Monthly Archives: May 2015

1965 first rear-engine car wins Indianapolis 500 Mile Race

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first rear-engine car winning the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.

Jimmy Clark 1965 in the Lotus Powered by Ford entry
Jimmy Clark 1965 in the Lotus Powered by Ford entry

Jimmy Clark, “The Flying Scot”, completely remodeled the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” on May 31, 1965, in his third attempt while driving a rear-engine “Lotus Powered by Ford.” His win ended the three-decade domination of the famed Offenhauser front-engine roadsters. In the race, 1963 winner, Parnelli Jones finished second, rookie Mario Andretti was third, and Gordon Johncock drove an Offenhauser roadster to fifth place.

1965 Ford dohc engine
1965 Ford dohc engine

Following the 1964 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, the Ford Motor Company decided to further develop its competition engine for use in the 1965 event. The racing fraternity showed considerable interest in this engine and a substantial number of participants designed and built vehicles around the new Ford double-overhead-cam engine. The new engine was primarily a job of designing durability improvements based on the findings of the 1964 race. This engine developed 500 horsepower at 8,600 r.p.m. compared with 425 horsepower at 8,000 r.p.m. in 1964.

Colin Chapman finalized his design for the new Lotus 38 in December 1964. One of the concerns with the new car was new regulations calling for totally new gravity refueling systems. These and other new developments proved out well in testing during the month of May.

Clark motored into the lead on the first lap and led 190 of the 200 laps, setting a new race record of 150.686 m.p.h. His winnings also set a new purse record of $166,621. Clark was the first foreigner to win the 500 since Dario Resta’s victory in 1916.

I was at the Indianapolis 500 in 1965 and still remember Jimmy Clark driving his rear-engine Lotus Ford to win. A lot has changed over the past 50 years, but rear-engine internal combustion cars are still the way to go. See you at the track.

Dream Cars are coming

The Indianapolis Museum of Art debuts a new type of motor spectacle in Indianapolis with the exhibit Dream Cars: Innovative Design, Visionary Ideas, May 3 through August 23, 2015.

Dream Cars showcases some of the most unique vehicles ever created by top names in the automotive field, including General Motors, Cadillac, and Chrysler. Along with conceptual drawings and scale models, the exhibition explores the evolution of revolutionary automobile design that pushed the limits of the imagination and shaped the future of the industry.

As I’ve said before, it’s styling that draws me to automobiles. Cars like these take me back to my high school days when I dreamed of styling automobiles. These cars were the epitome of styling in their day.

1932 Ford Speedster
Edsel Ford Model 40 Special Speedster®, 1934. Designed by Edsel Ford and Eugene T. “Bob” Gregorie. Courtesy of the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House, Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan.

For example, in 1934, Edsel Ford wanted a special auto to tool around Florida and other playgrounds of the wealthy and enlisted styling chief E.T. Gregorie to design the Model 40 Special Speedster. Gregorie fabricated this two-passenger boat-tailed speedster with cut-down door openings from hand-formed aluminum over a tubular aluminum framework. The speedster was originally painted Pearl Essence Gunmetal Dark, with a complementary gray leather interior. The sleek speedster captured the streamlining effects of the day that preceded the 1935 Miller-Ford Indianapolis 500 two-man race cars. By 1939, Gregorie redesigned the speedster’s front end by shortening the upper grills and fabricating a wide lower horizontal grille for improved cooling. The restored Speedster debuted at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in August 2011.

The Dream Cars exhibition presents automotive styling as rolling sculpture. Plan now to visit the Dream Cars: Innovative Design, Visionary Ideas exhibit, and experience how these designs envisioned new ideas for transportation.