Gary Lambert Memorial  1       10/14/06

In loving memory of Gary Lambert

My  very good friend Gary passed away on September 29, 2006 at the age of 58. Gary had a huge influence on my life in so many ways and was like an older brother to me.

I’ve known Gary for over 30 years and when I first met him as a teenager, I was going down the wrong path but after hanging around his place for a while, I saw a different way to do things. His home life wasn’t like most people as both of his parents were blind. He was a very devoted son as he took care of them as he grew up. After the death of his father in 1970, his mother lived with him and later with he and his wife, until her death. He was also a very devoted husband and stepfather to his wife’s two sons.

He started racing in 1967 and has won countless races over the years. The cars that he raced were hand built in his garage from scratch. He has also been building engines for over 35 years and in 1988, one of his engines won a National Hot Rod Association event at the Winternationals in Pomona. If Gary built the engine, it meant it had plenty of power and performance. Another thing he did was share his knowledge with others.  

Gary was the founder and president of the Shifters Car Club in Banning that had over 20 members and was established in 1968. And the club is still functioning to this day. He graduated from Banning High School in 1966 and lived in Banning for 54 years and was a master mechanic and a machinist. He was also a prankster, liked to tell jokes, liked to pull jokes on you, laughed a lot, very good natured, soft spoken and fun to be around. He will be truly missed by his family, my family and to all the people that he came in contact with.

I’d like to tell you about some of the memories that Gary and I had over the years. There were so many good times that I could tell story after story but a few fond ones come to mind that I’d like to share.  

First meeting Gary

I first met Gary when I was 15 years old. I use to ride dirt bikes back then and a friend of mine that I use to ride with introduced us one day after riding.

One of the first things I noticed at his place was the 55 Chevy parked in his driveway. This car was the “Shifters Car Club’s” racecar and a few club members were over there working on it. Being a motorcycle guy and working on my own bike, I could relate to all the car stuff. When it was time to leave that day, Gary told me to come back over if I wanted to. I took him up on that offer, which was one of the best things I could have ever done in my life. 



I use to walk home from school back then (yeah it sucked to walk home while in High School) but Gary’s house was on my way home so once or twice a week, I’d stop in and see what he was doing. After a couple of months, I got to know a few guys over there but being that I was younger than everyone else, I watched mostly. Every now and then, one of the guys would talk to me and I started to feel more accepted, which kept me coming back.

As time went by, I was learning by watching all those gear heads and then started asking questions to which Gary would mostly answer. He would explain things to me like nobody I’d ever talked to before and this made me want to ask even more questions, but in fear of getting on his nerves, again I’d mostly watch. 



It didn’t take me long to figure out that Gary was a small block Chevy guy, and I mean “big time” because his hero was Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins. Bill Jenkins drove a Prostock car (which was in the professional ranks). Bill ran a small block Chevy back then and beat most folks he ran against, And a lot of those guys had big blocks in their cars. This is one big reason why Gary liked a small block over a big block. He use to tell me that anyone could make power with a big block, but doing it with a small block was really doing something. From that day on, he convinced me that owning a small block was the only way to go.

This is the engine that powered the Shifters Club car back in the 70's. The engine was a 327 cubic inches, two four barrels on a tunnel-ram and dig those sexy blue headers. This was the look back then along with the spackle-finish on the firewall. The car had a tilt front-end and a homemade hood scoop.



1965 Chevy Nova 

Gary owned a 65 Chevy Nova that had a 327 Chevy engine with a four-speed transmission. He installed the engine and he also got very good at replacing rearend components because he use to break them often. The reason the rearend got thrashed was because he would let the clutch fly every chance he got. And he did all the bodywork and paint himself. I told myself that I wanted to have a cool car like his someday. After getting a ride in it one afternoon, I was hooked on hot rods.


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