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Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Peggy McCracken

Squarely Pegged

By Peggy McCracken

Track accountant
rounds out history

Tommy Beauchamp of San Angelo was one of the first employees hired at the Automotive Proving Grounds, which we wrote about earlier. Here is his account of those early days:

“Hi Peggy: Tommy Beauchamp here. I recently read your columns on the test track in Pecos, and thought I would clear up some information and dates on the origin of the track.

“Mr. Frank Harper, a long time employee of B.F. Goodrich company, came to Pecos the latter part of 1960 to set up and organize the Automotive Proving Grounds, Inc. APG ( as we were known) was a Texas corporation owned wholly by the B. F. Goodrich company. It was set up this way so that APG could test for other companies and still not reflect the company name. Armstrong Rubber Company (the then maker of all Sears tires) was the primary participant of these contractors. They had their own people and testing report people on property. All drivers, mechanics and labor, other than some of the office people, were APG employees. The test directing and reporting people were Armstrong employees. Mr. Harper hired me as accountant/personal manager, and I started to work Feb. 1, 1961. On March 1, 1961 we rolled out the first test cars on the completed track. As Fred Armstrong stated, the inside lane was designed to simulate a straight and level road at 70 MPH, and the outside lane for 110 MPH.

“The summer of 1961 we were visited by the Unser family and racing team. Bobby Unser had recently won the Pikes Peak race (Al was head mechanic at that time, and didn't get into high speed racing until later). The Sears Ford that won the race was brought down for advertising pictures and publicity. Unfortunately, on the first lap, Bobby went by the office at about 140 MPH, and the motor failed shortly after. We later used this car for all high speed tests. For all the years we operated on a six-day week, all of the high speed tests were done on Sundays, at speeds usually from 105 MPH up; sometimes up to 130 - 135 MPH. We never had an accident on these tests.

“In addition to the meandering track Fred mentioned, which we added the latter part of the 1960's, we also added a very sophisticated wet skid pad for testing tire skids on ice. We couldn't provide the ice, but the very smooth, slick wet concrete was just as good.

“Mr. Harper retired from APG the latter part of 1973, and was replaced by Mr. Vic Springer, relocated from BFG headquarters in Akron, Ohio. I left the company in Feb. 1974 to go into the insurance business. When I left them, we had over 300 employees. Except for the time I have been in the insurance business, the 13 years I spent at APG were some of the best of my life. Frank Harper, and the rest of the people I worked with, were some of the finest there are.”

Tommy has done well in the insurance business in San Angelo. I saw his picture in the Standard-Times a few years back. He had won some kids of sales award. He and Joann have come home to visit a few times. It is always good to see them.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” Psalm 118:29, NIV

EDITOR’S NOTE: Peggy McCracken is Enterprise business manager and webmaster. Contract her at

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Pecos Enterprise
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
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