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July 12th 2006

Ed Hugus, Obituary and Appreciation

By Pete Vack
Photos courtesy of Ed Hugus Collection

Ed Hugus at Le mans, 1964, driving the first GTO second series coupe, S/N 5571.

Portions of this article were previously published as “The French Connection” by Pete Vack, in Forza Magazine, June 2004.

Sadly, what has been called the “Greatest Generation” is passing on very quickly. Last week, on July 7th, we learned of the death of Ed Hugus, a friendly, charming race driver whose career, while not stellar, was consistent and always worthy of note. Ed had just celebrated his 83rd birthday at his home in Pebble Beach, California.

From 1956 to 1965, Hugus drove a great many of the classic Ferraris, among them the fabled 250 Testa Rossa, (serial number 0732) "LucyBelle II" with which he placed 7th at LeMans in 1958.

Making his way in the SCCA
Hugus was born on June 30th, 1923. He grew up on farms in Pennsylvania and Ohio, and when he was 18, his father and brother went to work in the steel mills of Pittsburgh. He liked machinery and motorcycles, and must have been brimming with confidence and daring. Hugus spent World War II as a paratrooper on the Pacific front, and returned to work for a friend, who had started the first imported car dealership in Wheeling, West Virginia. He was an early sports car enthusiast, helped establish the Steel Cities Region of the S.C.C.A, and began racing Jags, MGs, and Alfas. He quickly made the transition to Ferraris (among others) and became a top SCCA contender.

Pittsburgh, 1956. On the back of the photo, Hugus wrote, "Chet Flynn bought this 4.1 Mexico from Chinetti, I believe it was the one Luigi drove in the Carrera. (probably S/N 0224AT, Ed.) I bought it from Chet, and drove it from New York to Pittsburgh. I drove it quite a bit to the races but never actually raced it."

Tall, with Errol Flynn-good looks, Hugus made his way to France and entered the 1956 Le Mans with writer/racer John Bentley, coming in 8th overall in an 1100 cc Cooper, an amazing feat. Hugus struck up a friendship with the ACO Clerk of Course, Jacques Loste. Loste pulled Ed aside one evening. “Look, Ed, you’ve done very well here with the Cooper. You have an entry for the race anytime you want.” Hugus took him seriously and entered the event every year until 1966.

Back home after his LeMans drive, Hugus established a dealership in Pittsburgh, European Cars, and was perhaps the second Ferrari dealer in the U.S. That brought Hugus into a long lasting and satisfying relationship with Luigi Chinetti. Not only did Hugus sell a lot of Ferraris for the era, but Hugus's carte blanche entry at LeMans gave Chinetti a way to enter some of his cars, even before establishing the North American Racing Team.

This Ferrari 500 was owned by Chet Flynn, but here raced at Watkins Glen by Hugus. S/N 0652 MDTR already had a long and glorious history.

Along the way, Hugus drove a wide variety of Ferraris, from the brutish front engined 500 TR to the semi-sophisticated rear engined 250/275 LM. Not content just driving Ferraris, Hugus again entered Le Mans in 1957, this time driving a Porsche RS with Count Carel De Beaufort. The team placed 8th overall and won their class. De Beaufort collected the Shell prize money, and left quickly, not mentioning it to Hugus. So much for rich Counts.

LucyBelle II
The next year, Ed's long time buddy Chet Flynn arranged for a new 250TR, serial number 0732TR, to be entered in the 12 Hours of Sebring in March 1958, for himself and Hugus. Flynn was also a very good friend of the Sebring race chief Alec Ulmann, so entry was no problem. Painted red, it was almost identical to another 250TR (serial number 0730), which had also been entered at Sebring, to be driven by E.D. Martin and John Fitch. "However, after the practice, Chinetti decided that Flynn should drive with Martin in 0730, and Fitch would drive with me in 0732." The last minute driver change was to cause some confusion over the years. Flynn, driving the car belonging to Martin, flipped 0730 in the afternoon, while Hugus and Fitch eventually retired 0732 with a broken valve spring.

LucyBelle II in the pits at Le Mans. Hugus is on the pit wall at left, co-driver Erickson at right. "It rained and hailed during my stint," recalled Hugus.

Still intact, 0732 was then shipped to France and readied for the Le Mans 24 hour race. "John Baus, my team manager, had it painted white with a blue stripe for the race," said Hugus. Baus painted the name "Lucybelle II" on the side of the car before the event, and it's been known as that ever since. Lucy was Lucille Davis, the wife of "Pete" Parker H. Davis, a wealthy Pittsburgh enthusiast and willing patron to Hugus. While Hill and Gendebien won with a factory entered TR, Hugus and Ernie Erickson drove their "LucyBelle II" to seventh overall.

In 1960, Chinetti arranged to have Hugus try out the new 250GT SWB at Sebring. 1785 GT was the ninth SWB built, a comp version, and Augie Pabst partnered with Hugus for the Florida event in March. In June, the pair entered the SWB with Hugus as the entry. Or they assumed it was the same car. "Both Augie and I thought the Le Mans car was the same car we had driven at Sebring." But according to records compiled by a number of SWB experts, the Le Mans car was serial number 1759, another Comp Ferrari, and the sixth one built. The team placed seventh overall.

