Known as the Gentleman Racer, inland resident Hank Williams, who made history with his Cobra race car, will participate in Fontana’s 50th Black History Month Parade and Expo on Saturday, February 24. The parade will begin at 10 a.m. on the corner of Citrus and Summit Avenue, and the Expo will start at noon and continue until 4 p.m. at the North Home Depot.
The celebration will present the perfect opportunity for the community to meet and shake hands with the country’s most celebrated and historic African American race car driver and see up-close his original race car, the 1964 Cobra. Although a number of Cobras are still displayed at car shows across the country, most are mere replicas. It is extremely rare to see an original Cobra and rarer still to simultaneously meet the car’s original and only owner and driver.
Although Williams has made some minor repairs to his beloved Cobra as a result of race damage over the years, for the most part the vehicle is completely original, down to its rare hard top that reports have noted was a “factory option.”
Even the car’s grey-blue hue has a story. Over the years, Williams has described the color as “some kind of a mistake.” The car was supposed to be light blue, but the factory released the last three cars in this production line with the unusual grey-blue color. Williams’ supposition was the manufacturer had a little silver and a little blue paint available, which were mixed to paint the last three cars.
For approximately ten years, Williams and his Cobra raced all over Southern California as part of the Sports Car Club of America. During those years, he competed in at least 394 events and earned 35 trophies. Included among his most treasured awards is a plaque he received that commemorates his achievement as the first African American to drive the Indianapolis Speedway.