Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Chance Kinsley- Racer

Part Five

The earliest news report uncovered for Chance Kinsley’s 1924 racing season did not appear until late in the summer; the reason is unclear, but later newspaper reports stated that Kinsley was “at the big track in Indianapolis,” although Chance’s name does not appear in Indianapolis Motor Speedway records as a driver.
Chance was entered to drive a Miller in the August 10 1924 50-mile race at Spencer Park in the north central town of Logansport Indiana. There was only one other Miller entry listed, a car driven by Chicago’s Mike Costello, but were a number of Frontenac-Fords entered with drivers that included Wilbert “Bill” Hunt, Louis Schneider, Ted Hartley, and Earl Warrick.

The Logansport entry list also included several other ex-Indianapolis ‘500’ cars with Chevrolet connections – Frank Swaggart and Ray McNutt both of Kokomo entered a pair of Monroe racers built by the Chevrolet brothers that raced to victory in the 1920 ‘500,’ the story of which in this site’s archives. Local driver R.D. Reddinger entered a Cornelian, believed to be the same tiny semi-moncoque chassis racer that Louis Chevrolet built and drove in the 1915 ‘500.’
Think the Cornelian race car was not light?
This photo from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway collection
 in the IUPUI Univeristy Library Center for Digital Studies
shows Louis Chevrolet holding the 4-cylinder Corneilan engine

After Creviston had advertised heavily with newspaper advertisements the billed the entry list as “the largest ever received for local track,” and personally guaranteed the size and quality of the entered cars, on race day August 10 he had been stuck with an embarrassingly small field of ten cars which did not include Kinsley.  The “Interstate Championship” which was won by Charles “Dutch” Baumann in a Frontenac over Bill Hunt’s similar machine in a race that the next day’s Logansport Pharos-Tribune described as “a thriller.”

Chance was entered as the driver of the “HL Special” for the 100-mile race scheduled for Labor Day 1924 at the resurfaced Hoosier Motor Speedway which offered a total purse of $3000. JV Lines had left the financially beleaguered Hoosier Motor Speedway at the end of the 1923 season and the track was now managed by the Indianapolis firm Morton & Brett Products.
A photo from the Morton & Brett catalog

Owned by Elvin D. Morton and his partner, Jack Brett,  Morton & Brett was a major manufacturer and distributor of aftermarket Ford and Dodge speed parts and the patented “Speedway bodies” which they sold through regional distributors as well as their own “Blue Book of Speed” mail order catalog.

An interesting twist was the new Hoosier Motor Speedway management’s announcement that “the size of future purses will be determined by the Labor Day attendance,” and that “should receipts warrant, the purse for the May 29 1925 race will be $5,000.”  The track claimed that it had received “50 or more entries,” and “with the new surface as smooth as glass, record times are expected from the twenty starters.”  Some of the entries for the race listed in the Brazil Daily Times pre-race article included future Indianapolis ‘500’ competitors Cliff Woodbury, Louis Schneider, Prince de Cystria and Kinsley’s car owner L. Herbert “HL” Jones.
A Haag Drug suburban Indianapolis store in the 1950's

Born in 1903 Herbert Jones worked at the Haag Drug Company in Indianapolis at that time one of the largest drug store chains in the United States. One of Jones’ assignments was to chauffeur Miss Elnora Haag the 71year old unmarried sister of the chain’s founders. A retired school teacher, Elnora became the director of Haag Drug for a brief period after the deaths of her brothers Julius and Louis in 1923, only long enough for her two nephews to reach legal age and take over the firm.

The unlikely pair of wealthy spinster and young chauffer a struck up a friendship; then Ms. Haag provided young Mr. Jones enough money to quit his day job and go automobile racing.  Jones purchased a “former 500-mile Duesenberg” which he had modified for dirt track competition and entered it for the Labor Day race at Hoosier Motor Speedway as the “HL Special.”

The following day’s edition of the Indianapolis Star reported on the Labor Day grind at the Hoosier Motor Speedway that “for the first sixty odd laps, there was at least a thrill a lap.” From the newspaper report it seemed to have been an exciting event. In time trials Dempsey Chaney won the pole by turning a qualifying lap on the half-mile oval In 31.2 seconds while Davidson was second as he turned a lap at 31.4 seconds.

At the drop of the green flag, Wilbur Shaw, driving the ‘R K T Special’ sprang into the lead but action slowed on the third lap when George Lyons, driving a Lyons Special, turned over on the south turn. The driver was thrown out and his mount caught fire and but Lyons’ injuries were described as “slight.” Kinsley “went out on the fourth lap when his car skidded on the south turn” and was the second car to retire. After he had led all the laps up to that point, Shaw’s car was sidelined on the forty-fourth lap with clutch failure.

Indianapolis native Louis Schneider, who had been running second behind Shaw, then assumed the lead in his “Roof Special” and “was going strong” until his car blew a tire which then broke the axle. The Star reported that the wheel from Schneider’s car “hurtled straight down the stretch, climbed the embankment and smashed into the crowd, flooring one man, who was knocked unconscious but who regained his wind shortly afterward, none the worse.”

At the half-way mark of the race, with 100 laps down, Kinsley’s former teammate Arthur “Fuzzy” Davidson held the lead with Illinois’ Ben Shoaff in second. Davidson continued out front until the 141st lap when he reportedly stopped for spark plugs. William Brodbeck of South Bend  whose ‘A N Bailey Special’ had been running a lap behind Davidson in third “sprang to the front” as Davidson fell two laps in arrears as repairs were made to his Frontenac’s engine.  

