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Rest In Peace: Bill Tanner, 1933-2005
If you grew up in the South and were any type of drag racing fan, you know the name Bill Tanner. Sadly, Bill succumbed to cancer at 2 AM February 24. Services will be held Saturday, the 26th, at Memorial Park South, in Flowery Branch, Georgia, 770-967-5555.
Bill was the South's premier Mopar racer, beginning with a slant six Lancer. His 413 '62 "Ramcharger" was virtually unbeatable until the Hemi came along. He briefly campaigned a rare 1966 "D" Dart, named the "Lil Ramcharger", while assisting Larry Lawrence on his former Ramcharger owned '65 Hemi Dodge.
Billy Aiken, owner of Atlanta's Lenox Dodge, helped Bill acquire an original 1968 Hurst built Hemi Dart, one of only 70 ever built. Bill literally "earned a living" with this SS/AA car from 1968 thru 1970, often racing 3 nites a week. This was an era of racing we'll never experience again, and Bill was at the "top of the heap".
In 1970 he was awarded an Eastern version of the Dodge Safety and Performance clinic from Chrysler, which was already represented by the 2 Plymouth teams of Sox and Martin and Don Grotheer, plus Dick Landy's Dodge from the west coast.
Bill was an awesome mechanic, great driver and competitor and a true "racer". He was just a "good ol' Southern Boy" who earned a living doing what he loved, and was great at. He is survived by his wife Katie.
Southern "racing roots" has lost one of it's founders and stars. He taught me all I know.
I had seen Bill at several tracks around the north Georgia area but had never really gotten to know him till one day at Dallas Dragway when he had the '65 Dodge he was running along with Larry Lawrence. He was having a devil of a time with the Hilborn injectors. The car would start and then immediately go dead. I walked up and watched him for a while and offered a suggestion that the supply and return lines to the main injector block were crossed. (I was about 19 or 20 years old at the time) he immediately told me that there was no @$#%&* way and how the Hell would I know that anyway. I told him that I tuned Bunky Bobo's A Gasser, The Hemi Hurricane and I was very familiar with those particular injectors. I said "humor me Bill, you've tried everything else". I was right of course and I think that for all the years after that, it may have been the only time that I was right.
I worked for Bill Tanner along with Terry Earwood in 1970 on his "BILL TANNER'S DODGE Safety and Performance Clinic team". I can honestly say that I learned more about racing cars, engines, transmissions and everything else during that short time. Bill had a unique way of looking at things. I mean everything, not just racing related things but life in general. I truly believe he was a mechanical genius. He just saw things more clearly than most folks and he could convey that knowledge to others (my dumb ass, for instance) and make it understandable.
I did call him on the phone last year and had a long conversation with him. I think he was glad to hear from me and I got a chance to thank him for everything he taught me.I was truly priveledged to know him.
Thanks for everything Bill.