The Hill Bros started out racing a 40 Willys coupe. They bought Big John Mazmanian's car when he was done with it, did some body modifications, paint etc... and then went racing. They decided that they could not be competitive enough in the big car so they went to the '33 Willys. The Hill Bros knew Joe Hrudka (Mr. Gasket fame) and made the deal that he would provide Pete and Bill with a car if they ran the Mr. Gasket logo. The following is a letter from Dave Hales (S&S Racing Team) to the new owner and restorer of the Willys, Ken Kull. This is a picture of the car before Pete and Bill got their hands on it:
'Ken, your restoration of the Hill Bros. Willys looks great!!! Nice job on a great historic race car. Here is a very early picture of that car and some early history that you may not be aware of. The car was originally owned and partially constructed by my old S&S team mate Fred Bear. He built it in his garage in Virginia in the 1966-1967 time period. I know this because my Willys was in the same garage in the next stall. An opportunity to go NASCAR racing came up and Fred decided to pursue it rather than finish the Willys. He sold it to Joe and Tom Hrudka. Fred and I delivered it to them in Ohio in the spring of 1967. They immediately sold it to the Hill Bros. As I understand it, they and Chuck Finders and a few other people thrashed on the car for about two weeks. They completed the car including chopping the top, in time for the match race season.
I distinctly remember going to Capitol Raceway Park in Maryland about two weeks after we delivered it to Ohio. The King Of Kings AG/S meet was being held there with my team mate K.S. Pittman, Stone-Woods-Cook, Big John, Ohio George, and four other AG/S cars. The Hill Bros. car was one of them and I could not believe my eyes!!! It was the same car!!! Completely finished and beautiful.'
By this time, in early 1967, the Hill Bros. had hooked up with Chuck Finders, the famous chassis builder. They built the RED BARON in eleven days. I had Chuck come in from Ohio to help me with a chassis on my new race car and he told me a few stories. He said that he had stayed in the garage around the clock to work on the car and Pete and Bill just kept bringing him fried chicken! They put a blown, injected 426 Hemi in it and off to the track they went. The Hill Bros raced the car from 1967 to 1969. They ran at some national events, but for the most part it was a car promoted to do match races. Pete sent me the following letter and clip out of DRAG NEWS after I sent him pictures of the finished restoration. The letter (below) just about sums up the Gasser Wars that the Hill Bros Red Baron was involved (and doing quite well) in:
Pete Hill sent this note to Ken about the letter below:
Ken, I wrote the enclosed letter (below) to Drag News in Sept 1967 just to piss everyone off. When Bill and I showed up in L.A. they had brought out the Big Guns. The Baron kicked their asses right in their home town. One night K.S. and I had a real "Shoot Out". His car would E.T. but the Baron had big horsepower. K.S. couldn't break 160 - No one else could either. I ran two runs....162- and 163.63. That record stood for two years.
This is a letter of apology to all those fine AA/GS cars from the
West Coast. My brother, Bill, and myself are embarrassed and ashamed of ourselves for the way we USED you boys. Taking such a fine name as Kohler Bros. and grinding their names in the asphalt. By blowing their doors in at six, yes, six different strips, week after week after week. Not to mention poor Ray Cook, of the famous Stone, Woods & Cook team. He took up leaving on the second yellow, even though we were embarrassed to tears, Pete Hill drove by on the other end. Imagine the shame we put him through. Ron Mondello, of Shores & Hess, flew his engine builder from Hawaii, to Raceway Park, New Jersey with a new Rat Motor. After beating him two straight in Connecticut the Sunday before, this was his chance (Quote Drag News: "Shores & Hess were no match for the Hill Bros.). Think of the red faces and embarrassment when once again, Pete Hill soundly and firmly blew the trick Anglia away. Think of the torment and sleepless nights, Jack "The Bear" Coonrod suffered after soundly defeating him on five occasions, two of those times his driver was so beside himself, he couldn't find the parachute ring and ran off the end of the strip! Perhaps he was just trying too hard. Now, they're going West where they can hide their heads and tell their friends and families, "East Coast strips are bad and that's why Hill Bros. did this thing to them." Perhaps they will all build Funny Cars like George, that's what he did to escape a terrifying gasser. But, before you resort to anything as foolish as that, we want to show our apologies by coming to the West Coast on November 1, where, on your strip there will be no excuses, like Ray Kohler's "missed a shift," or Ray Cook's "no bite," or that old favorite of Ron Mondello's "wrong jet."
What will Big John Mazmanian and Junior Thompson use for excuses??
Again, gentlemen, we are embarrassed to tears the way we USED you up!
Signed: HILL BROS.
Dated: October 7, 1967
Pete and Bill toured the country and raced the Red Baron for another year and 1/2 or so. Pete pretty much took care of the driving/tuning end and Bill was in charge of the business/promotional end. When the Gasser Wars were fizzing out, they decided to try their hand at the flip top scene. They had a glass flip top '33 Willys, and Bill Hill promoted a four car show that they toured the country with. While it put on a great show, it wasn't all that successful in the long run because they couldn't keep them off their lids. By the seventies, Pete and Bill got into the funny car craze. They had a couple cars, and drove them very successfully, but never went further west than Indy, so they just didn't get the coverage they deserved. Pete was a natural driver, and everyone that saw them race said that they put on a great show.