William Wayne “W. W.” Brown

a.k.a. “Cockeye” Brown

1886 - 1958

 

 

 

 

W. W. Brown (tallest in photo) with his wife, Iva  Mae (Brown) Brown, and his Buick racer, in 1912.

McPherson Weekly Republican, McPherson, Kansas

 

 

After reaching the summit of Pikes Peak on July 17, 1913 without the aid of horses to pull him, W. W. Brown proceeded to drive up the steps of the summit house to fet his 1910 Model 10 “Bear Cat” to the highest point on the mountain that he possibly could.

The Buick, A Complete History, by Terry Dunham & Lawrence R. Guston

 

 

W. W. Brown seated on the pit wall at Elgin, Illinois in 1915

Trevon Richards collection

 

 

#3 W. W. Brown at the start of the 1915 Elgin Road Race, Elgin, Illinois.

John Distefano collection

 

 

W. W. Brown at Indy in 1919.

Trevon Richards collection

 

 

W. W. Brown, behind the steering wheel, with his riding mechanic, Ernie Schweering.

Trevon Richards collection

 

 

The rear of W. W. Brown’s Straight-8 special.

John Distefano collection

 

W. W. Brown with his Buick “Bear Cat” on the evening of July 3, 1913 at Winfield, Kansas.

Photo from the private collection of Michael A. Darrah.  Please do not reproduce without his permission

 

 

This plaque was presented to W. W. Brown by the Pikes Peak Hill Climb Association in 1955 in comeration of his being the first to drive a gasoline powered automobile to the summit of Pikes Peak 42 years earlier.  The plaque is now in the possession of

Dr. John Backe.

Photo from the John Distefano collection

 

 

 W. W. Brown in the Buick Model 22 “Bear Cat II” on May 30, 1914 at Iowa City, Iowa.

Kent collection

 

W. W. Brown, at left, driving the #3

Du Chesneau in the 1915 Elgin

Road Race, Elgin, Illinois.

John Distefano collection

 

The unidentified driver in this photo

is seated behind the steering wheel

of a #3 Du Chesneau racing car that

was often driven by W. W. Brown.

John Distefano collection

 

W. W. Brown drove this #5 Hudson powered car built by Riley Brett and owned by C. L. Richards of Kansas City, Missouri, in the 1919 Indianapolis 500.  His riding mechanic that day was Ernie Schweering.

Schweering collection

 

 

The Straight-8 special, a two-seat, street legal Indy type car that W. W. Brown built in his machine shop in Kansas City. Missouri

John Distefano collection

 

W. W. Brown was born at Dodge City, Kansas (although one source says Colorado) and raised by his step-mother, Druzella Jane "Jennie" (Burbank) Brown.

 

W. W. Brown was married first on October 27, 1909 at Delta, Colorado to Iva Mae Brown and the couple had moved to Kansas City, Missouri by 1910.  He was married second on June 30, 1924 in Jackson Coounty, Missouri to Alma Martha Mutch.  She proceeded him in death and he was married third on January 12, 1956 in Kansas City, Missouri to Grace Irene Wetzling.

 

It is unknown just when Brown started his racing career but he was employed as a mechanican by the Jackson, Michigan based Buick factory racing team as early as 1908.  He is known to have competed as a driver in races at Winfield, Kansas in 1912; at Belleville, Kansas in 1913; at Des Moines Speedway in 1915; at Meridian Speedway in Wichita, Kansas in 1921, and there were probably several others. 

 

 

 

 

The following appeared on page 7 of the July 26, 1913 issue of the

Winfield (Kansas) Daily Free Press:

 

Bear Cat Went Up Pike’s Peak

 W. W. Brown, Winner in (July) 4th Races Here, Performs Daring Feat in Colorado Springs,

Account Given:

 

The following interesting account tells of the drive W. W. Brown made in his “Bear Cat” Buick racer recently.  Brown won second in the automobile races here on the Fourth of July.  The Clipping is taken from a Colorado Springs paper:

 

Two Daredevil Automobile men set a new record yesterday when they drove the Buick agency, 113 North Cascade Avenue, to the summit of Pike’s Peak in three hours and 22 minutes.

 

W. W. Brown, a Kansas City racer, was at the wheel of the car which is known as a Buick “Bear Cat”, a 20-horsepower racing machine, and his companion was J. R. Bradley, a local automobile man.

 

This is the first time that a car has gone to the top of the Peak under its own power since 1900.  The car which first made the trip required 24 hours for the journey.

 

After Brown and his companion had reached the summit yesterday afternoon, shortly before 6 o’clock, they drove their little racer, which weighed 1,400 pounds, straight up the steps onto the platform of the summit house where they posed for a photograph.  They spent the night in a cabin in the mountains and returned to the Buick agency here this morning shortly after 9 o’clock.

 

The round trip was 58 miles and the machine used 4½ gallons of gasoline and ½ gallon of oil.

