Minor League Month continues, and this week is the first of two articles about a business man who raced to help promote his business.
In April of 2017, Center Line Wheels ceased production after 47 years. In August of 2017, the company was acquired by Corona, California based wheel manufacturer Design Infini. During those 47 years, Center Line had been a well-known aftermarket wheel rim company, which made high performance rims. Since Center Line had been a performance wheel company, it makes sense that they had been involved in motorsports, including supplying wheels to racing teams, as well as sponsoring teams.
Center Line was founded as the Center Line Tool Corporation in 1970 by Ray Lipper. Lipper saw the need for a good performance rim, and soon the company started focusing only on wheels. Lipper was also an avid racer, and raced in SCCA, and CART. His time in CART was not successful, with a DNS at the Phoenix race, and was one of 47 drivers not to qualify for the 1982 Indianapolis 500. He was elected to the SEMA Hall of Fame in 2002. During his racing career, he wore this racing uniform.
The uniform set, which is one of the most comprehensive I have ever seen, includes a suit, gloves, shoes, an undershirt, long johns, a harness, and some other miscellaneous stuff. We’ll look at the other stuff next week, this week, we will focus on the white Simpson driver suit, which shows some light use, and is very thick, and heavy duty.The collar has a Velcro-closure, with no adornment.The cowl tag is an older Simpson warranty label, used into the late 1980’s.While there is no large sponsor patch on the torso, there are a number of smaller patches on the chest and torso. On the right side, there is an older VALVOLINE logo, RAY LIPPER embroidered in a patch, a SIMPSON patch next to the name, and a WATKINS GLEN US GRAND PRIX patch below that.The left side of the front has CART,CENTER LINE RACING WHEELS,SCCA,ROAD AMERICA CAN AM 1981 CHICAGO REGION SCCA,and VW MOTORSPORT patches sewn into it.The suit features an unadorned white belt.The legs have a red stripe running up the white material, and have standard cuffs.The shoulders have red stripes that extend down to the cuff of the sleeves, and white straps that would be used to pull the driver out of the car in case of a fire. The right sleeve has a UNITED STATES AUTO CLUB patch, and has the red stripe extending to the cuff. The left sleeve features a SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS patch, as well as a PPG INDUSTRIES patch.The back of the suit doesn’t show any wear to speak of.The back of the neck is unadorned.The upper back of the suit has a large GOODYEAR patch sewn into it.Ray Lipper is an automotive engineer who has raced all over the world. He was just as focused on racing as he was on making quality wheels. Next week, I will examine the rest of the uniform set.