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aka Bobby Wells. 1928-1930
Bob Clay left his home in Oklahoma in 1928, hopped a freight train, and headed out west.
He found work in the oil fields, and for a time, fought as a professional prizefighter, under the name "Bobby Wells".
With the money that he earned from these various professions, he was able to purchase a second-hand Ford Model T race car.

Bob continued his journey further west, racing at dirt tracks and fairgrounds along the way. He finally reached the west coast of the USA in 1932. Upon his arrival in California, he decided to invest his winnings in a new kind of auto racing that was just getting started in that state, "Midget Auto Racing".

Midget Auto Races

Midget Racing in early 1930's
Midget auto racing began in California in June of 1933. It quickly spread across the country, and became a very popular way for people to forget their troubles during the Great Depression.
People from all over came to see these fast, little cars tearing around quarter mile dirt tracks, and were the forerunners of today's Sprint Cars.

At the races, there would often be exhibitions where daredevils would perform death defying stunts with old cars. They would crash them into walls, jump them over obstacles, and see how many times they could roll a car end-over-end. Bob became fascinated with these thrill shows, and around 1936 decided to start his own troupe.

Bob Clay's Death Drivers

Death Drivers from 1936 to 1942
Bob Clay's Death Driver thrill show was a hit at every venue in which it performed. They travelled from town to town, putting on shows in local parks, high school stadiums, and state fairs.
Bob found that the 1936 Oldsmobile was particularly suited for use in their stunts, and always contacted the local Olds dealer when arriving in a new town. The dealers would provide cars in exchange for the demonstrations of how safe their cars were during the shows. Some dealers were even brave enough to take up Bob's offer to ride with him off one of the smaller jumps.
Early in 1942, Bob patented his idea for a seatbelt for cars,and being a patriotic American, he then offered his invention to the US government to help with the war effort. He received a letter back saying "Mr. Clay, thank you but the United States government has determined that it is dangerous for people to be strapped into cars."

Urainium Prospector

Columbia & Cuba - late 1940's
After World War II, there was a big demand across the country for oil and uranium.
Bob disbanded his Death Drivers and joined the workers heading to the oilfields to cash in on this booming industry.

Later he travelled to Columbia and Cuba with field personnel using state-of-the-art scintillometers and gieger counters looking for the next big uranium strike.
He worked hard, but still found time to enjoy some fishing now and then.

Oilfield Engineer

Shotpeening Plant in Oilfield - early 1950's
Using his knowedge gained from his early years in the oilfields, Bob Clay developed and patented a method for shotpeening the sucker rods used to pump oil from the ground. His patented 'flexpeening' process allowed oil companies to put new life into old rods and drill pipe that would have normally gone to the scrap yard.

During this time he secured several more patents, and found that he was making more money from his ideas than from the shotpeening business. So, in the mid 1950's, he sold his company and became a fulltime inventor.


Appx. 42 patents
A prolific inventor, it is estimated that he had approximately 42 patents either issued or pending by the time of his death in 1982.
Many of these inventions were related to his lifelong love of cars and racing. For cars he developed a fluid-filled shockabsorber, a dynamic wheel balancer, an air-jack, and a tire balancing, puncture proof liquid in an aerosol can. He also developed several different kinds of oil well pumping units for the oil industry, and specialized parts for aircraft.

Throughout his life, Bob Clay pursued his love of spicy food and he often spent weekends cooking up five gallon batches of his special chili to freeze and give out to his business partners and friends.

Bob Clay's Chili - 16238 Ranch Rd. 620, Ste F-187, Austin, TX 78717

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