DENVER — Retired Rocky Mountain Midget Racing Ass’n car owner and 2013 Colorado Motorsports Hall of Fame inductee Bob Olds has died at age 86.
Olds was born in 1927 in Denver. At age 13, while on his paper route in Park Hill, he was invited into Buddy Martinson’s garage to polish wheels and clean his midget racer. He did such a good job that the crew even snuck him into the pits at Gilmore for Turkey Night.
Olds attended East High School and bought a 31 Model A Roadster for $120, took off the fenders, and started drag racing all over town, including timing and speed trials at Lowry Field and old Tower Road, which is why he is a charter member of the Denver Timing Association.
He continued drag racing until joining the Army in 1945 and when on leave he would help Harry Duff and Bob Van Buskirk work on their midgets. In 1946, he bought a Ford roadster (an old Pikes Peak car) and raced it at Englewood Speedway for a few years.
Starting in the late 1940s and into the 1960s, Bob travelled to races all over the country and worked on pit crews with 1948 national midget champion, Johnny Tolan, and local drivers Joe Giba and Buddy Shay.
In the early 1950s, Olds took his 32 Ford Coupe with a blown Flathead to Bonneville and turned 107 mph, but wanted to go faster, so Bill Kenz loaned him some wheels and tires and he got up to 112 mph.
While there, he met Tom Beatty and helped him work on his belly tanker. Doing him a favor, Tom let Bob drive his car on the trip out where he turned 186 mph, and Tom did the return trip and ran 192 mph. Bob never lifted and was puzzled by his slower speed so Tom finally told him that he had a headwind and it wasn’t his fault.
He also worked on Leo Dobry’s pit crew for Indy style cars at Centennial Racetrack, and on the Pikes Peak car of Bus Hammond, who won there in 1953. During the month of May each year from 1959-1965, Bob went to Indianapolis, Indiana.
Doing whatever he could to help his friend and car owner, Myron “Buz” Osborn, Olds was on the pit crew, and was also the body and paint man for numerous cars including the Radsco Battery Cable Special, the Myron Osborn Special, the Greenman-Casale Offy, the Denver Chicago Special (Watson-Offy), cars sponsored by Denver Chicago Trucking, White Spot Restaurant, Apache Airlines laydown Offy, and, the Wilbur Clark rear-engine Offy.
From the early 1970s through the 1980s, Olds had many celebrated Colorado drivers in his midget racers, including: Sammy Sauer, Jim Beckley, Don Wilson, Gene Pastor, and Frank Mantello. Because Olds’ cars were clean, competitive, and considered first class rides, he also had several notable, national champion drivers, including: Bob Olivero, Sleepy Tripp, Larry Rice, Bob Wente, Lonnie Caruthers, Doug Wolfgang, Steve Cannon and Danny McKnight.
Olds is survived his wife Bonnie and five children.