Val’s Story – Witness to early automotive innovation

For centuries storytelling has connected people to one another and their own past. The story of Val is a way to help people connect to Indiana’s rich automotive contributions and to their own place within that history.

Val’s Story shares how road improvement and developments in the early auto industry contributed to our auto travel and vacation enjoyment. As Val, Dennis Horvath looks at a life representative of two of Indiana’s auto centers.

Val Horvath at lathe

Some of the interesting facts covered include that:

  • Studebaker produced vehicles for over 110 years.
  • Chevrolet had an operating assembly line at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair.
  • The 1933 Duesenberg “Twenty Grand” was the ultimate motorcar of the era.
  • Two “land-speed” record cars were built in Indiana in the mid-1930’s.
  • The Allison Engine Company produced over 50,000 aircraft engines during World War II.
  • The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the world’s oldest continuously operating racecourse.
  • Developments in the auto industry shaped the growth of Indianapolis and South Bend in the first half of the 20th century.

In fact, when Val was born in 1909, only 190,000 miles of the 2.2 million miles of road in the United States were paved. Most travel was in urban areas, with travel into the country being attempted in fair weather. Rain quickly turned dusty country roads into thigh-deep mud ruts, making travel extremely difficult. One of the first major improvements was along the road abutting Val’s home-the Lincoln Highway-America’s first transcontinental highway.

Early Lincoln Highway

By the time Val becomes a young man, he experiences a fascination with cars. In the summer 1933, Val and two friends went to the Chicago World’s Fair known as the Century of Progress International Exposition. For the car lover, the fair was the place to be. Among the features was the regal Duesenberg Model SJ “Twenty Grand”, built in Indianapolis. Designed by the legendary Duesenberg stylist Gordon Buehrig, the car was named for its staggering price tag-$20,000. Built for display at exposition, it was the ultimate motorcar of the era.

Twenty Grand DuesenbergDuesenberg Twenty Grand

Val moved to Indianapolis and was asked to produce some parts for Ab Jenkins’ Mormon Meteor II land-speed record car. In late July 1937, the first “three time” winner of the Indianapolis 500, Louis Meyer co-driving with Ab Jenkins averaged 157.27 mph over 3700 miles in the Meteor II to break the 1936 record. Val was part of the process.

1938 Studebaker President

When the V1710 aircraft engine ramped up to full production in February 1940, Val made the move to Allison Division of General Motors at Plant 3 in Speedway. He retired from Allison after working 28 years at this arsenal of democracy and being witness to automotive innovation.

Val’s Story transports you back to America’s early era of automotive innovation. He takes you from the muddy roads of rural South Bend to hob-knobbing at the Indianapolis 500.

Planning a convention or meeting in the Indianapolis area?

Contact us today to schedule Val’s presentation.

Val’s Story is presented by his son Dennis E. Horvath. He is a recognized speaker on automotive topics to groups like the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum, the Studebaker National Museum, the Lincoln Highway Association, Purdue Road School, Wabash College, and the Biennial Automotive History Conference.

He is a “Genuine Car Nut” who uses his experience sharing automotive information to help auto enthusiasts celebrate car culture.

For more information please complete our inquiry form or contact us via email address below.

Val’s Story

9220 N. College Avenue

Indianapolis, IN 46240 -1031

Phone: 317.844-6869

email (remove the spaces)Val @

Subject: Val’s Story

Fee: Honorarium and travel expenses

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