11 November 2014

Bill Spoerle 1934-2014

Wilhelm “Bill” Spoerle, the head of the restoration department at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, died in his sleep on Nov. 4, 2014.  He was 80 years old.

Born June 30, 1934, in Jagstfeld, Germany, Bill studied mechanical engineering in trade school. His natural aptitude for anything mechanical was soon recognized, and upon graduation he landed a job with NSU, which later became Audi. It wasn’t long before he was working on the company’s motorcycle racing team.

In 1956, race car builder and motorcycle shop proprietor Floyd “Pop” Dreyer visited the NSU factory. Pop quickly befriended Bill, and offered to sponsor him if young Spoerle would come to the United States. Bill jumped at the chance, going to work in Dreyer’s Indianapolis based motorcycle shop. He also served a two-year hitch with the U.S. Army. Spoerle married Pop’s daughter Mary, who passed away only a few months ago.

At this juncture, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway didn’t have its own restoration department; most projects were completed in Pop Dreyer’s shops. This type of work fit Spoerle’s talents to the measure. Some of the restorations were performed by ace mechanic Barney Wimmer, who also served as chief mechanic on Mari Hulman George’s famous HOW Racing Team. It wasn’t long before Spoerle went to work as a mechanic on the HOW cars. Later, he became co-crew chief with Wimmer.

In 1963, when Mari sold her racing team, Bill transferred to the IMS Hall of Fame Museum. Together with Wimmer, they restored nearly every racing and passenger car displayed in the museum.

Spoerle was a fixture at major concours with vintage race car classes. This was especially true of the larger meets at Pebble Beach and Amelia Island. It was at Bill’s suggestion that IMS started sending its restored racers to England’s Goodwood Festival of Speed and other important venues around the world. He sometimes served as judge at these gatherings and drove the racers in exhibition runs.

Bill was dedicated to his craft. He was always seeking out lost vintage cars and parts. Many other restorers came to him with their needs.

He once found a 1925 Duesenberg Model A on an estate in Terre Haute, Ind.  However, the family refused to sell the car separate from the farm. At Bill’s suggestion, Tony Hulman purchased everything to get the car. Bill was so proud of the restored Duesie, that he often drove it in the “500 Festival” parades in downtown Indy.

He also purchased and restored the Ford engine used by Jimmy Clark when he finished second in the ’63 Indy 500.

Spoerle had just returned from a 10-day trip to Germany when he passed away.
Wilhelm “Bill” Spoerle, the head of the restoration department at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, died in his sleep on Nov. 4, 2014.  He was 80 years old.

Born June 30, 1934, in Jagstfeld, Germany, Bill studied mechanical engineering in trade school. His natural aptitude for anything mechanical was soon recognized, and upon graduation he landed a job with NSU, which later became Audi. It wasn’t long before he was working on the company’s motorcycle racing team.

In 1956, race car builder and motorcycle shop propieter Floyd “Pop” Dreyer visited the NSU factory. Pop quickly befriended Bill, and offered to sponsor him if young Spoerle would come to the United States. Bill jumped at the chance, going to work in Dreyer’s Indianapolis based motorcycle shop. He also served a two-year hitch with the U.S. Army. Spoerle married Pop’s daughter Mary, who passed away only a few months ago.

At this juncture, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway didn’t have its own restoration department; most projects were completed in Pop Dreyer’s shops. This type of work fit Spoerle’s talents to the measure. Some of the restorations were performed by ace mechanic Barney Wimmer, who also served as chief mechanic on Mari Hulman George’s famous HOW Racing Team. It wasn’t long before Spoerle went to work as a mechanic on the HOW cars. Later, he became co-crew chief with Wimmer.

In 1963, when Mari sold her racing team, Bill transferred to the IMS Hall of Fame Museum. Together with Wimmer, they restored nearly every racing and passenger car displayed in the museum.

Spoerle was a fixture at major concours with vintage race car classes. This was especially true of the larger meets at Pebble Beach and Amelia Island. It was at Bill’s suggestion that IMS started sending its restored racers to England’s Goodwood Festival of Speed and other important venues around the world. He sometimes served as judge at these gatherings and drove the racers in exhibition runs.

Bill was dedicated to his craft. He was always seeking out lost vintage cars and parts. Many other restorers came to him with their needs.

He once found a 1925 Duesenberg Model A on an estate in Terre Haute, Ind.  However, the family refused to sell the car separate from the farm. At Bill’s suggestion, Tony Hulman purchased everything to get the car. Bill was so proud of the restored Duesie, that he often drove it in the “500 Festival” parades in downtown Indy.

He also purchased and restored the Ford engine used by Jimmy Clark when he finished second in the ’63 Indy 500.

Spoerle had just returned from a 10-day trip to Germany when he passed away.

2 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Stanley Crain Indianapolis, Indiana November 13, 2014 at 13:47
    Bill Spoerle was quite a man, I had the pleasure of meeting him and actually created some of the colors he used to restore these cars! He will truly be missed. Stanley E. Crain
  • 2
    Randy South Carolina November 13, 2014 at 12:43
    I didn't know Mr. Spoerle but have been to the Indy museum where I have stood in absolute awe of his handiwork. God rest your soul and thank you for keeping all those marvelous machines in jaw dropping splendor for all of us to enjoy.

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