Friday, September 7, 2012

AUTOS: Vintage Indy Cars invade LeMay museo (Conclusion)

Authors note: Upon trying to load this Gargantuan 7-page 2,500-plus words story plus the associated pictures onto blogger.com via Zed Internetz - the HERCULIAN ‘Mega-bite, or was it Mega-pixels? Simply made my tired ‘Ol Confuzer “TIME OUT!” Hence I split the second part of the story into two half’s (approx) in hopes of being able to upload I-T after having nearly posted it the first time; URGH!

1938 Gulf- Miller rear engine Tucker Special, No. 12. (Source: conceptcarz.com)
5) 1938 dark blue Gulf-Miller Tucker Special, No. 12.
Notes: All-wheel drive rear engine 6-cylinder.

Surprisingly, this turned out to be my numero uno favourite of the collection - instead of and ahead of the vaunted Lotus 56 turbine...

As I mused to Mary Ellen how ‘kOOL it was to be actually seeing something live and in person after having only previously read about it in books; as I’ve been lightly aware of this chassis ever since purchasing my trove ‘O Miller related books during the writing of my epic Blue Crown Spark Plug Specials tome - now some three-years ago, albeit I must confess I only learned of its existence through the published works of Donald Davidson...


And the more I stared at this mesmerizing dark blue chassis, the more I conjured up images of those all conquering Auto Unions and Silver Arrows, as shockingly, this was actually the first rear engine car to race at Mother Speedway - preceding ‘Ol ‘Blackjack’s (Sir Jack Brabham) 1961 Cooper-Climax by twenty-two years!

And although it wasn’t the first rear engine chassis to drive upon the fabled bricks, this having been done by Lee Oldfield (NO relation to Barney Oldfield) in 1937, the ’38 Gulf-Miller would also fail to qualify during its debutant year before making the race as the lone Gulf-Miller entry in 1939.

What struck me most about this car, beside its diminutive size, was what truly appears to be a very upright British all arms ‘N elbows driving position - as even the nose looks quite bulbous to Mwah, while the engine is covered by a shiny (chrome?) silver louvered panel, presumably on each side? As all of the cars were parked with their right-hand sides against the museo’s wall; as I’d enjoy knowing a little bit more about this chassis’s individual history - since its pontoon gas tanks design ultimately led to two Gulf-Millers catching on fire during the latter race prior to World War II...

6) 1948 Kurtis Roadster, No. 98: Grant Piston Racing Special.  (J.C. Agajanian)
Notes: 270cid (Cubic Inches) Offenhauser engine; 300+ horsepower. 134.343 mph = “A New Track Record!”  (1950)

Although the importance of this car is not lost upon me, as it was the Kurtis Roadsters which not only defeated the Blue Crown Spark Plug Specials in their quest to ‘Four-peat, they quickly became the dominant chassis of the early 1950’s before the Watson Roadsters dethroned them.

Yet I seem to recall finding this to be the least attractive chassis of the entire SpeedZone Armada; Hmm? Perhaps this is a visual thingy a la Geo Phillips comments towards not liking Jerry Grant’s Mystery Eagle, which I myself enjoy; but there was just something unappealing about the ‘Aggy -owned mounts colour scheme...

Jim Rathman’s 1960 No. 4 Ken-Paul Watson/Offy on the center stage at IMS Hall of Fame - 2011. (DOB)
7) 1959 Watson Roadster Leader Card Special, No. 5 (winner)
Notes: Fuel injection. (Hillborn) 252cid ‘OFFY; top speed 180mph.

I think this car was either all or predominantly white... As unlike the previous Kurtis Roadster in front of it, and not having been a fan of Roadsters typically; that all changed back in 2011 when I found Jim Rathman’s 1960 Indy 500 winner to be stunningly beautiful in its “Winter Blue” paint hue - and rightly deserving its place of honour on the Hall of Fame’s museuo entrance where the Marmon Wasp had always resided until then.

Thus I found Ward’s ’59 Watson Roadster to be intoxicating and extremely alluring with its stance that immediately made  me think of my favourite 1950’s Formula 1 racecar, the awesome Maserati 250F that Juan  Manuel Fangio so brilliantly drove to his fifth world championship...

The Leader Cards Roadster just simply looks all business; hunkered down with no wasting of space with its swooping black side exhaust pipe continuing the flow of this gracefully chiseled race car - making it easy to understand how it was a winner at Indy! As I’m guessing this is also possibly the same chassis that Ward campaigned the following year in his epic duel with Rathman before settling for a disappointing runner-up finish...

