Sad news today. One of Canada’s pioneering drag racers has died.
Rudy Held was 73.
The following obituary appeared in the Waterloo Region Record.
HELD, Rudy Passed away at K-W Health Centre, Grand River Hospital on Monday, July 29, 2013, at the age of 73 years.
Rudy was born in Poland to parents Edward Held and the former Olga Krebs. He resided in New Hamburg and he owned and operated Rudy Held Performance Centre. Rudy, New Hamburg's own, once drag racer extraordinaire, has had a career involving the racing and building of performance vehicles since 1959.
Years ago in a newspaper interview, when asked about his career choice, he said he has no explanation other than, "I really like taking things apart and making them better and faster."
In 1959, Rudy began on the road to what would become a very credible racing career which would include a Canadian, New York State and an Ohio State Championship, while also competing in some of North America's most prestigious racing events such as the NHRA Nationals in Indianapolis and the Molson's Grand Nationals in Sanair, Que. He began that career in a garage at his home in New Hamburg.
It was the summer of '59 that Rudy started racing at tracks in Cayuga, St. Thomas, Grand Bend and Deseronto, in a 1955 Ford that he "souped up" in the garage in his spare time. This ran in the D/Gas class. In 1961, he became a certified Auto Mechanic and worked at the General Motors dealership in Baden, Ont. During the time, when Rudy was using his garage to work on his race car, he and his brothers formed a car club. The Crusaders were a bunch of guys that street raced and sponsored road runs. Closing down a stretch of rural road on a Saturday night or a Sunday morning for a street race to take place wasn't out of the norm.
"Even today, when I see some of the guys, they still talk about those days" recalled Rudy.
By 1963, Rudy had moved on to a new race car; a 1963 Pontiac 409 cubic inch, 425 HP, campaigning in the A stock, and the A/FX classes. This Pontiac carried him to the championship titles. This car competed regularly at tracks in St. Thomas, Cayuga, Thompson, Ohio and St. Pie, Que. In 1965, the legend of the Gold Gambler got its start as Rudy's first race car with the legendary name was built.
The first Gold Gambler was a 1948 Prefect competing in the A Gas and the B Altered class. This is where Rudy's wild driving and expertise on the lights earned him the nickname "Holeshot Held". Every weekend was action-packed with continuous racing. St. Thomas on Saturday, then over to Grand Bend on Saturday night, and down to Niagara for Sunday. Any broken or blown parts were repaired during the wee hours of the night.
In 1970, the Opel GT Flip Top was built by Rudy. This new version of the Gold Gambler brought even more trophies, winning awards for excellence in safety features, best engineered car, best build and best modified in places like Montreal and Indianapolis, where Rudy travelled to race. This car ran in the B/Altered and E/Econo Altered classes.
In 1972, Rudy decided to take his racing and building expertise and start his own business. Doing what he'd been doing for himself for so long for others, Rudy and his brother Rich started Rudy Held Performance which will by the end of this year be celebrating its 41st Anniversary.
Rudy retired from racing in 1990. Along with his nephews, Ron and Rob, they built a 1992 Iroc Camaro Super Stock car which they campaigned at the NHRA Points Meets in Martin, Mich., and the Spring Nationals in Columbus, Ohio. Even today the legend of the Gold Gambler lives on with his sponsorship of his Great Nephew’s junior dragster.
From the days of the flagman starter to the introduction of the sophisticated Christmas tree, to the electronic controls and computers; drag racing has been Rudy's main passion in life.
He was the loving brother of Richard and Wendy Held, Olga and John Buchenauer, Ella Kurtz and Frieda and Ernst Wildeman and brother-in-law of Lynn Held. He was predeceased by brother Eric Held.
Rudy is lovingly remembered by his partner Marie Smith, and her children Mike and Patti Smith and their children and Lisa Gabel and friend Scott and her children, as well as by many nieces and nephews. He was a member of Bethel Lutheran Church, Kitchener.
Visitation will be held at the Mark Jutzi Funeral Home , 291 Huron Street, New Hamburg on Wednesday, July 31, 2013 from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. A private family funeral service will take place at the Funeral Home on Thursday, August 1, 2013 at 11:00 a.m. Pastor Ralph Dawarka officiating. Interment in Riverside Cemetery, New Hamburg.
As expressions of sympathy, donations to the Grand River Hospital Foundation Oncology Unit or the K-W Humane Society would be appreciated by the family. Online condolence and memorial tribute information at www.markjutzifuneralhomes.ca