Tag Archives: Mario Andretti

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.

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.