~WILLIE WUST~
Article Pubished in Vol.38 #1 of Gater Racing News 1/10/03 By Jeff Ackerman
Bill Brunschmidt #0 at Wusts
William ‘Willie’ Wust’s life started in Mexico in 1923 after
his family moved there to find work in the mines. His
family was German and had owned a farm in Canada but
at the outset of WWI, Canadian policy reclaimed all lands
from German descendants forcing the Wust’s to look
elsewhere for work. The family returned to the area later
and started another farm in the South New Berlin area
where Willie worked with draft horses until they could
afford their first tractor, a Farmall. Willie used the Farmall
to combine oats for others in order to make some
spending money and must have preferred mechanics to
horses as he never looked back. In the 1940’s he moved to
the town of Edmeston where he built and started a
sawmill and then shortly afterwards, a garage located on
Route 80 next to the Wharton Creek. He acquired a
bulldozer for his logging purposes and then began doing
excavation work as well. Summers were filled with
excavation, winters with logging and his garage buzzed
with mechanical work. Willie worked hard, extremely hard
and it only stands to reason that a man who worked so
hard would want to play hard as well. And he did.
Willie took up the sport of Auto racing in 1948 when he
and Willie Brunschmidt fielded a Plymouth Coupe at
Brookfield, Richfield Springs and Smyrna. Brunschmidt
was a capable and aggressive driver in an era where
toughness was a pre-requisite and Wust honed his
mechanical skills as the team became a force on the track.
Once the Plymouth was used up, Willie purchased a ’34
Ford 3-window coupe from a very young Richard ‘Otto’
Graham for 10 bucks, placed the number 0 on the side
and continued winning races at the gritty local tracks.
Only Brunschmidts’ bad fortune in an accident (in which
he lost several teeth) could slow the team as he decided to
hang up his helmet. Undeterred, Wust picked up the
pieces and continued racing with drivers Nelson
Harrington of Edmeston and then a grown Otto Graham.
As many as three cars at a time were housed in the Wust
garage as many locals flocked to the hub searching out
their dreams of holding a checkered at the races. In the
mid to late 1950’s, a group of young men from New Berlin
joined Wust in Edmeston to form what was to be his best
teams. Gene Cole, a cocky, smooth driver, Mark Enman,
mechanic extrodinaire, and Richard Ackerman, jack of all
trades, brought their experience from Lou Hills garage in
New Berlin with them to join Willie in building the #43, a
’35 Ford coupe which won more than it lost. Housed at one
time with a huge four and three eighths by three and
three eighths flathead with an Isky 404, the team was
unbeatable. It’s only loss came when, after winning the
Brookfield Fair the night before, it, as Willie put it ‘tossed
it’s cookies’ at Morris. The team found much success,
including a track championship at Brookfield, until a late
season attempt at Lebanon Valley landed Gene off the
first turn embankment and into the Pittsfield (Mass.)
hospital.
In 1959 the crew then built their last and most famous
flathead car. A 1934 Ford 5-window (the last coupe
retrieved from Sugarman’s salvage yard in Richfield
Springs) also numbered #43 for Cole. Gene, still
recovering from his injuries, declined to drive it and so
Willie secured the services of Kurzon ‘Moose’ Carey, a
veteran of both the Brookfield and Morris tracks the team
competed at. Moose was as tough a driver as Willie was a
mechanic and the team won so often a bounty was offered
one season at Morris to any outsider who could come in
and beat them, ( I believe Gordy Smith finally did it with
Hudson power). The now renamed ‘Mouseville Monster’,
(an Otto Graham moniker aimed at Moose’s driving style)
was tough competition for the locals through 1964 (with
track championships at Midstate in ’62 & ’63) and even
had a chance at Syracuse in ’63 with pole position in the
first heat and running within a second of Kotary. Willie
revered Kotary as did most at the time and naturally
wanted to best him but it was not to be that day as a spun
rod ended the Monster’s chances. Willie related to me
once that he had asked Cliff what cam he used, Cliff
responded, “Ahh, that’ll cost you many peso’s” and Willie
just laughed as he spinned the yard. Mid-way thru the ’64
season at Midstate (Morris) the track inexplicably allowed
the OHV V8’s into the track in an effort to attract the 5
Mile Point cars to the track. This after adopting Waterloo
(State Fair) rules which limited the flatheads to 280 cubes.
