Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The 2001 Dallara Indianapolis winner
The fourth IndyCar car included in the 50th anniversary tribute to Penske Racing at the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) trade show in Indianapolis is the Dallara IR2 owned by the Team Penske Collection. This car was driven to victory in the 2001 Indianapolis 500-mile race by Helio Castroneves.
This was the first Penske race car to reappear at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway after a five race absence due to the second American open-wheel racing split which began with the creation of the Indy Racing League (IRL) on March 11, 1994 to begin competition in 1996.
IMS President Tony George began to agitate for changes in November 1991, and he continued to push for changes as a non-voting member of the CART board from 1992 to1994.  Eventually frustrated he quit the CART board and formed the IRL 

Roger Penske already unhappy with the split was further  angered when in August 1994 United States Auto Club (USAC) the sanctioning body for the Indianapolis ‘500’ for the second time in three months reduced the allowable maximum boost level for purpose-designed pushrod engines. USAC’s moves relegated the Mercedes-Benz 500I engine which had won the 1994 Indianapolis ‘500’ in dominant fashion to museum status after just one race followed by Penske Racing’s humiliation of failing to qualify for the 1995 Indianapolis ‘500.’


The nineteen seventies Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART)-USAC split was very divisive, but the CART-IRL split reached new levels of rancor.  No CART teams entered in the 1996 Indianapolis ‘500’ as CART teams claimed they were effectively locked out by new Indianapolis qualifying rules which guaranteed starting positions to the top 25 drivers in IRL points. Although the IRL countered that CART teams were boycotting the ‘500,’ the IRL one-season carry-over rules package for the 1996 ‘500’ would not allow CART teams to use their 1996 Penske, Reynard and Lola chassis.

In retaliation, in December 1995 CART announced the inaugural “U.S. 500” race at Michigan International Speedway to be held on the same day as the 1996 Indianapolis ‘500.’ Neither race was an artistic success, as the Indianapolis ‘500’ 33-car starting field was comprised of 1995 and 1995 Lola and Reynard chassis most of which were bought from CART teams.

The apparent ‘500’ pole position winning car driven by Arie Luyendyk the only former ‘500’ race winner entered was disqualified for being underweight, then a pall was cast over the race when pole-sitter Scott Brayton was killed in a practice crash on May 17. Only nine cars finished the 1996 ‘500’ won by second-generation driver Robert “Buddy” Lazier who drove the race with a broken back

The starting field for the “U.S. 500” which aired live on ESPN2, featured only 27 cars, as two cars withdrew before the race. A nine-car crash before the initial start eliminated at least seven cars and in a bizarre turn of events, CART officials allowed six of the drivers involved in the accident to start the race in their back-up cars. The 250-lap race contested on the wide high-banked 2-mile oval was marred by a remarkably high attrition rate as eleven cars experienced engine failure. Jimmy Vasser won the race and Vanderbilt Trophy replica by eleven seconds over former Formula One driver Mauricio Gugelmin as theirs were the only two cars to complete the entire 500-mile distance.

CART officials considered the 1996 “U.S. 500” a success with a reported 120,000 fans in attendance but never again scheduled the “U.S. 500” directly against the Indianapolis 500-mile race. In January 1997 the IRL unveiled its new cars and engines; competitors used either a Riley & Scott, Dallara or G-Force chassis and had a choice of an Oldsmobile Aurora or Nissan/Infiniti powerplants.

Days before the 1997 Indianapolis ‘500,’ the Indy Racing League abolished its controversial rule that guaranteed 25 of the 33 ‘500’ starting positions to IRL regulars of the new series, but still no CART regulars entered the Indianapolis ‘500’ until 2000. In 2000, after CART became a publicly traded company and competitors began to complain about series mismanagement.

CART car owner Chip Ganassi, who had driven in the Indianapolis ‘500’ five times between 1982 and 1986, assembled a two-car team to compete in one IRL sanctioned race- the 2000 Indianapolis 500. The Ganassi Target team dominated the 2000 ‘500’ as winner Juan Pablo Montoya led 167 of the 200 laps. Although a CART regular team won the race, public sentiment became that the IRL was now winning the championship racing sanction war.

Two other CART regular teams entered the 2001 Indianapolis 500-mile race - Team Penske (formerly known as Penske Racing), and Team Kool Green, while Chip Ganassi returned  with a four-car team sponsored by Target department stores with a driver line-up that counted  NASCAR regular Tony Stewart, Jimmy Vasser, and rookies Bruno Junqueira  and Nicolas Minassian. 

Penske’s 2001 Indianapolis driver lineup in the Oldsmobile-powered Dallara chassis were 2000 CART champion Gil de Ferran who had driven in 1995 “500’ paired with Brazilian Helio who had two years of CART experience but was an Indianapolis rookie.  The 121-inch wheelbase Dallara IR2 (Indy Racing League second generation) was built in Parma Italy of carbon fiber and aluminum honeycomb construction with aluminum wishbone suspension front and rear.  

