Finefrock Dead at 73
Fire Injuries Take Long-Time Auto Journalist/Car Collector
(with information supplied by Walter Haessner)
A Celebration of Life will be held from 10 AM until 2 PM, February 22, for William L. Finefrok, former AutoWeek editor, who died from injuries suffered in a January 22 garage fire.
At home when he smelled smoke coming from the garage, Bill opened the garage to find a fire which engulfed him. He ran to his neighbor next door, Doug Chandler, who put the fire out and called 911.
Bill was airlifted from his home in Auburn, CA, to the Burn Unit at the University of California Davis in Sacramento. Burns covered his back, face and head. His lungs became infected from the burns, and his body gradually failed.
Well-known as an automotive journalist from the 1960s through the 1980s, particularly for his involvement with Competition Press & AutoWeek , Finefrock devoted most of the past 20 years to his car collector activities, including displays at the San Francisco Auto Show and as proprietor of the Reno Swap Meet. An avid historian, he was frequently called upon by today’s auto writers as a prime resource.
Bill was born November 8, 1930 in Alliance, OH. At an early age Bill moved to Port Angeles WA, returning to Ohio where he attended Antioch College and was graduated with a B.A. in English/Journalism.
After graduation, he worked as a police reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer before entering the U.S. Army where he was assigned to Stars & Stripes, Asian Edition, in Japan.
Upon release from the Army, Bill settled in San Francisco, eventually setting up shop as an advertising/marketing firm known as Finefrock, Goebel and Bice. Among the firm’s accounts were the San Francisco-area SCCA, for which they did the SCCA event programs; and Qvale import car distributors.
The company moved more heavily into publishing with the acquisition of a weekly newspaper from Road & Track magazine. Jim Crow was editor at the time Competition Press & AutoWeek was purchased. Finefrock, Goebel and Bice moved to Walnut Creek, CA, with this new enterprise. Bill was editor; Russ Goebel was publisher. Bill and Russ bought out Bice’s interest, and eventually Goebel bought out Bill’s interest.
While editor of Competition Press & AutoWeek, Bill hired the late Leon Mandel, who went on to become editor and publisher of what is now AutoWeek.
Always the entrepreneur, Bill took on another publication, Women’s Sport. His editor was Sally Ride, who went on to become a NASA astronaut.
Bill also published the SCCA’s national member magazine, Sports Car. During this period, circa 1970, he and Walter R Haessner worked together to publish race programs for the Can-Am, Trans-Am and Continental 5000 SCCA events nationwide.
Later, Bill tried his hand at general newspaper publishing. He bought a paper in Dillon, MT; with a human population of about 200. Bill tried diligently to teach the 20,000 members of the four-footed population to read, but to no avail. After a couple of years, he returned to California to thaw out.
Bill’s last publishing involvement was Coast Car Collector, which he produced for several years in the mid-80s.
Always a car enthusiast, particularly for sports car racing and antique car collecting, Bill had numerous involvements in these types of activities. For several years, Bill participated in the San Francisco Auto Show, providing cars for the collector car display. During this period he also put on a number of swap meets in California, and eventually revitalized the Reno Swap Meet, which for years had been run by the late Bill Harrah.
In 1996 Bill became actively involved with the International Automotive Media Awards, held first at the Imperial Palace Hotel and Casino and later at the SEMA Show
Bill’s last promotion was the La Conner Festival for collector boats and cars, held in the Fall of 2003 in La Conner, WA.
Best known for his editorial, entrepreneurial and collector car interests, Bill also enjoyed remodeling houses–and bought, remodeled and sold several quite successfully.
At the time of his passing, Bill owned four boats, harbored at the marina in La Conner; and three collector cars: a 1936 Cord convertible, 1941 Cadillac convertible and 1941 Lincoln convertible. He also owned a 1997 Cadillac El Dorado and two pick-up trucks.
Bill’s “family” was those three cars and his friends and acquaintances throughout the auto journalism and collector car arenas. He was a walking history book on the subject, and always willing to share that knowledge. Though there is no record of when or why Bill became an autophile, it appears to have been a life-long passion–one that may have caused his death. He was in the house when he smelled smoke, and it is thought he entered the garage to try and save his beloved cars. Bill was not married, had no children, and has no known heirs.
Therefore, if anyone wishes to make a donation in his name, it is suggested that donations be made to The Bill Finefrock Autmotive Journalism Scholarship Fund, ISVP/IAMA, PO Box 5046, Tucson, AZ, 85703-1046.
As per his instructions, Finefrock will be cremated and his remains taken care of by the Nautical Society. The Celebration of Life will be held at the Yacht Club at the Lake of the Pines, Auburn, CA. Those wishing to attend, or to be kept up to date regarding this, are asked to contact Walter R Haessner at firstname.lastname@example.org so your e-mail address may be added to the register.