Obituary for Le Mans Winner Ed Hugus

Obituary from Art Evans:

It is with deep sadness that I must report to you that Edward James
Hugus died on June 29, 2006, one day before his 86^th birthday. This
column is being written only a few days following his passing, but
the constraints of monthly magazine deadlines dictate that you won’t
read this until the September edition.

Ed Hugus was one of the greats of the fifties and sixties, but an
unsung hero. This is undoubtedly due to his quiet and unassuming
personality. Although Ed ranked with some of the best of the era, he
never beat his own drum.

Ed was one of the very few winners of the world’s premier road
racing event, Le Mans. This story is fascinating. He competed there
for ten consecutive years starting in 1956. In 1957, Ed and his
co-driver, Count Carel de Beaufort, finished first in class and
eighth overall in a Porsche Spyder. During the following years, when
he finished, Ed was always in the top ten overall.

In 1965, Masten Gregory, Jochen Rindt and Ed Hugus were first
overall in a Ferrari 275LM entered by the North American Racing
Team. Originally, Ed was entered as a “relief” driver, to take the
wheel only if something happened to Masten or Rindt. During the
early hours of the morning, something did happen. Masten took over
while Rindt went off to sleep somewhere. Fog came in and Gregory’s
glasses got so misted he couldn’t see. He came in. But Rindt was
nowhere to be found, so Ed took over and drove the rest of the
morning hours. After the race ended, Gregory and Rindt were on the
podium, but Ed was some distance away. Aided by two gendarmes he
struggled to get through the crowd of fans. However, the ceremony
had ended before he arrived. Consequently, some early reports failed
to credit Hugus with the win.

Ed Hugus was born on June 30, 1923 at his paternal grandfather’s
farm in Pennsylvania. His father’s family came from Alsace-Lorraine
in 1767. Three-quarters of his mother’s family came from England;
the other quarter was Mohawk Indian. The family moved to Ed’s
maternal grandfather’s farm in Ohio where Ed went to school. When
his grandfather died, they returned to Pennsylvania where Ed’s
father worked in the steel business.

When WWII came along, Ed joined the Army. After basic training at
Fort Benning, Georgia, he became a paratrooper with the 11^th
Airborne Division. In January 1945, after more than a year of
combat, the Division landed on the island of Luzon in the
Philippines. On February 16, the Division dropped
paratroopers—including Hugus—on Corregidor as assault forces hit the
beaches. The recapture of Corregidor Island was the crowning
achievement in the Philippine campaign. Of this drop, Ed remarked,
“I was one of the few who survived. Not many of us did.” After the
war was won, he served with the occupation in Japan.

Mustered out in 1946, Ed returned to Pennsylvania and got a job
building coke ovens. In 1949, he discovered sports cars and got a
few dollars together to buy an MGTC. The next year, he and a partner
started an MG dealership in Pittsburgh. Soon afterwards, they added
Jaguar to their lineup.

He joined the SCCA in 1951 and ran his first race at McDill Air
Force Base in a Jaguar XK120. Ed was so modest that he never kept
accurate or complete records (other than for Le Mans and Sebring,
where he competed 14 times). One race that he recalled for me was
winning the GT Class and coming in fourth overall at Sebring in 1960
with Augie Pabst in a 250GT Ferrari. He was in Cuba in 1958 when
Fangio was kidnapped and the race was red flagged due to numerous
wrecks and injuries. By then, Hugus and Carroll Shelby had become
good friends. Shelby is credited with a third in that race.

Ed drove an Alfa Giulietta Spyder at the very first race at the
first meeting held at the then new Virginia International Raceway.
Two others drove Alfas on that same occasion: Carroll Shelby and Bob
Grossman. All three finished nose to tail.

Ed’s best finish at Sebring was in 1960 when he and Augie Pabst
drove a NART 250GT to second in class and fourth overall. The two
drove the same car at Le Mans that year to seventh overall and
fourth in class. Augie remembers Ed with a great deal of affection
and respect remarking that “Ed was a real gentleman. I never heard
him say an unkind word about anyone.”

Ed told me that the most important thing for him about racing was
that it was a lot of fun. He didn’t let it dominate his life because
he was involved with other things. Duane Carter offered him a chance
to test at Indy in 1958 but he simply couldn’t take the time to do
it. Actually, he was given several opportunities to become a
professional race driver but business commitments, investors and
family came first.

Eventually, Hugus ended up with three different car dealerships in
Pittsburgh. He was the U.S. distributor of Isis Formula Juniors that
were made by Alejandro De Tomaso.

Shortly after Carroll Shelby started to produce Cobras, Ed became
the first dealer and then took on the Eastern States
distributorship. After Cobras became a sensational success, the Ford
Motor Company tried to take it away from Carroll by making Cobras
and selling directly to distributors and dealers. Shelby called Ed
and told him about it. Hugus, true friend that he was, replied, “No
problem; don’t worry about it.” Shelby was able to keep the project.
He and Hugus remained close through the years.

In 1968, Ed sold all of his Pittsburgh businesses and moved to
Jacksonville, Florida where he took on the Southeast distributorship
for BMW. His last drive was in a BMW 2002 at Sebring in 1969. In
1974, BMW wanted the distributorship back, so he sold it to them and
retired.

I met Ed in January of 1992 on the occasion of Briggs Cunningham’s
85^th birthday party. Somehow we seemed to click and remained good
friends. Ed and my son, David, became especially close and, even up
to a few days before his death, they talked on the phone frequently.
Ed took him under his wing, so to speak, and advised David on all
sorts of business and personal matters.

Ed Hugus was member of the “Greatest Generation” that won WWII and
went on to help develop the U.S. into the world power that it is
today. He will be sorely missed by all in the sports car racing
community. Speaking for all of us, I extend heartfelt condolences to
Ed’s lovely wife, Barbara, and the rest of his family.

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