The 244-cubic inch all-aluminum Oldsmobile Aurora V-8 engine was based on the production engine used in the short-lived (1995-2003) Aurora luxury sedan. The methanol-burning race engine with four valves per cylinder and double overhead camshafts which teams purchased from one of four engine builders for $80,000 produced over 700 horsepower at 10,500 RPM (revolutions per minute).
The red square object attached to the rear of the transmission case is
the attenuator designed to absorb the energy of a direct rear engine contact  

Both Penske cars appeared in Marlboro-themed livery (neon red and white) sans the Marlboro name and logo at the request of the Indiana Attorney General.  In In time trials, de Ferran who the year before ran the fastest official IndyCar lap ever at over 241 MPH at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana California qualified his #66 in fifth place, while teammate Castroneves qualified eleventh and was the fastest rookie in the 33-car starting field  

After a start led by John Mellencamp’s then-wife Elaine behind the wheel of an Oldsmobile Bravada sport-utility vehicle (SUV), the early stages of the 2001 Indianapolis 500 were marred by three crashes in the first twenty laps which eliminated four cars. Rain fell on lap 107 and the field was slowed under caution flag with CART regular Michael Andretti in the lead. After the race resumed De Ferran took the lead for the first time and held on until lap 136 when he made a pit stop under caution.

On lap 148 rains returned with Tony Stewart in the lead but he pitted the following lap under the caution flag which handed the lead to Castroneves.  The rain then became heavy enough that it brought out the red flag and officials stopped the race for seventeen minutes on lap 155 with Helio’s #68 in the lead. After the lap 157 restart, Robbie Buhl grandson of legendary mechanic and car builder Floyd “Pop” Dreyer battled Castroneves for the lead, but Buhl spun and hit the wall on lap 166.
Buhl’s elimination moved De Ferran into second place and when the green flag flew again the two Penske drivers cruised through the final laps to complete a sweep of the top two positions. Castroneves’ ‘500’ win was the ninth for a rookie driver and Roger Penske’s eleventh. After his victory lap, Helio stopped on the main straightaway and climbed the outer crash fencing. CART drivers took the top six finishing positions in the 2001 Indianapolis ‘500.’

For the 2002 season, Team Penske competed with the Indy Racing League, followed by Ganassi Racing and Andretti/Green Racing in 2003 after Federal Express pulled their sponsorship of the CART series at the 2002 racing season.  Honda and Toyota switched their engine supply from CART to the IRL after 2002. CART declared bankruptcy after the 2003 off-season and the assets of CART were liquidated.

The Champ Car World Series (CCWS) continued on after CART’s failure until CCWS’ bankruptcy in 2008 and its assets were sold at auction on June 3, 2008. For the 2008 racing season, after twenty-nine years of turmoil, American open-wheel racing was finally reunited under one banner.

The Dallara IR2 /Oldsmobile on display at the PRI show is part of the Team Penske Collection and is usually shown in the Penske Racing Museum in Scottsdale Arizona.     
All photos by the author

Monday, February 20, 2017

The all-conquering Penske PC23/Mercedes

For the author, the star of the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) show tribute to the 50th anniversary of Team Penske and their success in the Indianapolis 500-mile race were the Penske PC-23B and Mercedes-Benz 500I engine owned by the Penske Collection. 

By the mid-nineteen nineties, the sanctioning war of the nineteen eighties was settled, largely in favor of the Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) group. The United States Auto Club (USAC) gamely hung on in championship auto racing - it sanctioned only one championship car race each year, but it was the biggest race of the year- the Indianapolis 500-mile race   

Under the guise of encouraging participation by automobile manufacturers, and smaller teams and independents, the USAC rulebook had for years included a provision for "stock-block" pushrod engines limited to two valves per cylinder actuated by pushrod and rocker arms. The traditional "stock block" engines such as fuel-injected small-block Chevrolet engines appeared on occasion but a new “stock block” arrived at Indianapolis in 1984 – the 209 cubic inch turbocharged Buick V-6.

Cars powered by Buick V-6 engines set new one- and four-lap speed records and gained the top two starting positions in 1985.  Scott Brayton set a one-lap record of 214.199 miles per hour (MPH) and Duane “Pancho” Carter won the pole with a new four-lap average of 212.583 despite the fact that the 800 horsepower Buick engine in Carter’ March chassis broke on the final straightway of his 10-mile qualifying run. Buick engines continued to return to Indianapolis year after year and while the engines generally were fast over short runs due to the higher allowed turbocharger boost levels for the “stock block” engine but the engine’s reliability remained a problem.

In 1991, USAC relaxed the previous rulebook requirement that “stock block” engine use some production parts which was designed to help the Buick teams to develop more robust parts to extend durability, but also opened the door for purpose-built pushrod engines. Since USAC only sanctioned one race construction of such engine was not considered economically viable.

In 1992, Buick’s final year of factory support, Roberto Guerrero in a car owned by drag racing king Kenny Bernstein demolished the one-and four-lap track records with a single lap of 232.618 MPH and a ten-mile average of 232.482 MPH. The starting field of the 1992 ‘500’ featured eleven Buick-powered cars, but Guerrero was one of five Buicks eliminated by crashed (his on the parade lap) and four Buicks blew up during the race.

The lone bright spot in the 1992 ‘500’ was Al Unser’s achievement as the first driver to finish the entire 500 mile distance with a car equipped with a Buick “stock block” engine. After Buick pulled out, the V-6 program was purchased by home improvement store magnate John Menard who rebranded the engine as the Menard.

