CC Obit: Kjell Qvale

01 Hansgen

Walt Hansgen in the 1964 Indy 500


It’s painful. The cars of my youth, and the people that created them that so affected me, are starting to leave this mortal plane.

Today (Nov 5, 2013) we lost Kjell Qvale. He was 94.

So before we explore this iconic individual’s contribution to everything automotive, how do we pronounce his name? When I worked in Sweden in the mid ‘80s, I asked my fellow car nuts there how to pronounce this guy’s name. They had no idea. After all, this guy was Norwegian. They also didn’t know who Knute Rockne was! Even I know they named a car after him in South Bend.


02 Hansgen

Hansgen’s Office

From what I can tell, his name was pronounced “Shell Quevale”.

Kjell was born in Trondheim, Norway in 1919. He came to the US with his parents in 1929 and settled in Seattle, WA. He attended the University of Washington and became a US Navy pilot in WWII.


04 Hansgen

#53 Liquid Suspension Special

If one was forced to categorize Qvale, he was the west coast equivalent of Bob Grossman But Qvale was arguably more successful. Qvale began importing and distibuting MGs and Jaguars in the early ‘50s, and became involved in the west coast sports car scene. He was one of the founders of the Pebble Beach concurs and the father of the “Corkscrew” at Laguna Seca.


05 Grant

1965 Hansgen Car

Hey, what can I say? Stole the image.

The Qvale cars were fast at Indy. The chassis were built by Joe Huffaker of Sonoma, CA, a company that exists to this day.


06 Grant

Offy with Hillborn Fuel Injection

When I was at Indy in ‘65 I was knocked out by the “Liquid Suspension Specials”. One was red and the other blue. Both ran Offys.

In order to avoid major catastrophes, an asbestos sleeve was slipped over the exhaust lest spillage cook the entire affair, as happened to Parnelli Jones in ‘64.


07 Grant

Probably Hansgen

I was committed to a Benedictine abbey in NW Arkansas for three years from ‘63 to ‘66. Actually graduated from the damn place. But while I was there news that penetrated my thick skull, thanks to Road & Track, Sports Car Graphic, and other car rags, were names such as Kjell Qvale, Rolla Vollstedt, and Agajanian. Magic. And let’s not forget Salih, Zink, and Chapman S. Root. What?

Sorry to loose Kjell. I won’t be too far behind-bad habits, loose women, and a predilection for bourbon, Red Man and Marbledeboros have taken their toll, or will. Wait! Did I say loose women? AI meant to say I loved every one of them. Kinda.

By the way, I stole all the pix you see. Don’t even know who to attribute them to, except for images 1 and 4, which obviously are from IMS.