Studebaker Indianapolis Race Cars

Prior to the start of the 1930 Indianapolis 500-mile race, in view of the entirely unexpected effects of the economic depression and in an effort to rekindle the interest of automobile manufacturers in racing, Speedway president Eddie Rickenbacker announced a revolutionary change in specifications.

All entrants would be required to carry riding mechanics and engines of up to 366-cubic-inch displacement would be eligible. A minimum weight of 1,750 pounds of 7.5 pounds per cubic inch of piston displacement (whichever figure was larger) would be enforced. As an added inducement for entry of cars with semi-stock engines, the number of starting positions would be increased from 33 to 40. These new specifications were known as the “Semi-Stock Formula.”

1932 Studebaker Specials
1932 Studebaker Specials
Photo Courtesy Indianapolis Motor Speedway

In 1932, Studebaker Corporation, one the oldest manufacturers of highway vehicles in the world, entered five cars in the race. The entries from left to right in the photo are Tony Gulotta in # 25, Cliff Bergere in #22, Zeke Miller in #37, Luther Johnson in #46, and Peter Kreis in #18.

The performance of these entries was of great interest with Cliff Bergere making the best semi-stock showing by driving his Studebaker-built entry to third place behind a pair of “all-out” racers. Miller finished in sixth place and Gulotta drove to 13th place. Kreis and Johnson drove the remaining Studebakers to 15th place and 16th place, respectively.

The excellent showing of these semi-stock racers caught the attention of the racing world. New entrants began discussing the merits of these racers costing in the neighborhood of $3,500 and compared with the special racing creations priced at $10,000 and up. When replacement parts were considered for the semi-stock racers, they were substantially less expensive. This was another bonus.

In September 1932, a joint meeting of Indianapolis Motor Speedway officers, Detroit factory engineers, and racing officials discussed changes to the semi-stock formula. Delmar “Barney” Roos, Studebaker chief engineer, urged that gasoline and oil consumption be limited in future races. Semi-stock formula changes included a minimum weight of 1,950 pounds, 7.0 pounds per cubic inch of piston displacement, a 15.0 gallon fuel tank capacity, and a limit of 6.0 gallons of lubricating oil for the entire race.

1933 Studebaker Specials
1933 Studebaker Specials

For the 1933 Indianapolis race, Studebaker entered five new streamlined entries from left to right in the photo are L. L. Corum and his mechanic Jimmy Louden in #47, Luther Johnson and his mechanic W. T. Tucker in #46, Tony Gulotta and his mechanic Carl Riscignio in #34, Zeke Miller and his mechanic Walter Mitchell in #9, and Cliff Bergere and his mechanic Vern Lake in #6.

Again, the Studebaker Specials made an outstanding showing for the semi-stock entries with all of their entries running at the finish. Tony Gulotta finished seventh, Zeke Miller finished ninth, Luther Johnson finished tenth, Cliff Bergere finished 11th, and L. L. Corum finished 12th.

It is interesting how Studebaker Corporation undertook the challenge of creating two five-car racing teams during the depths of the depression. No other auto manufacturer fared so well in the challenge of the greatest spectacle in racing at the time.

I salute the efforts of the Studebaker Corporation personnel in creating these automobiles during these troubling times.

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