During late 1993 and early 1994, in an audacious effort, Penske Racing in partnership with Ilmor Engineering designed and built a “clean sheet” pushrod engine code named the Ilmor 265E that carried the Mercedes-Benz nameplate. As related in the book Beast written by Jade Gurss, the Mercedes 500I 72-degree V-8 engine was tested and developed by Penske Racing in secret and unveiled to the public just a month before the race. While many people were shocked by the engine’s 1000+ horsepower output, but even more impressive was the engine’s output of over 580 foot/pounds of torque at 8000 revolutions per minute (RPM). Roger Penske had pulled off the ultimate ‘Unfair Advantage.’

For 1994, Nigel Bennett has designed the PC-23 which for the CART series used the Ilmor Indy V8 but the PC-23 had to be modified to accommodate the Mercedes-Benz 500I engine namely the bodywork and gearbox and the version raced at Indianapolis and displayed at PRI 2016 is known as the Penske PC-23B. Before arrival at Indianapolis, Penske teammates Al Unser Junior and Emerson Fittipaldi had won the two previous CART races in their PC-23s equipped with the Ilmor 265D engines.

At Indianapolis, the dominance was obvious from the moment that the first of the three Penske Mercedes-Benz powered PC-23B cars appeared on track on the first day of practice, particularly in regards to trap speeds on the backstretch where the PC23B consistently exceeded 244 MPH.

On the first day of time trials May 14 Al Unser Junior posted a 228.011 MPH four-lap average, but a rain shower delayed Emerson Fittipaldi’s qualifying run until the following day, and he posted a 10-mile average of 227.303 MPH for the outside of the front row. The chances for all-Penske front row had been spoiled when Paul Tracy crashed his PC-23B/Mercedes-Benz in practice on Friday. Tracy qualified later on Sunday May 15 at 222.710 MPH in the 25th starting position.     

At the drop of the green flag on May 29, Unser Junior and Fittipaldi ran away and hid from the rest of the field, as “Little Al’ led the first 23 laps before he pitted. Unser stalled his engine in the pits and Fittipaldi took over and eventually led 145 laps. Tracy was never a factor and fell out with mechanical failure after 92 laps.
At one point Fittipaldi the defending Indianapolis ‘500’ champion had Unser down one lap, but Unser battled back and unlapped himself on lap 183. On lap 185, Fittipaldi pushed too hard through turn four to re-pass Unser and crashed hard into the outside retaining wall. Unser cruised home for his second Indianapolis 500-mile race victory and Penske’s tenth of sixteen to date.

Al Unser Junior's autograph from the 2016 PRI show

USAC reacted almost immediately to the Penske rout as on June 13, 1994, it was announced that the turbocharger boost of the purpose-designed pushrod was reduced from 55 to 52 inches of mercury while “production-derived” engines like the Buick/Menard were allowed to keep their 55 inches of “boost.” Before the Buick/Menard engine was obsolete due to a formula change after the 1996 Indianapolis ‘500,’ the engine produced 950 horsepower which Tony Stewart used to power his Lola/Menard to the 1996 Indianapolis ‘500’ pole position. 

Testing revealed the Mercedes-Benz 500I pushrod engine was still competitive with 52 inches of “boost” and plans were put in place to build enough engines to supply the entire starting field for the 1995 Indianapolis ‘500.’ That all changed on August 10 1994 when USAC suddenly announced another reduction of maximum boost level for purpose-design pushrod engines back to 48 inches of mercury which made the Mercedes-Benz engine at best average if not uncompetitive and the production plans were scrapped. The PC23B and Mercedes-Benz 500I both became museum pieces and wound up displayed at the Penske Racing Museum in Scottsdale Arizona.   

For many people the 1994 Indianapolis 500 was the pinnacle of success for the Penske PC-23 chassis, but that overlooks the tremendous success also experienced on the CART circuit  Penske PC-23 cars won six straight CART races between April and mid-July 1994, and overall twelve of sixteen 1994 CART races.

Penske Racing swept the top three positions in CART points;  Al Unser Junior won eight races to capture the PPG Cup (the sixth for Penske) while Fittipaldi finished second with one race win nut ten finishes better then fourth.  Paul Tracy in his first full-time CART season finished third as he scored three race wins that included the final two races of the season. 

Unfortunately for Penske Racing in just one season they went from the proverbial “penthouse to the outhouse” as  the 1995 PC-24 was not anywhere near as good a car as the PC-23; Unser Junior scored just three wins and Fittipaldi one before Emerson’s career ended with a crash at Michigan International Speedway  in July 1995. The biggest disappointment for the PC-24 came at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as neither Unser nor Fittipaldi qualified for the 33-car starting field.  

