Big Willie Robinson lived up to his name both in physical size and his iconic status in the underground racing world of southern California. He worked hard at bringing people together through his love of cars and racing after the Watts Riots. Big Willie’s story is being told in a new way by Daniel Miller in the Larger Than Life Los Angeles Times podcast series.
You might not see any grandstands at dragstrips named after Robinson, but that doesn’t mean his impact wasn’t felt throughout the drag racing world. Robinson was able to unite people from every ethnicity under the banner of drag racing, a difficult feat in the racially charged 1960s. He would go on to bring the National and International Brotherhood of Street Racers to life and founded Brotherhood Raceway in 1974.
Larger Than Life creator Daniel Miller and his family have been in the auto dealer business for three generations. Back in 2017, Miller was at a car lot in the San Fernando Valley when on assignment he first heard of Big Willie Robinson. Miller then was shown Robinson’s 1966 Plymouth Barracuda and became intrigued with Robinson’s story. Soon, he was researching Robinson, his group, and saw an amazing story that needed to be told.
“The goal of Larger Than Life is to share Big Willie Robinson’s story with a wide audience. While some of our listeners may be fans of Big Willie or knowledgeable about him, we hope to introduce Big Willie to people who have never heard of him before. These days, when it seems like people are more divided than ever, Willie’s message — that cars can bring disparate people together — is worth highlighting. I think Big Willie’s story will resonate with all sorts of people. At the same time, the podcast gives us an opportunity to explore wider topics and issues — including L.A. history, Southern California car culture, and the present-day street racing scene. We get into all of that, and more,” Miller explains.
Miller’s approach to the Larger Than Life series is very unique and interesting. It has the feel of a documentary but dives deep into the legend that surrounds Robinson with an investigative edge. You’ll hear stories from people who were there and knew Robinson personally. There are some outstanding interviews with members of the Brotherhood of Street Racers that show just how vital Robinson was in creating the amazing car and racing culture of southern California through his influence.
“Big Willie lived a remarkable life — he achieved so much of what he set out to accomplish, and he had a lot of fun doing it. There are just so many surprising parts of his story — take, for example, Willie’s time in show business. This is L.A., after all, so he got work as a bit-part actor, appearing in films like Two-Lane Blacktop and TV shows like CHiPs. It was work that spread the message of the Brotherhood, introducing Willie to gearheads across the country. And it didn’t end there — Willie even had ties to the Fast & Furious franchise and boasted of a connection to Star Wars. He actually made a pretty bold claim about the space opera — he said he’d been offered the part of Darth Vader in the original film. This, of course, is something we delve into,” Miller says.
You can check out the trailer to the Larger Than Life series right here. If you’re into drag racing history or want to learn more about the legend of Big Willie Robinson Larger Than Life is for you.
Photos courtesy of Los Angeles Times