William Harley Wells

1901 – 1966

 

Harley Wells

 

Harley Wells was born on December 9, 1901 at Corning, Missouri, the third of four sons born to Benjamin Franklin “Frank” Wells (1864-1947) and his wife, Minerva “Minnie” (Swan) Wells (1877-1951).  The family moved to St. Joseph, Missouri sometime before 1920.

 

Wells soon became thoroughly smitten by the sport of auto racing.

 

One day in the early 1920s, Wells attended a car race on the ½ mile dirt oval racetrack at the Lake Contrary Amusement Park at St. Joseph, Missouri and asked one of the drivers (John Gerber of Topeka, Kansas) if he could ride along with him in the races.  Gerber declined Well’s request but, just as the flag was about to wave to start the race from a standing start, Wells jumped into the passenger seat of Gerber’s 2-seated race car and, there not being enough time for Gerber to get him out, Wells got to ride along anyway.  He was still seated in the car when Gerber crossed the finish line winning the race.

 

Harley Wells’ incomplete racing record:

 

 

July 3, 1923½ mile dirt ovalSenter Park at Franklin, Nebraska

Car:  Lexington special

           Finish:  Fastest 1-lap run in time trials of 51.8 seconds.

               Feature race winner:  Noel Bullock of North Platte, Nebraska who was driving a Rajo special.

 

August 31, 1923½ mile dirt ovalBrown County Fairgrounds at Hiawatha, Kansas

               Car:  Durant special

           Finish:  Was unable to start any of the races due to engine trouble.

               Feature race winner:   Albert “Al” Koepke of Topeka, Kansas who was driving his own Ford Frontenac

 

October, 1923½ mile dirt ovalSenter Park at Franklin, Nebraska

Finish:  Results of these races have yet to be located.

 

July 3, 1924½ mile dirt ovalSenter Park at Franklin, Nebraska

Car:  Durant special

           Finish:  Results of these races have yet to be located.

 

July 4, 1924½ mile dirt ovalSenter Park at Franklin, Nebraska

Car:  Durant special

           Finish:  Few results of these races have been located to date.

               Feature race winner:  King Rhiley of Oshkosh, Nebraska who was driving a Hudson “Super-Six”.

 

September 11, 1924½ mile dirt ovalBrown County Fairgrounds at Hiawatha, Kansas

          Organized and promoted by George Hatton & Tim Hurst

Car:  His own Frontenac #27.

           Finish:  Won the 3-mile race in his own Frontenac #27 over Rex Edmonds of Houston, Texas in a Ford.

               Feature race winner:   Harley Wells of St. Joseph, Missouri in his own Frontenac #27.

 

September 12, 1924½ mile dirt ovalBrown County Fairgrounds at Hiawatha, Kansas

          Organized and promoted by George Hatton & Tim Hurst

Car:  His own Frontenac #27.

           Finish:  Won the 5-mile “Class A” race in his own Frontenac #27 over Rex Edmonds of Houston, Texas in a Ford.

               Feature race winner:   Harley Wells of St. Joseph, Missouri in his own Frontenac #27.

 

June 14, 1925½ mile dirt ovalClinton County Fairgrounds at DeWitt, Iowa

           Organized and promoted by Charles H. Ireland

Car:  His own Frontenac #27.

           Finish:  These races were postponed until June 21, 1926 due to rain.

 

June 21, 1925½ mile dirt ovalClinton County Fairgrounds at DeWitt, Iowa

           Organized and promoted by Charles H. Ireland

Car:  His own Frontenac #27.

           Finish:  Results of these races have yet to be located.

 

August 25, 1925½ mile dirt ovalTillman County Fairgrounds at Frederick, Oklahoma

           Organized and promoted by George Hatton & Tim Hurst

Car:  His own Frontenac #27.

           Finish:  Results of these races have yet to be located.

 

August, 1925½ mile dirt ovalChildress Fairgrounds at Childress, Texas

Organized and promoted by George Hatton & Tim Hurst

Car:  His own Frontenac #27.

           Finish:  Results of these races have yet to be located.

 

September 11-12, 1925½ mile dirt ovalKiowa County Fairgrounds at Hobart, Oklahoma

           Organized and promoted by George Hatton & Tim Hurst

Car:  His own Frontenac #27.

