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Posted on October 1, 2014 | 12:22 p.m.

Timothy Rochlitzer of Santa Barbara, 1930-2014

Source: Brian Rochlitzer

Rochlitzer
Timothy Rochlitzer

The unimaginative would say Timothy Mortimer Rochlitzer entered this world on June 16, 1930, and left it behind Sept. 15, 2014. What a lame gloss-over that would be for a man whose life was spent poking holes in the impossible and the improbable. Driving his own hand-built race car to a speed of 246 mph on the pristine Bonneville Salt Flats gives you an idea of the man’s skill and determination.

A Vienna native, at age 4, his parents fled Austria to escape the war and settled in what became their beloved Santa Barbara, Calif. A graduate of Santa Barbara Catholic High School in 1948; Tim earned a degree in mechanical engineering at Gonzaga University.

Rochlitzer served his country as an officer in the 11th Airborne Division from 1953-55, as he put it, “jumping out of perfectly good airplanes.” In civilian life, he found work with Lockheed at Vandenberg Air Force Base and became the country’s youngest “launch conductor” tasked with blastoff responsibility of numerous Cold War-era space projects.

It was at work that he met the love of his life, Dorothy Ann Taylor. They were married in 1962 in Yakima, Wash. The newlyweds settled in Santa Barbara and began a family, happily raising sons Brad and Brian until Dorothy passed away at age 40 in 1982. As a single parent, Tim brought both boys into manhood, teaching them the value of hard work and living life with integrity.

Infatuated and fascinated with all things mechanical, his teenage love of cars grew into a vibrant, lifelong obsession. Proud as he was pleased to be called a “hot rodder,” the Santa Barbaran added “land speed racer” in 1952 after his inaugural trip to the salt flats.

He earned membership in the Bonneville 200 MPH Club recording a 224 mph land speed record in 1963 and then later worked relentlessly to help his two sons, Brian (262 mph) and Bradley (265 mph), join the prestigious racing club.

Entranced by the ultimate rush of unlimited speed and enduring camaraderie, Rochlitzer’s passion laid the foundation of his business life fabricating race cars. In 1965, he hung the True Radius Bending shingle and began a tube bending and metal fabrication business that remained in continuous operation until 2014.

Stories abound about “there was never a racer that he wouldn’t help,” which ate away at the profit margin and regularly dented the successful business model.

Tim Rochlitzer always did things his way, in his time, regardless of what anyone or any business model had to say. You either admired or could be driven crazy by this single, enduring attribute.

He served for many years as president of the Gold Coast Racing & Roadster Club that is responsible for the founding and perpetuation of the Dry Lakes Racing Hall of Fame (DLRHOF) that recognizes the astonishing achievements of land speed racers. His peers voted him into the DLRHOF in 1993.

An avid dirt bike rider, he spent countless weekends riding in the backcountry giving his sons an early appreciation of nature and the art of two-wheel drifting. “You go where you look and keep your feet on the pegs,” was an oft-repeated phrase that is now a metaphor for life that his boys value.

Preceded in death by wife Dorothy, brother Joseph, parents Catherine and Joseph as well as so many of his Bonneville racing extended family, a reunion for the record books must be going on as you read this.

Sons Bradley (Bess), Brian (Sarah) and three grandchildren, Avery, Jade and Bo, mourn his passing knowing that future has a hole in it where dad and grandpa should be.

A celebration of this larger than life character will be held at 1 p.m. Oct. 25 at the Mendenhall Museum in Buellton.

 

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