RIVERSIDE — Retired WPAFB Aerospace Engineer Bill Holder has always had a passion for fast moving objects, in particular, rockets, aircraft, and race cars.
He really puts the pedal to the metal though when it comes to writing about race cars, which is his favorite. At age 83, the checkered flag and finish line are nowhere in sight for this prolific local and national author who continues to write books and magazine articles at an amazing pace.
It’s not everyday you run into a man who has authored more than 80 published books and more than 3,000 magazine/newspaper articles. Most likely though, if you did these days it would be at a nearby race track such as Kil-Kare or a car show, where Holder can usually be found.
Holder, of Riverside, is not your typical race fan or journalist. A retired WPAFB engineer, Holder is well known and respected in the local and national racing circles, but few outside these circles know of him.
“The man is a virtual writing machine,” said daughter Kathy. “He is always working on a book or a magazine article and many times in the past he had been writing as many as five or six books at a time in addition to several articles and many national magazine columns.”
Holder, surprisingly, has no formal training in journalism, yet his great passion for fast cars and fast rockets has allowed him to race to the top of his field, accumulating many national and regional writing honors along the way.
“My dad was a college English professor and a published author, but I opted for aerospace engineering when I was in college at Purdue University,” Holder said.
After college, Holder served as a U.S. Army missile officer and then took a job at Boeing working on the Saturn V Moon Rocket. It is there where this rocket scientist caught the writing bug and wrote his first book.
“The very first book I wrote was on the Saturn V,” he said. “I sent it to 15 different publishers and it was turned down 15 times. Then I sent it to Simon and Schuster and they took it. From there, the rest is history.”
Holder then started a “writing marathon” that will not easily be matched or surpassed by anyone in the near future.
“I write books on many different subjects from tractors to boats, but most of my books are on auto racing, aerospace, and high performance cars,” he said.
Holder has been writing for more than 50 years, and in addition to the numerous books he has written, he also currently writes or has written for many national magazines such as Stock Car Racing, and Sprint Car & Midget, and several local magazines and publications including the Air Force Museum magazine.
Along the way, he has interviewed many celebrities and famous sports figures, including Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Mario Andretti, Jimmy Stewart, Archie Griffin, Evel Knievel, Charlie Daniels, and Roger Penske, to name a few.
“Probably my most memorable interview was with famous rocketeer Warner von Braun when I wrote a book on the Skylab Space station,” Holder said. He also did a memorable story on Kenny Rogers right on the set of the racing movie “6-pack.”
Bill has also written the first national article on many now famous drivers including Gordon, Mark Martin, Sarah Fisher, Donnie Moran, and Casey Kahne.
Most recently Holder authored a local historical book entitled “Dayton, Ohio Race Town.”
In the racing arena, Holder, as a writer, has also enjoyed the opportunity of getting to test drive some of the race cars of the drivers he interviews.
“A lot of times they’ll ask me if I want take a test drive. Sometimes I just ask them if I can take it for a spin around the track,” Holder said. “It’s really a whole lot of fun.”
Holder has taken three subjects he knows and loves, race cars, aerospace and hot cars and turned it into one of the most remarkable and prolific writing careers in the midwest.
“Racing is definitely my most favorite subject to write about,” Holder said. “I have a great interest in auto racing and I am very involved with all aspects of the sport from NASCAR and Indy cars down to the low-budget race cars at local tracks. I love it all.”
With so many books and articles under his belt, one could image the huge number of photos needed, and Holder has relied on his friend, photographer Phil Kunz of Dayton for the last 25 years.
“I can’t say enough about the quality of Phil’s photos,” Holder said. “It makes it easy to sell articles.”
With such a distinguished and exciting writing career, one might say what’s next for Bill Holder? He answered that question about 10 years ago by fulfilling a lifetime dream of opening his own racing hall of fame. At the time in 2001 there was no national museum for the Dirt Late Model stock cars. He found a track in northern Kentucky that would support it.
“So we raised the money and erected it,” Holder said. “It’s called the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame and is located at Florence Speedway about 15 miles from Kentucky Speedway. ESPN and many national racing shows and publications have done features on the Hall of Fame.”
Holder though, has no finish line in sight, even at 83 he seemingly never runs out of gas.
“Well, I hope to continue writing for another 20 years,” he said. “I am currently working on a couple of books and several magazine articles.”
Ron Brohm is a free-lance writer for Greene County News.