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Speeding down memory lane with retired Windsor drag racer

Lifelong Windsor resident Ed "Bing" Binggeli turned 90 the other day. His favorite birthday present was something he made himself.

It's a car. Oh, quite a car — a very yellow replica of the hot-rod coupe he piloted 50 years ago on a string of way-in-front victories at drag strips in Santa Rosa, Cotati and beyond.

What a moment it will be when Binggeli buckles himself into his clone of a pre-World War II Willys dragster at Sonoma Raceway. His goal will be to blast past the speed record he set for such cars in 1963 at Half Moon Bay in his original Willys: he hit 106.38 mph and covered the quarter mile in 12.65 seconds.

Ed Binggeli's 90th Birthday Party

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Binggeli, who honed his mechanical skills and standards while working on AT-6 trainers, B-17 bombers and other aircraft in the U.S. Army Air Corps, visualizes a substantially faster run at the Sonoma track.

"I hope it's over 110," he said.

He unveiled his dream car at a community birthday party Saturday at Fred Stoke's Ranch just south of Windsor. The turnout was huge, more than 200 people, many of whom brought along their souped-up, decked-out cars and regard "Bing" the master of the custom engine.

"Everybody loves him because he's been so helpful and humble all of his life," said friend Jack Helmke, 68, of Santa Rosa, who considers Binggeli his mentor and who helped build the replica Willys.

"If you say 'Bing's Speed Shop' anywhere on the West Coast, people know what it is," Helmke said.

Binggeli built racing engines and hot-rods at the shop from 1953 until 1976. The specialty garage operated on South A Street until Binggeli moved it to Barham Avenue.

Prior to the speed shop, he performed general auto mechanics and sold gas at a garage that he and his brother, Walter, opened in 1951 in central Windsor, across from the landmark Pohley's Market. Walter's now 93 and living in Washington state.


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