Davidson returned to the fray and he quickly made up one lap of Brodbeck’s lead and by the 170th Davidson was back in the lead, where he remained until the finish. Behind the leader Benny Lawell (possibly spelled Lauwell) moved into third place behind his teammate Brodbeck until the penultimate lap when Brodbeck's car "skidded and stalled within an eighth of a mile of the finish.”

Lawell’s car roared into second place and the “1923 Michigan dirt track champion” crossed the finish line just a short distance ahead of his teammate Brodbeck who recovered to finish third.  A total of nine cars finished the 100-mile grind, with Davidson winning $1,000 of the promised $3,000 purse but the payout stopped at fifth place for which Ben Schoaff won $50. The other finishers Fred Harter, Bob Huff, Dempsey Chaney, and Fred Koehler received “consolation prizes.”

Logansport race promoter Ray Creviston a former motorcycle racer required each of the entrants to post an entry fee for his race scheduled for September 7th 1924. This was after his previous race promotion at Spencer Park a month earlier suffered from a large number of “no show” entries.  

Chance Kinsley was entered for the three-race program as the driver of the ‘Jones Special’ (believed to be the same car as the ‘HL Special’) along with Lawell, who had won a race at Logansport in June, Jack Conder, ‘Dutch’ Baumann, Frank Sweigert, Russell Field, George Heller and Ted Hartley. 

The entry list boasted 32 cars but this time the success of Creviston’s promotion was doomed by a small crowd which led him to cancel the races. There were six cars still left on the grounds (three of which were owned by Ray Butcher from Indianapolis) and the drivers persuaded Creviston to run a “winner takes all” 20-mile race for $80. 

On the 35th lap Ray Butcher while running in third place crashed through the outer guardrail and his Laurel race car (a Ford block fitted with a Laurel Motor Company cylinder head designed by Robert Roof) veered up the embankment and struck a group of people. Butcher a 27 year old racer from Indianapolis who had won $300 just the day before for his victory in the 50-mile feature at Bloomington Indiana was killed instantly.  

Ray Sampson identified as a farmer was reportedly pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital from his injuries but the Logansport Pharos-Tribune reported two days later on September 9 that Sampson was recovering from critical injuries at St. Joseph’s hospital, and was expected to recover fully, barring complications.  Two other spectators, a father and son named Bowyer from Bunker Hill Indiana were also injured when the out-of-control Laurel racer struck their family sedan. The father, John, suffered a broken leg while his 11-year old son Earl was seriously burned. The accident led to the cancellation of the rest of the race with leader John Souder declared the winner.

On September 24, Doctor JJ Stanton the Cass County Coroner declared that Butcher died of a fractured skull in the accident which was caused by a broken steering knuckle on Butcher’s race car. Later court filings presented a different picture of the crash and the victims’ injuries than what had been reported in the local newspaper.

In January 1925, Raymond Sampson filed suit against the Cass County Fair Association for $15,000 (over $200,000 today) over the Fair’s alleged negligence as the track was “not shaped for extreme speed” and was not properly equipped to protect passersby. Sampson’s suit filed by local attorneys Gamble and Bradfield maintained that he was not a spectator at the races, as had been reportedly; rather he was walking past on a nearby street when Butcher’s race car “traveling 75 miles per hour” hurtled an eight-foot fence and struck Sampson. The impact broke his left wrist and elbow both of which were stiffened and caused a permanent disability.

In March 1925, John R Bowyer, represented by the local law firm of Lairy and Howell, filed suit against the Fair Association for $1,200. Like Sampson, Bowyer’s suit alleged negligence on the part of the Fair Association and pointed out that the racing event on the leased track had been held on Sunday in defiance of local law. Bowyer’s filing stated that he, his wife and son were not watching the race from their car as earlier reported.

Bowyer’s suit claimed their car was caught in a traffic jam on George Street when Butcher’s out of control race car left the track struck their car. The collision allegedly injured all three members of the Bowyer family which required the family to remain in Logansport at the home of friends for several hours while their injuries were treated.

The Logansport law firm of Long, Yarlott, Kistler, Kistler, and Hale were named to represent the Fair Association in both suits. Both the Sampson and Bowyer suits were dismissed by Circuit Court Judge John B Smith on October 28 1927 for “lack of prosecution” which meant that there had been no court filings within a specified period of time, so the court presumed that the parties no longer wished to pursue their cases.
Chance Kinsley’s final 1924 race appearances came very late in the year on the West Coast although he raced under the nom de guerre "Kingsley" on the West Coast, an alias he had previously used in Indiana races at times during the 1923 and 1924 seasons. Kinsley and at least two other Indiana drivers, Ralph Ormsby and “Fuzzy” Davidson were “imported” by Ascot Speedway promoter George Bentel to challenge the home-grown regulars on the oiled dirt 5/8-mile track.

Ascot’s reigning star at the time Frank Lockhart had married on Thursday October 30, and after he encountered problems during the Ascot program on Sunday November 2 the sportswriter for the Los Angeles Times made light of the situation as he wrote “Frank….stepped into the matrimonial harness and yesterday encountered a lot of tough sledding. The newlywed drove in two races and swallowed a lot of dust in both. It is to be hoped that Frank's ship of matrimony is running in smoother waters.”

“The eastern drivers” made their debut before crowd of “approximately 12,000 and gave the fans plenty for their money.” Ormsby, Kingsley, Iowa racer Al Waters, Canadian Jack Petticord and local driver “Curly” Young split the honors.

