Thursday, August 13, 2015

Indy 500 Winners and Vintage Racers abound at IMS Hall of Fame museum

Once again, With typical  aplomb; Err two-part harmony, as I simply cannot seem to type a short story; Hooah! This epic tome continues with the last of my latest IMS Hall of Fame museum visit insights...

A Brace 'O Winners! Tomaso poses with the Johnny Lightning Special. (The Tomaso Collection)
Indy 500 Winners

As typical, thoroughly enjoyed walking past the various winning Indy 500 cars on display, as we seemed to be going chronologically backwards, i.e.; decreasing years, 1972-71-70, etc.

As really can't recall every car we stopped 'N gawked at, as Dave and Mwah contemplated what our Numero Uno favourite winner was? While  interestingly, we both picked the same mount, although I wrassled between  I-T, being the beautiful Sunoco blue Mark Donohue chassis vs. my  other extreme Fav's, i.e.; the Johnny Lightning specials driven to back-to-back victories by B-I-G' AL (Unser) along with those AWESOME Whoosh-mobiles, the Lotus T56! For which I've scribbled labourisly about Lotuses assault on Mother Speedway in;

Classic Chariots
Stutz Bearcat
1922 Murphy Special
1914-15 Grand Prix Cars

It's really a shame that I couldn't S-E-E any discernible detail upon these amazing vintage racecars 'O Yesteryear. Since as Y'all know, my eyesight is SHIT these Days! As I can already hear Mary Ellen saying: But Tomaso your FREAKIN' BLIND!

Alas, really never  being intrigued much by century-old machinery before, I'm finally attempting vainly to finally read my first edition Autocorse Official History of the Indianapolis 500 cover-to-cover, which is most symbiotic, since I'm now reading about the cars I've just stood in front of with CARPETS' narrating for Mwah.

Vintage #33 Alfa Romeo racecar from previous IMS Hall of Fame museum visit. (The Tomaso Collection)
As Apperson , McFarlan and Cole were all names I'd never heard of before, with all three  disappearing from Mother Speedway's bricks briefly after the first few International Sweepstakes races.

Although most would suggest that thee "Motor City," aka Detroit is home of America's Automobile factories, it was actually Indiana that led the charge. After all the Brickyard was originally envisioned as an automotive testing ground - while WICKEDpedia' claims there were once some 77 Automobile vehicle manufacturers residing in the "Hoosier State."

As I won't bother listing all 77 names, yet suffice it to say, the following should be somewhat familiar to Diehard Auto enthusiasts 'O Yesteryear.

Indiana  Vehicle Manufacturers
American Simplex, Apperson, Auburn Automobile, Cole Motor Car Company, Cord Automobile, Duesenberg, Marmon Motor Car Company, McFarland Automobile, National Motor Vehicle Company, Packard, Studebaker and Stutz Motor Company.

But back to the three unheard of, long forgotten vehicle manufacturers who were on display inside the Hall of Fame museum...

This automobile manufacturer was named after the "Brothers E," Edgar & Elmer Apperson, producing automobiles from thee turn "O thy Twentieth century, 1901 to 1926 when the company folded.

Obviously, like all automobile manufacturers of the day, the Kokomo, Indiana based company was trying to increase sales thru its participation at the Speedway. As Herb Lytle drove his Apperson entry to a 32nd place finish in the inaugural 500-mile motor race, one position below the company's entry blank was received. As apparently Lytle was involved in an accident which was no fault of his own.

The McFarlan Automobile company was based in Connersville, Indiana from 1909 to 1928, being an offshoot of John  McFarlan's Carriage Company prior to the turn of the century.

McFarlan Automobiles were known for their luxury, sometimes referred to the American Rolls Royce and were driven by many celebrities of the day, including Al Capone!

McFarlan chassis not only took part in races at Indianapolis in 1910, but Mel Marquette, an early aviator and racing driver  contested the first two International Sweepstakes races (1911-12) aboard a McFarlan, finishing 25th and 19th respectively.

The Cole Motor Car Company, like most of the day, began life as the Cole Carriage Company, after founder Joseph J. Cole's first attempt at producing his own automobile in Rockford, Illinois had failed in 1903 before purchasing the Gates-Osborn Carriage Company and renaming it the aforementioned Cole Carriage Co.

Cole Motor Car Company was based in Indianapolis and produced cars from 1909-25 before ceasing production. As Messer Cole, afraid of losing his fortunes decided to liquidate the company as sales had grown stagnant. Alas, just prior to the liquidation wrapping up in 1925, Joseph died suddenly from infection in August of the same year.

Reputedly Cole was an innovator in V-8 technology along with being known for its luxury. Along with success in motor racing, as its Cole Series 30 Flyer won the 1909 Brighton Beach Marathon, a 24hr endurance  race and the Massapequa Sweepstakes, a sub-race category as part of the 1910 Vanderbilt Cup race.

Yet the Brickyard wasn't so kind as these earlier pursuits, as "Wild" Bill Endicott finished 26th in Cole's lone outing at the Speedway, although a Cole V-8 passenger car served as the Pace Car for the 1924 event, driven by Lew Pettijohn.


Grand Prix chassis
Meanwhile, the Grand Prix cars I noted above included both Fiat and Mercedes. Yet the Fiat in question - as I believe it has to be older than 1914, since as far as I could discern, no Fiat's raced at Mother Speedway after 1912 when world speed record holder and silent film star Teddy Tetzlaff finished runner-up to Joe Dawson's National. And David Bruce-Brown guided his Fiat to a third place finish in 1911.

Yet Mercedes did feature prominently in the early years, with Ralph DePalma leading nearly the entire 1912 race (Lap-3 to Lap-198) before his engine "DONE BLOWN UP!" Just a scant two laps from the finish!

Yet DePalma would be victorious a century ago, claiming  his lone Indy 500 victory in 1915 for Mercedes, while the previous  year Ralph Mulford had driven the "Silver Arrows" to an 11th place finish.

Presumably a 1940's vintage Novi, due to its Mobil Pegasus livery. (The Tomaso Collection)

Really don't know my Novi history too well, other then what I've gleamed previously from reading Donald Davidson's Autocorse Official History of the Indianapolis 500 (a most excellante book!) when researching my past Blue Crown Spark Plug Specials Saga epic five part tome.

Hence, I was Cornfuzed' when Dave, Dave's NOT Here; Hya! Informed me that the Novi we were standing in front of was resplendent in Mobil Pegasus livery - for which that winged horsie was so large upon the hood I could see I-T!

Yet I mused  to CARPETS' that it therefore must be a Pre-STP/Granatelli version, since  I knew that "Uncle Bobby" had cut his Indy 500 teeth as  a chauffeur of one of these latter Andy Granatelli versions, when the shrieking V-8's blower was running a second stage (supercharger) connected to four wheel drive in hopes of finally conquering the Novi's prodigiously untamed horsepower and transferring it to the tarmac in hopes of slaying the mighty Offenhauser powered competition.

As unfortunately, Dave didn't tell me the exact year of the Novi we were gawking at and thus I can only ARSE-sume it was the 1949 #5 Rex Mays entry? Although Herb Ardlinger drove the #54 Novi Governor Mobil in '47 I'd guess that IMS kept the more famous Mays entry instead...,

While I pondered the history of the Novi many Moons ago - finding this insightful website, albeit don't know the Studebaker association to Novi's...

(Photos Courtesy of No Fenders ‘Offical Photographer ‘CARPETS)

Kudos to Dave CARPETS' O'Brien as always for taking me to Indianapolis Motor Speedway!