Jack Williams remembers vividly the last time he crashed his drag racer, in Freemont, Calif.
The Aldergrove auto specialist was speeding along when the parachute of his blue racer, the hand-built Syndicate Scuderia, failed to open.
There was a short road leading off the end of the track.
"I went for that," said Williams, who had just split seconds to make his decision.
"I didn't even try to turn. I was going too fast, eh?" he said.
The Scuderia missed the safety net, tore through a fence, and crashed into an industrial area on the other side.
The car, built up almost from scratch by Williams in the 1950s, was a wreck, and Williams was pretty banged up.
That was the 1980s, and Williams had been racing since the late 1940s, when he was a teen in car-crazy, post-war Vancouver and Burnaby.
Despite the crash, he wasn't done with the car, with racing, or with his lifelong love of big engines and burning rubber.
The Scuderia, which raced at the Winternationals in Pomona, Calif in the 1950s, won best appearing car, and set records at Arlington Speedway, wasn't dead yet.
Today, the rebuilt Syndicate Scuderia sits in the informal car museum set up by Williams and his family in the 26800 block of Fraser Highway in Aldergrove.
The back area of the commercial garage is filled with tools, including those Williams has used for decades to custom-make his own parts.
In the front, there are cars, engines, and memorabilia collected over a lifetime.
Williams drove steadily until he was in his 60s.
"The last time I run was on my 70th birthday," he remembered.
Williams caught the car bug as a youngster in post Second World War Vancouver. Everyone was into cars and hot rods in those days, he said.
His first race was in 1947, Williams remembered.
"I didn't win anything," he said of his first race, "but I think I went 21 seconds. The quickest was about 18."
Still, he'd caught the racing bug.
"The acceleration," he said of his reasons for racing. "It's just a rush you get from it, you know."
He did a bit of circle track racing, but stuck mostly to quarter miles. He went out to all the old tracks, including the Langley Speedway during its heydey in the 1960s and 1970s.
For a time, he held a North American speed record of 168.22 mph on a quarter mile from a dead stop.
He also ran his own shop in Vancouver and Burnaby from the 1950s on, mostly building engines.
About a year ago, as he was getting ready to sell his shop in Burnaby, he was looking for somewhere to keep his many cars - Jack and other family members own about 25 cars.
"I was driving down Fraser Highway and saw this place," Jack said.
The cars in the shop include a 1936 Ford Phaeton and a Baracuda with just 387 miles on its odometer. It's only been driven a quarter mile at a time.
There's also the drag racing motorcycle that Williams worked on in the 1950s, not to mention numerous engines ranging in size from small to massive.
The Williams family is planning to be at the Langley Good Times Cruise-In this year, with the Scuderia and another bright yellow dragster that his son has been driving. They'll be with their bright yellow and blue rides for most of the day next weekend. Williams is an inductee of the Greater Vancouver Motorsport Pioneers Society.
@ Copyright 2013