KEEPING THE SPIRIT ALIVE SINCE 1999

Bruce Kessler
23/3/1926

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Kessler was an American driver who shared a car in the 1958 Monaco Grand Prix with a certain B.Ecclestone! He went on to be involved in the trawler and television industries, even acting as a TV director for such notable shows as Knight Rider, The A Team and I Dream of Jeannie.

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Kessler born in Seattle, Washington and grew up in Beverly Hills, California, the son of a clothing designer. He started racing in the early 1950s driving his mother's Jaguar XK120 in the SCCA races mostly in California even though he was only 16 at the time. He graduated to single seaters with a Cooper Mk IX sponsored by Warren Olson who ran a race car shop in Southern California and was the Cooper distributor. He took a number of wins in 1956 going on to win the 500cc Club of America Championship.

Kessler was one of Lance Reventlow closest friends and they often raced together. In fact they were on the way to race Reventlow's Mercedes-Benz SL at the Salinas Road Races on September 30th 1955, when they stopped at Blackwells Corner. James Dean and Rolf Wutherich pulled in with Dean's Porsche Spyder, Little Bastard. They agreed to meet for dinner later that day and pulled out. 10 minutes later Dean and Wutherich left but never reached their destimation, fatally coliding with a 1950 Ford Tudor driven by a 23 year old college student at Cal Poly State University, Donald Turnupseed. Kessler was thus probably the last person to talk to Dean other than Wutherich. Weutherich survived but was too badly injured to attend the inquest. When he recovered he returned to Germany and never spoke about the crash. He died in another car crash in 1981.

When Reventlow decided to build Scarab race cars out of Warren Olson workshops, Kessler was one of the first drivers to join the team along with Chuck Daigh. The Scarabs enjoyed mixed success. 

Most of Kesslers success came at the wheel of Ferraris in 1957 with 2 wins a second and two third place finishes and in 1958, finishing 5th overall and first in class at the Sebring 12 Hour race driving a NART Ferrari 250 GT. He went to Europe to drive a NART 250 GTO Ferrari at Le Mans that year, co-driving with Dan Gurney, unfortunately failing to finish. He had a number of other good results that year driving the NART Ferrari 860 Monza finishing on the podium at both Lime Rock and Watkins Glen. He also won the Nassau Ferrari Race. He made his one and only World Championship Formula One Grand Prix appearance at Monaco with a Connaught owned by one Bernie Ecclestone, but failed to qualify, although he posted the 21st fastest time of the 28 entrants. 

After a serious crash at the 1959 Examiner Grand Prix at Pomona, California, he spent a number of days in a coma and decided to retire from racing.

Kessler came back to California and became a film and television director. He directed many television films and series. One of his earliest efforts was a short film he directed on the Scarab race car for his friend Lance Reventlow called The Sound of Speed. As a film and television director, some his credits include Angels from Hell, The Monkees, The Flying Nun, Mission: Impossible, It Takes a Thief, Marcus Welby, M.D., The Rockford Files, McCloud, CHiPs, The Greatest American Hero, The A-Team, Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer, Hunter and Renegade, his last directing credit.

Aside from cars and his film and television work, Kessler loves fishing and boats.

Starting with a 26-foot sports boat, his desire to fish further and further out to sea saw his boats increase in size culminating with Zopilote a 70 feet trawler style yacht with which Kessler and his wife circumnavigated the world which he admits was essentially a three-year fishing expedition!

Zopilote was lost in 1994 on an uncharted seamount 70 miles west of Ketchikan, Alaska, but was replaced by Spirit of Zopilote at 64 feet with a beam of 18 feet with draft of 6 feet 4 inches.

Kessler was also a world class skeet and trap shooter. He is now retired in Marina Del Rey, California.

 


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