Cordy Milne was a leading Speedway racer of the 1930s and ‘40s. He won the American Speedway Championship four times and was a leading contender in the World Speedway Championships, finishing third in 1937 behind his brother Jack Milne and fellow American rider Wilbur Lamoreaux. Milne won the American titles in 1934 and 1935. In the late 1930s, Milne raced primarily in England and Australia. After World War II, he returned to win the U.S. title again in 1947 and 1948.
Cordy was born in 1910 in Buffalo, New York, and his family moved to Pasadena, California, while he was still young. Both Milne brothers went to work for Western Union as messenger delivery boys. Cordy saved his money and bought a motorcycle while Jack bought a small gas station. Cordy converted his street bike into a speedway racer. The modifications didn’t work that well, but Cordy didn’t care. He was into racing. He was soon to bring his big brother into the sport with him.
By the early 1930s, Cordy starting earning decent money in racing. Jack saw a financial opportunity. If he and his brother raced and shared expenses, they could earn a living from the sport. Jack sold his service station and purchased a pair of Comerford-JAP Speedway racing machines from England.
The decision to become full-time racers proved to be a good one. Cordy won back-to-back American Speedway Championships in 1934 and ’35, and soon they brothers were invited to race in Australia and England. By the late 1930s, both became world-class Speedway racers. In 1937, Jack won the Speedway World Championship, Wilbur Lamoreaux was second and Cordy third, giving a clean sweep for the three Americans – all from Pasadena.
In England at the time, Speedway racing was extremely popular, with races regularly attracting tens of thousands of fans. Cordy became a celebrity, appearing on trading cards and being featured in advertisements for a variety of products. He led a colorful life. Cordy’s first marriage was to a local Pasadena girl named Marie Van Schaack. The two married in England and Marie enjoyed her newfound fame as Cordy’s wife. She loved the glamorous life, divorced Milne and began her life as Lili St. Cyr, a world-famous striptease artist.
World War II put a temporary end to the Cordy’s international racing. In 1939, Cordy was at his prime and leading the World Championships when war broke out. He and his brother returned to Pasadena and opened a bicycle shop with $4,000 from their racing earnings. That shop eventually grew to include a motorcycle dealership and later the Milnes expanded to a major multi-line auto dealership in the Los Angeles area.
After the war, the brothers helped revive Speedway racing in Southern California. Cordy won the American Speedway Championship two more times (1947 and ’48). He actually led the point standings in 1946, but left the states to race in Australia, forfeiting his chance to win that year’s title. Cordy’s four American Speedway titles would stand as a record until Mike Bast won a fifth championship 30 years later.
The crowds at California Speedway races were strong through the 1940s, but by the early 1950s television was catching on in a big way and the Speedway racing diminished and lay dormant for nearly 30 years. When Speedway was revived in America in the 1970s, the Milne brothers, now successful businessmen, were prime movers in the renaissance of the sport.
Cordy Milne passed away on October 15, 1978. He will always be remembered as one of the best Speedway racers of all time.