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The end of an era in the Midwest, Phil's, Inc. closes it doors.

retroblazer

Well-Known Member
I recently discovered that an off road institution in the Midwest recently closed its doors. Started in 1958, by Phil and Marion Reusche, and later run by their son Mike. Phil's, Inc. had been one of the biggest supporters of off road racing for over 45 years. Besides selling Funco's and Chenoweth's, Phil's offered almost any part needed to build an off road car. For years, they published a literal how to build a car manual in the form of their parts catalog. In addition to supplying parts, Phil and his family, were instrumental in supporting the 4x4 Unlimited club that was responsible for setting direction of short course off road racing in the Midwest.

I was 16 in 1973, when I moved from San Francisco to Chicago. I happened to find out abut Phil's in the local newspaper. Although it would have been easy for Phil to laugh off a preppy sixteen year old, with lawn mowing money,who wanted to race the family Land Cruiser, he didn't, and encouraged me to come to a 4x4 Unlimited club meeting. The rest, they say, is history as I celebrate my 40th year in the sport.

Phil Reusche deserves to be in the Off Road Hall of Fame.
 
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retroblazer

Well-Known Member
The Midwest is largely missing from the ORHF in Reno. Jack Flannery is among them, but Geoff Dorr, or Chuck Johnson, the Probst Team, are missing. Bob Warren is a name that very few would know, but was the Midwest version of Ivan Stewart. All of these folks should be in whatever we want to call an "Off Road Hall of Fame". Scott Taylor only recently retired, which is the only reason I didn't include him. Also, common to all these guys was their involvement in 4x4 Unlimited, the group that promoted the then largest off road race in the Midwest, The Memorial Day 100 at Lake Geneva, WI.
 

sb4pro

Well-Known Member
I'd kinda like to see 2 HOFs the original one in Reno could be exclusively desert and make a separate one in Crandon for short course . Yes the Crandon " barn " HOF is cool but I truly think short course deserves a HOF like the desert guys . I know there's an empty building across the road from Crandon that would be perfect . I think it used to be an old bar .
 

retroblazer

Well-Known Member
My goal this year is to get some of these guys like Steve Probst, Phil Reusche,and Bob Warren, who are nearing 80+ years old, the recognition they deserve.
At the current pace of acceptance, these guys will likely be dead before they get in.


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philsmike

Well-Known Member
Chris,
Thanks for the kind words about my family...... BTW where is Warren.
 

retroblazer

Well-Known Member
Add Curt LeDuc to the list.
Curt is still racing, and if he's not already in the Crandon HOF, he has one foot in the door. He won't need any help getting in to a HOF, because everybody knows him. That isn't the case with the other names that I have mentioned, but they were extremely important in pushing the direction of the sport. Crandon could have been running long woods races for another ten years if it weren't from the involvement of the Illinois based racers, who formed 4x4 Unlimited, and promoted the Memorial Day 100 in Lake Geneva.
It is not my intent to one up the Crandon folks, but putting another club in their HOF can't be high on their list of things to do, but they should.
I have deliberated on pushing for the three individuals I have listed, but I also think that it might be more expedient to get 4x4 Unlimited in first, since all of them were key players in the organization.

Phil and Steve are known to be with us, but Bob Warren remains a mystery.

Upon further deliberation with myself, and subject to the availability of Phil and Steve, I will be forming a steering committee to host an event In their honor on Dec.1st. with an event in the first half of next year, in Chicago, subject to the old guys wanting it in warm weather.

I would expect to be joined, or dragged in kicking, by some of their fellow pioneers in the sport, who shared their long history. Some of their memories are fading.... we need to act fast.


Phil, when do you start catching fish again?
 
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Thank you Chris for letting me know. This is sad news for me. I grew up with this family and spent a good portion of my life down the steet from their shop. This was the family that indroduced my father to off-road racing and was aa outstanding supplier to his VW repair bussiness. They supported my racing efferts in 1-2-1600 and I couldn't ever thank them enough for that support.
 

retroblazer

Well-Known Member
People must have thought that I was kidding about having an event. I have already confirmed the involvement of two of the three Midwestern- ex Rough Riders in the steering committee. We are going to have a party to celebrate 4x4 Unlimited, with special recognition for the some of the senior members of the group. I just listed the first three, but there are more. I have been burning the phone since my last post. I have found great interest in the project. There will be plenty of warning on the date, so stay tuned.
Time to start digitalizing the pictures that your Mom and Dad might have, and preparing their bio's.

Sad news for sure, but a great excuse to recognize the years that they helped all of us who enjoy the sport today.
 

bigmikeysr

New Member
I have many pictures from that era, that includes many 4x4 Unlimited members. Too many post,but I can look for specific ones if needed.
 

retroblazer

Well-Known Member
Progress.... I have added a couple of well known racers to the steering committee, Scott Taylor, Chuck Johnson, and Geoff Dorr. Stay tuned folks, this is going to be fun.
 

retroblazer

Well-Known Member
bobwarrenzauggs.jpg
I'm really bummed today, as yesterday I finally put enough clues together to figure out where Bob had moved. The data source listed him at 85 years old. I was able to call this morning and speak with his wife Lil, but she told me that he had passed two years ago, pretty damn close to when I got the idea to find him.
 
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retroblazer

Well-Known Member
A small sample of his winning-

1972 Crandon Class 1 & 2
1973 Memorial Day 100 Cl 1 and overall
1973 Crandon Class 2
1974 Memorial Day Cl 1 and overall
1974 Crandon won Sedan class and 3rd in Cl 2
1975 Memorial Day 100 2nd in Cl 1 and Cl 2
1975 Crandon spring race Cl 1
1975 Cobra 300 1st Cl 1 and overall- split with a codriver
1975 Indian Summer Sprints( 200 miles)

He continued racing until the early 80's when he sold his gas station and moved to Florida. After a couple of years he moved to Texas to try his hand at raising cattle.
 

retroblazer

Well-Known Member
In the early days of off roading, there was a lot more in common between a Midwest race, and a desert race. They ran the same cars, in long races. A few of the top racers would race their cars at the Mint 400 or the 300 mile Cobra race held on then Indy car owner Jack Zink's ranch. They were physically tough races. A hundred miles, racing on a track that at most was 1.5-2 miles with lots of turns. Unlike the open deserts of the West, Midwest races had to be on private land or existing facilities, so it was really difficult to get long courses. We raced in gravel pits, county fairs, farms, and circle tracks.
Midwest racing shifted to a true short course focus with the success of The Memorial Day 100 and Crandon's shift from a 25 mile lap to 2 mile lap.



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