           Finish:  Results of these races have yet to be located.

 

September, 1925½ mile dirt ovalCarter County Fairgrounds at Ardmore, Oklahoma

               Organized and promoted by George Hatton & Tim Hurst

           Car:  His own Frontenac #27.

           Finish:  Few results of these races have been located to date but we do know that Wells crashed through a fence doing little damage to his car.

Feature race winner:  Phineas Comador “Dad” Harrier of Hiawatha, Kansas who was driving his Fronty Ford special #6.

 

September 19, 1925½ mile dirt ovalKansas Free Fairgrounds in Topeka, Kansas

           Car:  Ackerman special

           Finish:  2nd fastest 2-lap time in time trials behind the time run by Elfreda Mais of Indianapolis, Indiana.

  2nd in the 2nd 7-lap heat race behind Oscar Anderson of Iron Mountain, Michigan who was driving a red Fiat #1.

  4th in the 10-lap Ajax trophy race behind Oscar Anderson of Iron Mountain, Michigan who was driving a red Fiat #1; Boyd Putnam and Ted Rick who was driving a Duesenberg.

Feature race winner:  Oscar Anderson of Iron Mountain, Michigan who was driving a red Fiat #1.

 

September 20, 1925½ mile dirt ovalKeokuk Fairgrounds at Keokuk, Iowa

Car:  His own Frontenac #27.

           Finish:  Wells was entered in these races but it is doubtful that he participated in them as he was racing in Oklahoma and Texas with promoters Hatton & Hurst at the time.  The results of any of these races have yet to be located though.

 

October 7, 1925½ mile dirt ovalChildress Fairgrounds at Childress, Texas

Organized and promoted by George Hatton & Tim Hurst

Car:  His own Frontenac #27.

           Finish:  Results of these races have yet to be located.

Feature race winner: George Souders of Lafayette, Indiana who was driving the Roberts & Warrick Chevrolet #400.

 

May 30, 1926½ mile dirt oval Frontier Park at Cedar Rapids, Iowa

            Car:  His own Frontenac #27.

Total purse:  $15,000

Finish:  Wells ran the 11th fastest lap in time trials of 31.8 seconds.  That was slower than the laps run in time trials by Billy Arnold of Chicago in a 16-valve Fronty Ford (30.0); John Gerber of Topeka, Kansas in his own 490 Chevrolet special #15 (30.2); Gus Schrader of Cedar Rapids, Iowa in a Dodge (30.2); Leslie “Les” Allen of Chicago in a Frontenac (30.2); Duane Dike “D. D.” Morris of Chicago in the Woodbury Frontenac (30.4); Bert Ficken of Sioux City, Iowa in a Dodge (30.7); Frank Schenk of Keokuk, Iowa in a Chevrolet (31.2); Ralph Eckstrom of Chicago in a Fronty Ford (31.3); Albert “Al” Koepke of Topeka, Kansas in a Fronty Ford (31.5); V. W. Peterson of Sioux Falls, South Dakota in a Dodge (31.6) and M. J. Miller of Cedar Rapids, Iowa in a double ignition Fronty Ford (31.6).

              The feature race was shortened due to rain.

           Feature race winner:  Leslie “Les” Allen of Chicago, Illinois in his own Frontenac.

 

July 4, 1926½ mile dirt ovalCushing Speedway Park at Cushing, Oklahoma

           Car:  His own Frontenac #27.

           Finish:  Few results of these races have been located to date.

Feature race winner:   Harley Wells of St. Joseph, Missouri in his own Frontenac #27.

 

July 5, 19265/8 mile dirt ovalWest Texas State Fairgrounds at Abilene, Texas – Sanctioned by A. A. A.

           Car:  His own Frontenac #27.

           Finish:  Few results of these races have been located to date.

Feature race winner:   Frank Lockhart in a Miller #7 owned by H. A. Miller.

 

July 25, 19265/8 mile dirt ovalOil Belt Speedway at Breckenridge, Texas – Sanctioned by A. A. A.

           Car:  Frontenac #27 owned by Ralph Scott of Miami, Oklahoma and sponsored by the Scott Motor Company of Miami.

