Bill Smith Sr. joined the “Vancouver Island Track Racing Association” (VITRA) at the age of 16 which was the start of a long and varied auto racing career that included 28 seasons behind the wheel.
He first drove in 1958, when he competed in Western’s newly-formed “Jalopy” class in a 1941 Ford coupe. Track owner Andy Cottyn became a Stockcar owner for the 1960 season and gave Bill the nod to be the driver of his #16 ’34 Ford coupe. One of the season highlights was Bill’s winning of the “Rose City Cup” race in Portland, Oregon. They built a new Ford stocker for the 1961 season during which Bill also got married. He had wanted their wedding ceremony to take place at the Speedway but Connie, his bride-to-be, put her foot down and insisted on a traditional church service. Andy chose the same evening that Bill and Connie said their vows to sell the racecar. For the remainder of that season, Bill drove a #33 Hudson-powered Willys coupe, and had the misfortune to roll it at it’s first appearance at the track.
For the 1962 season, Bill and crew built a ’34 Ford 3 window coupe complete with a Grant King-built engine. This powerful and good-handling racer gave Bill his best season to date and he finished 4th in Island Stockcar points standings. Running the same car in 1963, he finished 5th and in addition was voted Western’s “Most Popular Driver” by the fans and also won “Best Looking Crew”.
With the Stockcar class cancelled for 1964 and a new “B-Modified” class brought in, Bill and crew built a 6 cylinder Hudson-powered car which placed 5th in points and was also the recipient of the “Best Looking Car” award. The same racer was upgraded for the following year to an “A” Modified which included the swap-in of a Chevy V8 engine. Despite a demolishing multiple rollover with his brother-in-law Brian Willson at the wheel, Bill still placed 7th in the standings at season’s end. He also took a few turns in the driver’s seat of Ken Jay’s blue #16 1939 Chev coupe in the Jalopy division.
A move to Nanaimo saw him teaming up with Ken for 1966 and driving a 1953 Chevy Jalopy at “Grandview Bowl” and also serving as Track Starter. Taking some time away from driving, Bill returned in 1975 after trading the piano he loved to play for a ’65 Chevelle Super Stock which he drove the following season, upgrading to a newer Chevy Nova built by Port Alberni’s Bill Vater for 1977 and 1978. He caught a ride in a restored vintage Stockcar at an early OTRA (Old Time Racers Association) meet at Nanaimo in September of 1979.
In 1983, Bill was one of the founding fathers of the “Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame”, serving as an executive member for many years after. He was president of VITRA in 1984 and again in 1986. Following his involvement in 2 highway accidents, in one of which he suffered a serious neck injury, Bill hung up his helmet and stepped away from competitive driving. He was President of the “Pro Stockcar” series in 1991, a position he held for a number of seasons and also occupied it’s Starter’s position.
Bill passed his love of the sport on to two of his sons, Bill Jr. and Bart, both of whom showed their inherited talent behind the wheel. In 1999, he became co-promoter of Western Speedway, assisted by his wife Connie who oversaw the concession stands and looked after the Speedway’s financial records.
Following his retirement from active racing involvement and the executive of the “Hall of Fame”, Bill has continued to attend the annual induction ceremonies, maintaining his many friendships with fellow former racers and in June of 2019 he attended an Old Timer’s get-together which marked the local release of author Bob Kehoe’s book on Billy Foster.