East County lost one of its great icons in local car shows and art

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A popular and famous artist and adventurer in East County passed away unexpectedly on Sept. 30.  Bob McCoy had quite a following in the hot rod, antique and collectable car show world.  His cartoon like drawings and paintings of old cars were always a hit at the car shows where he sold his artwork. Old car guys coveted a McCoy painting of their treasured vehicle.  He also designed many T-shirts that would be proudly worn by the car enthusiasts, and his carved wood sculptures of cars would make him famous.

A popular and famous artist and adventurer in East County passed away unexpectedly on Sept. 30.  Bob McCoy had quite a following in the hot rod, antique and collectable car show world.  His cartoon like drawings and paintings of old cars were always a hit at the car shows where he sold his artwork. Old car guys coveted a McCoy painting of their treasured vehicle.  He also designed many T-shirts that would be proudly worn by the car enthusiasts, and his carved wood sculptures of cars would make him famous.

When Jack Leary, better known as Disc Jockey Jumpin’ Jack Flash, heard about the plight of the McCoy family he knew he wanted to do something to help, he came up with the idea of a Car Show for a memorial fundraiser.  He said that Woody Downing blasted out hundreds of e-mails and Jim Sweetwood Printing came up with 1500 flyers, telling the car people about the event. Leary spearheaded and hosted the show that was held on Nov. 13 at Pernicanos Restaurant in El Cajon. Nearly 100 car owners paid  for the honor of being a participant in the McCoy Memorial Fundraiser.  Sam Marano from S & S Trophy donated the trophies. Raffle and auction items were donated for the cause by local businesses as well and Sun Belt Rentals donated the portable tower lighting.  It was a community-sponsored event.

Old car guys from all over Southern California called and wanted to be a part of the car show. Some who knew Bob McCoy when he was a racecar driver at Balboa Stadium back in the late 50s were on hand to show off their Sprint Cars. Some knew him by racing at El Cajon Speedway flat track. Fred Chavez said he only knew him as a racecar driver, he didn’t know until later that he was a well-known artist as well.

The winning cars for the show were #29, a 1947 Mercury, #2, a 1938 Studebaker, # 58, and orange hippie van called “63 Love Machine” #44, a 1934 Ford pick up truck, #62, a 1927 Willies Knight and # 27, a Corvette. Plaques were presented by Car Comm and Art World.

Leary, who also hosts the KCBQ “Oldie Moldies Radio Show” and “Armed Forces Radio Show,” said the fundraiser brought in enough money to help the family with funeral expenses.  

Another McCoy Memorial and Celebration of Life was held on  November 15, 2014. It started out as a Rod Run in Mission Valley and ended at Race Car Dynamics (the old Buck Knives Warehouse) in El Cajon. More than 100 antique cars and hot rods roared into the huge parking lot.  Car enthusiasts roamed around admiring all the shiny old cars and reminiscing about racing and Bob McCoy. It was like the “Who’s Who of Racing, Hot Rods and Old Cars”.   Local KUSI TV personality, Dave Stall, was the Master of Ceremonies and he encouraged folks to tell their stories about Bob McCoy.

Some of the car clubs represented was the Early Ford V8 Club, San Diego Roadsters, Over the Hill Gang and Prowlers. Here are a few of the memories: A family friend, Joyce, helped take his racecar to Bonneville on an 18-wheel hauler.  Another friend remembers they were hauling nitro glycerin in the back of their car for Bob. Others knew him from Hoover High School days. Les Bartlett remembered his flame car, he was the idol in the neighborhood. Another remembered he took his car in to Bob for pin striping and it came out with a flame paint job. Another remembered Bob was cruising Oscars Drive-In and he hit a post and messed up his paint job, he didn’t want anyone to know what he had done. One friend remembered when Bob raced a Midget car at Balboa Stadium in the late 50s. He was in first place and came up on the back of the pack and let the 2nd driver go past because he thought he was in last place.  Tim Short said that when Bob was racing at 17years of age, he flipped 5 times and came up and finished the race, the concession was he broke his back. There were many more happy memories of Bob the wild one, but mostly they remembered that he was always smiling and happy.  

Back at home in Lakeside, Lynn McCoy has fond memories of her husband of 20 years.  She said he was a man of many talents, wood sculptures, art, custom T-shirt designs, paintings, race car driver of jallopies, sprint cars and Midgets, rodeo bronco rider, sign painter, pin striping and flame artwork on cars.  Sally Nelson, who is a neighbor of the McCoys, said that often times she would see an old car drive up their driveway looking rather plain, then a few weeks later she would see it drive back down all shiny with new pin strips or flames.  She would also hear loud roars coming from the McCoy home, it seems that Bob kept a live tiger and linx in their back yard., at the studio in El Cajon, he kept a live Jaguar.

Bob had an art studio on Pioneer Way in El Cajon for many years, but recently he used their dining room table to create his one-of-a-kind pieces of artwork. From sculpting wood horses to wood racecars to painting wood cutout figures to large black velvet paintings.  He tried it all.

There have been three attempts at creating a movie about Bob McCoy’s life of adventure.  In a documentary called “World of Speed and Beauty” El Cajon streets were blocked off so he could be filmed driving up and down in his shiny red car. Kevin Costner was going to have the lead role in a movie and Michael Landon was going to do a TV movie, but these projects just never got off the ground.

The adventurous life of Bob McCoy took a turn for the worse when he fell and broke his hip this year. His wife found him on the garage floor next to his Model T car.  He was flat on his back for six months, it took a toll on him and he never recovered.   Lynn is thankful that she started writing a book about Bob’s life when he was still active and healthy; he was there to tell her all the stories and adventures. “Circle of Impact” with photos and stories of Bob’s life was published in 2007.  Since she did not consider herself a writer, she asked the help of her neighbor, Shirley Weyker, to edit the book.  In closing, Lynn said her life with Bob was like a roller coaster ride and she got to be a spectator at each event in his life.