by Michael Ferner
John Bagley raced motorcycles out of Nebraska in the early twenties, and quite successfully at that. In 1924, he built his own Fronty-Ford, and though it was a very crude and minimalistic affair he enjoyed some success with it over the years. For 1929, he updated to a DOHC 16-valve Fronty, and basically retired from driving to hire chauffeurs like Pat Cunningham, Bert Ficken and Gus Schrader. By 1931, he was running a DOHC Cragar in a new chassis, and a year later Sam Hoffman won a 100-miler at the Wisconsin State Fair Park in it.
Hoffman and the Bagley/Cragar enjoyed great success on the 1933 AAA Midwestern Circuit, winning two races and finishing 2nd in the final point standings, but the driver left the team before the year was out. After trying out Tony Willman for a couple of races, Bagley hired the promising Speed Haskell in early 1934, only to watch the prodigy die in a crash at Winchester Speedway. Floyd Davis took over the repaired mount, and won a couple of races in the fall when the team went on a tour of the East after the end of the Midwestern season, where Bagley saw a driver perform well and decided to sign him for 1935: Doc MacKenzie.
This decision turned out to be his best ever, as the two of them won close to twenty races that year alone, and the driver managed a historic first by winning both the Hankinson Circuit and AAA Eastern Championships, as well as placing high on the Midwestern Circuit. Buoyed by this success, Bagley built a new car for the 1936 season with a DOHC McDowell engine, but kept the older car as a backup. Willman rejoined the team as a cadet driver, swapping cars around with MacKenzie until the latter crashed fatally with the Cragar at the Wisconsin State Fair Park.
A grief-stricken John Bagley decided to carry on, now with Frankie Beeder partnering Willman, but even another championship (with the former) in the East couldn’t prevent him from calling it a day before the end of 1937. Former driver Ted Nyquist purchased the McDowell, while Willman took posession of the Cragar, and both cars were campaigned successfully for several more years until old age caught up with them in the forties. The 1936 car, after going from Nyquist via Mark Light to Bumpy Bumpus, was fitted with a DOHC Hal engine when the latter crashed fatally during a heat race at Flemington (NJ) in 1946.
- 1938 #7 Cragar, ?, Cragar DO Ford, A. Willman, Tony Willman (dns Syracuse)
- 1938 #5 Nyquist, ?, McDowell DO, T. Nyquist, Frank Wearne (ret Syracuse)
- 1946 #5 Burd Piston Ring, blue, Hal DO, H. Bumpus, Bumpy Bumpus (1st Altamont Memorial Day etc.)
Last updated by Michael Ferner on 14 Dec 2009.
All text is copyright Michael Ferner 2009 - 2023.