A short story about Duck Waddle and the 1965 Pan American Race

Duck Waddle has been a fixture at Road America and other Midwest race tracks since the 1960s. His home was in Kansas, but for several decades he kept his motorhome at Road America during the summer, where he raced his H-modified sports racers in vintage events, and was an instructor at the Skip Barber Racing School. That’s where I met him in 1991 when I took the three-day Barber racing course in a Formula Ford. We bonded quickly as his little sports racer was powered by a Saab three-cylinder, two-stroke engine, and I was there to research a story for NINES, The Saab Club magazine.

I ran into Duck several times in the ensuing years, and we always had a good chat. At a ChumpCar race at RA in 2015, I recorded an interview with Duck about one of his favorite races, the 1965 Pan American Enduro, a six-hour race. Some time in the 1990s, Duck had some posters reprinted that promoted the Saab victory, so many Saab Club members were able to purchase that bit of Saab history. Dick Catron, who owned Saab Denver and who was the western distributor for Saab in the early 1960s, put together a four SAAB 96 Monte Carlo team for that race.

Gordon C. “Duck” Waddle passed away on March 18th, 2019.

– Tim Winker

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Below you will find an audio interview Tim had with Duck Waddle, transcribed into text for reading in this article.

Duck Waddle 1965 Pan American

This signed poster was gifted to eEuroparts by Lime Rock Park some time ago.

“I was racing an H-modified sports racer built by Ed Alsbury of Kansas City in the early 1960s. [I dug up a photo of this car, now driven in the UK at vintage festivals -editor] It was powered by a SAAB 3-cylinder, two-stroke engine. Dick Catron, who was the SAAB distributor for the western part of the U. S. based out of Denver, got in touch with me and said if I would put ‘Powered by SAAB’ on the car that he’d give me a deal on parts. That was easy because instead of paying retail price for parts, I was getting them at dealer cost.

The Pan Am race in Texas was a 6-hour enduro. Catron had four SAAB 96 Monte Carlos prepared for the race at their shop in Denver. We drove them to the track, and by the time we got to Green Valley, Texas, where the race was held, three of the cars had blown engines because they were tuned for the altitude of Denver. Green Valley is a whole lot closer to sea level, so the carbs were not correct. We had two spare engines, so we were one short for the four cars.

There was a team meeting the night before the race. Dave Dooley from Oklahoma City and I were teamed up in our car, and we drew the short straw so we didn’t have an engine. Well Dick Catron had driven his personal 96 to the race, so Dave and I set about taking that engine. Just pull out the radiator and the drive shafts, about ten bolts and it was out.

Before we went to Green Valley [raceway] I asked Dick if I should bring my tool box, and he said no, we shouldn’t need it. I had a pickup with a slide in camper at the time and I never went anywhere without my tool box. So it was lucky that I had my tools when we had to swap the engines.

Dave was racing against a Mini in his stint and he used up the brake pads. Carter-Maxwell out of Oklahoma City provided a support crew and they hadn’t practiced replacing the brake pads. It took some time to change the pads, then I got in and was able to hold our position for the rest of the race. We ended up third in the class, with our SAAB team finishing 1, 2, 3, 4. We had a great time.

The SAAB guys had a poster made to promote our victory, and I happened to be the driver in the photo that they used. You can see a little duck symbol on the driver’s helmet and another one on the left rear fender.”


Duck Waddle Signed Poster

We hope this short story will help the memory of Gordon C. “Duck” Waddle and Green Valley Raceway live on.  With Waddle now passed away and Green Valley Raceway existing only with one fragment still visible from google maps…It’s easy for stories like this to be lost to time.  Special thanks to Tim Winker for making this available for us.  -Adam G, eEuroparts

Posted in Motorsports
3 thoughts on “A short story about Duck Waddle and the 1965 Pan American Race
  1. Mark Drana

    I got to know Duck when I worked at Skip Barber Racing School in the 80’s. I visited him at Road America when ever I attended a race there and exchanged Christmas cards every year. I am sad to learn of his passing but now he is with Sue and that is a good thing.

  2. brouse

    My husband and I met Duck and Sue years ago in front of our home. We live in Milan, Oh in a house built in 1836 and is on the National Registry for Historic Homes. Duck parked his camper -which caught our attention—not small in size- a holy cow motor home! Out jump the driver-and he began to talk to us. Told us for years he has returned to Milan always hoping to see the home he lived in. We realized this man loved the house as much as we did and invited his wife and him tour the house. We had them enter through the front door- and we could tell this man was thrilled. Once inside the main hallway Duck went over to the banister and began to rub the mother of pearl that is set into the banister. He said that he rubbed that pearl every time he came down the stairs. He
    Remembered how the home looked for him years ago. Duck’s father was the. President of the old American Crayon Company/ Prang crayons in Sandusky. His mother was very talented as a pianist and I believed she played the organ at the Presbyterian Church, his sister that lived in Columbus, and how they cared for his grandfather that lived with them. He spoke of being a Boy Scout and spending a very cold and snowy time camping on the hillside. He spoke of all the holidays the had here. Walking through the house he described how it looked long ago. He chuckled when my husband explained that we are only caretakers of this home and that they are always welcomed. For years that followed Duck always found the time to stop in Milan
    to visit his home. (Lexington, oh. Is about an hr. an hour away.) One year he wanted us to see the engine he
    Rebuilt—Not realizing it was in their beautiful motor home. My husband loved this! Another year the Waddles honked their horn and came into their old home. We began to tell them the story of finding a sign down our hillside. Funny look on Duck’s face—he questioned where we found it—more smiles on his face. We had Sue and Duck stand outside our carport—- at this moment Duck was speechless— he began to laugh. Now here is the All time Duck Waddle tale! Duck was a member of the Milan FFA (FutureFarmers ofAmerica). The class had a field trip to Cedar Point (an amusement park now a huge park in Sandusky). As the group was leaving, in a pile of stuff was this old sign. Duck loaded it on the bus. No questions to him on the sign. Once home he nailed the sign to the old barn. (Just above the area where we found it.). Best part was the sign had lady in a swimsuit! The laughter from Duck and Sue was what should they say! Duck told us to never sell it, return it to the garage, he
    Didn’t want us to donate it to the historical museum at Cedar Point. So now we have Duck,’s sign! From this point we had yearly visits, phone calls from Duck and Sue. Duck mailed to us a huge painting that his parents had in the parlor above the fireplace- it remains in it’s proper place. And then another painting came only this was painted by his father. Beautiful paintings that we will always treasure. But the bathing suit beauty remains my husband’s favorite. Duck was remembered and honored at the Milan High School Alumi dinner with any of his classmates present.

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