Racing artist helps to preserve painting schemes he pioneered
By RICK MINTER / Universal Uclick
Visitors to the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C., where the fourth class will be inducted on Friday, will get to see some of Albert “Buz” McKim’s best work, and it won’t have anything to do with his day job as the Hall’s historian.
In addition to his knack for putting together exhibits and for telling the story of NASCAR’s history, McKim is an accomplished racing artist, and as such has hand-lettered many a race car over the year.
His latest lettering job, on a replica of the Wood Brothers’ No. 21 Ford that Tiny Lund drove to victory in the 1963 Daytona 500, will be on display to commemorate Leonard Wood’s induction into the Hall. Joining it will be a replica of the 1954 Hudson Hornet driven by another inductee, the late Herb Thomas. McKim lettered that car nearly 30 years ago, and the paint job has stood the test of time without any issues.
“Maybe I should have charged them more,” he chuckled.
It all began back in his youth, when he attempted to be a race driver on the tracks around Daytona Beach, Fla., where his family moved from his birthplace in New Jersey. Going to the tracks was a family affair as his father was the track announcer at several tracks in central Florida.
“I got my first race car when I was about 14, a 1955 Chevy that we paid 50 bucks for,” McKim said. “Of course I didn’t have any money. The thing ran, but we had to paint it. I couldn’t afford to have anybody do it, so I did it myself.”
He spent about a week on the project, but the finished product was impressive.
“Somebody saw it and said, ‘Hey, that looks pretty good, how about doing mine?’” McKim said. “Now, 1,200 cars later I’m working on the Wood Brothers’ car.”
McKim drove for about six seasons before deciding that he had a better future painting cars than driving them.
“And it wasn’t helping attract girls like I’d hoped,” he said. “But my folks knew exactly what they were doing [by allowing him to race] because it kept me, my brother and all our friends busy and broke all through high school.”
From there, McKim ventured into painting cars at Daytona International Speedway.
“I’d go to the speedway during Speedweeks every year and go through the garage area with my paint box, and if anybody needed anything I’d take care of it,” he said. “And I handled most of the work for the guys in the Daytona Beach area.”
He also helped design paint schemes back in the 1970s.
He designed the King’s Row Fireplace Shops paint scheme on Benny Parsons’ No. 72 Chevrolet and the Purolator scheme on the Wood Brothers’ Mercury, although he didn’t do the actual painting on the cars.
“Those cars wound up being back-to-back Daytona 500 winners,” McKim said. “I thought that was pretty cool.”
McKim also has done racing artwork, designed race program covers and even done drawings for cartoon characters, including the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Ren and Stimpy.
McKim eventually began making his living as a racing historian, working for NASCAR in Daytona Beach before joining the Hall of Fame staff in Charlotte.
Through it all, he kept his paint brushes handy, and was ready when the Wood Brothers needed someone to put a period-correct paint scheme on their car.
“I hadn’t done much painting since I came to Charlotte, so it was like getting back on course to do the Wood Brothers’ car,” he said.