Emil Lloyd "Buzzie"
Reutimann was born in Dade City, Florida, just north of Zephyrhills on
May 7, 1941. Since his house was adjacent to the Zephyrhills Auto
company, I'm sure that his father and mother, Agnes, had problems
keeping the toddler out of the garage. The nickname,
"Buzzie", could easily have been conjured up as the youngster would play
with toy cars around the house and garage. Actually, he got the name
while in the hospital as the nurses heard the baby making buzzing noises
and called the infant "Buzzie".
Time passed and Buzzie
witnessed his father's progress in racing. He remembers going to the
one half mile Fair Ground track with his family and Dad disappearing
only to be seen in the line-up in a flat-head powered sprinter. When
Buzzie was 13, he told his father that he wanted to race, so Mr.
Reutimann told him to build a car. He pulled a 1939 Ford coupe out of
the junk yard to be his first racer. The original engine wasn't any
good so he found a Sears and Roebuck rebuilt engine to replace the
original. The interior of the car was stripped, a roll bar added,
bumpers welded on and the number B-00 painted on the original black
paint of the old Ford. B-00 was for Buzzie's
00, but we called it the "boo" car.
Lowell Steve was the shop foreman at the Chevrolet garage and helped
Buzzie with the car and raced it a few times to get it set up. Then, at
the one fourth mile dirt track in Lakeland called the Silver Dollar
Speedway, Buzzie got in the car, started seventh and finished fifth. A
very winded Buzzie got out of the car and sat on a rear wheel until he
could catch his breath. He finished the season with the 'boo' car, but
during the off season, Mr. Reutimann purchased a racer with a used up
body, but with a Canadian block flat head that was hot. From then on,
the 'boo' car was a front runner. Mr. Reutimann's strategy was to have
Buzzie drive an under-powered car to develop Buzzie's skills and now it
was time to add the power and help him to be competitive.
We towed the car to the
races with the "shop coupe" which was a 1938 Chevrolet coupe with a
pick-up type floor where the trunk used to be. This coupe was used to
pick up parts and run errands at the garage. Even though we were too
young for a driver's license, we drove it all over and never got
As competition became more
even, the modified class that Mr. Reutimann drove began to go with
lighter cars. To meet the challenge, Mr. Reutimann built a new frame
from scratch utilizing a cross spring Ford front end and a quick change
rear end to go with a very nice '35 Chevy coupe body and a stroked 283
Chevy engine. This made Dad's old '35 available for Buzzie to use as
his Sportsman. The sportsman class could be flat-head Fords or any
in-line 6 or 8 cylinder, but only one carburetor was allowed. Since Mr.
Reutimann had tons of experience and success with Chevy 6's it was
logical for Buzzie to use a 261 cu. in. truck engine of 1954 or later
model to get the full oil system and insert rod bearings. The block was
bored to 283 cu. in. and a roller tappet cam from Harmon Collins was
used. The other goodies were Cadillac valves, pop-up pistons, balanced
assemble, home made exhaust headers and an "enlarged" intake manifold
with a Stromburg WW carburetor. This would be the car that was
virtually unbeatable in the Sportsman ranks and competitive against many
The first time out was a
500 lap race at Eau Gallie, a one forth mile paved track. Mr.
drove the first 250 laps and Buzzie finished the race. The
00 car was 32 laps ahead of
the second place car when the checker fell. We affectionately called
the car a small "Sherman Tank". The frame was fish plated and the front
end, rear end and transmission was Chevy truck. The only problems we
ever had was if we put to much "pop" in the alcohol in order to beat a
modified in a match race and burned a piston or if we got hit hard on
one of the front wheels and sheared a spring centering bolt. The car
took Buzzie through the late 50's and into the early 60's.
The Reutimann mystique
features several major characteristics:
The cars were clean,
well built and well maintained
The cars usually
finished the race and had very little mechanical problems
The drivers had an
uncanny ability to stay out of trouble by seeing the problem develop and
avoiding it. They had great reactions.
Innovative ideas where
used to be more competitive.
The drivers were cool
and unflappable and never appeared nervous.