USAC’s 1994 “politically motivated move” (according to Roger Penske)  regarding pushrod engine boost levels combined with the creation of the “Indy Racing League” on March 11, 1994, would have long-term future impacts on United States championship auto racing  and Penske Racing which we will cover in a future article on the Penske Dallara IR2.     
All photos by the author

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The car that won the
longest Indianapolis ‘500’
Roger Penske

The 1981 ‘Norton Spirit’ Penske PC9B owned by the Malloy Foundation was part of the tribute to Penske Racing’s 50th anniversary at the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) show in the Indiana Convention Center. This was the car Bobby Unser used in 1981 to notch his (and car owner Roger Penske’s) third Indianapolis 500-mile race in what proved to be the longest 500-mile race ever contested. Thirty-five years later it remains the most controversial Indianapolis 500-mile race.

Even before the 1981 ‘500’ there was controversy, as the sport of championship auto racing was entering the third turbulent year of the sanctioning war between Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) and the United States Auto Club (USAC).  The initial skirmish had been resolved in CART’s favor by a temporary injunction issued by United States District Judge James Noland on the first day of practice for the1979 Indianapolis ‘500.’ 

The war intensified as CART and USAC each issued their 1980 season schedules. CART planned 13 races that included many events at former USAC tracks, while the 10-race USAC schedule contained some surprises with new 500-kilometer races scheduled at Talladega International Speedway, Road Atlanta, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway tried to bolster USAC’s position by providing “automatic invitations” for the ‘500’ to teams which had been loyal to USAC during 1979,  but eventually concern over a lack of entries led to the Speedway also inviting the CART teams. In the early months of 1980 Leo Mehl of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company struggled to get the two feuding groups to compromise, and finally Goodyear’s threat to charge teams for race tires brought about an agreement.

On April 13 1980, the two groups jointly announced the formation of the ‘Championship Racing League’ (CRL) to be governed by a six-member board (five of which were car owners) to present a combined 1980 schedule to consist of “about 15 races.” The races would be run with USAC as the officiating body and use 1979 USAC rules with the proposed races at Talladega Atlanta and Charlotte dropped.  

Alas, the truce did not hold. After the running of the 1980 “500,’ new Indianapolis Motor Speedway President John Cooper publicly expressed his dissatisfaction with USAC’s “lack of independence” due to the stacking of car owners on the CRL board. After Cooper requested proposals to sanction the 1981 Indianapolis ‘500’ from NASCAR, IMSA (International Motorsports Association), the SCCA, and even the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA), USAC panicked.

After the fifth race of the 1980 CRL season the ‘Red Roof Inns 150’, USAC President Dick King issued a statement in mid-July, that USAC was withdrawing from the Championship Racing League and that the organization was dissolved. CART continued the 1980 season under their own sanction and ran seven more races, while the USAC 1980 schedule abruptly ended after five races.  

For 1981, the USAC championship racing division really sanctioned only two IndyCar tracks – the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Pocono International Raceway and the remainder of the new USAC ‘Gold Crown’ schedule consisted of three one-mile dirt tracks. The 1981 CART 11-race schedule did not include the Indianapolis 500-mile race but it did not have any races scheduled during the month before the ‘500’ or against it.
Penske Racing contested the 1981 championship racing season with three drivers; Bobby Unser, Rick Mears, and new addition Bill Alsup, a 42-year Formula Vee and Super Vee veteran. Unser and Mears drove the Geoff Ferris-designed Penske PC-9B an updated full ground effects car fitted with 750 horsepower turbocharged Cosworth 4-valves per cylinder 4-camshaft DFX engine, while Alsup piloted a year-old PC-9.

The 106-inch wheelbase aluminum monocoque PC-9 rode on special 4-spoke Penske magnesium wheels fitted with Goodyear tires. In 1980, Ferris won the annual Louis Schwitzer Award from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers SAE for his innovation and engineering excellence in the design of the PC-9 chassis.   

On the second day of May practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Unser ran the fastest lap of the month so far at 197 miles per hour (MPH). Unser and Mears then upped their pace to over 200 MPH on Friday afternoon before the first scheduled weekend of time trials. Due to rain the first weekend both Penske drivers were forced to wait until May 15 to make their time trial runs.

Unser averaged 200.546 MPH for his four-lap qualifying run, then the defending pole winner Rick Mears took to the track and posted a first lap of 200.9 MPH. Mears’ PC-9B ‘Gould Charge’ developed a vibration during the second lap so Mears wisely aborted that attempt and Unser held onto his second career ‘500’ pole position start. 

Bobby Unser and the #3 ‘Norton Spirit’ dominated the running of the 1981 ‘500,’ as he led the first 21 laps and eventually the most laps, 89, as he led on eight different occasions. Teammate Rick Mears led once on lap 57 before he pitted, then a pit fire eliminated the ‘Gould Charge’ and sent Mears and four of his crewmembers to the hospital with burns.

On Lap 149, under caution due to a crash by sophomore driver Gordon Smiley, race leader Mario Andretti and second place runner Bobby Unser both made a pit stop. The pair swapped positions as they emerged from the pits. As Andretti prepared to slot his #40 STP Oil Treatment-sponsored WIldcat into the middle of the pack in the short chute between Turns 1 and 2, he watched as Unser passed eight cars before blending into traffic. ”Bobby’s going right to the front!” Andretti told his Patrick Racing crew chief, Jim McGee via radio.

