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Dec 12, 2012

R.I.P.: Racer, Aircraft Fabricator Rocky Rockwell (Updated)

Kent Norman "Rocky" Rockwell paid homage to his passion for WWII-era aircraft by racing with this combat "shark" livery in the 1970s. Photo courtesy Norm Fraijo.
Former AMA and AFM racer and noted aircraft fabricator Kent Norman "Rocky" Rockwell has died at the age of 62 of natural causes, according to the Riverside County Coroner's office.

Rockwell died on November 28 at 7:07 a.m., officials said. He was at home with family in Corona, California.

Rockwell was a fabricator and engineer with Monotrack Engineering in Costa Mesa, California, where he helped build one of the more truly unusual racing motorcycles ever created. The beast had a three-cylinder, two-stroke snowmobile engine, a constantly variable transmission, and a monocoque chassis built using welded magnesium.

"Rocky was one of the engineers over there, and he was in charge of fabrication and development of the motorcycle road racing components when I stumbled through the door at Monotrack in 1970," says former racer Steve Lang. "I was just starting to realize what road racing was all about. Rocky kind of took me under his wing. I told him I wanted to race and he showed me everything there was to do to do that."

Rockwell raced two-strokes--Yamaha 250cc and 350cc twin-cylinder racebikes, as well as a Kawasaki H1R Triple. He raced with the AFM, the now-defunct CMC and the AMA, and even raced a Grand Prix in Venezuela, Lang says.

"He was an absolutely righteous guy," says former racer Norm Fraijo. "The race I remember the most was with Rocky at Laguna Seca in 1974. He beat me, but it was just 20 laps of pure fun."

After his career in motorcycle racing ended, Rockwell turned to aircraft. He became one of the world's go-to guys for parts and assistance for World War II-era aircraft, Lang says.

"He was such a perfectionist and such a fabricator that he started restoring all the old warbirds that you see over at the Chino Air Museum," Lang says. "As he restored them, their value went up and up. People from all over the world would come to him for parts and work on those planes.

"He was never one to be in the spotlight. He just went out and did his job."

A memorial service for Rockwell is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. Sunday, December 16, at the Planes Of Fame Air Museum in Chino, California, according to Lang.