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Walt Ader

Sport: Auto Racing

Born: December 15, 1912

Died: November 27, 1982

Town: Long Valley

Walter Ader was born December 15, 1912 in Long Valley to Mildred and Hezekiah Ader. He became fascinated by automobiles and engines during the Roaring 20s and began running in local dirt-track races as a teenager. Walt first made a name for himself in 1934, competing in midget events held by the Garden State Racing Association. Two years later, Walt teamed up with 21-year-old driver Joe Barzda, who had started building cars with his brother Jim in New Brunswick.

Walt was the GSRA’s top driver in 1936, and also ran impressively in Pennsylvania, where he attracted the attention of car owners looking for up-and-coming drivers. By the late-1930s, Walt was a frequent entrant in main events held by the Automobile Association of America—the country’s top level of racing, as well as driving in midget car races. In 1941, he finished with a #3 “Big Car” Eastern ranking.

Though Walt never reached the level of stars like Ted Horn, he distinguished himself as one of the top racecar drivers of the 1940s. During the war years (1942–1945) no major races were held in the U.S., but once big-time racing resumed, Walt got off to a fast start, capturing the first AAA event of 1946 on the dirt oval at Williams Grove in a car built in Paterson’s famed Gasoline Alley by Horn and Dick Simonek, just ahead of Joie Chitwood and Horn himself. Walt also won at Reading, Shelby and Raleigh that summer. In 1947, Walt won the Atlanta 100 and finished 13th overall in the AAA standings, although he did not make the opening field at the Indianapolis 500.

In 1948, after years of near misses at Indy, Walt seemed poised to make the starting field. He had a good car and a solid owner in Fred Peters, whose Wetteroth-Offenhauser entry—driven by Chitwood—had finished 22nd at the Brickyard the year before. Three weeks before qualifying, however, Peters died and AAA voided his entry, so Walt was out of luck. That summer, after finishing 10th at Langhorne Speedway, a crash effectively ended Walt’s season. He did not compete in 1949.

Finally, in 1950, at the age of 37, Walt made the starting field at the Indianapolis 500. He was hired to drive the #27 Sampson Special car built by Rae Motorsports in its one and only Indy 500. He started 29th and finished 22nd in a race dominated by Johnny Parsons. Walt was still running when rain ended the race early and Parsons took the checkered flag. Walt could not keep the momentum going after Indy. He did not qualify for the next three major races—at the Rex Mays Classic in Milwaukee, at Langhorne and at the Illinois State Fairground in Springfield. He decided to retire at the end of the season.

Walt and his wife Evelyn continued to live in northern New Jersey after his racing career and was a volunteer in the Bernardsville Fire Company. He continued to interact with his old racing buddies as a member of the Eastern Old-Timers Racing Club and the Indianapolis Old-Timers Club. Walt suffered a heart attack and passed away in 1982, a few weeks short of his 70th birthday.


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