Unser led 47 of the remaining 50 laps and Andretti crossed the finish line 5 seconds behind Bobby who had backed off to save his car in the later laps.  When the race was over, Andretti’s team owner U.E. “Pat” Patrick told Chief Steward Tom Binford that he wanted to file a protest, but Binford replied that a protest could not be lodged until the official results were posted at 8 AM the following day.

Back in 1981, the ABC television broadcast of the ‘500’ was tape-delayed, with commentary added during post-production rather than recorded live which has led to much confusion and false claims of bias against Unser years later as fans watch the replay.  ABC producers knew there was a potential controversy so they included footage of Unser passing cars under caution on the broadcast and commentator Jackie Stewart uttered “oh, that’s a no-no.” ABC television pit reporter and veteran racing journalist Chris Economaki asked Binford to comment on Unser’s documented violation and Binford stated on the broadcast that “right now and later on this evening, we will be reviewing all the facts.”

Overnight a committee of five USAC stewards reviewed the videotapes and voted, 3-2, to penalize Unser one lap for the “blend rule” violation which made Andretti the winner, while the same group voted, 3-2, not to penalize Andretti for the same offense as it appeared that some lapped drivers may have legally waved Andretti past.  

The official results were posted at 8 AM on May 25 with Andretti listed as the race winner. Unser was furious.  "We weren't cheating," Sports Illustrated quoted Unser, "We had the fastest car, no matter what the decision." Unser understandably boycotted the victory banquet where Andretti was given the keys to the silver Buick Regal V6-powered Pace Car and the winner’s ring.   

Roger Penske, represented by flamboyant Philadelphia attorney Jimmy Binns, filed his formal notice of appeal of the finish of the 1981’500’ with USAC on May 28. Penske and Unser's primary argument concerned the vague definition of the "blend rule" in the USAC rulebook and USAC’s lax enforcement.  USAC appointed a three-man appeals board that included former USAC presidents Charlie Brockman and Reynold MacDonald with University of Louisville law professor Edwin Render as the chairman.  

The hearing was held on June 12, but it dissolved into complex legal arguments and personal bickering between Binns and USAC General Counsel Henry Ryder, and mid-way through the hearing, the meeting was adjourned. Due to upcoming races the hearing was scheduled to resume on July 29. Instead of being concluded in an afternoon, the USAC appeal hearing eventually took five days over a two month period, with various drivers, team members, and race officials offering interesting testimony. 

Under questioning from Ryder, three time ‘500’ winner Johnny Rutherford said he “probably” passed cars under the yellow on his way to victory in 1980 while fellow three-time ‘500’ winner Al Unser stated that the pits did not end until turn two. USAC official Art Meyers could not recall whether he had asked observers, as Binford had requested, for a report on “blend rule” violations during the race. Bobby Unser had missed the pre-race driver’s meeting and testified on his recollections of a private meeting with Art Meyers in which he claimed Meyers told him “go to the yellow line in turn two and blend in where you can.” 

On October 9, 1981, the three-member USAC appeals board voted 2-1 (with Render casting the deciding ballot) to reinstate Unser as the 1981 Indianapolis 500-mile race winner, but fined $40,000 for the “blend rule” violation. The ruling written by Render stated that while Unser gained a competitive advantage by passing cars during the caution flag period, the penalty assessed was inappropriate. 

The controversy was not over, as the following day October 10 1981 Mario Andretti with his Indianapolis attorney Forrest Bowman announced their intention to file a protest to the USAC appeals board decision. Mario claimed he had not been given sufficient notice to attend or prepare for the hearings, so by article 22 of the USAC bylaws the unlawful appeals board decision should be set aside.   

On November 18 USAC president Dick King denied Andretti's appeal as he said that adequate notice had been given when a telegram was sent and a telephone call placed to Patrick Racing.  Pat Patrick and Andretti then took their appeal to the Automobile Competition Committee of the United States (ACCUS) Court of Appeals. On February 2, 1982 ACCUS officially informed Patrick and Andretti that the group declined to hear the appeal because the pair had failed to exhaust all their appeals with the USAC Board of Directors.

On March 4, 1982 Mario Andretti and Pat Patrick announced that they had reached the end of the appeals process and were dropping the matter, although they stated "we have decided to let stand this decision we believe to be unacceptable to the majority of racing fans who love the sport and respect the rules."  35 years later, Andretti told the Allentown Pennsylvania Morning Call "I have the ring, but he cheated and was given the race. It was one race that Roger Penske did not win."

The longest Indianapolis ‘500’ on record ended on March 12, 1982, when the Indianapolis Motor Speedway released the prize money which had been held in escrow, 292 days after the start of the 1981 Indianapolis ‘500.’ Unser’s win marked the third consecutive Indianapolis 500-mile race victory from the pole starting position, and at the time Bobby was the oldest ‘500’ winner at 47 years, 93 days but he was later edged out by his younger brother Al who was 47 years, 360 days old when he won in 1987.

It is an often repeated inaccuracy that an embittered Bobby Unser retired at the end of the 1981 season. While it is true that in 1982 Bobby took on the role of team manager and driver coach for the 1981 Indianapolis Rookie of the Year Josele Garza and his ‘Schlitz Gusto’ team., Unser was entered and took some test laps during May 1982. 
Bobby might have entertained ideas of racing in the 1982 ‘500’ in the team’s second car but those hopes were dashed when Garza crashed on May 13 and totaled the team’s primary car.  After the 1982 season, Pat Patrick offered Unser a ride for the 1983 season but Bobby formally announced his retirement on December 20 1982.

