Category Archives: Indianapolis 500

Indianapolis Racing Legends

Indianapolis Racing Legands

The Crown Hill Heritage Foundation and the Indiana Racing Memorial Association have erected a marker to Celebrate Indianapolis Racing Legends. The marker is in section 13 at the base of the hill below Carl Fisher’s Mausoleum.

Some 58 Indianapolis Racing Legends are interred in Crown Hill Cemetery or the Mausoleum. The Speedway’s Founding Fathers: Carl G. Fisher, James A. Allison, Arthur C. Newby, and Frank H. Wheeler are all buried there. Famous racing drivers like “Cannon Ball” Baker, George Amick, Tony Bettenhausen, Jr., Floyd Davis, Jim Hurtubise, and Louis Schwitzer. Race builders like the Duesenberg brothers, the Marmon brothers, and Harry C. Stutz. And famous racing mechanics like George Bignotti, “Cotton” Henning, and A. J. Watson.

I invite you to go to the Crown Hill Cemetery office at 700 W. 38th Street, Indianapolis, IN, 46208, to get their Indianapolis Auto Greats, flyer. Also visit crownhill.org or crownhillhf.org.

Is your Indiana car club looking for a program for March 2017?

If your Indiana car club is looking for a program for March 2017, I strongly recommend a trip to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum Indiana Automobiles: Precision over Production exhibit. Visit the Indiana Automobiles: Precision over Production exhibit before the closing date of March 26, 2017.

1896 Reeves Motocycle
1896 Reeves Motocycle

I believe the folks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum have done an incredible job of telling the story of Indiana-built automobiles. They have gathered 35 cars from an 1896 Reeves Motocycle to a 1963 Studebaker Avanti. Plus, nine race cars from a 1905 Premier to the 1950 Cummins Diesel Special are included.

Indiana once vied for Michigan’s title as the automotive titan of the United States. It was at a time when the names of automobiles like Duesenberg, Stutz and Cord brought worldwide acclaim to the Hoosier state. Indiana’s contributions to automotive history have been numerous. Tilt steering, cruise control and hydraulic brakes are just three examples of the innovations introduced by Indiana automotive pioneers. Yet the innovators themselves have become nearly forgotten–overlooked as we take their inventions increasingly for granted as part of the standard equipment on today’s models.

Over 40 Indiana towns and cities can claim some sort of connection to our early automotive history. More than 400 firms – large and small – operated statewide between 1894 and 1963.

The earliest car on display at the museum is a Reeves Motocycle built in Columbus, Indiana, which used a two-cycle, two-cylinder Sintz gasoline engine with a variable speed transmission produced by Reeves.

1933 Duesenberg Model J Berline
1933 Duesenberg Model J Berline

As many of you know Indianapolis was one of the largest producers of automobiles in the nation. Some of these autos are well represented from the 1899 Waverley Electric to the 1933 Duesenberg Model J Berline. Other Indianapolis autos on display are various models of American Underslung, Cole, Marmon, Pathfinder, Premier, and Stutz.

Other makes built in other Indiana towns and cities are represented with cars like Apperson, Auburn, Cord, Davis, Haynes, Lexington, McFarlan, Monroe, Richmond, and Studebaker.

I invite your Indiana car club to come to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum and check out these Indiana-built cars today. This may be the only chance you’ll see such a wide array of Indiana-built cars at one location.

For more information on Indiana-built automobiles, follow this link.

1912 The Mission of the Sturdy Stutz

This article is about the advertisement titled “The Mission of the Sturdy Stutz” by the Ideal Motor Car Company the predecessor of the Stutz Motor Car Company.

1912 Stutz photo 2

“In the introduction of the Stutz Car a little less than a year ago, Harry C. Stutz determined to place on the market a car designed to embrace all the best features of his previous creations and constructed and equipped in each part with the best that money could buy, and to sell same at a legitimate manufacturing profit. He was able, through long experience in the buying of motor car parts and the personal attention he gives to this work, to purchase materials advantageously. After calculating our costs and our small overhead expense, we found we could produce the Stutz car, to be equal in mechanical perfection to any car built, no matter what the price, at a price of $2,000.00.”

“Our claim is that, as far as mechanical construction is concerned, it is not possible for anyone to build a better motor car than the Stutz. The wonderful satisfaction the car has given the many Stutz owners has fully substantiated this claim. If a 50 H.P., four-cylinder car is large enough there is absolutely no necessity of paying more than $2,000.00: you can buy nothing better that the Stutz.”

“Our wheelbase of 120 inches is ample for either a two, four or five passenger car. Our engine with large valves, develops full fifty horsepower. Our Stutz rear transmission system has long been recognized as a phenomenal success.”

“The graceful body designs appeal to the most discriminating buyer.”

“The strong sturdy design, so devoid of complications, is a revelation in motor car construction.”
“We can safely leave the decision to your own judgement after comparison with other cars. It is not simply a good car, but as good as it is possible for anyone to build.”

It is interesting to note Stutz’s advertising claims in this early era in automotive advertising. The first Stutz automobile was built in just five weeks in 1911, and competed in the Inaugural Indianapolis 500-mile Race. Gil Anderson drove this first Stutz to an eleventh-place finish. Stutz began advertising “The Car That Made Good in a Day.” Later that summer, the Ideal Motor Car Company was organized to manufacture the Stutz Model A, a duplicate of the Indy racer. A Stutz Model A torpedo roadster served as the pace car at the 1912 Indianapolis 500.

