A 75-year-old Seattle man who spent his life racing cars, boats and planes died Sunday afternoon after losing control of his vintage sports car at the Spokane County Raceway in Airway Heights.
Chuck Lyford was known in racing circles as a philanthropist and thrill-seeker. On Sunday, during the seventh annual Spokane Festival of Speed, he was zipping along the back stretch of the raceway when he lost control of his orange-and-black 1964 Elva Mark VII, said Jim Sloane, a local attorney and race organizer.
The car rolled several times, and emergency personnel responded in under a minute, Sloane said. They had to cut through pieces of the wrecked car to get Lyford out, he said.
Lyford was pronounced dead soon afterward at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center. Sloane said he had internal injuries.
“Chuck Lyford was a friend of mine, and he was a remarkable individual,” Sloane said. “I had tremendous respect for his ability as a race car driver.”
Sloane said Lyford was a gifted storyteller with an insatiable appetite for adventure. Several months ago, Lyford and his wife, Pam, completed the Rally of the Incas, a 27-day tour from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Lima, Peru, in their 1938 Chevy Fangio coupe.
“Saturday night we had a banquet out by the racetrack, and he kept 300 people enthralled with stories about his experience at the Rally of the Incas,” Sloane said.
Jim Sullivan, another organizer of the Festival of Speed, said he first met Lyford 57 years ago when they were going to school in Seattle. He said Lyford flew a P-51 Mustang in air races in Reno, Nevada, and flew under contract for the CIA.
Lyford was also a talented hydroplane racer, Sullivan said. “There wasn’t anything that fella wasn’t good at.”
Sloane said Lyford’s family would arrange a service. He lived with his wife in Medina, near Seattle.