 

Brown’s little racer showed its relationship to the Buick which finished second to Barney Oldfield in the big Los Angeles road race early this month.  The driver of the California car found his machine in the oil fields where it had been through a fire, and bought it for $50.  Brown’s car also has been through a fire and he paid only $100 for it.  Since buying the machine, it has started in 18 races and has won 15 firsts and 3 seconds.

 

“Never again,” said Brown, when he crawled out of the little car this morning at the conclusion of his trip.  “Driving up the Peak may sound all right but when you try it, you find that it is anything but pleasant.  It was impossible to hold the car on the road all the time.  But at that, we didn’t have an accident until we started back.  Leaving the Peak, we started down the cog road and busted a tire because the gravel wouldn’t hold when the brakes were on.

 

“We had to make frequent stops to roll large boulders out of the road and to make bridges over gullies.  Our actual running time going up was three hours and 22 minutes.”

 

Brown and Bradley left here yesterday morning at 11:10.  They had lunch at Cascade and left there at 12:10 o’clock.  They made the trip up the Peak over the old wagon road.  The road is almost impassable in places.

 

 

 

The following appeared in the September 6, 1954 issue of the

Colorado Springs (Colorado) Gazette Telegraph:

 

First Peak Driver Recalls Initial Trip Made in 1913

 

W. W. Brown, Kansas City, Mo., machine works owner, and credited (by) some as being the first person to drive a gasoline engine automobile to the summit of Pikes Peak, has written an account of that experience to Clifford L. Johnson, secretary of the Pikes Beak Hill Climb Assn., Inc.

 

He said he drove to the summit in his “Buick Bear Cat,” either in 1912 or 1913 with a man named Bradley of Colorado Springs.  The Gazette Telegraph files show that the climb was made on July 18, 1913 and his companion was J.S. Bradley.  Brown was identified as “H. Brown.”

 

The racer was a 20-horsepower car.

 

“I started up the Peak one Sunday morning by myself and ended close to an old gold mine.  I came back down and borrowed a 30-30 rifle from a man named Bradley in Colorado Springs.  I then went up on the cog road to the summit and walked down … to familiarize myself with the road before starting back up.  A day or so after this, Bradley and I started driving up.  It was so rough (that) Bradley lost his pipe and tobacco out of his pocket and we lost our lunch.  However, on the way up, he shot a pheasant and we buried it in a snow drift.

 

“Upon arrival at the summit, I climbed the steps which at that time went from the railroad platform several steps to a higher platform.  I tore the top step off with the flywheel as I went up.  At that time, there was a stationary engine on the summit with which they ran a search light.  It didn’t perform exactly right.  It was thought an automobile would not operate right on the top of the Peak, also.  I believe Mr. Penrose decided to build a road up the Peak after my car did perform so well up there.

 

“When we started to come down, I decided to come down the cog road,” Brown wrote, adding that the last stretch was so steep he had to give up and come back down the stage road.  On the way down, darkness overtook them and they stopped at “an old half way house which at the time, was nothing but a cabin with some bunks in it filled with dust and straw.  We cooked this wild bird we had buried on the way up.  Having lost our lunch, we were hungry as wolves.  We ate this without salt, pepper, bread or anything.”

 

He said that he broke 13 spokes in his wire wheels going up, wheels he had made himself.  He also broke the aluminum crankcase.  “Everyone told me to go back to the Buick factory and they would give me a new car since I was the first man to go (up) in a gas driven car, but instead, I got the dickens for coming back there, but they did fix up my motor for me.”

 

It is possible Brown was the first to make the top in a gasoline powered car.  Records at the city library show stories from Denver and Colorado Springs papers and magazines saying that in September, 1900, a man named Ben Walker reached an elevation of 11,000 feet.  He was credited with having thus driven an automobile higher than any other person in the world.  The stories did not say what kind of a car he was driving.  But Walker was one of the founders of the Locomobile Company which built the steam-powered Locomobiles.

 

Other stories of the time said that on Aug. 12, 1901, W. B. Selker and C. A. Yont reached the summit in a Locomobile and were credited with being the first men to take an “automobile” to the top of Pikes Peak.

 

 

 

 

W. W. Brown, at right, with his riding mechanic, Tony Gulotta, who drove in the Indianapolis “500” thirteen times between 1926 and 1939.

John Distefano collection

 

The Buick Trophy

a. k. a.

The R. H. Collins Trophy

 

R. H. Collins, manager of a Kansas City Buick dealership, awarded the Buick Trophy to the owner of the winning car in a five-mile race for privately owned entries that was contested annually at the Elm Ridge race course in Kansas City, Missouri from 1909 through 1912.  Collins went on to become a vice-president of General Motors.

 

W. W. Brown, who was the last of the four recipients of the award, drove his own Buick 10 to victory in this race on June 15, 1912.  He claimed to have purchased the car for $150 after it had been burned in a garage fire.  Brown lapped the second-place finisher, defending champion Jack McLean* who was driving a Velie.