Ralph Ormsby won the ten-lap Babe Ruth Sweepstakes over Lockhart, then Lockhart experienced engine trouble and was forced out of the Italian Victory Crown, “busting a piston rod or something equally as necessary,” according to the Times article. Lockhart's retirement which handed the win to Petticord trailed by Ormsby.
Chance  “Kingsley” won the fifteen-lap Walter Johnson Handicap trailed by Ormsby as Lockhart finished third. The car Chance drove owned by Harry Heinle had originally been qualified by Jack Petticord.
Kinsley, Ormsby and “Fuzzy” Davidson were entered for the December 25 1924 “Santa Claus Sweepstakes” held at the Southern California Fairgrounds in Riverside California. Other prominent drivers among the fifteen entries were future Indianapolis ‘500’ competitors Cliff Bergere, Floyd Roberts, Fred Lecklider, Les Allen and William “Shorty” (then known as “Speed”) Cantlon. Bergere was entered as the driver of a “little Duesenberg” while Kinsley, Ormsby and Davidson all were scheduled to drive Frontenacs. 

Lecklider who would later race in the 1926, 1927 and 1930 Indianapolis 500-mile races, was the race’s featured star, as he drove one of the former Miller-built chassis “Junior Specials” powered by a 181-cubic inch double overhead camshaft straight six engine which had competed twice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Lecklider had obtained the pair of cars (one was dissembled) following the tragic death of the cars’ owner Kansas City oil magnate George Wade in a bizarre accident prior to the running of the 250-mile 1923 Thanksgiving Day race at the Beverley Hills Motor Speedway after Wade was struck by the car driven by Harry Hartz.

The “Santa Claus Sweepstakes” was postponed by rain until December 28 and one of the original drivers entered, George Beck withdrew due to injuries and officiated the race assisted by Riverside businessmen J F Backstrand, Axel Nelson, and Roy Helgeson. In time trials, Kinsley and his Frontenac powered machine set quick time as he toured the ½-mile dirt oval in 30.4 seconds.  

A crowd of 4,000 fans watched as the days’ first event, the five-lap “Orange Belt Invitational,” was won by local driver Ed Bermuda with Chicagoan Floyd Shawhan second.  The four fastest qualified cars, those of Les Allen, Shawhan, Cantlon and Kinsley were entered in the next event the handicap Australian pursuit race.

In "pursuit" events of this type, the slowest car started first, followed in order by progressively faster cars at set intervals until the fastest car started last. Over the course of the event, as a later-starting (faster) car passed an earlier-starting (slower) car, the slower car was eliminated. This procedure continued until only the fastest car is left and declared the winner. On December 28 the pursuit race went 13 laps around the half-mile and was won by Chance Kinsley.

Ralph Ormsby won the 10-lap “San Bernardino Handicap” over Bergere, and then came the day’s featured 15-lap race, the “Santa Claus Sweepstakes.” John Vickers led the first two laps before future 1938 Indianapolis ‘500’ race winner Floyd Roberts who lived in Van Nuys took the lead and led the last 13 laps of the race which was completed in 7 minutes and 55 seconds. Roberts was followed across the finish line by Ormsby (who drove the feature in place of Shawhan) with Kinsley in third place. Les Allen finished fourth with Cliff Bergere in fifth as Bermuda and Vickers rounded out the seven finishers.

In our next and final installment of the story of Chance Kinsley, we will review his 1925 season.  




Monday, October 2, 2017

Miss Century 21 hydroplane

When the author visited the Museum of Speed in Wilsonville Oregon they exhibited two historic hydroplanes race boats - U-37 ‘Slo-Mo-Shun V’ which was featured in an earlier article and today’s subject, the 1962 U-60 ‘Miss Century 21.’

click to enlarge

This boat was owned during its racing career from 1959 to 1963 by Associated Grocers Cooperative of Washington (AG) in a program run by group’s president Willard Rhodes. AG had owned and an unlimited hydroplane boats since 1955; this boat was the company’s fourth boat. The first boat named ‘Miss Thriftway’ after AG’s successful chain of 74 grocery stores, competed from 1955 and won the disputed 1956 ‘Gold Cup’ before it was destroyed in a crash during the 1957 Governor’s Cup race on the Ohio River at Madison Indiana.

In 1957, Ted Jones designed and Les Staudacher built a revolutionary “cab over” design with the driver seated ahead of the Roll-Royce Merlin engine known as U-62 ‘Thriftway Too.” Jones originally envisioned two engines, so the boat which weighed about 10,000 pounds was underpowered and proved to be not very successful and was retired after the 1960 season. The company’s second U-60 ‘Miss Thriftway’ boat built in 1958 was destroyed that season at Seattle after it lost its rudder left the course at speed and collided  with a Coast Guard utility boat. Both boats sank as Muncey jumped clear at the last second.   

This boat which weighs about 6000 pounds was built in 1959 by a crew led by Jack Ramsey from a Ted Jones design powered by a V-12 Rolls-Royce Merlin engine.  The V-12 1650-cubic inch Rolls-Royce Merlin engine and served as the powerplant for most of the World War 2 British fighter planes, including the Supermarine Spitfire and the Hawker Hurricane.

In the late nineteen fifties hydroplane racing teams began to use the Merlin instead of the American-built 1710 cubic inch Allison V-12 due to its superior two-stage supercharging and intercooling system that gave the engine about 500 extra horsepower over the Allison engine although it was 250 pounds heavier  

Each of the Merlin’s 12 cylinders has two exhaust and two intake valves with the fuel mixture lit by a pair of spark plugs fed independently by a pair of magnetos To transform the engine from use in an airplane to a hydroplane called for the engine to be installed backwards, the supercharger turned upside down so the carburetor was atop the engine instead of on the bottom, as it was in the airplane, and the tail shaft fitted with a special gear box manufactured especially for the application.

