Mark Wil­liams

Drag Racer - - Behind the scenes -

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.

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