           Finish:  3rd in the 16-lap feature race behind Dick Calhoun of Cleveland, Oklahoma who was driving a Calhoun special owned by W. R. Calhoun and George Souders of Lafayette, Indiana who was driving the #400 Roberts & Warrick Chevrolet #400.

Feature race winner:   Dick Calhoun of Cleveland, Oklahoma who was driving a Calhoun special owned by W. R. Calhoun.

 

August 1, 1926 – ½ mile dirt ovalWichita County Fairgrounds at Wichita Falls, Texas – Sanctioned by A. A. A.

           Car:  Frontenac #27 owned by Ralph Scott of Miami, Oklahoma and sponsored by the Scott Motor Company of Miami.

           Finish:  2nd in the 2nd heat race, finishing behind a Dodge special, the driver of which is currently unknown.

Feature race winner:   Bill Tennell in his own Fronty Ford #17.

 

August 14, 1926 – 1 mile dirt ovalMissouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia, Missouri – Sanctioned by I.M.C.A.

               Organized and promoted by Ralph H. Hankinson

           Car:  Frontenac #27 owned by Ralph Scott of Miami, Oklahoma and sponsored by the Scott Motor Company of Miami.

           Finish:  Won the 2nd 4-car, 5-mile heat race in 5:09.5.  Girard Cohen finished 2nd in a Go-Mac special.

                                Won the 10-mile “Free-for-All” race in 9:03.6.  Nelson Hayden of Yates Center, Kansas placed in 2nd place in his Hudson special #111.

Feature race winner:   Harley Wells of St. Joseph, Missouri in his own Frontenac #27.

 

August 21, 1926 – 1 mile dirt ovalMissouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia, Missouri – Sanctioned by I.M.C.A.

               Organized and promoted by Ralph H. Hankinson

           Car:  Frontenac #27 owned by Ralph Scott of Miami, Oklahoma and sponsored by the Scott Motor Company of Miami.

           Finish:  2nd in the 1st 5-mile heat race behind J. W. Cox of St. Joseph, Missouri in a Frontenac.

                                 Won the 50-mile “Free-for-All” sweepstakes race in 47:28.4.  J. W. Cox of St. Joseph, Missouri finished in 2nd place.  Wells’ victory paid him $750 from the posted purse.

Feature race winner:   Harley Wells of St. Joseph, Missouri in his own Frontenac #27 sponsored by the Scott Motor Company of Miami, Oklahoma.

 

May 30, 1927½ mile dirt ovalFrontier Park at Cedar Rapids, Iowa

                Organized and promoted by Harry P. Yonkers

           Attendance:  15,000

Car:  Frontenac #27 owned by Ralph Scott of Miami, Oklahoma and sponsored by the Scott Motor Company of Miami.

           Finish:  Wells’ name does not appear in the published results of these races.

Feature race winner:  Walter Higley of Longmont, Colorado who was driving a Gallivan special.

 

July 30, 1927½ mile dirt ovalCowley County Fairgrounds at Winfield, Kansas

           Organized and promoted by W. W. Bowen and Don C. Onley of San Antonio, Texas.

           Car:  Frontenac #27 owned by Ralph Scott of Miami, Oklahoma and sponsored by the Scott Motor Company of Miami.

           Finish:  2nd in the 1st 10-lap “Class A” race behind Charles Lebsack of Wichita, Kansas who was driving a Frontenac #K1 owned by Leonard Kerbs of Otis, Kansas.

   Won the 3-car, 3-mile “3-cornered match race” in 3:53.6, leading the entire race from start to finish, his time being a new track record for that distance.  Charles Lebsack of Wichita, Kansas who was driving a Frontenac #K1 owned by Leonard Kerbs of Otis, Kansas finished in 2nd place.

   George Roberts had only completed 4 laps of the scheduled 25-lap feature race when his engine expired.  The race became a three-car battle after that as Joe Hutchinson's Chevrolet special #44, driven by Andrew Fuller of Arkansas City, Kansas, was down on power and he was unable to keep up.  Roberts' car was still sitting on the racetrack near the inside fence around the track when leader Lebsack crashed into it in the 1st turn (southwest) of the 9th lap.  2nd place Wells then crashed into both of them.  The cars driven by Roberts and Lebsack overturned in flames.  Well’s Frontenac stayed upright and came to a stop quite some distance from the other two cars.  Lebsack and Wells were taken to William Newton Memorial hospital in Winfield after the wreck with minor bruises but neither driver was hurt badly.

