The winner of the first 5-mile race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in August 1909 was Louis Schwitzer, an automotive engineer. He drove a stripped down, five-cylinder Stoddard Dayton touring car at an average speed of 57.4 m.p.h. for five miles on the macadam track.
Schwitzer’s work in the automobile industry began as an engineer for Pierce Arrow where he worked on one of the first six-cylinder engines made in America.
Schwitzer also designed the six-cylinder engine that powered the Marmon Wasp race car driven by Ray Harroun to win the first 500-mile race at the Speedway in 1911.
In 1912, Schwitzer joined the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Technical Commit¬tee and served as its chairman from 1919 through 1945.
In 1914, he joined the United States Army Motor Trans¬port Corps. He was deeply involved in the design of class ‘B’ military trucks.
After World War I, he started his own business to manufacture automotive cooling fans and develop cartridge-type pack¬ing gland seals. These seals opened new markets in industrial equipment, food processing, and the chemical industries. During the 1920’s, his experience in gear production for the oil pump business was easily transferred to ‘positive displacement’ rotary lobe type superchargers. Schwitzer is credited with building the first high- production supercharger for gasoline and diesel engines in America.
Following World War II, Schwitzer designed the low-cost, efficient “turbocharger.” Schwitzer’s turbocharger debuted on the Cummins diesel race car that won the pole position for the 1952 Indianapolis 500. Today, turbochargers are considered standard equipment on almost all diesel engines. Schwitzer also contributed to the development of crankshaft dampers, which are used on heavy duty engines.
That’s the story of this little-known Indiana automotive pioneer.
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