Herbert "Sonny" Franklin Bryant II
Herbert Franklin Bryant II, better known as “Sonny,” 71, passed away on Aug. 9, from COVID-related complications. His beloved companion of 15 years, Labrador Gretchen, passed shortly after, the same day.
Sonny was preceded in death by his parents, Herb and Martha Bryant, who moved to California after serving in WWII to raise their children, Sonny and Linda, in Orange.
Sonny was always drawn to mechanical things. Martha loved to tell how, as a youngster, Sonny took apart her toaster because he wanted to see how it worked from the inside, and would beam as she bragged how it worked (better,
in her opinion) after he put it back together. His parents owned Westco Auto Supply on Katella, and it was there Sonny became known for “fixing things,” especially engines.
Sonny gained a reputation as both a talented engine-builder and racer while still a student at Villa Park High School (class of 1967). Sonny, also a talented baseball player, was “kicked off” the baseball team by Coach Pomeroy, who told him he had to pick one passion or the other. The racing world is lucky he dropped baseball. In true Sonny fashion,
he remained friendly and in touch with his coach, who helped him design a batting cage for his grandson nearly 50 years later.
Sonny founded Bryant Racing in 1973. Initially an engine-building company, Bryant Racing began producing crankshafts around the time Sonny hung up his driver’s helmet. Before retiring, he raced at several levels before becoming the ProStock builder/driver icon. With several National Championships and records of his own, Sonny built
many award-winning engines, and was known as a force both on the track and in the pit.
Fiercely competitive, Sonny shifted focus wholly to manufacturing the best crankshafts possible in 1981. Known as an innovator and a perfectionist, Sonny built Bryant Racing into a successful business. Today, Bryant Racing crankshafts are used in every racing platform, with customers all around the world.
A licensed pilot for nearly 50 years, Sonny enjoyed flying to Cabo San Lucas, where he could go deep-sea fishing. An acknowledged workaholic, sailing the seas while blasting country music in the hunt for dorado and tuna was Sonny’s true respite.
Sonny was known as a gracious and giving man, supporting numerous charities, especially those that served animals. He enjoyed helping others. Sonny enjoyed the equestrian community of OPA, where he lived the last 17 years, and would spend his Saturdays working on the trails in his tractor. He loved helping maintain the trails his girlfriend, sister
and granddaughter rode on. If you ever needed a favor, the answer was almost always “yes.” Well, actually it was, “Do I get paid?” If you asked how much, the answer was always “a penny.” It was this sarcastic wit and giving heart that earned Sonny the loyal friendship and love of so many.
In addition to the many friends who mourn this loss, Sonny will be especially missed by his longtime girlfriend Robin Brooks, sister Linda Herrington (Jack), daughter Darshan Smaaladen (Jim), grandchildren Mason, Bryant and Andrea Smaaladen, niece Traci Blume (Chris), nephew Trevor Herrington, and extended family (Robin), daughters Kandiss
Connor (Matt), Erica Grant (Chris) and Elizabeth Brooks. Out of respect for the seriousness of the virus that stole this
vibrant, strong, loved man, there will be no public service. Instead, the family asks you to raise a bottle of Pacifico in his honor, and share your favorite Sonny story in the guest book at shannonfamilymortuary.com.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Racers for Christ organization, teamrfc.org or the ASPCA; the two things Sonny was passionate about, racing and his dog.