Have you ever heard the expression “the real McCoy”? Of course you have! Well it actually comes from racer Bob McCoy. He was an artist and a race car driver and we are lucky to have some of his art on display at the museum.
In spite of early evidence of his artistic talent, Bob McCoy’s racing career began in earnest several years before it should have – a head start, so to speak. Bob McCoy’s entered into racing in San Diego in the early ‘50s. The Prowlers car club used to hang out at Pop Miller’s Seaside Service when McCoy was only fourteen years old. He would come by to check out what was happening. He would say “I’m gonna drive a jalopy” as jalopy racing was pretty big at the time. So at that young age, even when the minimum racing age was eighteen, McCoy started racing jalopies. His first car he ever drove in a race was a Model A Tudor. Eventually he was found out to be too young but not before he had a good taste of rough and tumble dirt track racing and he was hooked! That planted the seeds of his on-track racing personality that has followed him through his career into present day for vintage oval track racing. That was not the first time he was caught for being too young to race. The second time was when he was nineteen racing midgets. At the time drivers had to be twenty-one and he wasn’t yet. He was told he had to wait two years. He took a little break, but it wasn’t a 2 year break and he came back shortly after and no one noticed he was still too young.
McCoy was a self-described aggressive driver. Some people confused his driving style with being reckless, which is a description that has often been used to describe McCoy’s racing style. However, we know he was not because being “reckless” does not win races, and McCoy was surely a winner in the United Racing Association (URA) as the driver of two cars. It’s been said that McCoy’s favorite car was a 1950 Kurtis-Kraft midget owned by Lee Cook. The Offy-powered rascal has its own good history with a driver log that includes A. J. Foyt and Mario Andretti. His second ride was a mid-‘60s Kurtis-style Champ car motivated by a roller-crank Wayne-Chevy inliner, which was owned by Canadian, Ron Douglas. Although both cars were the same color and has the same distinct graphics scheme, McCoy says it was purely coincidental. His midget racing career followed high school and gave him the experience he needed to transition to spring cars. It was there he honed his racing skills and aggressive style. McCoy frequently won main events through the West and quite often beat some of the best dirt track talent in the country. Back then sprint cars were considered the accepted path to Indianapolis and he got his shot in 1967. However he didn’t get to race because just weeks before a terrible sprint car crash left im in a coma. Recovery was difficult but he did and returned to sprint car racing until he finally retired in 1977.
It was after he retired that McCoy fell back on his artistic ability full time with a sign business he had started in the mid-‘60s. In the mid-‘80s he began painting commissioned portraits of friends’ race cars and hot rods. His commission work was so popular that in the last years he didn’t’ have time for his sign business. His original paintings would sell for anywhere from $1,000 to as much as $5,000. He would also build scale models and sculptures of famous seminal oval track race cars.
Bob McCoy died at the age of 77. His unique artwork consumed the second half of his life. It was a passion he took with him until his last days. His racing experiences shaped his art for sure. He once said “whenever I draw a scene from an early ‘60s dirt track race, as soon as I’m done, I feel as though I’ve run the entire race myself”. On loan from the Stroud Family collection is an extensive display of Bob McCoy’s artistic work.