Known as U-60 ‘Miss Thriftway’ for its first two seasons, 1959 and 1960 it was driven by William E “Bill” Muncey who had won his unlimited hydroplane race the Gold Cup in 1956 in the original ‘Miss Thriftway.’ Muncey a Detroit native raced 225-cubic inch hydroplane boats in the Midwest before he was offered the chance to drive for the new ‘Miss Thriftway’ team in 1955.

This third version of U-60 won the 1960 APBA (American Powerboat Association) High-Point championship as Muncey won four races the Apple Cup on Washington’s Lake Chelan, the Governor’s Cup, the Detroit Memorial, and the SeaFair Trophy on Seattle’s Lake Washington as well as two second place finishes.

Throughout the history of unlimited hydroplane racing the major prize each season was the Gold Cup, the Indianapolis’ 500’ for the class, which remained true until three factors came into play. First was the expansion of the sport to a more national level, second the creation of Unlimited Racing Commission in 1957 and the third event which was cancellation of the 1960 Gold Cup race at Lake Mead due to high winds. Within a few years, the location of the Gold Cup was no longer set at the previous winner’s home club as it had been since its inception but by competitive bidding from prospective host cities.

This new award process further eroded the importance of the Gold Cup and eventually the Gold Cup became just another event on the annual hydroplane racing schedule. Since 1990 the Gold Cup has been held exclusively on the Detroit River, presented for many years by the Detroit River Regatta Association but in 2016 the race known as the UAW-GM Spirit of Detroit HydroFest APBA Gold Cup was promoted by former hydroplane racer Mark Evans’ Detroit Riverfront Events Inc.

For the 1961 and 1962 seasons, Associated Grocers leased the boat to Century 21 Exposition, Inc. for use as a promotion tool for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair with the boat campaigned as the U-60 ‘Miss Century 21’ with the same crew and driver as in 1960.  

During 1961, Muncey and U-60 ‘Miss Century 21’ won the Diamond Cup in Coeur d'Alene Idaho, the President’s Cup, the Governor’s Cup and the Gold Cup which was contested only once on Pyramid Lake located within an Indian reservation 35 miles from Reno Nevada where ‘Miss Century 21’ amassed the highest point total as it finished second in each of the three heats. This achievement marked the first back-to-back APBA high points championship since Joe  Schoenith’s U-55 ‘Gale V’ driven by Joe’s son, Lee, in 1954 and 1955

The boat is displayed at the Museum of Speed as it appeared during the 1962 season with the Century 21 logo on the tail fin and the 60-61 US-1 national champion logo behind the headrest. During 1962, Muncey and U-60 ‘Miss Century 21’ won 15 straight heat races and five of seven races including another Gold Cup and the boat earned a third consecutive APBA national championship.

For the 1963 season, with World’s Fair over, the boat’s name returned to U-60 ‘Miss Thriftway’ and it won just one race, the Diamond Cup. Associated Grocers Cooperative sold the boat and crew chief Jack Ramsey retired at the end of the season.  During its career from 1959 to 1963, this third version of the U-60 started 85 heat races and finished 77 (including 55 heat races in a row in a period from 1960 to 1962 and finished first 46 times. Between its debut in 1959 and 1963 with crew chief Ramsey and driver Bill Muncey the boat won fourteen races and three national championships in a row.

After the retirement of ‘Miss Thriftway,’ driver Bill Muncey went through some lean years with just seven wins in the next seven years. Over a ten-year period beginning in 1971, Muncey and his Atlas Van Lines team captured 36 race wins which included four more Gold Cup trophies and four national championships. Muncey won a career total of 62 races before he was killed in a hydroplane crash in Mexico in 1981. Since 2011, the APBA awards its season champion the Bill Muncey Trophy.

In researching this article, the author relied heavily on research performed by the late Fred Farley. Photos of the U-60 by the author



Friday, September 22, 2017

Chance Kinsley - Racer

Part Four

In this installment we return to follow Hoosier dirt track hero Chance Kinsley’s racing career with the latter part of the 1923 racing season.

Following the twice-postponed July 14 1923 race, Hoosier Motor Speedway General Manager JV Lines announced beginning immediately that the track would stage a slate of weekly races on Saturday nights. The next race, held on July 21, featured 14 starters who raced for the odd distance of 125 laps.  

Worth Schloeman, the Iowa native who was Kinsley’s teammate on the Frontenac team won his second straight race of the ½-mile track. Schloeman finished in time of one hour, eleven minutes and 40 seconds as he was chased across the finish line by his teammate Arthur “Fuzzy” Davidson.

A newspaper photograph of the Roof "Flier"
On August 4 1923 the Hoosier Motor Speedway hosted a 100-lap race. The entry list featured Ralph Ormsby as the driver of the tiny Roof ‘Flyer’ which was touted in that day’s Indianapolis Star newspaper as “the smallest race car in the world.” 

The car built by the Laurel Motor Works of Anderson Indiana (in which Robert Roof was a partner) was powered by a four-cylinder Ford engine fitted with a Roof type C 16-valve cylinder head fed by four Zenith HP5A side draft carburetors. Ormsby had defected from the Frontenac team to drive for Roof; the three-car Frontenac team now featured Kinsley, Davidson and Schloeman as drivers.

Another significant entry for the 100-lap race was Lafayette native George Souders behind the wheel of the ‘Schuck Special.’ George had qualified twelfth fastest for the July 100-lap race which was rained out.  Apparently George was not fast enough on August 4 to make the starting field, but he would find great success in 1927 as a rookie at the track located on the west side of town, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.     

A total of twenty-seven cars were entered with twelve of the entrants eliminated through time trials which started at 1 o'clock on Saturday afternoon.  The fifteen fastest cars took the green flag at 3 o'clock and the next day’s edition of the Indianapolis Star reported that Earl Warrick of Covington Indiana grabbed the race lead on the eighth lap and led the rest of the way.