Feature race winner:  Earl Hovenden of Arkansas City, Kansas driving a Chevrolet special #2 owned by George Dwight Moody of Arkansas City, Kansas.

 

September 2, 1927½ mile dirt oval Allen County Fairgrounds at Iola, Kansas

               Organized and promoted by Alfred Lloyd “Ducky” Scott of Topeka, Kansas.

Car:  Frontenac #27 owned by Ralph Scott of Miami, Oklahoma and sponsored by the Scott Motor Company of Miami.

Finish:  Wells’ was one of the 5 drivers present and he had his Frontenac there but he was one of the 2 drivers that did not start the race for undisclosed reasons.

Feature race winner:   Albert “Al” Koepke of Topeka, Kansas in his Ford Frontenac #8.

 

September 6, 1928 – ½ mile dirt oval – Ottawa County Fairgrounds at Miami, Oklahoma – Sanctioned by A.A.A.

Car:  Bammel special owned by Lee Bammel of Taylor, Texas.

Attendance:  4,000

Finish:  Won the 2nd 10-lap heat race in 5:46.0, finishing ahead of Rea Bray of Hutchinson, Kansas who was driving his own Fronty Ford special.

              3rd in the 24-lap Grand Sweepstakes race behind Vern McComb of North Chicago, Illinois driving the Lawhon special owned by George and Ernie Lawhon of St. Joseph, Missouri and Earl Hovenden of Duncan, Oklahoma driving a dual overhead cam Fronty Ford special #K-1 owned by Leonard, Kerbs of Otis, Kansas.

            Feature race winner:  Vern McComb of North Chicago, Illinois driving the Lawhon special #X-3 owned by George and Ernie Lawhon of St. Joseph, Missouri.

 

September 8, 1928 – ½ mile dirt oval – Ottawa County Fairgrounds at Miami, Oklahoma – Sanctioned by A.A.A.

Car:  Bammel special owned by Lee Bammel of Taylor, Texas.

Attendance:  2,000

Finish:  Won the 3rd 10-lap heat race finishing ahead of Earl Hovenden of Duncan, Oklahoma driving a dual overhead cam Fronty Ford special #K-1 owned by Leonard, Kerbs of Otis, Kansas.

Feature race winner:  Earl Hovenden of Duncan, Oklahoma driving a dual overhead cam Fronty Ford special #K-1 owned by Leonard, Kerbs of Otis, Kansas.

 

July 4, 1929 – ½ mile dirt oval – West Madison Speedway west of Arkansas City, Kansas – Sanctioned by A.A.A.

Organized and promoted by Marvin “Mack” McAnally of Winfield, Kansas

Car:  Brown special #58 owned by the V. B. Brown of Bartlesville, Oklahoma.

Attendance:  5,000 – 6.500

Finish:  Wells’ name does not appear in the published results of these races.

            Feature race winner:  Andrew Fuller of Arkansas City, Kansas in a Gallivan Ford #30-30 that Fuller co-owned with Joe Hutchinson of Arkansas City, Kansas

 

“The Great Depression” made it difficult to pay expenses racing in the Midwest so Wells, his parents and his siblings, moved to Baltimore, Maryland in 1930.  Ralph Hankinson was sanctioning A.A.A. races there that paid better purses than could be found in the Midwest.

 

August 30, 1930 – ½ mile dirt oval – Flemington Fairgrounds at Flemington, New Jersey – Sanctioned by A.A.A.

Organized and promoted by Ralph H. Hankinson

Car:  His own Harley Wells special.

Finish:  Results of these races have yet to be located.

 

September 1, 1930 – ½ mile dirt oval – Milford Mills Speedway at Pikesville, Maryland

                Organized and promoted by Paul Osterman & R. Wells

Car:  His own Harley Wells special.

Finish:  Fastest 1-lap in time trials with a time of 32.5 seconds.  John Moretti and Aquilla Senyardo a.k.a. Bill Senyard, both of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania tied for 2nd place with identical laps of 32.8 seconds.

  2nd in the 1st 5-car, 5-mile heat race behind John Moretti in car #30.

              Won the 5-mile stock car race in 6:52.0.  Leo Diel finished in 2nd place only ½ second behind Wells.

