Goodbye to American Sports Car Racer Bruce Leven

AutoInformed.com on Bruce Leven and Sports Car RacingGentlemen racer and privateer Bruce Levin has taken his final checkered flag just as the 2017 IMSA season was in its final laps. During the late 1970s and 1980s, the Seattle business competed at the top level of North American sports-car racing, driving Porsche’s with Hurley Heywood, Al Hulbert and David Hobbs among other hot shoes. He was born in Chicago on June 12, 1938, and two years later moved with his family to Seattle. Chicago of course is the home of Wacker Drive. Fred Wacker was also a sports car racer until a tragic accident into the crowd at Watkins Glen when it was a street race caused him to put away his leather driving gloves.

In 1964 Levin bought Bayside Disposal as a one-truck, one-employee waste-and-scrap hauling business in Seattle, built it into a very successful concern and then sold the company in 1987 as a vertically integrated 400-truck, 500-employee, multi-state operation. Subsequently, he purchased several other disposal and landfill businesses and operated them until he died on Sept. 15. He was truly a part of an American sub-culture – racers who turn left and right and run in the rain with cars that didn’t need decals to differentiate them from other makes.

AutoInformed.com on Bruce LevenHis attraction to the Porsche marque began in the ’70s when he owned and raced different Porsche models in local SCCA competition, earning the 1977 B-Improved Production-class regional championship. He subsequently raced in the Trans-Am Series and was the 1979 Rookie of the Year, then moved into IMSA Camel GT competition with an ex-Brumos Porsche 935.

As a racing driver, Leven surrounded himself with international luminaries that led to the success of his privately-entered Bayside Disposal Racing team – including three victories in the Twelve Hours of Sebring (1981, 1987, 1988). He enlisted such drivers as Peter Gregg, Hurley Haywood, Al Holbert, Scott Pruett, Hans Stuck, Bob Wollek, and others to compete in the IMSA GT series in Porsche 935s and 962s, and Dominic Dobson and Jeff Andretti in Lola open-wheel racers in the CART Indy Car series. 

In Leven’s best-ever 1987 season his team earned six wins, with drivers Jochen Mass and Bobby Rahal finishing third and fifth in the IMSA championship despite entering only half the races. For good measure, three-time Le Mans winner Klaus Ludwig also contributed to that fantasy season with a solo win of his own. Leven was justifiably proud that his small private team achieved great success against factory-backed and financed efforts from Chevrolet, Ford, Jaguar and Nissan.

Leven disbanded the racing team in the 1990s and turned his attention back to business. His love of cars and things mechanical led him into other new ventures as well. He founded the Bayside Automotive Group – consisting of several new-car dealerships in the Seattle area, including two Bayside Porsche franchises – and Lake Union Air, a commercial float plane business.

AutoInformed.com on Bruce LevenIn his later years, Leven returned to his first love: building and showing customized cars and hot rods. Not surprisingly, winning numerous awards, including multiple Best of Class wins at SEMA, the National Roadster Show, and Goodguys Rod & Custom Association national events. His last project, a custom 1951 Ford Club Coupe was chosen as the 2016 SEMA Grand Turismo Award winner and will appear in a future edition of Sony’s popular PlayStation video game. The Ford has continued to rack up accolades across the U.S., including the Gene Winfield Award, three Goodguys Builders Choice Awards, Custom Rod of the Year finalist (Scottsdale Goodguys), PPG Dream Car and will be featured on the Jay Leno’s Garage YouTube channel.

He was a Renaissance man with multiple passions. In addition to his business and racing endeavors, he was also an boater, aviator, studied collector of Western American Art, outdoorsman and world hunter, amassing such achievements as the African “Big 5” and North American 29 “Super Slam.”

Leven leaves behind numerous close friends in the racing and business community, along with four children – Bruce (Melinda) Leven II, Michael Leven (C. Roxanne Robbin), Scott (Debbie) Leven, and Cydnee Stockton – and nine grandchildren – Jansen Leven, Troy Leven, Morgan Leven, Miranda Stockton, Alex Leven, Jack Stockton, Adrian Leven, Chad Leven and Shay Leven.

Levin will be missed as much as the 962 Porsches he once ran.

Thanks and a tip of the AutoInformed helmet to Judy Stropus who supplied much of the information for this tribute.

About Ken Zino

Ken Zino is an auto industry veteran with global experience in print and electronic media. He has auto testing, marketing, public relations and communications expertise garnered while working in Asia, Europe and the U.S.

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