No matter who you think was the winner of the 1981 Indianapolis ‘500,’ collector and vintage racer Tom Malloy is covered. Not only does Malloy own Unser’s Penske PC9B shown at PRI, he also owns the Wildcat chassis that Mario Andretti drove in the 1981 Indianapolis ‘500’ as well as the ‘Red Roof Inns’ McLaren M24/Cosworth that Vern Schuppan used to capture a third place finish for good measure.    
photos by the author

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

1979 Penske PC-6 Indianapolis winner

The 2016 edition of the Performance Racing Industry trade show held at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis featured a special display devoted to the 50th anniversary of Penske Racing, with special focus on four of the sixteen Team Penske Indianapolis ‘500’ race winners.  
Click to enlarge and notice the discrete CART sticker on the engine cover
The earliest Roger Penske-owned Indianapolis 500 winner on display was the Penske PC-6 driven by Rick Mears to victory in 1979 an event which was dogged with controversy in the weeks leading up to running of the race itself.

In November 1978, the United States Auto Club (USAC) 21-man board of directors which governed the ‘500,’ rejected a series of demands from a group of dissatisfied championship series car owners led by Dan Gurney. Days later, that core group of disgruntled car owners which included Gurney, Bob Fletcher, U.E. ‘Pat’ Patrick, Roger Penske, Team McLaren and Jim Hall formed Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART).

CART soon allied with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) and announced plans to sanction a 13-race championship racing series in direct competition with USAC which saw its 1979 schedule shrink to seven races. In mid-April 1979, 19 entries for the International 500-mile Sweepstakes submitted by CART car owners were refused by USAC “because you are not in good standing with USAC" with the $1,000 entry fee for each car returned. On April 26 1979 CART filed suit against USAC in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana and cited violations of antitrust and right to work laws.

Roger Penske had entered only two drivers for the 1979 Indianapolis 500-mile race; veteran Bobby Unser who won the 1968 and 1975 Indianapolis 500-mile races and 27-year old Rick Mears from Bakersfield California. Penske hired Mears in 1978 to run a limited USAC championship schedule in place of Mario Andretti who was focused on winning the world Formula 1 driver’s championship. 

In his second attempt at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Mears qualified the red and white #71 Penske PC-6 “CAM2 Motor Oil Special” in third position for the start of the race.  Although Mears fell out with engine failure on lap 103 and finished 23rd, he was named the co-winner of the 1978, Stark Wetzel Rookie of the Year award with Larry Rice who had finished eleventh.  Mears scored three race wins in his remaining nine 1978 USAC races and finished ninth in USAC points despite missing seven races.    

After a three-day hearing, on May 5, the official first day of practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Judge James Noland agreed with CART that USAC and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway had conspired to keep the six racing teams out of the 500-mile race and granted the temporary injunction due to the “severe hardship the drivers would suffer far outweighs the harm to the defendants by allowing them to race.”

On May 7, his first day of practice after having his entry reinstated Rick Mears turned the fastest of the day at 187.578 miles per hour (MPH). His teammate Bobby Unser elected to race with the new Penske PC-7 chassis which had limited aerodynamic ‘ground effects’ while Mears stuck with a proven year-old PC-6 chassis which had been driven to the USAC/Citicorp Cup championship in 1978 by Tom Sneva.

The following day May 8 Mears ran the Speedway’s fastest unofficial lap to date for the year at 193.5 MPH. After the first day of qualifying was rained out, on Sunday May 13, Mears as the last pole position eligible driver recorded a four-lap average of 193.736 MPH to take the pole position, his first of his record six career Indianapolis  pole position starts.   

The Penske PC-6 is widely publicized as “the first Penske IndyCar” which is incorrect. During 1973, as part of his push to race in Formula 1, Roger Penske bought the McRae Cars Limited 5000 square foot race car fabrication shop in Poole England from John Heynes. The first Penske built race car, dubbed the PC-1 was designed by Geoff Ferris for Formula 1 competition in 1974, and was followed by the Formula 1 PC-3 in 1975 and the PC-4 used during the 1976 Grand Prix season.

Meanwhile the Penske USAC championship teams used McLaren customer cars until the latter part of the 1977 USAC season, and the debut of the Penske PC-5 an improvement on the design of the McLaren M24 chassis. Tom Sneva drove four 1977 USAC races in a Penske PC-5 entry on his way to the USAC championship while Mario Andretti drove a Penske PC-5 chassis once at the Michigan Grand Prix, the first race where two Penske Cars Limited chassis appeared. 

The Penske PC-6 also designed by Geoff Ferris which used a fiberglass body over an aluminum monocoque tub, debuted at the start of the 1978 USAC season and won the season championship for Tom Sneva. The PC-6 recorded just one race win in 1978 as the #7 “Gould Charge” driven by Mario Andretti which won the Machinist Union 150  in Trenton New Jersey The 1978 PC-6 was later immortalized in 1/25 scale as AMT sold three versions (Unser, Mears and Andretti) as styrene model kits.   

