14/2/1942 - 2/10/1996
He had a high degree of success behind the wheel of Modified race cars, winning hundreds of races during his career, but his primary claim to fame is the cars he built for others to drive. His shop, Banjo's Performance Center near Asheville, NC, is perhaps the second-most famous building in town, running a close second to the prestigious Biltmore House. After moving to Miami from Ohio, he ran his first race at age 15 in a Ford Roadster at Pompano Beach Speedway in 1947, and won, After five years of racing and working on cars, Matthews decided he wanted to race for a living, and moved to Asheville, NC in 1952. He raced both dirt and asphalt, building a reputation as one of the best modified drivers around, and he was ready when NASCAR went to the superspeedways in the early 1960's. Banjo raced 50 times on the Grand National circuit, with a second at Atlanta being his closest encounter with victory lane. In 1963, he left the driving to others, joining the Ford factory team building cars for Parnelli Jones, A. J. Foyt, Donnie Allison, Pete Hamilton and Bobby Isaac. When the factories pulled out, Banjo opened his own shop, and the legend began. He made a deal with John Holman of Holman-Moody, and built kit-type Fords in 1971. Matthews built the body and framework, and H-M put in the motors. After that, he built cars for Chevrolet. Cars owned by Matthews won nine races and 14 poles in 160 starts, including three Firecracker 400's at Daytona. But he decided to turn all of his energies to building cars for others to own, and that is when he really made a name for himself Cars built by Matthews won 262 of 362 NASCAR Winston Cup races from 1974-1985, including all 30 races in 1978, and four consecutive Winston Cup championships (1975-78). On many occasions, cars built by Banjo Matthews comprised over half the field, Not only did he build them, he also repaired them. In addition to Winston Cup cars, he built Limited Sportsman, Modifieds and IROC cars. His greatest joy was helping someone else, and his goal was to build each car as competitive and safe as the one before it. Despite not seeking the glory that comes with driving, Matthews still has a room frill of recognition from various groups. In the months before he died of heart and respiratory disease in 1996, he was honored by being awarded the Buddy Shuman Award, the Smokey Yunick Award for lifetime mechanical achievement, and has been inducted into the NMPA Hall of Fame at Darlington.