Tag Archives: Jimmy Clark

My First Indy 500

This past week at my Toastmasters club, each member reminisced about his or her first Indy 500. I thought I would share my memories of the race along with some documentation from the Indianapolis Star.

As some of you might know, I attended Indianapolis 500 practice and qualifications with my dad and uncles starting in the early 1950’s. I really enjoyed watching the activities from many vantage points around the track. One of my favorites is in the grandstand outside of turn one. I especially liked watching the drivers work their roadsters through the curve. Every driver had his particular groove around the track.

My dad enjoyed listening to the race on the radio instead of being there in person, so I was left to my own devices to go to the race. Finally, on Thursday, May 30, 1963, my chance arrived. One of my neighborhood buddies, dad was an Indianapolis Motor Speedway patrolman and saved us a place along the fence inside of turn one. There I was with 275,000 other people watching all of the pre-race festivities from our prime spot on the fence.

Dennis-E-Horvath-at-1963-Indy-500
Dennis E. Horvath at Indy 500
Copyright ©1964 Indianapolis Star

We were unaware that Indianapolis Star photographer Tommy Wadelton was documenting the action from the other side of the fence. There we were in the middle of his photograph published in the Indianapolis Star on May 24, 1964. That skinny kid in sunglasses with a flat-top in the second row is me. Just to my right behind me was Jay Skoda and to my right in the front row was Larry Stroudman. I wasn’t wearing a hat to cover my head on that sunny day and that caused me to get a bad sun burn on my scalp. So that’s why you most always see me with a hat of some kind.

Oh well, back to the race. My favorite driver, Parnelli Jones, started the race in pole position. Jim Hurtubise started in the middle of the first row. Hurtubise led the first lap of the race, but Parnelli recaptured the lead on the second lap. About mid-way through the race, signs of oil started to show on the external oil tank of Parnelli’s car. Every lap we wondered if he would be black flagged for dropping oil. Finally, the concern about dropping oil went away. Yahoo! Parnell won the race with Jimmy Clark finishing second in a rear-engine Lotus Powered by Ford racer.

Memories of my first Indy 500 are fresh in my mind today, some 49 years later. That 1963 race was the first of many at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It was probably one of the things that sparked my interest in automotives. See you at the track.

For more information on our automotive heritage follow this link.

Jimmy Clark in a sprint car?

Jimmy Clark in Ford Model T Sprint Car
Jimmy Clark in Ford Model T Sprint Car
Copyright © 1965 Ford Motor Company

While perusing my collection of mid-1960s Indianapolis 500 Mile Race press kits, I found this photo of Jimmy Clark sitting in a Ford Model T sprint car. Let me tell you the story behind this photo.

In 1965, Ford Motor Company entered two Lotus powered by Ford specials in the Indianapolis 500. In the process of developing these racers, the company developed the 495 horsepower Ford double-overhead-cam V-8 racing engine available for use by the entire racing fraternity.

The 1965 Ford Motor Company press kit explaining their entries included this photograph showing the old and new look at Indianapolis. A Lotus-Ford is in the foreground with Jimmy Clark trying out the cockpit of the vintage sprint car in the background. What a contrast between 48 years of technological development, front-engine versus rear-engine, four-cylinder versus eight-cylinder, and valve-in-head versus double-overhead-cam!

In 1963, Clark won “Rookie of the Year” honors for placing second in a Ford-powered Lotus entry. Clark earned the coveted pole position with a speed of 158.828 mph in 1964 in another Lotus-Ford. Unfortunately, he dropped out of the race after 47 laps with mechanical failure.

The third time would be the charm for Jim Clark driving the Lotus powered by Ford entry to first place in 1965 Indianapolis 500. A second Lotus-Ford driven by Bobby Johns finished seventh. The Ford double-overhead-cam V-8 racing engine powered a number of other entries in this race.

So, that’s the story of Jimmy Clark sitting in a sprint car. I often wondered how would Jimmy Clark do driving around a ½ mile dirt track in a 1960s era sprint car? I guess that’s a discussion for another day.

For more information on our automotive heritage follow this link.

Check out this book on Andy Granatelli

Jimmy Clark's 1966 STP Gas Treatment Special
Jimmy Clark’s 1966 STP Gas Treatment Special
Copyright ©1966 Studebaker Corporation

I really enjoy stories about mid-twentieth century racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and They Call Me Mister 500 is one of the best. It chronicles the events in a 23-plus year saga of the Granatelli brothers, Joe, Andy, and Vince, in their attempts to win the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. Author Andy Granatelli describes their journey from a speed shop in suburban Chicago in 1946 all the way to winning the 500 in 1969.

All three Granatelli brothers probably had gasoline in their veins as they grew up during the Depression hawking their automotive knowledge along Halsted Street in Chicago. All of their experience hopping-up cars led them to establish Grancor, a speed shop and one of the premier mail-order speed equipment businesses in the country in 1944. Plus, they had their eyes on a grand prize – the Indy 500 trophy.

A quote from Andy explains the elixir of the Indianapolis 500: “Indy is a special brand of hypnotism, and it sets up an impossible dream. And, in all this, I am like everyone else. I love it; I hate it. Yet, it draws me as it does the rest of them.” So, in 1946, the brothers modified a 1935 front-wheel-drive Miller-Ford and qualified in 33rd position for their first 500. Driver Danny Kladis improved his position to near the top 10 only to drop out of the race due to a pit stop error.