8) 1964 Hurst Floor Shift Special. (Smokey Yunick)
Notes: Unique Offset “Tandem” design powered by the ubiquitous 4-cylinder ‘OFFY and driven by NASCAR driver Bobby Johns who hit the wall during practice and failed to qualify. Engine inlet pipes above driver’s head who sits in small sidecar bucket...

This is the car that started my whole pursuit in search of thee “Holy Grail” of going to the museum ASAP! Having read about it somewhere - as it seems so long ago now that I first discovered this car was coming to Tacoma, as the fabulous IMS Hall of Fame ‘Loaners traveled the furthest in order to grace the museum’s ramps...

Not really sure what I can say about this car other than its utterly bizarre! Yet at the same time it’s pretty neat too, although I had a hard time noticing all of its oddities...

As noted, this was just one of the countless creations from the genius of Smokey Yunick, who I believe had a sign declaring his shop was the best Damn ‘lil garage in all of America! (Or something to that effect...)

Not exactly sure of the thinking behind its radical tandem layout which housed the driver in a tiny motorcycle-like sidecar with some wonky pipes above the roll bar; as perhaps this unconventional layout was in attempt to pair overall weight? As I enjoyed being able to view what appeared to be a very offset front suspension piece while the engine side of the car was obscured by the museo’s wall...

And the driver was the somewhat unheralded NASCAR driver Bobby Johns - who smacked the wall during practice/qualifying and failed to qualify this oddity in what was his debutant year at Mother Speedway. But Johns would return the following year as the most unlikely teammate to thee Flying Scot, aka Jimmy Clark at team Lotus - starting adrift of the midpack in P22, yet finishing a respectable seventh, albeit 3-laps behind...


Joe Leonard’s 1968 Pole-winning No. 60 Lotus-turbine at the Hall of Fame museo - 2012. (DOB)
 9) 1968 ‘Dayglow orange Lotus 56 Turbine, No. 70. (Graham Hill)
Having seen this most beautiful car once before at its rightful home - the IMS Hall of Fame museum, where I’d also seen its predecessor - the original 1967 Granatelli “Silent Sam” or “Wooshmobile;” I’ve decided that this is my Numero Uno all time favourite IndyCar - as I’ve even got its corresponding Carousel 1:18 Diecast replica...

and thanxs to the museo’s display, I could actually get far closer up to the side of this beauty than before, even marveling how I could actually see the Annulus Intake area, i.e.; turbine inlet (L/H side) on my second visit - as I notice more each time I study this car...

Yet thanxs solely to my CRAPY eyesight - on the first visit the lighting appeared such that it wasn’t Day-glow orange, but instead a muted bleak flat yellow; Aye Karumba! As while studying its chopped off hind quarters, specifically the muted integral tail wing flap - I mused how different it seemed to be looking at a fleet of racecars devoid of today’s requisite front and rear wings, not to mention sidepods...

Thus its funny thinking I’d just seen its ‘Seester-car, the No. 60 Pole winner driven by Joe Leonard at Indy’s Hall of Fame museum this May - as its impressive to think that they’ve got two of the original chassis, as I can only guess upon the other two, albeit I did read that one was sold off to ‘Rufus Parnelli Jones the following season.

Yet, as beautiful as I find this chassis to be, and it’ll remain my number one choice, I haveda say I was more intrigued by the Tucker Special, as I just found myself gravitating back to that splendid dark blue chassis - thinking it’s a pretty damn good day to be taking a phone call whilst standing in front of I-T!

And my only disappointment with this most excellante grouping is the fact that there weren’t any current-spec chassis  on hand, as I know that I saw one of the beautiful deep metallic blue early 1990’s Hemelgarn-cosworth chassis during a past visit to the LeMay ex-Maramont Military Academy  retreat, in Spanaway, WA.

As it’d been nice  to be able to visually see how much the Indy Car has progressed since the late 1960’s - as none of these wonderful racing cars sported today’s requisite sidepod’s which became de riggour beginning in the early 1970’s...

Top-3 Selections
Gold: 1939 Gulf-Miller Tucker Special.
Silver: 1968 Lotus 56
Bronze: 1959 Watson Indy Roadster.

(DOB - Photos courtesy of No Fenders ‘Offical Photographer ‘CARPETS)

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