Warrick in his own blue-colored car won the 100-mile grind in a time of 56 minutes and 15 seconds as Chance Kinsley finished second a lap behind the winner followed by third place finisher Claude Fix. Kinsley had replaced the car's original driver, Ford Moyer, on the 35th lap of the race. The Star noted that the Moyer's Ford lost over a lap to leader Warrick in the driver exchange, and that Chance "drove a sensational race in an effort to overcome the lead of the fleet blue leader." 

There was apparently an interruption in auto racing at the Hoosier Motor Speedway for several weeks as a temporary arena was erected onsite to host a boxing exhibition between Argentinian Luis Angel Firpo and Joe Downey from Columbus Ohio. Scheduled for Thursday August 9, on the eve of the fight, Indiana Governor Warren T. McCray instructed Marion County Sheriff George Snider to stop the match.

McCray claimed that Indiana law prohibited prize fighting and that it was “unbecoming to hold a public contest of this nature as the country was in mourning for Warren G Harding,”  the United States President who had passed away suddenly on August 2 1923. The Sheriff also ordered the boxers use 16-ounce sparing (or training) gloves when the rescheduled exhibition was held on August 17.

Before the fight on August 16, track general manager JV Lines had announced that the upcoming Labor Day race at the Hoosier Motor Speedway would be known as the “First Annual 100-mile Hoosier Sweepstakes” which meant 200 laps around the oiled half-mile track. General admission to the grounds for the 100-mile race was one dollar with seats in the grandstand an additional 75 cents or a paddock seat for one dollar. 

The boxing match was described as a “joke” in the next day’s Chicago Tribune which revealed that the fight promoter Jack Druley had disappeared before the match. After a delay of more than an hour Indianapolis Mayor Samuel Shanks climbed into the ring and ordered the boxers to begin the match or go to jail. Wearing the pillow-like 16 ounce gloves “the Wild Man of the Pampas” pummeled Downey for ten rounds and afterwards Downey was admitted to an Indianapolis hospital in a “semi-conscious state” with “severe injures about the head.”  

Fight promoter Jack Druley reappeared days later and explained his pre-fight disappearance. Druley said he had only taken in a total of $4,600 at the gate and that said that after he paid Firpo $2000 of the contracted amount of $4000 and paid Downey $800 of the $1000 he was due that he did not have enough money left to pay Firpo’s inflated hotel room bill.  

Fearing that Firpo’s manager would demand the balance due, Druley fled. There was little public sympathy for the fight promoter, as the fighters on the under card remained unpaid and track manager JV Lines threatened civil action against the promoter unless the track received its promised 1/3 of the gate receipts. Eventually Lines paid the bills which led to Hoosier Motor Speedway entering severe financial straits.   

Arthur “Fuzzy” Davidson won the Hoosier Motor Speedway Labor Day 100-mile race at an average speed of 53 miles per hour as he finished in one hour and fifty-five minutes.  Chance Kinsley meanwhile was at Funk’s Speedway in Winchester but the race there was rained out. 

The next race at the high-banked half-mile in Winchester was held on September 16 1923 and in time trials Kinsley in his Frontenac-Ford turned a lap at 28 & 2/5th seconds which was reported as “the fastest lap ever made on a one-half mile track by cars of 183 cubic inch displacement.”

Chance's success was trumpeted in the Frontenac catalog
click to enlarge

In the 100-mile race that followed, Kinsley led the first 60 miles on the high-banked half-mile, but soon after his car retired with a broken axle which handed the lead to Ralph Ormsby in the Roof Flyer who led the rest of the way to claim victory. None of the five Frontenacs entered at Winchester that day finished the race, and only three cars finished the grind with Ray Butcher of Indianapolis in second place and Claude Fix third.

The full-page newspaper ad for the Bellmont Park races
Click to enlarge

Chance Kinsley was entered in the “Discovery Day” races held on October 13 1923 at Decatur Motor Speedway located in Bellmont Park in Decatur Indiana. A trio of races of distances of 10, 25, and 40 miles was scheduled on the half-mile dirt track frequently used for trotter races.  

Kinsley was entered as the driver of the Frontenac owned by Harry Murray from Fort Wayne Indiana while other entries were received from Claude Fix, Ted Hartley in a Rajo, and the Ormsby brothers in a pair of Roof-Fords.     

Neither Ralph Ormsby nor Chance appeared in Decatur and Murray’s car was driven by Charles “Dutch” Baumann (frequently misspelled as Bowman) of Indianapolis. Baumann who would later drive in the 1927 Indianapolis 500-mile race swept the day’s program, as he started the day with the fastest qualifying lap of 33-2/5 seconds, then led all 25 laps in the first race and then repeated as he led all forty laps in the finale to claim the lion’s share of the $1000 total purse.

Despite the “ideal weather” the October race promoted by two local men, DW Berry and JW Meibers, only drew an audience of 1500 fans, down considerably from the 4000 people that had attended the Labor Day races at the same track held on a dark overcast day.
On Labor Day, the track had been a muddy mess from overnight rains, but after skies cleared around noon, gasoline was poured on the track and lit and by 3 PM the races began. The 25 mile race was won by Louis Burkett in a Rajo, and then Burkett finished as the runner-up to Ralph Ormsby in the 50-mile finale. 
Following the October 1923 race, Bellmont Park in Decatur which today is the site of a high school apparently did not host any more automobile races.