The Penske PC-6 was powered by the Cosworth DFX the 161-cubic inch turbocharged version of the Cosworth DFV Formula 1 engine. The Vel’s Parnelli Jones/ American Racing Wheels team exclusively used the DFX engine during the 1976 USAC season and won two races.  For 1977 onward multiple teams had access to the DFX power plant and the engine won the first of its string of ten consecutive Indianapolis ‘500’ race victories in 1978.

Despite qualifying for the pole position, Mears in the #9 Penske PC-6 “Gould Charge” was far from dominant on May 28 1979 as the race was dominated by the Unser brothers Al and Bobby who between them led 174 of the 200 laps. Bobby Unser in the #12 Penske PC-7 “Norton Spirit” appeared destined for victory until his car’s Hewland transmission lost high gear on lap 181. Rick Mears led the final nineteen laps to score his first ‘500’ victory as the first winner in the history of the world’s greatest race to be born after World War Two.   
Rick Mears won the inaugural 1979 PPG Cup emblematic of the CART championship 
Penske drivers won it five more times before the ward was retired in 1999

Mears drove the PC-6 chassis in the “Trenton Twin Indy” races on June 10, then switched to the PC-7 chassis for the balance of the 1979 CART season and scored wins in the “Ditzler 150” at Trenton New Jersey and the “Rich’s (department stores) Indy Atlanta Classic” at Atlanta Motor Speedway on his way to capturing the first PPG Cup for Team Penske.

The restored PC-6, Penske’s second Indianapolis 500-mile race winner displayed at PRI 2016 is part of the Penske Racing Collection and is typically displayed in the Penske Racing Museum located in Scottsdale Arizona.
Photos by the author

Saturday, February 4, 2017

U-37 Slo-Mo-Shun V
From time to time this site covers something besides open-wheel auto racing history. The subject of today’s article is one of the famed hydroplane racers on display at the Museum of Speed which demonstrates the diversity of the museum in Wilsonville Oregon. The racer is the famous  U-37 Slo-Mo-Shun V hydroplane race boat.

Slo-Mo-Shun V was the last in a series of hydroplane race boats owned by Seattle Washington’s Stanley St.Clair Sayres who owned the area’s largest Chrysler-Plymouth dealership. Sayres first started boat racing in 1936 when he was a car salesman in Pendleton Oregon and bought the Slo-Mo-Shon an 18-foot Ventnor 225 Cubic Inch Class hydroplane in 1938 from famed racer “Pop" Cooper of St. Louis, Missouri. The first Slo-Mo-Shun was lost after its Ford flathead engine broke a connecting rod, the boat caught fire and sank in Lake Washington in 1941.

Slo-Mo-Shun V designed by Ted Jones and built at Anchor Jenson’s Boat Works debuted at the 1951 APBA (American Power Boat Association) Gold Cup held on Lake Washington.  This new boat powered by a 1710-cubic inch 1750-horsepower Allison aircraft engine was a “three-point prop rider,” meaning it trapped air under its 12-foot wide hull with only the two sponsons and the propeller in contact with the water. Slo-Mo-Shun V led all 60 official miles of racing under the command of its driver, bus manufacturer and Indianapolis car owner Lou Fageol.  
In an amazing performance, Slo-Mo-Shun V established a new 3-mile lap record of 108.633 miles per hour (MPH), a new 30-mile heat race record of 91.766 MPH and averaged 90.881 MPH for the two heats of 60 miles. Scheduled for three-30-mile heats, the Gold Cup was official after 60 miles after Portland Oregon owner/driver Orth Mathiot and his mechanic Tommy Whittaker were killed when the accelerator in the Packard-powered two-step hull Quicksilver boat jammed and the boat flipped over at the start of the third heat and officials called the event complete.  

Fageol and Slo-Mo-Shun V also won the 1953 President’s Cup held on the Potomac River near Washington DC and captured the 1954 Gold Cup on Lake Washington by winning all three heats over its sister boat Slo-Mo-Shun IV. With the 1954 win, owner Sayres had captured the APBA Gold Cup five straight years.
This famous painting by Jim Collier depicts the 1955 flip

During qualifying for the 1955 Gold Cup Fageol and Slo-Mo-Shun V averaged 124 mph for two and a half laps before the 28-foot long boat flipped over backwards 50 feet in the air at an estimated 165 miles per hour. Fageol miraculously escaped death but was hospitalized with broken ribs and spinal injuries which forced his retirement as a hydroplane driver.  

Sayers sold the damaged Slo-Mo-Shun V to a group of Seattle businessmen who repaired the boat and raced it from 1956 to 1962 as Miss Seattle. Mr. Sayers died of a heart attack at age 60 in September 1956.  In 1991 Ken Muscatel, Bruce McCaw and Howard Leendersten teamed up to buy the boat and funded the restoration.