Most of my memories of the Granatelli racers are of the mid-1960s. I can remember Jim Hurtubise starting in a Granatelli-entered Novi on the outside of the front row in the 1963 race and setting a new track record while leading the first lap. Jimmy Clark drove the STP Gas Treatment Special Lotus-Ford to second place in 1966. Parnelli Jones was leading the 1967 race in the STP Turbine Car when a six-dollar bearing failed and sidelined him on lap 197. Finally in 1969, Mario Andretti drove the STP Oil Treatment Special to win the Indianapolis 500. The Granatelli brothers dreams of winning were finally realized after thinking about and working toward it for over 30 years.

I thoroughly enjoyed how Andy Granatelli uses personal stories to weave you into the story. I found it to be a riveting rags-to-riches tale of how the Granatelli brothers grew up during the Depression and later enjoyed success at the pinnacle of American auto racing.

Peruse They Call Me Mister 500 at Amazon.com

1965 Ford double-overhead-cam V-8 racing engine

Following the 1964 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, Ford Motor Company decided to develop its 500 horsepower 1965 Ford double-overhead-cam V-8 racing engine. Many of the 1965 Indy 500 participants designed or purchased vehicles built around this now famous engine. Here is the story from my collection of mid-1960s Indianapolis 500 Mile Race press kits.

1965 Ford dohc engine
1965 Ford d.o.h.c. V-8 racing engine
Copyright © 1965 Ford Motor Company

Ford Engineering was assigned the task of preparing the basic double-overhead-cam engine for production. It was primarily a job of redesign for production, plus durability improvements based on findings from the 1964 race. For instance, the 1964 engine experienced valve-spring failure due to excessive interference of inner to outer springs. This situation was corrected by a controlled select fit.

The engine’s lubrication was improved to protect against anticipated higher RPM and greater loads in 1965. The oil pressure was increased from 65 to 115 pounds. The entire lubrication system was enlarged to allow for freer flow and better cooling.

The connecting rods were strengthened and the crankshaft redesigned for 100 percent internal balance. As a result, the loading of the main bearings was improved.

In addition to the push for increased engine durability for 1965, considerable time was spent improving fuel economy. The 1965 version had two basic fuel systems – the modified Hilborn pump used in 1964 and a Ford injection system using a boost venturi in place of an injector nozzle. Economy was improved as much as 20 percent with the second system.

Since the selection of fuel for the 1965 race was at the discretion of the car owner, Ford calibrated fuel systems for blends of 80 percent methanol and 20 percent toluene, benzol, or gasoline. Additional tests were run on methanol with small percentages of nitro methane added, because most owners used some nitro in qualifying. These tests yielded information needed to determine calibration of the fuel system and spark requirements.

The 1965 Ford double-overhead-cam V-8 racing engine developed close to 500 horsepower at 8,600 RPM and 333 pound feet of torque at 6,700 RPM, an increase of over six percent over the 1964 offering. The engine’s operating limit was raised to 8,800 RPM.

Considerable attention was given in selection and training of personnel to assemble the production engine. A service manual was prepared to aid the car builders and mechanics in maintaining engines, and facilities were established for factory rebuilding engines if desired by owners.

The Meyer-Drake firm was the sole agent for the sale and servicing this engine. The company established an Indianapolis facility for parts and equipment for the racing fraternity.

Ford hosted a 10-day seminar for race mechanics in Dearborn, MI, devoted to care and maintenance of the engine. They observed engine disassembly, reassembly, and explanations of all design phases. Ford personnel were available at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to provide technical assistance and parts selection to meet owners’ performance requirements.

All of this pre-race preparation paid-off for Ford in 1965. Seventeen of the 33 cars in the starting field had this engine. Jimmy Clark drove his Lotus powered by Ford to first place in the Indianapolis 500. In fact, The 1965 Ford double-overhead-cam V-8 racing engine captured positions 1-4 and 7-9 finishing positions.

The 1965 Ford double-overhead-cam V-8 racing engine in various configurations enjoyed success in Indy Car racing and other venues for a number of years.

Another approach to the 1965 Indianapolis 500

J. C. Agajanian’s Hurst Special took a different approach to the 1965 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.

1965 Agajanian Hurst Special
1965 Agajanian Hurst Special

After holding out on entering a rear-engine race car for a couple of years, J. C. Agajanian entered a rebuilt Lotus Ford entry for Parnelli Jones in the 1965 Indianapolis 500 classic. For 1965, 44 of the 68 entries were rear-engine cars.

After exhaustive study over many months, it became apparent to veteran chief mechanic Johnny Pouelsen that they had to strengthen inherently weak components that had turned up in the original design. This total overhaul was to compensate for the extreme pressures on the chassis and suspension due primarily to the increase in horsepower demands plus wider tire tread widths. To accomplish this feat, Pouelsen and body constructor Eddie Kuzma transformed car 98 by replacing every inch of the original metal milled in England.

It is interesting to note that with all of this re-engineering of the Lotus Fords, A.J. Foyt and Parnelli Jones both suffered failure of their right-rear hub carriers in practice during May 6 and May 9 respectively. On Pole Day, the all-Lotus-Ford front row consisted of A.J. Foyt, Jimmy Clark, and Dan Gurney. Parnelli qualified for the middle of the second row. On Thursday, May 20, while Parnelli was breaking in a new engine, his right rear suspension broke off entering turn four and slammed into the wall. Agajanian vowed the car would be ready for race day.

On Race Day, Jimmy Clark’s superbly prepared green and yellow Lotus Ford was too much car for the rest of the field. Foyt, Gurney, and Jones battled for second place. Parnelli’s engine began missing at 150 miles, and Foyt’s gearbox gave out just short of 300 miles. Clark finished first after leading 190 of the 200 laps. As Parnelli completed the final lap, he was moving his car from side-to-side across the track, shaking down the last few drops of fuel in his tanks. The crowd cheered for him as he crossed the finish line in second place just six seconds ahead of Mario Andretti.