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President of the Sports Car Club of America from 1951 to 1953, Fred Wacker was the second American to race in the Formula 1 world championship. However, it was as a successful industrialist that he earned his fame and fortune.
A graduate of Yale University, Wacker worked for AC Delco before serving in the United States Navy during World War II as Senior Fighter Director Officer on the air-craft carrier the USS Shamrock Bay.
Early racing career
Back in civilian life, Wacker indulged his passion for cars while building an engineering empire. Founder of Chicago’s regional division of the SCCA in 1948 as he became President of Ammco Tools, he raced in SCCA sports car events and won the 1950 Sebring Six Hours.
His racing ambitions were not confined to America alone for he finished second at Buenos Aires in March 1951 and joined Briggs Cunningham’s team for the Le Mans 24 Hours. Unfortunately, his distinctive Chrysler V8-powered machine was crashed by co-driver George Rand at the Dunlop Curve in the 11th hour.
Although exonerated of all blame, Wacker was unfortunately involved in the 1952 accident at Watkins Glen that claimed the life of a young spectator and brought an end to racing on the town’s open roads.
Grands Prix with Gordini
Wacker returned to Europe in 1953 as part of Gordini’s Formula 2 line-up. Third at Chimay, he crashed during practice for the Eifelrennen as he struggled among a stronger field at a wet Nürburgring. Wacker also entered three world championship events and Le Mans that year.
He did not start the Dutch Grand Prix after surrendering his engine to team leader Maurice Trintignant after practice. His works OSCA retired at Le Mans but Wacker’s Gordini was ninth on his GP debut at Spa-Francorchamps. He crashed during practice for the Swiss GP and suffered a hairline fracture to his skull that forced him to miss the race. Wacker retired from the 1954 Swiss GP on his return and finished a distant sixth in the Italian GP.
He also formed the Liquid Controls Corporation with George Richards that year and decided to return to the States to concentrate on building a business that continues today. He was awarded the Outstanding Business Leader Award in 1994 by his former University.