Babineau Metalworks LLC.

Gary Bensen

November 25, 1938- August 3, 2021

Tribute to a friend,..

As many of you know I have decided at years end to discontinue building cars for customers.  I hope with my remaining time to finally build some cars for myself. It is time. And the life clock has no snooze or rest button. Which brings me to the reason for this post.  I have had no shortage of work during my car building career.  With original Indianapolis roadsters costing between 100 and 500 thousand dollars. For most people it is beyond reach.  Thus explains my niche recreation market.  Over the years, even at my prices, I have had people plead with me wanting just a chassis and or a body or some hard to find pieces, In fact I have worked within people’s budgets thus explaining the lack of Offenhauser engines and the like.  In my over 30 year roadster building career.  I have only furnished 3 “rollers”  (In essence a completed race car less the finish work.)  This would be a complete car,  Less paint, chrome, upholstery and plumbing. The last of which I delivered to a fellow in late 2019.  I have been very selective who I have sold these unfinished cars to as the finish work is and will be represented as a car that I have built.  After talking with Gary on the phone and after a visit to my shop and him sharing his passion for cars and seeing photos of his work. I decided we would collaborate on a project. You see I could sense something in Gary,  He seemed like an older version of myself, I noticed him as he looked around my shop at the many pictures on the walls and at the cars I had under construction.  He said to me,  with tears in his eyes that he had always wanted to work on and own an Indy roadster.  Gary was 80 years old when I met him.  Gary wanted me to build him a Watson car,… I explained that in order for me to do that.  It would not fit into his time frame.  At that point I showed Gary the 2 extra Novi chassis’ I had here in the back room. These were extra complete bare frames.  I had bent them up when I built Brock Yates car, as I made 3 total identical Novi chassis’.  Gary was not a Novi fan so he left broken hearted.   Over time and numerous phone calls.  He had said another favorite would be the Roger Ward Filter Queen car.

 I told him I could slightly modify the Novi frame build a new nose and use what parts I had around the shop to complete something within his budget.  So even though the tail would be incorrect as well as other aspects wouldn’t be quite right at least for Gary it would be “HIS” dream come true Indy car.  Gary also wanted a Jaguar engine, a chromed roll bar, a rear bumper, and a double break fuel filler. All of which I told him were incorrect for that year car.  None of that mattered to Gary.  That was the way he wanted his car.  Even though I was reluctant to do that something told me just go ahead and make him happy.  During the build process when Gary would call I would jokingly say to that “the only reason I am doing this is because you have a good first name” and we would both laugh.  When I would answer the phone our conversations would always start as he would say “Hello Gary,.. it’s the other Gary”.

To say we became friends would not be accurate, we shared insights to life, occasionally  told jokes, even went to lunch sometimes when he would visit to check on progress.  So we were just 2 guys who knew each other and also have very similar passions about cars.  But over time you get a feeling about somebody and with Gary I knew he really wanted an Indy car.  I also knew through our talks Gary was dealing with some health issues, a knee replacement, a bad hip and other things that seem to be the norm for us as we age.  Even when Gary picked up his car he was using a walker as his knee was still healing up.  His wife had e-mailed me with a big THANK YOU about a week after Gary got the car home. She said “Thank you and that it made him happy”,.. and that “he would sit out in the garage hours at a time and just stare at it”.  Gary had to wait several months before he was healthy enough to be able to start the disassembly and finishing process.   Gary called me this past June of this year saying he had just finished the car and would get some photos out to me as soon as he could. He was excited as he had entered it in the Millers at Milwaukee event for this past July 2021.  I hung up the phone smiling for Gary as he achieved his dream of working on his very own Indy car.  I had asked several really great photographers that I know who cover that event and described the car to them and asked them to snap a few photos for me if they could. 

The Miller event came and went no one had seen Gary and or the car represented there.  I contacted his wife and she informed me that Gary had  a minor surgery and was still in the hospital.  Needless to say he never recovered. Gary passed away in early August at age 83.  I feel as though God allowed Gary to achieve his lifelong dream before he called him home.  I feel sometimes in my spirit that God uses us to help others and if we allow, He will work through us to provide happiness to others as well. The purpose of this post is not about cars.  It is to remind everyone that the journey we are on is short and fast. Some of us like Gary get to run in the feature with many more laps. Some only get a handful of laps in the heat race and some drop out early with engine problems and do not finish the race that was scheduled for them to run.   I have always felt a sense of purpose in my life even in my Industrial career. I have seen grown men cry when they see their finished car. But to me what is both sad and touching at the same time.  I know in my heart that I was part of God’s plan for Gary’s life.  And that I was happy to have been a member on his Gary’s crew.    Checkered flag Buddy,.