The famous Stutz Bearcat sports car appeared in 1912 for a run of 10 years. It followed the usual Stutz recipe of a low-slung chassis, a large engine, and other bare necessities—hood, fenders, a right-hand raked steering column, two bucket seats, a fuel tank behind the seats, and wooden spoke wheels. The Stutz Bearcat was a popular car in the $2,000 price range. Its ap¬peal was boosted by Stutz’s success at the race track. Bearcats finished fourth and sixth at the Indianapolis 500 in 1912. During the summer the company entered 30 different racing contests and won 25 of them.

Harry C. Stutz enjoyed many accomplishments in the early automotive industry. Later, he founded the H.C.S. Motor Car Company and the Stutz Fire Engine Company. His success started with the Stutz Motor Car Company.

For more information on Indiana cars & companies, follow this link.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum’s “Speakers Series”

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum’s “Speakers Series” will kick off in the facility’s new multi-purpose meeting room tomorrow, February 16th @ 4:15 – 6:15 pm.

Dennis E. Horvath with 1928 Auburn 8-88 Speedster
Dennis E. Horvath with 1928 Auburn 8-88 Speedster

As many of you know, I am the kick-off speaker for the “Speakers Series” in conjunction with their exhibition, Indiana Automobiles: Precision Over Production. This exhibition has more than 35 historic, Indiana-built passenger cars, and several iconic race cars honoring Indiana’s automotive history.

My popular presentation “Mileposts in Indiana Automotive History” and other presentations will inform members and guests. Mileposts in Indiana Automotive History shares some of the legends, facts and figures that reflect Indiana’s role in America’s automotive heritage, when marques such as Duesenberg, Stutz and Studebaker propelled the state into a position where the number of Indiana auto manufacturers rivaled Detroit.

Check out my Monday blog posts at Cruise-IN.com documenting some the cars in the exhibit.

See you at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum’s “Speakers Series” tomorrow, February 16th.

For more information and reserve your spot follow this link.

Wall Smacker by Peter De Paolo

On January 21st, I attended the Indiana Racing Memorial Association’s Collectible Show and found Wall Smacker a book written by Peter De Paolo in 1935.

Pete De Paolo in his 1925 Duesenberg
Pete De Paolo in his 1925 Duesenberg

After perusing the many tables of racing collectibles, I picked De Paolo’s book to learn about auto racing in the early days. In this well-written book, De Paolo describes his life as a riding mechanic and as championship driver from 1920 to 1935.

His introduction started watching his Uncle Ralph De Palma’s racing exploits at the Brighton Beach Course in 1914, where he won all five of the program’s races. His uncle went on to win the 1915 Indianapolis 500 driving a Mercedes Benz. Shortly thereafter, his uncle convinced De Paolo to get some mechanical experience working on cars in New York City.

In the fall of 1919, his uncle hired him as a riding mechanic on a Ballot racer that they campaigned across the country in 1920. Of his first racing experience at the Beverly Hills, California, board speedway, De Paolo stated, “I’ll never forget the thrills that were packed into those opening laps of my first speed experience.” He shares a lot of details of his first experience at the Indianapolis 500 where they finished fifth. Later that summer, they raced Ballot racers in France and Italy.

After the spring 1922 Beverly Hills race, De Paolo parted working with his Uncle Ralph. De Paolo started his first race driving one of Louis Chevrolet’s Frontenacs. In his first Indianapolis 500 driving the Frontenac, at 255 miles he had a lap and a half lead before having to stop for fuel and tires. After returning to the race, while attempting to pass three Duesenbergs, he slid into the northeast infield and smacked the inside wall and damaged the transmission. As the relief driver for Joe Thomas’ Duesenberg, De Paolo finished in tenth place.

In 1924 at Indianapolis, De Paolo finished in sixth place driving a Duesenberg Special. He drove the rest of the season for Duesenberg. In spring 1925, De Paolo finished second at Culver City, California, and first at Fresno, California. De Paolo’s confidence was growing as they reached Indianapolis for the 500. He qualified in second place to start the race. By the 25th lap as he came down the home stretch, no other car was less than a mile behind him. On his 250-mile pit stop, he was relieved from his car for bleeding hands. When he took over again, his car was in fifth place and quickly moved up to second place. He soon drove the Duesenberg Special to first place. In winning the Thirteenth Annual Indianapolis Classic he set a record of 101.13 miles an hour average, which stood for seven years, and answered a question many times asked of him – “What was your greatest thrill?” His total winnings were approximately $40,000. Later that summer, he won at Altoona, Pennsylvania, and Laurel, Maryland.

He continued to win in 1926, at Fulford-By-the-Sea, near Miami, Florida, and finished fifth at Indianapolis. He finished third place in the national standings. He continued to race in 1927, winning again at Altoona, and finishing second at Salem, New Hampshire and won the AAA National Championship. He retired from racing in 1929. In 1935, he was the mentor for Kelly Petillo in winning the Indianapolis 500.

Pete De Paolo had a colorful career in auto racing. His book Wall Smacker does a great job telling his story. I invite you obtain a copy and enjoy the story.

You should attend the Indiana Racing Memorial Association’s Collectible Show in late January and the Indy Bench Racing Weekend in late March to find some racing collectibles.