After attending the races at Western Speedway with his Dad from the mid 1950’s to early ’60’s, Bob Collins joined the “Vancouver Island Track Racing Association” (VITRA) in 1966 and became a crew member on the yellow #44 1955 Ford “Jalopy” which was owned and driven by Al Hitchcox.
Getting the driving “bug” himself, Bob built his own car the following season and chose a 1949 Ford with a ’51 Mercury flathead V8 engine, his goal being to become a competitive driver. He learned quickly that first season, becoming one of the faster “B” main event cars and rising the following year to qualifying in the middle of the 30-plus car “A” main field. 1968 was a year of change with most of the quicker cars now running overhead valve inline 6 cylinder engines. Despite the fact that the venerable flathead V8 engines were on their way out of the winner’s circle, Bob chose to stay with his and was very enthusiastically supported by his wife Kathy who proudly wore her orange racing jacket with “Flatheads Forever” displayed on the back.
Bob stayed competitve into the 1969 season, timing in quick enough for the fast heat and on occasion making the “A” trophy dash. In July, he qualified 9th fastest for that year’s “Billy Foster 100” but on that race’s 75th lap, his faithful flathead V8 engine blew up which prompted a change to the 6 cylinder Ford motor that many of his fellow Ford competitors were running. With his car already good in the “handling” department, Bob found the new 6 cylinder propelling him to fast heat wins, good placings in “A” main events and a 3rd place finish in the Stockcar points standings at season’s end.
Running the same car and making some allowable changes, Bob moved up to the “Super Stock” class in 1970. The following year, he and brother Gary teamed up and built a 1961 Ford, finishing the season 5th in points. They made some suspension updates to the same car for 1972 and despite some engine valve problems caused by attempting to turn the engine higher, Bob won his 1st main event and finished the points race in 7th spot.
Inspired by a similar car run by Californian Jack McCoy at a West Coast NASCAR race held at Western, Bob built a 1964 Ford Galaxie fastback for the ’73 Super Stock season. His #88 car was consistently in the top 4 but the high cost of tire replacement took it’s toll over the season which prompted him to park the car with two races left and put a “For Sale” sign on it. It had been a good season with him winning 10 fast heats along with some trophy dashes and finishing 5th in points.
With the car sold, Bob became engine builder and Crew Chief on Terry Forsyth’s Open Competition Super Stock which won the “Blitz-Weinhart” series and finished 2nd in the 1974 “International Drivers Challenge” (IDC) before a hard collision with a concrete light stand protector totalled the car. Bob won VITRA’s “Mechanic of the Year” for his efforts on Terry’s car.
1975 put him back in the driver’s seat in a ’59 Thunderbird owned by Mark Meeres in which he won 3 main events and finished 4th in points. Some refinements on the same car for ’76 gave Bob and Mark 6 main event victories and boosted them to a 2nd place points standing finish.
His final year of driving in 1977 was in a 1968 Mercury Cougar (the very 1st “Pony car” to run at Western) which saw his consistent top 3 race finishes and 6 main event wins win Bob a season championship in the new 3 track “Island Series” for Super Stocks.
In race-driving retirement, Bob continued to operate “Performance Automotive” (which he had first opened in 1975) out of his shop at his home in Langford where he continued to build racing engines for some 30 cars that won over 110 feature races and a total of 15 series championships. Bill Hitchcox’s Northwest Championship win with a “Collins-built” motor was the 1st NASCAR championship won by a Canadian engine builder. Starting in early 1996, Bob slowly moved away from building racecar motors and concentrated more on high performance street engines with him finally retiring from motor building in 2009.