One Of The Great Georgia Drivers: Rance Phillips

That First Racer

Phillips in action at Waycross.

Phillips in action at Waycross Speedway.

“The first car was a ’57 Chevrolet,” Rance said.  “We had two guys that were in on the original car who were body men. Thanks to CSX – it was Coastline at the time- we built the roll cage thanks to them and the machine work that went into the car. And we had a first class car. Later on they turned ‘em loose and everything and let all the late model cars come in and everything.

“I changed the rear end under the car and took a 283 and bored it out to 301 and proceeded to dust ‘em all. But that was the only track I would go to. That ’57 Chevrolet was only a chassis and the skin of a ’57 Chevrolet. Maybe 600 or 1000 pounds less than the rest. That is what made us such a winner.”

“My boss at the dealership did not care if we left early to race,” Rance added.  “I had a shop foreman in the later years who took care of transactions. My boss said I could leave as long as everything goes smooth back there and the numbers stayed up like they have been. He figured I was entitled to it. I had good personnel. It was not me alone –it was a team effort. The majority of them had been there 20 years or more. The ones I hired later on were real dependable, hard working people.

“Mr. Walker had owned the dealership since the ‘20’s. Mr. McDonald came from corporate Chevrolet and bought in during the fifties but later on bought the whole outfit in the mid-‘70’s. Mr. R.L. Walker had retired in the ‘60’s. Buck Walker, his nephew, was a partner until then. The new dealership is out on US 1 now. The original building was built in 1949 and is the only Chevrolet dealer in Ware County (the largest city in the largest county in the largest state east of the Mississippi).”
“Emory Carter, Stanton Dixon, Jack Highsmith and myself were the workers from the Chevrolet dealer on that original car,” said Rance.  “Then there were the Dyson brothers – Russell and Kenneth. They worked for the railroad. They were very, very thorough with anything they did. Any fabrication that needed doing was very neat work because that was their trade at the railroad.”

“I never intended to be a race car driver,” Rance said.  “But they tore up our car so much, I had to do something. It just got in my blood. I had been drag racing years before all over the Southeast. I was probably 21 years old when I started. I ran New Smyrna, Tampa Dragway, Phenix City, Savannah, and Jacksonville – Yulee at the old airport, Deland – all around. A couple championship races in Greenville maybe. I can’t remember the name of it but I had to go 2 times in one year to keep my points up.

“I ran G/Stock with a ’57 Chevrolet – 2-4 barrels, 4 speed – it was not a street machine. It was a regular drag strip machine. I was living in Orlando at the time. My brother-in-law (whose named just happened to be Wendell Scott) helped and a friend from Deland also helped. I was in the military from ’57 to ’62, in Germany for a couple of years and then came back to Waycross.

“My family had left the farm and migrated to Orlando to do public work,” Rance said.  “I met my first wife, Delores, while in Orlando. We had a little girl and moved back to Waycross. We moved across the road from my parents. They never did go see me race. My older sister never did but my younger sister did and loved it. My brother did and loved it. I ran against him mostly in Lake City or Columbia County or he would venture up to Waycross.”

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