WE’RE SHINING THE PROVERBIAL SPOTLIGHT ON SOMEONE WHO WOULD JUST AS SOON LABOR IN ANONYMITY AND LET HIS ACTIONS SPEAK FOR HIM. But wouldn’t you know it, this year Mark Williams is being honored by NHRA and enshrined in the National Hot Rod Reunion
Hall of Fame. The cat is out of the bag.
Williams is one of our sport's premier manufacturers of chassis and driveline components, his company having celebrated its 50th anniversary a few years back. A resourceful, self-sufficient type by nature, Williams has always eagerly embraced technology, and the Mark Williams (M-W) Enterprises facility in suburban Denver is a showcase of stateof-the-art manufacturing.
Typical of his generation, it all began when as a teenager he joined the Strippers car club of Denver and jumped into drag racing. He started his career as a machinist for Martin-Marietta (a major aerospace company), and then went on to do machine work for John Bandimere Sr. (founder of the fabled Colorado drag strip bearing his name) and
refurbished a World-War-IIera tube bender in the shop, which was put to good use building a dragster with his long-time friend (and highly respected machinist/ fabricator), Ron Bement. The car was subsequently sold for the munificent sum of $924, which became the seed money for Williams' fledgling chassis enterprise. While doing machine work for Bandimere, his chassis business grew to the point where in 1964 Mark Williams Enterprises was born.
With the chassis business up and running, Williams became a competitor in Top Fuel, including partnerships with the late Bill Rice and Larry Frazier. The Rice & Williams car was a dominating force in the High Country during the mid-'60s, boasting an impressive win/ loss record ratio, and also set many records.
Williams and Larry Frazier won the NHRA Division V Top Fuel Championship in 1974 and captured a number of important events.
For their various successes, Williams, Rice and Frazier have been inducted into the Colorado Motorsports Hall of Fame.
For the first decade-plus, M-W Enterprises was primarily a race car chassis shop, responsible for many innovations and building notable race cars in a wide range of categories. This included “Ohio George” Montgomery's NHRA national-event-winning turbo Mustang, the awesome NHRA World Championship-winning Top Gas dragster of Ray Motes and R.C. Williams, the Alcohol Funny Cars of Vern Moats and Jerry Gwynn, and also the NHRA World Championship TAD of Vern and Brian Raymer.
Perhaps the most noteworthy of
M-W's creations was the trend-setting rear-engined dragster built for Mike
Dollins and Dan Widner in 1969, and later campaigned by Denver's Kaiser Bros.
There are drag historians who cite this car as a true precursor to Don Garlits' 1971 Winternationals-winner, and the model for today's REDs.
In the early-'70s Williams recognized a need for a true high-performance axle and set about creating what became drag racing's first warranted axle, the Hi-Torque. One of the first racers to prove the merits of M-W's driveline components was S/S and Pro Stock pioneer Judy Lilly.
By the late-'70s, Williams had shifted the company's focus to manufacture and sell race cars in kit form. Many highly successful
dragsters, altereds and Funny Cars have been built with M-W's kits. Today, Williams offers detailed blueprints for contemporary and nostalgia-classed cars and sells components to build them, as well as many specialized tools to aid home builders.
Always an early adopter, Williams embraced CAD/CAM technology when it emerged in the '70s and employed computers to run his business. M-W was also first to offer toll-free customer calling for tech and sales information.
Today, Mark Williams Enterprises occupies a 32,000-sq-ft facility in
Louisville's Colorado Technical Center and manufactures everything bearing the M-W name in-house. This includes heattreating (both austempering and induction hardening), machining (using a plethora of massive CNC machine centers and other dedicated equipment), testing and quality control operations. One of the most prominent is a huge torsional testing device that can exert more than 15,000 pounds of force in computer-controlled cycles. It's used mostly for driveshaft testing and verifying the firm's patented Accu-Bond process (which is superior to welding).
Axles remain a significant part of M-W's business, while driveshafts and disc brakes are also important categories. Williams also developed an aftermarket 9-inch Ford modular aluminum housing, which has been refined over the years and joined by 12-bolt GM and an exclusive 11-inch M-W design that's ideal for Pro Mod, alcohol and nostalgia fuel applications.
Williams is still very active in the firm he founded, which continues to thrive by developing new products. Additionally, the famed Rice & Williams yellow car can be seen and heard at NHRA Reunions and other events with Danny Rice tending to the car for which his dad supplied power.
Williams has certainly left his mark in drag racing.
M-W developed and built this unique torsional testing device, which can put torque loads up to 15,000 psi on driveshafts, axles, etc. It’s also used to confirm the yoke attachment of the M-W-patented Accu-Bond technology.
Always a stickler for quality control, Williams employs a precision Zeiss CMM (coordinate measuring machine) among other devices.
Driveshafts are a big part of M-W’s business. All are precision G30-spec balanced to actual operating conditions.
Williams sits at his desk. The company started in a one-car garage and now occupies 32,000 sq-ft in the Colorado Technical Center.
Mark Williams Enterprises employs the latest in manufacturing technology.
The late Bill Rice (left) and Mark Williams were a dominant force in High Country Top Fuel racing in the mid-’60s. Bill’s son, Danny, cackles the car these days.
Built by Williams in 1969, and later campaigned by Denver’s Kaiser Bros., this car is considered by many to be the prototype for modern rear-engined fuel dragsters.
M-W’s first commercial chassis, with a body by Ron Bement, was campaigned by Roy Golightly (shown here with Jim Stansbury’s injected Chrysler). Bement did the bodies for most of Williams’ cars.
Typical of the Top Fuelers Williams built is the car of Ohio’s Paul Longenecker, which won several important events in the early-’70s.