Photo from the Velie Register

 

 

A man of many nicknames, Brown was known as "Brownie" to his friends, although he went by "Bill" in his later years.  He used his initials when he signed his name so he appears as "W. W. Brown" on most entry lists and racing results. The press dubbed him "Cockeye Brown" due to the way he turned his head and appeared to be looking to the right while racing although he was actually looking straight ahead, a quirk that made some of his competitors rather nervous.

 

 

W. W. Brown behind the wheel of his Straight-8 special

John Distefano collection

 

 

W. W. Brown witn an unidentified passenger seated in his Straight-8 special in front of the Reid-Ward Packard dealership in Kansas City, Missouri

John Distefano collection

 

 

Trevon Richards collection

 

By 1912, Brown had salvaged a Buick Model "35" passenger car that had been damaged in a Kansas City garage fire.  The 2,100-pound vehicle had a 101.7-inch wheelbase and was powered by a 165-cubic inch 4-cylinder engine.  With the help of his brother, Ben; and a partner, James Cox; Brown rebuilt the car and campaigned it successfully on Midwestern dirt racetracks.

 

The following year, Brown was claiming St. Louis as his home when he toured the Midwestern racing circuit and worked in a publicity appearance for Buick at Pikes Peak.

 

Early in 1914, Brown built a Buick Model 22 “Bear Cat II” but promptly sold the car to J. F. Jersezy of Chanute, Kansas, although Brown continued to drive the car for Jersezy for the remainder of the year.

 

By 1915, Brown had switched to driving a Du Chesneau, a car that he entered in the Indianapolis "500" but he failed to qualify for the race that year.

 

By 1919, Brown had returned to Kansas City and taken a ride in a Hudson that had been built by Riley Brett for Kansas City Oilman C. L. Richards.  Brown qualified seventh for the Indianapolis "500" that year but only lasted fourteen laps before the engine gave up a rod.  The effort garnered him a thirty-second-place finish in the official results.

 

Another of Brown's adventures that year was to take one of his racing cars to Santa Monica, California to appear in the movie "Roaring Road" staring Wallace Reid.  Brown undoubtedly drove the car for the movie sequences as well.

 

He also assisted Riley Brett and Cotton Henning in building a new 181-cubic-inch, dual overhead cam, 24-valve, 6-cylinder engine for C. L. Richards' entry in the 1920 Indianapolis "500" with John Boling as driver.  Starting fourteenth, Boling brought the car home in eleventh place, one lap behind winner Gaston Chevrolet.  The success of that venture prompted Richards to commission Brown and the others to build a second engine.  The two engines were installed in new Miller chassis for the 1921 Indianapolis "500".  The two cars were named the "Junior Specials" after the son of the official car owner, another Kansas City oilman, C. L. Richards.  Both cars were involved in crashes during the race and did not finish.

 

In 1920, he opened Brown's Machine Works at 127-129 Southwest Blvd. in Kansas City, Missouri.  It was one of the most complete machine shops anywhere with the capability of building complete cars and even engines from the basic raw materials.

 

Brown campaigned a "Peerless 8" on Midwestern racetracks in 1921 but he had found his niche building those engines for the "Junior Specials".  One of the cars he built was a street-legal, two-seat "Indy" type car that he dubbed the "Straight-8 Special".  Brown also designed several precision tools and machines used in his company.

 

When Lakeside Speedway opened in Kansas City in 1955, Brown and his old friend, Tudy Gulotta, were appointed the official technical committee for races run there sanctioned by AAA.  By then, ads for his machine shop boasted "$45,000 worth of new precision equipment to handle your machine work quickly and economically".  Brown had designed much of that equipment himself.

 

Brown never lost his love for speed, once being stopped on the Kansas Turnpike for driving well in excess of 100 m.p.h., although he was nearly 70 years old at the time.

 

Brown was a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers, the Christian Businessmen's Committee, the Gideon Society, and the First Church of the Nazarene.

 

W. W. Brown was a resident of the Kansas City suburb of Raytown when he passed away on June 14, 1958.  He was married but had no children.  He, and his wife, Grace, are buried side-by-side in Memorial Park Cemetery in Kansas City, Missouri.

 

W. W. Brown was survived by his widow, Grace Irene Brown of the home; a niece, Esther Louise (Mrs. Ralph W.) Burke of Gashland, Missouri; and a nephew, Roy Doty of Overland Park, Kansas.

 

 

 

 

 

*According to an article appearing on page 9 of the September 22, 1911 issue of the Hutchinson News, Jack McLean displayed his “Velie 41” at the Kansas State Fair at Hutchinson, Kansas that year.  The article states that McLean raced the car both at Kansas City and in “the Indianapolis motor race this past Decoration Day” (the 1911 Indianapolis “500”).  To date, no independent validation of that latter claim has been located.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you:

Trevon Richard