The Wust crew dug in and doggedly attempted to beat the
overheads on a track that, with long straights and tight
corners, favored the overheads. The last good flathead
finally imploded with Moose leading a fast, crude Crossley
bodied corvette powered #16 car driven by Stan Lupka
into turn one. My father figured the engine blew and then
Stan hit Moose, Moose saw it the other way around and
promptly smoked Stan as he pulled alongside the Monster
to see if Moose was ok, resulting in a broken jaw for the
Point driver. The team finished off the season with chevy in
the Monster, an arrangement that was short lived,
unsuccessful and not discussed, much.
During the off season, the team built their first, and last,
sportsman type car, a 1937 Ford coupe on a truck frame
with a 289 Ford for power. Numbered ‘88’ for Moose, the
car was a top runner at Midstate and on occasion, 5 Mile
Point. By this time though, racing was starting to get
expensive and the cost of staying in front of the likes of
Joe Donahue, Pete Cordes, Gordy Smith, and Chuck
Akulis was beginning to strain the team. Although the
team was still winning, the pressures and demands of
raising families and running businesses was too much to
keep the car going. A trip to Rutland, Vt. where the newly
chromed crank journals wadded up in the bearings was
the deathknoll of the 88 and Willie sold the car to friend
Rudy Schlaefer at the conclusion of the ’67 season. Willies
garage, which had housed at least one stock car for the
past 20 season’s sat silent without one until son Sidney
started racing late models a few years later.
Willie was so much more than a car owner / mechanic. He
was as chiseled from granite, stout with a jutting jaw,
cragged nose, ice blue eyes and a quick disarming smile
that belied his toughness. He was clever and used what
was at hand to complete a task, in perfect tune with the
racing of that time. Take what you have and make it do
what you want. Needing a cam for one of Otto’s engines,
Otto related Willie took to the bench grinder. Otto said it
was better than stock although no 404, still, pretty
amazing that he could do that at all. Having seen some of
his work in engines I can attest that he was, at times,
crude yet his equipment rarely broke and won often at the
gritty Brookfield and Morris tracks where engines had no
difficulty breaking in (or for that matter, breaking) if you
know what I mean. He was generous to a fault, I wouldn’t
be surprised if the term “He’d give you the shirt off his
back” was first said of Willie. Local racers often
congregated and scrounged at Wust’s garage, but only if
they were seeking Ford parts. And if they were, they
usually left with what they needed. He loved nothing more
more than trimming a chevy and was good at doing it.
“Anyone can make a chevy run” he said, “it takes brains to
make a ford run.” I can see him smiling now.
As I said before, he was an extremely hard worker. Willie
ran farm equipment, dozers, and dump trucks his entire
adult life. When he wasn’t running them he was
wrenching on them and did so until he no longer could.
He raised five sons who are no less locally famous
themselves, if you could have ever seen Sid throw a
bowling ball half way down the lane or watch them run
around the yard in the continental powered doodlebug
43jr. with their hair straight back, you’d know what I
mean. Willie didn’t have it easy, his down to earth good
naturedness and sense of humor served him well. He was
so tough, I remember seeing him on the road one day
driving a dump truck, the windshield was knocked out of
it and it was a bitterly cold day. Willies blue eyes shone
with moisture as he passed us, he once had painted
‘quitcherbeliakin’ on the side of the 43, Willie didn’t bitch,
he worked and didn’t let anything stop him.
