Bill Murphy Buick “Service Parts” Metal Lettering AP290

Race car legend Bill Murphy ‘s Buick dealership of Culver City “Service Parts” metal lettering sign that used to house neon. Letters measure approx.18″ x 12″ x  3″

Murphy was the owner and operator of Bill Murphy Buick on Washington Boulevard in Culver City and in his 40s when he began generating headlines for his car racing. Driving a Kurtis roadster powered by a 322-cubic-inch displacement Buick engine that produced 400 horsepower, he was a consistent front-runner who won numerous races up and down the state. He often competed against his friend, racing great and performance-car builder Carroll Shelby. “The Buick engine that Bill had in his Kurtis was more powerful than any of the engines built for Ferraris, Maseratis or anything at the time,” Shelby told The Times this week. “It would outrun any Ferrari in the straight. He won a lot of races.” In Art Evans’ 2001 book “The Fabulous Fifties: A Decade of Sports Car Racing in Southern California,” Murphy is described as “one of the very successful true amateur racers of the fifties.” On the track, Evans said, “Bill was a very steady, safe driver; his car was fast and sometimes he won, but he didn’t take any chances. I can’t think of any time he got into any kind of trouble.”

In 1957, a Times columnist took note of Murphy’s quiet nature, calling him the “quietest Irishman in captivity” and noting that “his frugal use of words leads to the assumption that he thinks he’s sending a telegram when he talks and has to pay for his statements by the word.” “What makes your car go?” the columnist asked Murphy. After giving the matter considerable thought, Murphy said, “Gasoline.”

But Murphy grew more expansive when asked how fast it would go. “I don’t really know,” Murphy said. “But I can give you a pretty good guess. It ought to hit at least 180 mph. The reason it can reach that speed is because it is pretty lightweight and is streamlined to minimize wind resistance. It has a fuel injection system, a four-speed transmission and can develop well over 300 horsepower.”

By the early ’60s, Murphy had quit racing and turned his attention to other interests, such as flying, running his cattle ranch in San Luis Obispo County and raising thoroughbred racehorses. In addition to running his own car dealership, he also provided financing to get a number of new car dealers started. And in the ’70s he owned a Learjet dealership in Van Nuys, said to be the only one on the West Coast and one of only three in the nation at the time. Born in Sitka, Alaska, on Nov. 17, 1912, Murphy grew up in Auburn, Wash., and moved with his family to Los Angeles when he was a teenager. He lived to be 91.

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