Chance was listed as an entry list for the 100-mile season finale at Hoosier Motor Speedway on Armistice Day November 11 1923. “The Hoosier 100 for the Central States Championship to award the J.V. Lines Trophy.” The race was held to benefit the Elks Christmas Fund to “provide Christmas cheer for orphans and children of the poor” according to the Greensburg Daily News. 

This marked the second benefit race at the Hoosier Motor Speedway as the proceeds from the October 21 race won by “Dutch” Baumann went to the Riley Memorial Association which was collecting funds for construction of the James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children. 

42 cars and drivers from across three states entered the Armistice Day race but only 16 cars would start the 100-mile feature.  Starters in the feature included Arthur ‘Fuzzy’ Davidson from Chicago, George Lyons from Chicago in his Essex Special and future Indianapolis competitors William ‘Shorty’ Cantlon, Joe Huff, Charles ‘Dutch’ Baumann, Homer Ormsby, and Stuart Wilkinson.

The field consisted of mostly “Fronty-Fords,” which used Arthur Chevrolet’s Frontenac double overhead camshaft cylinder head on a Ford Model T engine block, but included the ‘Hartley Special’ built by brothers Ted and Calvin Glenn ‘C.G.’ Hartley who ran the Hartley Garage in tiny Roanoke Indiana. The engine in the ‘Hartley Special’ used a standard Ford crankshaft, but featured a Bosch battery ignition system built by Harry Bonewitz also of Roanoke.

At the drop of the green flag at 2 o’clock in the afternoon Davidson grabbed the lead but he was soon passed by Lyons, who led until his Essex suffered a broken axle on the 50th lap. Joe Huff in his eponymous racer took command and held the lead until he was forced to pit with engine trouble and he lost two laps while repairs were made.

Ted Hartley took the lead from Huff and held the point the rest of the way without a pit stop to finish the 100 miles in one hour 56 minutes and 29 seconds. Second place went to Joe Huff who had made up one of his lost laps after his return. The Hartley brothers won $260.00 and the J.V. Lines silver loving cup, which was displayed in the lobby of the Farmers State Bank in Roanoke. The J.V. Lines trophy is still displayed in the city of Roanoke in the trophy case of the local historical society.

The Central States Championship was Ted Hartley’s first race victory in what proved to be a long and successful racing career. Ted raced into his 70’s before he retired in 1973 raced across the United States as well as in Canada, Mexico, and South America. Ted won the 1939 Central States Racing Association midget championship and the 1950 Great Lakes Auto Racing Association championship.
Ted Hartley's son, Leslie Eugene “Gene” Hartley was the 1959 USAC (United States Auto Club) midget series champion, scored 33 USAC midget feature wins in his career, and drove in ten Indianapolis 500-mile races. Both Hartley’s, father and son, are immortalized in the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame.

In our installment we will review Chance Kinsley’s 1924 racing season.


Thursday, September 14, 2017

Pre-war ELTO midget

While Offenhauser, Chevy II, Volkswagen, Esslinger and Toyota engines spring to mind as the dominant midget auto racing engines of their respective eras, the sport has always featured a wide variety of powerplants, as evidenced by this beautiful example of an early pre-war midget powered by a Elto 4-60 engine displayed at the  2017 Calistoga Speedway Hall of Fame induction ceremony.   

Outboard motor pioneer Ole Evinrude sold his eponymous company in 1913 to care for his ill wife with one of the terms of the sale that he could not enter the outboard motor business for five years. Ole kept experimenting and developed a lighter more powerful two-cylinder outboard motor and in 1921 he founded a new company to sell his invention. Ole couldn’t use his name for the new company so he called it ELTO, which stood for “Evinrude Light Twin Outboard."

In 1928 ELTO an immediate leader in the market introduced the ground-breaking four-cylinder two-cycle outboard motor which used horizontally opposed cylinders. The following year, ELTO, Evinrude Motor Company and Lockwood a Michigan outboard motor manufacturer merged to form the Outboard Motor Company (OMC).

During the early nineteen thirties Elto marketed two two-cycle engines to the midget auto racing community; the Elto 4-60 (as in this car) comprised of four cylinders with a single rotary valve that displaced 59.4 cubic inches that produced 60 horsepower and the “class X” also a four cylinder engine that displaced 61 cubic inches fed by dual rotary valves and was advertised at 67 horsepower. For a lubricant racers added castor oil to a mix of methanol (wood alcohol), benzene which created the signature trail of smoke associated with Elto engines.

A brand-new  “complete Class A” Elto-powered midget car powered by an Elto 4-60 engine with two extra wheels was advertised nationwide for a list price of $1425 while a midget with a more powerful “class X” motor sold for $200 more.   

During the latter part of the 1933 season Southern Californian Billy Betteridge widely regarded as midget auto racing’s first superstar replaced the original converted Kaley outboard engine in his “little red racer” the #7 “Power-Lube Special” with an Elto 4-60 and in 1934 rocketed to  the 1934 Midget Auto Racing Association (MARA) with a reputed fifty feature wins during 1934. Other midget racing stars who won in Elto-powered machines included Jack “Curly” Mills, Pat Warren, Frank Brisko and Ronny Householder.  

The introduction of the Offenhauser midget engine during 1934 marked the beginning of the decline of the Elto as a top-flight competitive engine, although the loud smoky ELTO engines continued to appear in “Class B” races across the country until the outbreak of World War 2 around the same time period that the ELTO nameplate vanished from the outboard motor marketplace.  