He loved racing, it was his hobby and passion. Very
competitive, even years later when I saw him at Card’s
Auto Parts in New Berlin he related, “you know, we’d have
won a lot more races if we didn’t have a 500 lb. driver”
with a grin, he was still thinking about it. I’m sure he
wished he could have continued, and he still had it too.
When we re-built the Mouseville Monster in 1983 for use
in this club, he was interested and showed up at the
Brookfield Wheel Days one year to root us on. The 43
wasn’t running up to snuff in the heat and so down he
came from the stands. I remember Dad sweating as Willie
had the stromberg 97’s apart, setting the floats about 10
minutes before the race. He got them together in time and
Dad went out and won the feature. It came easy to Willie.
Fairly accurate to say that nearly all who aspired to race in
the local area spent time under his tutelage and that
includes a lot of racers. For me, as a young boy, I loved
going to Willies with my father, that was ‘IT’ for me. Moose
was the driver that could do no wrong, I don’t care how
many frontends he bent and Willie was the man with the
magic wand that made the 88 go. I remember him picking
me up (with the 88 on the trailer) and putting me on the
crashguard. Telling me to hang on as he fired up the 289,
he revved it up for me, his face lighting up as he jabbed at
the carburetor. I was in heaven and hooked for life. They
put a milkcrate down for me once at Midstate and Moose
told me to keep my head down and watch the gauges, I
kept my eye on them not knowing why as he wheeled me
around during warmups. Don’t know if we ever even left
the pits but I never forgot. I never heard him say a bad
word of anyone, not have I ever heard a bad word spoken of
him. He gave to his hobby as he gave to life, happily and
totally. Many a young man with dreams of holding a
checkered flag were indebted to Willie, as were we. My
father learned from Willie, I learned from my father, he was
our mentor and a finer one we couldn’t have had. When we
became interested in racing again with the advent of this
club, Willie was more than happy to let us scrounge parts
and gave them smiling hoping we'd beat some chevy's,
nothing got better for him than taking an underdog Ford
into battle and winning. When Pop Wilcox and Jerry
Townley showed up at Midstate (a rarity) with their ’37
Chevy from Fonda, Willie laid down the gauntlet to Moose
“I don’t care if you f%$$#@! blow it, don’t let that 32 get
you.” Were Mooses instructions. Wilcox’s car was housed in
New Berlin and the local ‘hot’ Fonda competitor but
Midstate was Moose’s track and he held off the 327 in
thrilling fashion as I recall. Willie was happy that day for
sure. The last happy day that I happened to see him was at
West Winfield a few years back when he was inducted into
the Old Timers Hall of Fame as a ‘Pioneer’ award winner.
His Parkinson’s was taking over but he sat and ate with us,
smiled and talked, happy to be amongst friends and racing
buddies again. A good day, he was the kind of guy that
made you feel good just being around him.Larger than life,
strong, tough, honest, good natured and full of humor,
Willie dared and lived as only we can hope to. Willie
suffered through poor health his last few years until being
released from it on December 20th, 2002. In my book,
there was no better person than Willie Wust, and I’m sure
many who knew him would agree. Godspeed Willie and
thanks. Jeff Ackerman, 6256 State Route 17C, Endicott,
NY 13760.  
Bill Brunschmidt at Little Falls, NY
Otto Graham #0 at Wusts
Gene Cole #43,
Photo from Coupes & Coaches Website
Bounty Car
Photo from Coupes & Coaches Website
Moose Cary @ Midstate, Don Phoenix Photo
1962 Midstate Champ, Willie, Mark Enman & Moose Cary
Photo from Coupes & Coaches Website
Moose Cary
Don Phoenix Photo
Moose with Checkered Flag, Midstate Speedway,1962
Don Phoenix Photo
Willy Wust's #88
Jerry Townley #32
Moose with Checkered, Midstate Speedway, 1965
Moose at Wust's 1967
Richard Ackerman with checkered, Brookfield, 1986
Willie Wust on his dozer with friend
Willie & Gene Cole, Photo taken by Richard Ackerman