Bob Boileau III has an endearing memory of his late father, Bob Jr., at the 1986 SCCA Runoffs at Road Atlanta. Bob Jr., "Honda Bob" to friends and competitors, had qualified well, and while waiting for the start he called his son over to the car as officials were clearing the grid."If I stop for anything, it'll be for a beer," he yelled over the din. His son laughed, said: "Sure, whatever, Dad" and jumped over the pit wall.
Honda Bob hung with the GT5 field in fifth or sixth place in his 1974 Honda Civic 1200 for the first half of the race. After over a decade of racing the Honda oddity-which wasn't so odd by 1986-Bob Jr. and son had pretty well figured out how to keep the little machine, particularly its engine, together.
So when his dad didn't come around for three laps, Bob III started to worry. He started to organize a recovery effort when he saw the 1200 (nicknamed Tokyo Joe) come around in just about the same spot in the field. "Did we just miss him these last three laps?" he wondered.
When the race ended, the elder Boileau pulled into the pits with a half-empty bottle of Budweiser between his legs. "I had to stop and get a beer," he explained before relating events. He'd come around a corner and the car went dead. At the same time, he'd seen the LCD clock in the dash shut off and knew that a battery clamp had simply worked loose from the terminal.
He jumped out of the car, lifted the trunk panel and brought his fist down on the errant clamp. The fuel pump buzzed to life and the LCD illuminated just as a track marshal shooed Boileau from the track. No on-track repair during a hot race allowed. The driver pleaded his case to no avail and then ambled to the nearby grandstand.
"Anybody got a beer?" he asked. Several bottles were lifted in his direction. He quaffed one, then noticed the marshal had disappeared. "How about another for the road?" He grabbed the nearest Bud on offer, ran back to the car and rejoined the race.
"Dad took the checkered flag with a bottle of Bud in his lap," Bob III says, laughing at the memory of a different time, a different culture within club racing.
Bob Boileau Jr.'s story parallels that of the American Honda Motor Company. He was among the first dozen or so employees of the fledgling group, signing on before the Japanese parent had shipped a single car to US soil. His difficult job included traveling the north and southeastern states in a Chevy Impala company car, setting up Honda dealers.