Gray Baskerville. Hot Rod Magazine. After 35 years, the two have been separated by the only means possible: On February 1st, we lost Gray to cancer. It was the most tragic of days for the Hot Rod staff and its readers, both of whom have grown up with Gray's passion for the magazine and its subject matter.
Always outspoken, ever gregarious, Baskerville virtually invented the tone of modern rodding journalism. His characteristic flip-flop sandals, baggy shorts, and Barry Goldwater glasses made him instantly recognizable from Bonneville to the NHRA Nats, and it was a mufti not reserved solely for events, but also worn proudly in the office. We'll never forget the slap of the sandals and the delirious cackle that accompanied Basketcase everywhere he went.
Gray insisted that hot rodding had to be fun, and he had little tolerance for whiners, posers, or trailer queens. He felt that there were two types of rods: those built to race and those built to drive. He did both, partnering with Paul Horning and Ernie Murishige on the now famous M&V drag cars (one of which was recreated for Gray by his friends in 1984) and also on the '32 Ford roadster that he drove every day for nearly 30 years.
Much of the 250,000 miles put on the roadster were spent driving from shop to shop on assignment, first for Rod & Custom , then for Hot Rod , where Gray made friends with every industry icon you can name. From the oldest legends of the sport to the youngest upstarts, Gray was an inquisitive friend and zealous reporter. He was all give and no take, mentoring countless staffers as they came and went, all the while insisting that he remain a worker and never a manager.
Gray was all about life in the field. It was friendship and personality that were most important to him. In the end, visits and phone calls from those countless friends kept Gray in good sprits, bench racing to the last. Once he'd spoken to all of his pals, he took a final ride in his roadster, accepted the finality of his condition, and slipped away in contented peace surrounded by his family.
In his typical shunning of attention, Gray requested no memorial service, insisting that his life was the celebration, and that he'd lived it well and thoroughly.
Gone at just 66 years old, Gray will always be the world's youngest teenager.
He is survived by his mother, wife Susan, daughter Elizabeth, brother David, and a shaken Hot Rod staff to whom he will always be, simply, our Ol' Dad.
Look for a complete tribute to Gray in the June '02 Hot Rod, followed by 12 months of The Best of Baskerville.
To read Ro McGonegal's column in tribute to Gray, which appeared in the November 2000 issue of Hot Rod, Click Here