The example shown at Calistoga was restored by Marvin Silva and is owned by the Schmid family collection from Stockton California.   
All photographs by the author

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Chance Kinsley- racer

Part three

In 1923, Kinsley became one of the star attractions at the Hoosier Motor Speedway. Today the track would be well within the Indianapolis city boundaries, but from 1922 to 1925, when the oval track was in operation, it sat just beyond the eastern outskirts of the city of Indianapolis near the intersection of 38th Street and Massachusetts Avenue. Parking was free for those who drove their cars to the track, but the site was also serviced by the Fort Harrison bus and interurban lines.  

When it opened on Armistice Day November 11, 1922 with a 75-mile race, the Hoosier Motor Speedway billed itself as “the greatest half-mile race course in the world.” In that 1922 Armistice Day race, Chance Kinsley set quick time in qualifying and held the lead of the race when a broken connecting rod in his Lexington-Ansted Special’s engine ended his day prematurely.  The Ormsby brothers of Fort Wayne were the day’s big winners with Ralph in his Frontenac taking first as brother Homer finished second, with Joe Guinta of Chicago in third place.  

The Hoosier Motor Speedway did not run a schedule of regular weekly racing programs rather it staged occasional special-event long distance (for the time) races. For example the 1923 Hoosier Motor Speedway advertised schedule featured just six races on May 5, June 9. July 4, August 4, Labor Day and the season finale on October 13.

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For the track’s inaugural 75-mile race of 1923, the 23-car entry list included Kinsley, the Ormsby brothers (who were considered Frontenac factory drivers), future Indianapolis ‘500’ starter Joe Huff from Fort Wayne, Joe King of Chicago, and Bill Hunt who brought three cars to the track. Chance Kinsley was named one of the early favorites to win in the six-cylinder Ansted Special, the product of one of the many Connersville companies owned by Edward W. Ansted grandfather of long-time Indianapolis ‘500’ entrant and 1964 Indianapolis ‘500’ co-winning car owner William Ansted Junior. 

Other scheduled entries for the May 5 1923 Hoosier Motor Speedway race included Arthur “Fuzzy” Davidson with a “Red Arrow”, future ‘500’ mechanic Ford Moyer, Benton “Bennie” Schoaf from Paris Illinois and a young Hoosier racer named Warren “Wilbur” Shaw.  Two renowned speed equipment manufacturers, the Rajo Motor and Manufacturing Company in Racine Wisconsin and the Robert Roof Company of Anderson Indiana, each entered one car without naming their drivers. 

On Tuesday May 2 Hoosier Motor Speedway General Manager J.V. Lines directed oil be placed on the track surface to keep down dust, but too much oil was applied which resulted in slick conditions and the cancellation of that day’s practice.  After a large roller was brought to the track in the afternoon and after the surface was rolled practice resumed on the afternoon of Wednesday May 3.

A reported five thousand spectators were on hand on Saturday as the event opened with morning time trials to “weed out any slow cars,” which apparently included Kinsley’s Ansted entry. Twelve cars took the green flag with Ford Moyer the early leader until just past the 1/3 point of the race when his car slid high into the wooden guardrail.
A plank came through the cowling of the car and hit Moyer in the chest which forced him to pit. Moyer was relieved by a driver named Johnson but the car was out of contention for victory. With Moyer sidelined, Claude Fix in a Frontenac-Ford grabbed the lead which he held until just past halfway when his car’s axle broke.

With Fix’s retirement the race lead fell to Homer Ormsby who drove in place of his brother who had arrived late. At the 50-mile mark Ormsby still led with Schoaf who drove an Oakland in second followed by Koehler in another Frontenac-Ford in third place. The running order remained unchanged to the finish as there were only five cars still running when starter Roscoe Dunning dropped the checkered flag. Orsmby finished the 75-mile distance in one hour and 31.54 minutes for an average speed of more than 49 miles per hour. 

Chance Kinsley did not have long to reflect on the disappointment of his failure to qualify for the season-opening 75-mile race on May 5 1923 at the Hoosier Motor Speedway on the east side of Indianapolis, as his next race was scheduled for May 30 Decoration Day at Winchester Indiana.

The half-mile track built by Frank Funk adjacent to his lakeside amusement park west of the village of Winchester had been remodeled from its original flatter configuration.  While intimidating today the new configuration must have been even more so in 1923, with an oiled dirt surface and eighteen foot high banked turns which reportedly made it “the highest banked half-mile track in the world.”

Early entrants included the Fort Wayne based Ormsby brothers in a pair of Frontenacs entered by Arthur Chevrolet, along with Ray Butcher and Wilbur Shaw named as drivers of two of the three cars entered by Imperial Motors the predecessor to Craig-Hunt and Speedway Engineering run by Wilbert “Bill” Hunt.  There were twenty cars entered in the races with a purse of $1,500.

Chance Kinsley’s career received a boost as at Winchester he was entered as the driver of a  ‘Roof Special’ powered by a Ford four-cylinder engine fitted with an overhead Roof Racing “Peugeot style” cylinder head manufactured by the Roof Auto Specialty Company of Anderson Indiana. At this time in history, Roof, the Chevrolet brothers with their Frontenac heads, the Rajo Motor and Manufacturing Company in Racine Wisconsin and Hunt with Imperial Motors were engaged in stiff competition for Ford Model T conversion racing cylinder head superiority.   

A reported crowd of 25,000 saw an epic battle in qualifying as “four world records” were broken, as Homer Ormsby, Benton “Bennie” Schoaf and Ford Moyer each posted laps of 29 seconds flat which eclipsed the previous track record of 29 and 3/5 seconds but time trials ended with Ralph Ormsby on top with a lap of 28-4/5 seconds.