Buzzie has many of the
characteristics of his father. He is an excellent mechanic and
fabricator and is a cool driver who has the uncanny ability to stay out
After we graduated from
high school in 1959, Buzzie was very involved in racing while my parents
insisted that I go to college. I was able to hitch hike home on many
weekends and go to the races Friday and Saturday nights, work in the
garage on Saturday and then catch the bus back to school with food money
in my pocket on Sunday. After a year of the activity, it was necessary
to stay at school so my direct contact with Buzzie was lost, but Mom
would send me news clippings and keep me up-to-date.
history after leaving Zephyrhills to race in the northeast is well
documented in magazine articles and in the information in the Hall of
Fame. This web-site, for example, lists Buzzie's accomplishments that
include Orange County Fair Speedway, Nazareth, East Windsor, and the New
York State Fairgrounds. Buzzie's induction into the Dirt Motorsports
Hall of Fame in 1997 is well documented in the Special Edition of "Dirt
Trackin' Magazine '97." His accomplishments at Reading, Five Mile
Point, Islip and Syracuse as well as the tracks listed before are
mentioned. The injury in 1985 was scary to say the least. To see
with the "halo" brace fastened to his head unnerved me but he smiled and
talked just like old times and that made me feel more at ease. After
his recovery, he went on to race well locally and on the northern
circuit finally putting his stamp on the 1995 Can-Am speedway Pabst
Shootout winner list. My little sister tells of going to a Tampa track
with her husband and cheering Buzzie on while some fans around them
talked about Buzzie being over the hill. Little sister just sat back
and said "watch him". One by one from the back of the field, Buzzie
picked off the competition and won the race. At this writing, Buzzie is
almost 59 years old and is still competitive at his most recent events
at East Bay in Tampa.
To say that Buzzie is a
great driver and mechanic/engineer is an understatement. The side of
the man I want to focus on is the person, Buzzie Reutimann. In high
school he was friendly, but quiet and unassuming. He never bragged or
changed his demeanor even though he was very successful by the end of
high school. Magazine articles say such things as friendly, loved by a
legion of fans, most popular, respected, highest regard, admiration and
well liked. To realize the extent of his popularity has come home to
me. My racing buddy, Herb, is a Reutimann fan from New York who retired
to South Carolina. Herb watched Buzzie at many of the tracks up north.
Now as we go to the tracks where Buzzie and son, David compete, it is
normal to meet someone in the stands who was a Buzzie fan in Florida or
up north. We even met one of Will Cagle's crew who had come to a Slim
Jim All Pro race to watch a third generation Reutimann compete.
One of the finest articles
about Buzzie Reutimann, the person, was written by Todd Drew in
"Trackside" in November of 1996. The article is entitled "Elements of
Style". Mr. Drew describes an evening at Rolling Wheels Raceway when he
was a small boy standing beside the fence before a race next to a blue
and white coupe number "00".
A driver named Buzzie Reutimann talked to him and make a difference in
the boy's life. Buzzie has certainly lived up the slogan on his racers
as he continues to "Go First Class".
Buzzie also has a sense of
humor that many fans may not know about. For example, he used to paint
the front springs on his modified different colors each week to keep his
competition guessing. He has been heard to say, when someone chides
him, that they shouldn't talk to a "legend" like that. Or quietly
telling the crew to wear their team shirts since he had spent a lot of
time washing and ironing them. You have to be quick to hear some of his
humor because most of the time he is absorbed in his business: thinking
- planning - trying something different - sounds like his Dad, doesn't
I have asked Buzzie a
number of times who he thought was the greatest driver he had driven
against. As you might expect, he will not pick a person, but will name
many drivers as great. Names like Cagle, Balough, Tasnady, Schneider,
and Tobias just to mention a few. Buzzie will admit, however, that his
toughest race was a flag to flag, side by side battle with Will Cagle at
the Eastern States 200 in 1972.
Buzzie has a great deal of
admiration and respect for his only son, David. He told me a few years
ago that David is better then "the old man" was (meaning Buzzie's dad).
In his own modest way, he won't compare himself to his son or his father
or any other driver for that matter. Maybe one of the reasons Buzzie
has been so well liked is that he doesn't have a macho or attitude
Thankfully, the last
chapters in Buzzie's book have not been written. While he is
concentrating on David's career and team, it is refreshing to see that
he still wants to drive and compete. Those of us who have known him
most of his life wish him well no matter what the future holds. Of
course, I would like to see him progress and use his skills and
abilities to help David continue to advance to higher levels of NASCAR
of whatever circuit they wish to race. The family is quality - first
"The Tradition Continues"