72 year-old W. W. Brown, of Raytown, MO., was a true pioneer in many aspects of the sport of auto racing. He was born at Dodge City, KS (although one source says Colorado) and raised by his step-mother, Druzella Jane "Jennie" (Burbank) Brown. W.W. Brown moved to the Kansas City area while he was still a young man.
W. W. Brown was married first on October 27, 1909 at Delta, CO to Iva Mae Brown. He was married second on June 30, 1924 in Jackson Co., MO to Alma Martha Mutch. She proceeded him in death and he was married third on January 12, 1956 in Kansas City, Missouri to Grace Irene Witzling.
It is unknown just when Brown started his racing career but he was employed as a mechanican by the Jackson, MI based Buick factory racing team as early as 1908. He is known to have competed as a driver in races at Winfield, KS in 1912; at Belleville, KS in 1913; at Des Moines Speedway in 1915; at Meridian Speedway in Wichita, KS in 1921, and there were probably several others.
A man of many nicknames, Brown was known as "Brownie" to his friends, although he went by "Bill" in his later years. He used his initials when he signed his name so he appears as
"W. W. Brown" on most entry lists and racing results. The press dubbed him "Cockeye Brown" due to the way he turned his head and appeared to be looking to the right while racing although he was actually looking straight ahead, a quirk that made some of his competitors rather nervous.
By 1912, Brown had salvaged a Buick Model "35" passenger car that had been damaged in a Kansas City garage fire. The 2,100 pound vehicle had a 101.7 inch wheelbase and was powered by a 165 cu. in. 4-cylinder engine. With the help of his brother, Ben; and a partner, James Cox; Brown rebuilt the car and campaigned it successfully on Midwestern dirt racetracks.
The following year, Brown was claiming St. Louis as his home when he toured the Midwestern racing circuit and worked in a publicity appearance for Buick at Pikes Peak. After driving his Model "35" nicknamed "Bear Cat" to the summit "without the aid of horses", he continued on up the steps of the Summit House in order to reach the highest possible point on the mountain.
By 1915, Brown had switched to driving a DuChesneau, a car that he entered in the Indianapolis "500" but he failed to qualify for the race that year.
By 1919, Brown had returned to Kansas City and taken a ride in a Hudson that had been built by Riley Brett for Kansas City oilman C. L. Richards. Brown qualified 17th for the Indianapolis "500" that year but only lasted 14 laps before the engine gave up a rod. The effort garnered him a 32nd place finish in the official results.
Another of Brown's adventures that year was to take one of his racing cars to Santa Monica, CA to appear in the movie "Roaring Road" staring Wallace Reid. Brown undoubtedly drove the car for the movie sequences as well.
He also assisted Riley Brett and Cotton Henning in building a new 181-cubic-inch, dual overhead cam, 24-valve, 6-cylinder engine for C. L. Richards' entry in the 1920 Indianapolis "500" with John Boling as driver. Starting 14th, Boling brought the car home in 11th place, one lap behind winner Gaston Chevrolet. The success of that venture prompted Richards to commission Brown and the others to build a second engine. The two engines were installed in new Miller chassis for the 1921 Indianapolis "500". The two cars were named the "Junior Specials" after the son of the official car owner, another Kansas City oilman, George L. Wade. Both cars were involved in crashes during the race and did not finish.
Brown campaigned a "Peerless 8" on Midwestern racetracks in 1921 but he had found his niche building those engines for the "Junior Specials". In 1923, he opened Brown's Machine Works at 127-129 Southwest Blvd. in Kansas City, MO. It was one of the most complete machine shops anywhere with the capability of building complete cars and even engines from the basic raw materials. One of the cars he built was a street-legal, two-seat "Indy" type car that he dubbed the "Straight 8 Special". Brown also designed several precision tools and machines used in his company.
When Lakeside Speedway opened in Kansas City in 1955, Brown and his old friend, Tudy Gulotta, were appointed the official technical committee for races run there sanctioned by AAA. By then, ads for his machine shop boasted "$45,000 worth of new precision equipment to handle your machine work quickly and economically". Brown had designed much of that equipment himself.
Brown never lost his love for speed, once being stopped on the Kansas Turnpike for driving well in excess of 100 m.p.h. though he was nearly 70 years old at the time.
Brown was a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers, the Christian Businessmen's Committee, the Gideon Society, and the First Church of the Nazarene.
W. W. Brown was a resident of the Kansas City suburb of Raytown when he passed away on June 14, 1958. He was married but had no children. He, and his wife, Grace, are buried side-by-side in Memorial Park Cemetery in Kansas City, MO.
W. W. Brown was survived by his widow,Grace Irene Brown of the home; a niece, Esther Louise (Mrs. Ralph W.) Burke of Gashland, MO.; and a nephew, Roy Doty of Overland Park, KS.
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