Wally Swift, A Rememberance
By Rande Bellman
It made perfect sense that when I started to research
information on the Internet about Wally Swift, a giant in the Tiger hobby,
almost all of the listings were related to autocrossing.
I don't think anyone who knew him was surprised that when he
died March 10, he was attending an autocross, for that is how most of us will
remember him; behind the wheel of his Forest Green Alpine V with the Tiger 2
wheel well moldings, narrowly missing pylons, beating the times of most of his
Sunbeam chums on the course. He was 81 when he died, he was still autocrossing.
I stopped serious autocrossing when I was 27, and he was still doing it at
My very first opportunity to meet Wally started off , at least
for me, on an atypical note. I was at the concours portion of a Tigers East /
Alpines East United in Dayton, Ohio. It was a very hot and humid August day, the
organizers had underestimated the demand for soft drinks, particularly Wallys,
and Wallys' pale white face started glowing red as he reminded th e organizers
about the shortcoming. Finally, one of the guys in charge calmly handed him some
money, and directed him to shove off and buy himself more on his own. This, of
course, didn't end the discourse. I once overheard someone describing a member
as a "Wally-In-Training"and I know it wasn't a term of endearment.
My overriding recollection of Wally comes from the 2000 Tigers
East / Alpines East United in Portland, Maine. Wally and his friends had
intended to tow his Alpine V and his very original red Tiger up from their homes
in Maryland. About 60 miles from their home, someone following in another car
rammed, without slowing down, the back of the pristine Tiger, forcing both tow
car and Tiger off of the road. The Tiger was severely damaged and towed home,
but Wally and friends did leave again for Portland. I heard about the wreck, and
naturally assumed that Wally would be staying home, so I was pleasantly
surprised to see him at the concours with the Alpine. Still a littl e dazed from
having his Tiger wiped out (someone else was driving the Tiger tow car) he was
nonetheless chatty and circumspect about the accident.
The next day of the United, I drove down to the autocross site
near downtown Portland, and there was a helmeted Wally and the green Alpine
halfway through the course.
To prepare this article, I combed my Sunbeam photo collection
for pictures of Wally, and I couldn't find any head shots of him, just the
ubiquitous green Alpine V and a helmeted head visible.The ver y last time I saw
Wally was in September 2001 when a group of us met near Washington DC for a
weekend gathering. Wally, who lived nearby, had brought the Alpine, as well as
the repaired red Tiger. Always the generous and talkative friend, he mingled
with all of us,
Helped some newcomers to the hobby with questions about their
cars(he was a factory representative for Chrysler Motors / Rootes before
Sunbeams stopped being imported to the United States).
As one of my Tiger friends used to remind me, there are lot's
of interesting cars out there, the factor that separates the Tiger clan are the
people involved in the hobby. Wally was certainly one of those that comes to my
mind. It's going to be very tough to be at another Tiger event knowing that
Wally won't be there.