             2nd in the 20-mile sweepstakes race finishing 39 seconds behind winner John Moretti of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  J. H. Gardner of Pikesville, Maryland finished 3rd, 18 seconds behind the Harley Wells special.  Wells was relieved at the halfway point by Charles Cramer of Baltimore, Maryland after Wells’ stomach began hurting due to the rough racetrack.

            Feature race winner:  John Moretti of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania who was driving a car #30.

 

October 4, 1930 – ½ mile dirt oval – Milford Mills Speedway at Pikesville, Maryland

               Organized and promoted by Paul Osterman & R. Wells

Car:  His own Harley Wells special.

Finish:  Results of these races have yet to be located.

 

May 4, 1931 – 5/8 mile oiled dirt oval – Pikesville Speedway at Pikesville, Maryland – Sanctioned by N.A.R.A.

Car:  His own Harley Wells special.

Finish:  2nd in in time trials with one lap of 32.0 seconds.  That was only slower than the lap of 31.8 seconds run by Johnny Hannon of Norristown, Pennsylvania.

  2nd in the 26-car, 20-lap main event behind Park Culp (or Cook) of Allentown, Pennsylvania who was driving a Duesenberg.

            Feature race winner:  Park Culp (or Cook) of Allentown, Pennsylvania who was driving a Duesenberg.

 

May 16, 1931 – 5/8 mile oiled dirt oval – Pikesville Speedway at Pikesville, Maryland

Car:  His own Harley Wells special.

Attendance:  500

Finish:  Won the 5-mile qualifying heat in 4:21.0.  Harry Issinger of Germantown, Pennsylvania led until the final 50-feet when he was passed by Wells.  Issinger finished close behind in 2nd place after blowing a head gasket in the final turn.

               2nd in the 15-mile feature race behind Johnny Hannon of Norristown, Pennsylvania.

Feature race winner:   Johnny Hannon of Norristown, Pennsylvania

 

May 30, 1931 – ½ mile dirt oval – Carbon County Fairgrounds at Lehighton, Pennsylvania

Finish:  Results of these races have yet to be located.

 

September 7, 1931 – ½ mile dirt oval – Virginia State Fairgrounds in Richmond, Virginia – Sanctioned by A.A.A.

Organized and promoted by James A. “Jimmy” Kline.

Finish:  6th fastest lap in time trials of 31.6 seconds which was only slower than the laps run by Don Moore in a Kline-Duesenberg #7 owned by R. L. T. Garrett; Tadlock Eldridge in a Rajo; Harry Campbell in a Fronty Ford #16 owned by J. T. Cacace; Barney Overton and Jimmy Patterson in a Miller owned by E. C. Yagle.

              6th in the feature race behind Harry Campbell in a Fronty Ford #16 owned by J. T. Cacace; Don Moore in a Kline-Duesenberg #7 owned by R. L. T. Garrett; Tadlock Eldridge in a Rajo; Sam Elliott and Vern Orenduff in a Fronty Ford #61 owned by Charles Cyr.

Feature race winner:  Harry Campbell in a Fronty Ford #16 owned by J. T. Cacace.

Note:  Wells’ was also advertised to appear in A.A.A. sanctioned races at the Carbon County Fairgrounds at Lehighton, Pennsylvania but he obviously did not.  

 

August 7, 1932 – ½ mile dirt oval – Bo Stearns Track north of Wichita, Kansas

Organized and promoted by William F. Floto of Wichita, Kansas

Car:  FG

Attendance:  3,000

Finish:  Tied with Murray Earl of Hutchinson, Kansas in a Frontenac for the 5th fastest time in time trials running 1 lap in 32.6 seconds.  That was only slower than the time trial laps run by Ted Davis of Junction City, Kansas in the Mulliken special Chevrolet #M33; Verne Ellis in the Ellis special #33 Schofield and Pat Cunningham of St. Joseph, Missouri driving the Kerbs special Frontenac owned by Leonard Kerbs of Otis, Kansas.

              3rd in the 2nd 7-lap heat race behind James E. White of Herington, Kansas in a Frontenac and Louis “Speed” Irwin of Iola, Kansas in the Lawhon special #X-3 owned by George and Ernie Lawhon of St. Joseph, Missouri.

