THE AUTOMOTIVE WORLD LOSES A LION IN WILLIAM B. RUGER, JR.

Updated: Sep 26, 2018

It is with a heavy heart that I share with friends and colleagues the sad news of the death of my good friend, William B. Ruger, Jr. on Saturday, September 15, 2018. He was 79.


Bill's intellect and great taste in everything automotive sealed our early bond of friendship so many years ago. But it was Bill's wit, intelligence and spirit that made it an enduring one.


William B. Ruger, Jr 1939 - 2018

And when I say "everything" automotive, you could count on a wide range of rides including vintage fire trucks, a vast array of Rolls Royces, Stutz, Duesenberg, Stanley, Bentley, Packard, Talbot, Locomobile, Lincoln, Pierce Arrow a 1969 Chrysler Imperial and as custodian to his father's 1970 "Ruger" purpose-built vehicles modeled after the vintage Bentley (image below). All housed in an immaculately restored early mill building in the heart of Newport, New Hampshire.


No technical subject escaped Bill's scrutiny and uncanny ability to disseminate and improve upon. His vehicles wore expertly crafted upgrades such as modern gearboxes, high speed rear axles, high compression pistons and plenty of legroom to accommodate his 6' 4" frame.

The 1924 fire truck that Bill acquired in prep school now carries him home.

You could say that being one of the two sons of his commanding father, William Ruger, Sr (yes, founder of Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc.) would be a hefty burden to carry. Yet he wore it well, almost in a self-deprecating manner, and parlayed his acquired business and technical acumen as CEO of the world famous firearms manufacturer to even greater heights. Bill was a member of the 1957 graduating class at St. Paul's School and the 1961 graduating class at Harvard University.

The two remaining 1971 Ruger automobiles.

I love this excerpt from Bill's obit, published today in the New Hampshire Union Leader:

Bill made lifelong friends with many people throughout the country. His eternal optimism and joy for life brought great happiness to those around him. He relished the opportunity to entertain friends at dinner, in hunting camp, and in many instances with his own culinary skills. His conversation at the table and the wonderfully humorous stories he would tell were legendary.
His mind was encyclopedic, which allowed him to recite minute details about many intriguing aspects of music, nature, art, and engineering. This made him immensely interesting and fascinating to friends and family.

I will leave my tribute to Bill by recounting how his eclectic brilliance and the art of the deal combined one Hershey evening to acquire a 1926 Packard Runabout (pictured below).



After an evening of fine wine, food and negotiation, Bill and the Packard's seller wound up $25,000 apart. Mid October in Chocolate Town could be host to brilliant cool nights and this particular night was no exception. Failing to close the deal, the conversation turned to the night sky where the seller observed a brilliant formation, referring to it as a star grouping. Bill countered, "No, it is Jupiter" and went on to precisely describe the event. Well, our Packard owner would have none of it and proposed that if he proved correct, Bill would agree to acquire the Packard for his asking price; whereas if Bill's observation held, the car would be Bill's for his original offer. Bill accepted.



All hell broke loose attempting to locate "reliable sources" to settle the dispute one way or the other. A clever nearby web surfer located an online entry from The Farmer's Almanac which described the unusual Jupiter event in the precise language and date Bill recounted in the heat of the betting session (Bill allowed folksy journals as much as science books, blueprints and technical dissertations to inhabit his voracious reading). The dealer honored the bet and Bill came home with the lovely Packard that he later restored with Chris Charlton. Oh, and it wears a hopped up 1936 engine, synchro box and high speed ring & pinion! Bill wouldn't have it any other way.


Bill at speed in his 2009 Bentley Continental GT

Bill was a lion of the Senate; his chamber the concours fields, hunting pastures, board rooms, dining rooms and auction halls the world over. He enriched my life and made me more inquisitive about subjects far and wide. It is said that brilliant individuals change the room. Their presence and charisma elevate others to think and converse at a higher level. Bill was that individual.


—Eric Killorin, Olympian Cars


Calling hours will be held on Friday September 21, 2018 from 5-7 PM at Newton-Bartlett Funeral Home, 42 Main Street, Newport, NH 03773. A funeral service will take place at Blue Mountain Forest Association, 376 Central Station Rd, Croydon, NH 03773 at 11 AM on Saturday, September 22, 2018.

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