I wanted to share some noteworthy news: Bill Maier of Maier Racing has passed on. Most of us will say “condolences” or “I’m sorry for your loss,” but I believe we should say it a little differently: “I’m sorry for our loss.” People like Bill Maier are becoming increasingly rare.
Bill was born in 1939 to a family forged in the Great Depression. He grew up hearing “be thankful for what you have” and “don’t be wistful for anything.” But like most ambitious young men, this had the opposite effect. Bill dreamed of being a race car driver, wearing alligator skin boots and the hottest new sunglasses while driving his Lincoln and listening to Elvis on the radio. This wasthe antithesis of his upbringing.
After moving out of the family house, Bill joined the Air Force in the early 1960s. While stationed in the South, he grew to appreciate California values of equality and discovered street jazz in New Orleans. After his time in the South was done, he finished his service at Travis Air Force Base. He worked long shifts at Travis at night and then doubled up during the day, working for a guy named Auto in the Bay Area repairing cars. He had a knack for long working hours and grit.
During this time, he bought himself a 1955 Porsche. He entered autocrosses on weekends and started to rack up wins, revealing his next skill: he was a wheel man. As racing got its claws into Bill, he had his eye on two new things: upgrading his racer to the next faster option and the hot little blonde who lived across the street from his parents’ house.
Bill started out road racing his new Austin Healey and mastered the art of standing starts and keeping the brakes cool. On the off weekends, the hot little blonde, known as the Fox, would help him change plugs and bleed brakes. Seeing the new 1965 Hot Rod magazine centerfold changed everything. It was the new 1965 Shelby. All bets were off except for the blonde. Bill’s focus was now the Mustang. He traded in his daily driver, a Pontiac, for his first Shelby, the first of many moves in his love affair with the Mustang.
As Bill started to race his Mustangs, he noticed that there were very few parts available for these amazing cars. He built a relationship with Hayward Ford, and the cast was set. Mustangs needed parts, and the boys at Hayward Ford could be friends to lean on. Bill became known as the Mustang guy who road raced, unlike most others who drag raced. This drew attention to all the locals who were attracted to this new scene.
In 1967, Bill married the Fox, now Shirley Maier. In 1969, Bill gathered support from Shirley, Bill’s mother Margaret, and their future lifelong friend Jerry Lecatsas to start Maier Racing in the back of the Maier house garage. At the same time, Bill and Shirley had their first child, Charlie. In true Maier style, they were all in, racing their 1968 coupe, building a business, and raising a loving family surrounded by friends. And as they say, off to the races!
In 1973, Bill and Shirley had their second son, Eddie. As the business grew, so did the racing wins. In 1976, Bill won driver of the year in SCCA A sedan. In 1977, Bill and Shirley had their third son, Mike. The company was now in a building down the road, and a beautiful home was being built up in the hills of Hayward overlooking the bay. By 1979, Bill found himself with his crew traveling the entire circuit of the SCCA Trans Am series. He was the only one to complete the entire series that year.
In the early 1980s, Bill and Shirley bought the warehouse that would produce the majority of Mustang enthusiast aftermarket parts throughout the next several decades. They sold body kits to the studios that created famous Mustangs like the convertible from Interspace, the Elanor Mustang, and many others, including Vaughn Gittin Jr.’s RTR-X and the hit TV show Overhaulin’. Not to mention the countless customer builds that relied on Bill’s designs. Magazine editors from Peterson Publishing were a constant at the Maier shop looking for fresh content. Front covers, back covers, and multiple articles in between referencing the Maier name were now the norm.
Handcrafting parts with care, supporting the local community, and never giving up were Bill’s guiding principles. He knew that to achieve his goals, he needed to be healthy in mind and body. The whole family went to the local church every Saturday night at five, and youth group sports during the week. His children’s sports were of the utmost importance. He jogged three days a week, rain or shine, and lifted free weights the other three days a week to ensure that he could keep up with his busy lifestyle. Being a huge fan of Jack LaLanne, Bill started to build up equipment for his own gym in one corner of his warehouse. He was a huge fitness enthusiast. Everything came together to create the look he had always dreamed of, driving his Lincoln with his hot new sunglasses on, alligator boots on his feet, Elvis on the radio, and his little hot blonde by his side. Bill achieved his dreams. He dreamt of a scene where all sorts of cool parts were available at our fingertips, something that was not normal in his time. He dreamt of the life he wished to have: a race car driver, a loving dad, husband, and true friend. To achieve these goals, one must have a tenacious will, vision when others do not, and incredible self-belief. For this, I say that I am sorry for our loss. But the greatest loss would be if we were not inspired and thankful for his example.