Hugus teamed with George Reed to take the prototype 250GTO to eighth overall at Le Mans in 1962.

250GT Prototype
Hugus also had a chance to race one of several experimental cars which led to the GTO. Chassis number 2643GT, a 250GT SWB Speciale, was first raced at Le Mans in 1961, where it retired. Stirling Moss drove the car again at the 1962 Daytona Continental where he placed first in class and fourth overall. It was sold to Bill McKelvy of Pittsburg, and entered at Sebring by Hugus, co-driven by George Reed. They garnered eighth overall and third in class at the twelve hours. In what was becoming a tradition, the car was shipped to France and entered in Le Mans, again to be driven by Hugus and Reed. Here the white and blue car placed ninth overall and fourth in class.

If driving the Speciale wasn't special enough, Hugus's next ride would top anyone's resume. On February 24th, 1962, the first GTO, serial number 3223 GT, was presented at Ferrari's press conference at Maranello. Built for Scuderia SSS Repubblica of Venezia, the palace revolt nullified that sale and it went instead to Chinetti, who in turn gave or sold it to McKelvy. But the car did not race until September, when it was entered by McKelvy in the Bridgehampton Double 400 on the 16th. Drivers were Ed Hugus and Charlie Hayes, who had been campaigning a SWB with excellent results the year before.

A rare photo of two legends, Alfred Momo, left, and Luigi Chinetti, right. Hugus and Chinetti worked well together, particularly at Le Mans.

In the 1960s, Hugus would fly to Europe for Le Mans and stay for three weeks. "Chinetti would take me to Maranello, and I recall several rides with Enzo Ferrari, as he road tested the latest GT car. Ferrari spoke some English, and we always got along well." Hugus didn't think much of it at the time. He didn't recall getting excited about the cars he drove—whether it was the new GTO, or the 250 LM, it was simply what he enjoyed doing, in an almost blasé, laid back fashion. For the 1964 24 hour, Hugus was back behind the wheel of a GTO, but retired with rear axle failure. Again, Hugus was driving a first—Serial Number 5571 GT, owned and entered by Chinetti, the first GTO with the new short roof body configuration. It would be a Le Mans Hugus would long remember. "About eight hours into the race, the rear axle blew up, I mean literally disintegrated", recalled Hugus. "I was later told that pieces of the differential went into the crowd, and hurt a couple of people. Another piece went into the pits and went through Briggs Cunningham's pants!" And there was an inquest. "Chinetti and I had to go before a magistrate, who had in a box some of the pieces of the rear end as evidence. We nearly got our rear ends in jail, but Chinetti got us out ok." When Chinetti asked for the box of broken parts, though, his request was refused. "That box full of differential is still probably in some court in France."

In 1965, according to Hugus, he won the event that had been so much a part of his life. A reserve driver for the Chinetti entry, Hugus watched as Masten Gregory and Jochen Rindt kept the 250LM (Serial Number 5893) going and going, the competition falling by the wayside. But, according to Hugus, by the early morning hours, Gregory was tired, his eyes even more tired, and during a pitstop told Hugus "You're the reserve driver, get in her and take over for a while." Climbing into the cockpit of the leading 250 LM, Ed Hugus drove as he always drove, fast, smoothly, and above all, totally in synch with the car's mechanical condition. Ed was at home, doing what he did best.

Pebble Beach, 2004. "Handing out breakfast" to the deer in his backyard.

Ed Hugus never bragged about his accomplishments in any manner. Unfortunately, no one was ever able to substantiate Ed's claim that he co-drove the winning car. And if, in later years, his memory had failed him, as it does with so many of us, it matters not. The 1965 LeMans 24 Hour is but a footnote in the career of a great guy and a great driver.

The Legend of Lucybelle II lingers on...

Karen poses in the Lucybelle II hat and jacket.

While proofing the above article, Karen Nielsen suddenly IM’d.
“Hey, I have a powder blue "LucyBelle II" jacket in my closet. Erik bought it on Ebay for me, along with the matching cap.”
She went to the closet. “It's an Ferrari Official Licensed Product”, she wrote. On the inside, a label reads

“ Lucybelle II was one of the earliest versions of the Ferrari Testarossa ever built. Between 1958 and 1961, proudly carrying its race number 22, Lucybelle II was a familiar sight on racetracks throughout the world. At a time when automobile racing was an alchemy of sweat, passion, oil, and fuel, Lucybelle II inspired the dreams of a generation of adventurous free spirits and gentlemen champions.”

The LucyBelle II Testa Rossa is also available as a 1/43 model, and can be found on Ebay at just about anytime for very reasonable prices.

In Le Mans livery, as driven by Hugus and Erickson to eighth place in 1958. This image from Ebay.

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Ed Hugus, Obit

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