By Joan Baxter
Clarence Anderson was born in Xenia and lived here his entire life.
I don’t know if he liked his given name, but he rarely used it from the time he was about 6 years old. He had a pony and spent as many hours a day as possible riding the pony; therefore, he acquired the nickname of “Mutt.”
It seems he was known as “Mutt” from that time forward. In fact, in later years, when people from around the country would try to find a phone number for him, information would say there was no listing for a “Mutt” Anderson in Xenia.
After some years of frustrating arguments with the phone company, they agreed to allow him to list his name as Clarence “Mutt” Anderson. This provided a great deal of relief for those who were trying to reach him.
He owned an abattoir (slaughter house) located at 587 Belllbrook Ave. in Xenia. He managed the business from 1957 to 1985, but had worked in the business over 55 years, beginning as a teenager. Over the years, it was estimated he had lifted and butchered more than 90,000 pounds of beef.
This was not his only interest. In the early 1930s be began riding motorcycles and roadsters. He also boxed for a short time in the Golden Gloves.
He married Betty in 1936. She was supportive of anything he did, but when the children arrived, she asked that he give up racing cars. She felt that it was too dangerous for a husband and father to put himself on the track with other drivers going at top speeds. He understood, and for the most part, quit driving in the 1940’s. However, now and then, if he could not find a capable driver, he might take the wheel.
Mutt became famous in auto racing circles, not for his time behind the wheel, but for his time “under the hood.”
He built fabulous race cars for many years. If you thought only two automobiles were manufactured in Xenia (Baldner and Xenia Cycle cars), you missed knowing about the Anderson racing cars.
He built sprint cars with such care that drivers wanted very much to drive his cars on the race track. One of those who wanted the opportunity to drive for Mutt was Mario Andretti, a famous name in the racing business, but was never able to make connections.
The reason drivers were anxious to drive an Anderson vehicle was that when the car arrived at the race track, it was ready to go.
Bobby Unser made the following statement “He didn’t have to start adjusting it or working on it there. He raced so many years he knew how to set the car up for every track. His cars always went fast.”
He went on to say “Not only did he have a knack for building safe and fast cars, but he could also tell how the racing surface, which for the most part was dirt, would react and perform in contrast to the cars”.
A point of pride with Mr. Anderson was that although he had many, many cars on the race tracks throughout the country, and a wide assortment of drivers in those cars, no one was ever killed in one of his cars.
He built sprint cars for many years, but unfortunately, never had one of his cars racing in Indianapolis. He just barely missed the cut in 1948, or would have had one of his cars on that track on Memorial Day. He did attend the race every year.
One of his many honors came when he was inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in December 2002. At that time, sixteen of the drivers who had been inducted had raced in one or more of Mutt’s cars.
He also has been honored by the National Auto Race Fan Cub Hall of Honor and the Dayton Speedway Hall of Fame.
He was meticulous with his cars, and drivers would often call to see if he had a car available that they could drive in an upcoming race. He stopped building new cars in 1968, having begun his hobby in 1937. It should be noted that the safety features were not as good as today’s cars. For one thing, there were no roll bars. Anderson cars were considered to be among the safest on the tracks.
In the 1970s he served as a United States Sprint Car Technical Official in both sprints and championship dirt cars. In the 1980s he turned to restoration. He owned several race cars which he had restored to their original beauty, including a Machine and Tool Car which won the 1966 National Sprint Car Championship with Roger McCluskey driving. He did some restoration work for others as well.
In 1974, the Xenia tornado destroyed his garage and the contents, but undaunted, he built a new garage, and began to restore the sprint cars once again. His new garage, in addition to restored cars, featured many of his trophies and a large collection of photographs, making a fascinating museum of his work.
On May 28, 2011, a Centennial celebration was held at Indy. The original sprint car driven to a National Championship by Roger McCluskey in 1966 was one of only nineteen sprint cars selected by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to be shown in the display, “Vintage Car of Indy Legends”. The Anderson car had been driven in thirteen different tracks by Foyt, Unser and Rutherford.
It was said that perhaps his greatest legacy was the number of well-known race car drivers who WANTED to drive an Anderson car, but were never able to do so.
And so, right here in Greene County, lived a man who earned the respect of many people in the field of auto racing.
Joan Baxter is a long-time Greene County historian, columnist and resident.