            Feature race winner:  Pat Cunningham of St. Joseph, Missouri driving the Kerbs special Frontenac owned by Leonard Kerbs of Otis, Kansas.

 

August 21, 1932 – ½ mile dirt oval – Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia, Missouri – Sanctioned by I.M.C.A.

            Car:  McDowell Ford owned by R. T. Crossley.

Finish:  Few results of these races have yet located to date.

Feature race winner:   Harley Wells of Baltimore, Maryland

 

August 26, 1932 – ½ mile dirt oval – Iowa State Fairgrounds at Des Moines, Iowa.

            Car:  McDowell Ford owned by R. T. Crossley.

Finish:  Wells’ name does not appear in the published results of these races.

Feature race winner:  Sam Hoffman of Sioux City, Iowa who was driving a Cragar owned by John Bagley of Omaha, Nebraska.

 

September 3, 1932 – ½ mile dirt oval – Minnesota State Fairgrounds at Hamline, Minnesota – Sanctioned by I.M.C.A.

            Car:  McDowell Ford owned by R. T. Crossley.

Finish:  Wells’ name does not appear in the published results of these races.

Feature race winner:  Gus Schrader of Cedar Rapids, Iowa in his own Miller.

 

September 6, 1932 – ½ mile dirt oval – Nebraska State Fairgrounds at Lincoln, Nebraska

Finish:  Wells’ name does not appear in the published results of these races.

Feature race winner:   Clyde Gilbert of Denver, Colorado driving the Fisher special owned by Lloyd Fisher of Longmont, Colorado

 

September 9, 1932 – ½ mile dirt oval – Nebraska State Fairgrounds at Lincoln, Nebraska

Finish:  Wells’ name does not appear in the published results of these races.

Feature race winner:  Maynard Clark of Rock Island, Illinois who was driving a Gerber special owned by John Gerber of Stanwood, Iowa

 

June 18, 1933 – ½ mile dirt oval – Jasper County Fairgrounds at Newton, Iowa

            Finish:  Wells’ name does not appear in the published results of these races.

            Feature race winner:  Tony Safranak of Austin, Minnesota who was driving a Circle X Parmenter special.

 

September 9, 1933 – 5/8 mile oiled dirt oval – Pikesville Speedway at Pikesville, Maryland

Organized and promoted by George Hesson

Finish:  Wells’ name does not appear in the published results of these races.

Feature race winner:  Roy Devese of Garrison Maryland

 

June 6, 1937 – ½ mile dirt oval – Bird-in-Hand Speedway at Lancaster, Pennsylvania – Sanctioned by the Central Pennsylvania Racing Association (C.P.R.A.)

Finish:  Wells’ name does not appear in the published results of these races.

Feature race winnerMark Light in a Hal owned by Herman Kauffman.

 

October 11, 1937 – ½ mile dirt oval – Mississippi State Fairgrounds at Jackson, Mississippi – Sanctioned by I.M.C.A.

Organized and promoted by Aut Swenson

Finish:  Wells’ name does not appear in the published results of these races.

Feature race winnerLen Musick of Dallas, Texas

 

August 1, 1954 – ½ mile dirt oval – Legion Speedway in American Legion Memorial Park at Savannah, Missouri

Finish:  2nd in a 6-lap “Hot Rod race” behind Henderson Tonnies of Maryville, Missouri.

Feature race winner:  Reo Hines of Superior, Nebraska in a “Hot Rod”.

 

 

When not driving race cars, Harley Wells worked sweeping floors and as a garage laborer, washing and greasing cars in a garage.  He also listed his occupation as a painter.  He was married c1941 to May, whose maiden name is unknown.  They divorced less than a year later and had no children.  Harley enlisted as a warrant officer in the U. S. Army at Baltimore, Maryland on September 28, 1942.  When he got out of the Army, he went to live in St. Joseph, Missouri, only to enlist again in the summer of 1946 for another three years.  This time, he was assigned to the Coast Artillery Corps in the Caribbean.

 

William Harley Wells passed away on March 1, 1966 and is buried in the I. O. O. F. Cemetery, a.k.a. Odd Fellows Cemetery, located just east of Craig, Missouri.  If you know anything more about Harley Wells, please contact Bob Lawrence at: sprintguy @ cox.net