There were three races held on Decoration Day 1923 and Claude Fix from Clinton Indiana in a “Powell Special” designed and owned by Charles Powell of Greensburg Indiana won the 10- and 20-mile races.  Both races were finished in record times despite the fact that Fix was still recovering from burns on his throttle foot sustained in a recent race in Lafayette Indiana. Fix led at the 25-lap mark of the featured 30-mile race but soon after his car suffered a blown tire which knocked him from contention. Chance Kinsley won the race in a time of 33 minutes and 15 seconds at an average speed of 54 MPH over Homer Ormsby and Ford Moyer, as these were the only three cars to finish the race.

CC Kinsley was listed as entrant in the “Deluxe Special” for a series of three races or 10, 20 and 30 miles on June 17 1923 at Centlivre Park Speedway in Fort Wayne Indiana. This unique narrow half-mile track was originally built by the Centlivre family of brewery fame to train their stable of race horses. Several years after the family lost interest in trotting horses, the property was bought by the Fort Wayne Auto Racing Association and the group headed by Ray Harper and Sam Novick built a new grandstand and restored the facility for motorcycle and automobile races.

It unclear whether Kinsley raced that day as only five of the fourteen cars entered actually appeared. The same day that his brother Ralph won the 100-lap race in Grand Rapids Michigan Hometown racer Homer Ormsby swept all to victory in all three of the Centilvre races. The site of the race track and park near Spy Run Creek is now home to the Centilvre Apartment complex.   

By the time of the Fourth of July 100-mile race at the Hoosier Motor Speedway Kinsley was a Frontenac team driver in the employ of Arthur Chevrolet. The race was highly anticipated, with a $1000 purse for the winner, the second place finisher set to win $500, third place $200 and fourth place $100.  After the track was treated with what the Indianapolis Star reported was “twelve tons of dust-laying chemical preparation” (later revealed to be calcium chloride) an open practice session was held on Sunday June 24 for those cars that were early entries.

Besides Kinsley, early local entries were received from Fred Koehler, S. R. Rosenbaum and M. M. Cowherd. During the next week, entries were received from D.E. Jacques who hailed from the Boone County town of Thorntown and Fred Wilson of Crawfordsville which brought the total number of entries to eighteen. Claude Fix had already told track General Manager J.V. Lines that he would be racing with the Powell Special at Winchester on July 4.  

After another practice session on Sunday July 1, another coating of calcium chloride was applied to the track surface in preparation for qualifying on Tuesday July 3 to winnow the field down to the twelve fastest cars. After he ran 20 laps of practice in the freshly-built Frontenac, Chance Kinsley was the first car to qualify and he set a new track record of 31-1/5 seconds, two seconds faster than the previous track mark.

The next car out  to qualify was Chance’s teammate Arthur ‘Fuzzy” Davidson in another Frontenac-Ford whose lap was timed at 35-3/5 seconds  Charles Moorhead took to the Speedway in his Essex and posted a time of 35 seconds flat as rain began to fall and washed out the rest of time trials.

JV Lines planned to resume qualifying at 8 AM on July 4th but unfortunately the rain forced the rescheduling of the race to Saturday July 7 and many of the racers including Kinsley headed east to Winchester for the 40- and 60-mile races. In time trials at the high-banked half-mile Funk’s Speedway Paul Clancy from Chicago in a Miller Special lowered the track record to 28 seconds flat.  

In the latter stages of the 40-mile race, Clancy battled Claude Fix for the lead. On the last lap, Fix steered the Powell Special into the low groove to pass for the lead. Clancy dropped out of the middle groove to block and forced Fix’s car into the inner berm. The resulting impact tore the rear wheels off the Powell Special as Clancy claimed the win ahead of Arthur “Fuzzy Davidson.

Clancy completed the 40 miles in 40 minutes and 20 seconds, which shaved seven minutes off the old record for that distance. In the 60-mile feature event at Winchester the former one-lap track record holder Ralph Ormsby cruised to victory in sixty minutes and 46-2/5 seconds nearly ten minutes better than the old mark for the third new track record established that day.

With the Hoosier Motor Speedway postponement to July 7 the entry list grew to 35 cars which included Claude Fix in his repaired Powell Special and Auter Thompson winner of the July 4 race at the Ripley County Fairgrounds in Osgood Indiana but rain again forced a postponement to July 14.

This second delay though it led to a reduction in the race distance to 75 miles, brought an added celebrity attraction, as General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing who was in town for the annual reunion of the 42nd “Rainbow” division was scheduled to attend the race along with his guest and World War 1 comrade in arms French General Henri Gouraud. 

Chance Kinsley took the lead of the race on the opening lap and looked to have the race won until his Frontenac-Ford suffered “compression trouble” on the 125th or the 150 laps and was forced into the pits. Kinsley’s teammate Worth Schloeman a lap behind Kinsley in his own Frontenac-Ford soon unlapped himself and assumed the race lead, an exciting turn of events for the young man who had left his home state of Iowa two years earlier and just 13 months before rode with Wilbur D’Alene in a Monroe in the Indianapolis 500-mile race.  

After quick repairs, Kinsley rejoined the race in second place scored three laps behind Schloeman. Chance only made up one lap of the deficit by the time the checkered flag fell with Dempsey Chancey in another Frontenac in third place while Claude Fix rounded out the top finishers in fourth. With the shorter race distance the purse was cut in half from the original July 4 race and Schloeman won $500, Kinsley $300, Chancey $200 while Fix received $100.   

At some point during the course of the race tragedy struck after a multiple car accident occurred.  In the confusion after the accident, a guard at the track, 34-year old Joseph Battley (also reported as Betler or Betley) ran onto the track to warn the  drivers. Battley was struck by the “Imperial Special” driven by Ray Butcher and died of his injuries the following day July 15 in an area hospital.

The story of Chance Kinsley’s breakout 1923 racing season continues in our next installment.