Tuesday, September 4, 2012

AUTOS: Vintage Indy Cars invade LeMay museo...

Entering the museum, upon purchasing said Family membership and having our wrists donned with the day’s colour wristband, and wishing to head straight to the Indy Cars,
Mary Ellen spotted the ubiquitous “IndyCar” mounted on the wall above us - as one local-yocal scribe who apparently isn’t a ‘RevHead called it. As actually I think its one of the Team USA’s A1 GP chassis driven over the years (2005-09) by the likes of: Marco Andretti, Phil Geebler, (who I just met at this year’s Indy Legends Day who signed my program ‘O7 Indy ROY!) Bryan Herta, J.R. Hildebrand, Charlie Kimball, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Buddy Rice, Scott Speed and Jonathan Ssummerton

Although perhaps it is an IndyCar? As Mary Ellen said she liked its “We The People” livery - it was a very pretty chassis and I believe she also said it sat on used rubber... As original A1 Team USA owner Rick Weidinger took the We-the-People livery to the 90th running of the Indy 500 in 2006 with arguably one of ‘lil al’s worst outings, albeit I recall an even shakier performance in A.J. Foyt’s second racecar... As recall when Al Unser Jr. was actually racing Indy Cars instead of racing Suburban’s on Albuquerque’s highways? But I digress...

Thus, it was hilarious how on the following day when asking to go look at this car once again, I was startled to notice I hadn’t even seen the AWESOME gold with black twin stripes Ford GT parked just in front of it; YIKES! As the Ford GT is surely one of the BADDEST Supercars, eh?

But where are those stinkin’ IndyCarz you say...

Smokey Yunick’s 1964 HurstFloorShiftSpecial driven by Bobby Johns in 1964. (Source: legendsofnascar.com)
LeMay SpeedZone
IMS Hall of Fame museum “loaners”
(Notes taken upon initial visit July 2, 2012):

NOTE
Cars in order of viewing; all chassis are Front Engine Single Seater’s unless noted - which was en vogue at the Speedway until 1963 when Team Lotuses Jimmy Clark finished a controversial runner-up to Parnelli Jones in ‘Ol Calhoon, as the era of the front engine was about to be truly extinguished in the coming years...

1) 1925 blue Miller Junior 8 Special, No. 1.
Although the Miller’s were before my time, they seem to take  on more significance the old-ER I get, as they represent what many call the “golden Age” of motor racing and for me signify the start of the truly significant Indianapolis era, as Harry Miller’s creations are truly beautiful... And without Miller and his Merry-men, most notably Fred Offenhauser - we wouldn’t have had what became the most dominant winning engine of Mother Speedway, as I highly doubt ‘OFFY’s total number of victories will be surpassed anytime soon...

2) 1930 Miller HiSpeed Special. (Two Seater/Riding Mechanic) 
As many will be quick to point out, the inaugural Indy 500 was won by Ray Haroun solo aboard the Marmon Wasp with what is considered the advent of the rear view mirror, as the task of spotting opponents was traditionally held by the Riding Mechanic - which the rest of the 1911 Indianapolis 500 field was comprised of. For the following year, Riding Mechanics were made mandatory for all events over 100-miles and remained in force thru 1922 before becoming optional in ’23 with no takers during the years 1924-29.

For 1930, the beginning of the “Junk Era,” Riding Mechanics were once again mandated and remained en force ‘til ’37, before once again becoming optional in 1938 and never utilized once again...

Thus, this two-seater Miller example seemed slightly out of place amongst the rest of its single seater brethren, albeit another quite beautiful example of the Miller Cars concern, as it’d be interesting to know what engine it carried, not to mention if it was of all new design or simply having its bodywork massaged in order to accommodate the second seat.

And it’s funny that whilst trying to learn the brief history of the Riding Mechanic - a picture of Jimmy Murphy and his “bosom-buddy” (Riding Mechanic) at Tacoma Speedway from 1922 keeps popping up. As reportedly Murphy himself, an eventual Indy 500 winner in 1922 cut his racing teeth as a Riding Mechanic initially, albeit not aboard this car - which ironically is the only vehicle I don’t seem to have a car number for and hence, I’m guessing another museum visit is in order...


3) 1931 Cummins Diesel Special, No. 8. (Two Seater/Riding Mechanic) 
Notes: Non-stop record. (No Stops) Gas tanks in back. (White)

As I scribbled before - I thought I’d seen this chassis at Indy this May; BUTT! It was its older ‘Seester car instead... As this particular Cummins Diesel Special was the very first car ever  to complete the Indy 500 non-stop, running the entire 500-miles on a single tank of diesel fuel, albeit not the fastest car in the race, as unheralded driver Dave Evans qualified 17th with a speed of 96.870mph and soldiered home 13th in the race...


4) 1940 yellow Sampson 16 Special, No. 32.
Notes: 16-cylinder motor: Two engines side-by-side; “V” with common crankcase.

This car is starting to ‘PEAK my curiosity, as I’d assumed that it must have been two Miller “Straight-8’s” joined at the hip in order to create this unique 16-cylinder engine... Yet purusing Zed Internetz I became slightly Cornfuzed, as I stumbled upon a one 1930 Sampson Miller U-16 up for auction; Hmm? As Mary Ellen wrote down that it was a vee-configuration, whilst I’d never heard of this particular U-16 chassis...

Apparently Sampson reluctantly went into the racecar chassis business in 1930 during the “Junk Era,” and built the first of his 16-cylinder motivated racing cars, while the chassis on display is the second updated version of this powerplant configuration - which its motor holds an interesting footnote in history, which I’ll try scribbling ‘bout later in another story... But for you Indy Diehards like Geo. Phillip’s I’ll give you a hint; think Frank Lockhart!

And I spent many minutes admiring this yellow car which was quite alluring and the more I ponder I-T! The more I wish I could see that amazing V-16 engine...

To read the conclusion of this story; Cars 5-9, see; AUTOS: Vintage Indy Cars invade LeMay museo (Conclusion)

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