and Ray was his mechanic.
Marvin driving Ray Fox's #3 Pontiac convertible in the May 6, 1961
Darlington "Rebel 300"
Ray Fox prepared Pontiac Marvin drove at Atlanta International Raceway
Birthday Boys Through The Years
Reason to celebrate
By GODWIN KELLY June 01, 2008
Way back when, two of Daytona Beach's most celebrated sports figures,
Ray Fox and Marvin Panch, would collect their families and enjoy a dual
Fox, then an up-and-coming racing mechanic, and Panch, a NASCAR
driver-for-hire, share the same birthday, May 28.
The kids would run through the playground area at Welch Park, and
their fathers would do some bench racing (swapping race stories) around
a picnic table.
"We've done this (birthday party) for many years," said Fox,
surrounded by well-wishers.
(Left) 1960 Birthday Celebration at Welch Park in Daytona Beach, FL
Check out the
(Above) Birthday at the Living Legends of Auto Racing in 2005
(L)At the LLOAR in 2008
(Above)At Ruby Duch's Birthday 2009
Marvin and Ray at the Pancho Rancho
What does Marvin
Panch remember the most about Ray Fox? Fast cars and .....
THE HOT TEMPER
"He was hot-tempered," Panch laughed. "But he had good, fast
Fox admits he was temperamental during his many years of competition.
During a typical outburst, he yelled at his shop rats and tossed
wrenches through windows and doors.
He even had a fistfight with an employee, Olin Hopes, that started in
the parking lot of Fox Engineering and ended up in a garage bay.
Ray Fox Jr. and another employee watched in amusement as the two men
exchanged blow after blow.
In the Ray Fox biography, Hopes remembers Ray Jr. shouting, "Hit him
for me, Olin! Hit him for me!"
On Saturday, it was cake hitting plates as Fox and Panch renewed their
birthday tradition, sharing the day with family and friends at the
Living Legends of Auto Racing Museum in South Daytona.
Fox turned 92, and has mellowed quite a bit. Panch is 82, and still
enjoys life to the fullest.
Cale Yarborough also drove for Ray Fox
Notice the sponsor .... WOOLCO!
Leeroy Yarbrough in a Fox '67 (?) Chevy
G. C, Spencer also drove a second car, the #03, for Ray Fox
Walt Keller of Daytona
Beach with his well prepared Fox replicar
Copyright © 2003
by Roland Via. All rights reserved. Revised:
01/19/13 21:41:11 -0500.
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