By J. Bruce Langley
When Aubrey Holley bought his first car, a 1935 Ford, he paid a dear price for it in the late 1940s, $125 and a cow. But then again, not many teenagers had their own car while attending high school in those days, and Holley had been lucky to have two brothers to help him pay for this one after their father died, by getting him a job with a construction company where he had learned several trades. He took that car apart and put it back together some eight to ten times, learning to tinker with its every detail and no doubt, sealing a destiny that was his, to become one of the first members inducted into the prestigious Georgia Automobile Racing Hall of Fame in 1991.
Aubrey Holley and his friends spent a lot of time at Atlantas Peach Bowl Speedway, a former horse track made to accommodate auto racing, located right in the down town Atlanta area where the MARTA system now runs just off Howell Mill Road. Aubrey competed in his first race there in 1954 with a car he built together with his older brother George, a fast 1939 Ford coupe with a 1948 Mercury motor. The first time they took it to the Peach Bowl course for a practice, Aubrey was so nervous that he drove the car around the track until he ran the five gallon tank completely out of gas. Some of the early drivers Holley raced against were T.C. Hunt, Charlie Mincey, Charley Padgett, and the famed NASCAR legend, Jack Smith who is 25th on the NASCAR list for all-time wins. Although Holley never won with his first car, he did begin to win after they got the second one.
In those early days, sponsorships were hard to come by, and most of the expenses were carried by the drivers. Holley’s employer wanted to transfer him to Tifton, to work in a warehouse there. At the same time Holley’s brother, George, had been involved with a moonshine operation and had even arranged for his younger brother to help drive for them to distribute their product. One of the other men involved went to jail and thinking the younger Holley brother had turned him in came by Holley’s home and blasted the front windows with a shotgun. Those were the two reasons enough to move to Tifton.
When Holley came to Tifton, he and friend Johnny Lieupo built a beautiful 1936 Dodge sedan painted purple with the number 37 on the sides and they began to race it in Valdosta. They were required, however, by the rules to place the motor so far up front in the car that they couldn’t get the maneuverability they needed on the slick, dry track.
A moonshiner from Adel then provided the money to build a 1932 B Model Ford sedan. They put a Buick engine in that car and ran with considerable success but unfortunately the sponsor was caught and the government seized the car.
During those years, Holley raced at the Valdosta Thunderdome which was open from 1959-1999. He teamed up with master welder Glen Doc Blanchard who built and owned cars that were a part of Holley’s wins at the Valdosta track in 1964. That year, another Georgia Auto Racing Hall of Fame driver named Sam McQuagg was racking up the wins. Holley and Blanchard entered with a 1935 Chevy sedan and saw repeated victories over the McQuagg team.
In 1965, Holley and Blanchard began to concentrate on races at the Valdosta 75 Speedway, winning the Georgia State Championship in the Sportsman’s Division that year. He drove a modified 1965 Ford called The Black Jack. In fact, Holley held the record at the track for the most consecutive wins by any driver (13 wins in all) which caused such a stir that a bounty was eventually put on him by the other drivers to beat him.
For several years Holley worked with Squire Pop Brannon and Bill Childers. Childers built another 1934 Ford sedan, numbered 24, helping the team to win 7 or 8 in a row. After a 2 or 3 week pause from racing, they came back to win another 7 or 8 in a row.
One of the highlights of Aubrey Holley’s career was participating at Daytona in the Permatex 300 from 1968 to 1972, the event that would come to be known as The Hersheys 300, NASCARs most attended and highest rated television event in the Busch Series. Holley entered in 1968 driving a 1965 Chevelle with a big block Chevy engine owned by Buck Holder out of Deland, Florida. Holley had been told that the car had run 172 mph and that if he could drive somewhere close to that he could drive it at Daytona.
NASCAR officials required that first-time drivers on the track go out with veteran drivers so they could evaluate their driving. Holley went out with nine others. Bobby Allison came by after a short time and Holley caught up to run with him for a few laps. Then Allison pulled back for some reason. Shortly after, Holley was signaled to the pit where Doc informed him he had just broke a track record of 180 mph. He had actually been clocked at 183 mph and qualified with over 184 mph starting 5th. That year he would finish eighth place after Don McTavish was killed in the race.
From 1968 to 1972, Holley ran the Middle Georgia Raceway at Macon. 1968 was the year that federal agents pulled a sting at the location where they found a whiskey still under the floor of the ticket office at the end of a tunnel in a deep cave. Although the owner was arrested and taken to jail, the race that day continued unhindered.
In 1978, Holley drove in 23 featured races at the Albany race track winning 19 of them with a car owned by Jimmy and Ann Demott of Demott Tractor Company in Moultrie. According to Carrera Shocks, it was the first full coilover late model vehicle. The car only weighed 2200 pounds and was written about in a couple of car magazines: Super Chevy and Popular Hot Roddin.
Holley raced at venues throughout the Southeast and according to his son. Carl Holley (a CPA of Valdosta) from 1954 to 1982, Aubrey Po Boy Holley accrued more than 400 wins at more than 80 different tracks, driving cars for more than 100 owners.
Thursday, August 12, this loving husband, father, and friend to so many passed from this world to leave this wonderful legacy, after struggling some time with cancer. Funeral services took place Monday, August 15, at Bowen-Donaldson Funeral Home in Tifton for our Southern Georgia racing legend who is survived by wife Louise and their three sons: Gene of Tifton, Jerry of Covington, and Carl of Valdosta.
Published in U S Legacies Magazine November 2005