Photos by the author

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Pack-Age-Car’s connections to racing history
courtesy EBay
This restoration uses incorrect wooden doors
Recently the internet auction site EBay Motors listed for sale a 1931 Stutz Pak-Age-Car, which caught the author’s attention. At this point, you the reader might reasonably ask “what do these trucks have to do with racing history?”  The author’s research into Pack-Age-Car history revealed a surprising number of connections between the history of these humble utility trucks and historic automobile industry and racing personalities.  
The Pak-Age-Car, known originally as the Pac Car, was a small urban delivery vehicle introduced in 1925 as an alternative to horse-drawn city light delivery wagons. The simple all-steel body truck with a 92 ½ inch wheelbase powered by a two-cylinder horizontally opposed two-cylinder Hercules engine coupled to the rear axle packaged in a slide-out module. The Chicago-based manufacturer claimed that in case of mechanical troubles the engine package could be exchanged in fifteen minutes by a two-man crew without disturbing the truck’s payload.  
The early Pack-Age-Cars resembled horse-drawn wagons minus the horse. The Pack-Age-Car could be controlled from either side of the 52-inch wide cab by the standing driver. The throttle, clutch and brake functions were all controlled through a lever, with one lever mounted on either side of the cab and the steering wheel in the center of the cab. The top speed of the wagon-like vehicle was a scary 12 to 15 miles per hour with an advertised average fuel consumption of one quart of gasoline per hour.

In December 1927 it was announced that Stutz Motor Car Company of America based in Indianapolis Indiana had taken over the distribution of Pack-Age-Car trucks in the United States.  Early advertising for the Stutz Pack-Age-Car referred to it as “the horse’s only competitor - designed to be more economical in maintenance and operation that a horse and wagon.”  The powered wagon sold for a retail price of $995 with the exterior of the body finished in white undercoating ready for the customer to paint in their colors

Harry Stutz had founded his eponymous automobile manufacturing business in 1911 and the company built its reputation from a Stutz’ performance in the inaugural Indianapolis 500-mile race. Team driver Gil Andersen started from the twenty-second position (based on the date the entry was received) and finished the grueling grind in under seven and half hours in eleventh place. This result led Stutz to advertise as “the car that made good in a day.” Stutz himself left the business in 1919, and after the company’s financial failure in 1922, the new board of directors brought in Frederick E. Moscovics to run the company.

Moskovics understood the publicity value of automobile racing, having been involved in the management of the 1910 Los Angeles Motordrome board track in Playa del Rey California. Stutz built a reputation of speed and reliability through their success in early stock car races. Unlike the modern-day NASCAR silhouette “stock car” races, these American Automobile Association (AAA) sanctioned races were open to strictly stock cars that displaced 300 cubic inches or less. To ensure the stock nature of the cars, the AAA Contest Board reserved the right to select the cars at random and supervise their preparation.

The races were scheduled, often in conjunction with AAA championship races on two East Coast board tracks - the Rockingham Speedway in New Hampshire and Atlantic City Speedway in New Jersey. Cars raced less the windshield, fenders, running boards and tops with the only mechanical adjustments allowed limited to “valve grinding, cylinder honing, relieving bearing clearances, and fine tuning.”  1924 Indianapolis 500-mile race co-winner LL Corum, along with drivers Ralph Mulford, Tom Rooney, Bert Dingley, and Gil Andersen competed and won races with factory-entered Stutz Blackhawk Vertical Eight Speedsters.  

Despite the racing success, the late nineteen twenties, Stutz automobile sales began to drop off so Moscovics used the Stutz dealer network for the distribution of the Stutz Pak-Age-Car in 1927. On November 28 1932, with automobile sales and the company’s finances ebbing, the Stutz board of directors approved the purchase of the controlling interest of Pak-Age-Car from Mechanical Manufacturing Company of Chicago.  
A long wheelbase Pack-Age-Car

At the New York Automobile Show held in January 1933 Stutz unveiled the redesigned Stutz Pak-age-Car built by the new Package Car Division established in the Stutz factory at 1002 North Capitol Avenue in Indianapolis.  The redesigned Pack-Age-Car was powered by a four-cylinder opposed engine with a more contemporary truck-like front end design with fenders. Stutz also expanded the line with the availability of a longer 106-inch wheelbase, and the earlier dual lever control system was abandoned in favor of a typical left-hand stand or seated driver setup with a single gauge bezel in front of the driver.  


Stutz also tried to shore up their automobile sales in the deepening economic depression with the introduction of lightweight six-cylinder models. The new automobiles models failed to score big sales and after consecutive years of ever-increasing losses, new Stutz president and former company treasurer Marvin Hamilton ended passenger car production in 1935.

Although the once-proud Stutz automobile was no more, Pak-Age-Car production continued and on May 3 1936 Hamilton announced that George H. Freers formerly with Marmon joined Stutz as the chief engineer in charge of all Pak-Age-Car activities.

Freers, an Indianapolis native and 1908 graduate from the Rose Polytechnic Institute in Terre Haute Indiana worked for several truck manufacturers before he joined Nordyke & Marmon the builders of the Marmon automobile in 1912. During his lengthy career at Marmon, Freers became professionally and personally close to Howard Carpenter Marmon one of the company co-founders Daniel Marmon’s two sons.   

In 1924 Freers was named Nordyke & Marmon’s assistant chief engineer in charge of the experimental department and in 1926 he built a new three-bedroom home in Indianapolis’ Irvington neighborhood at 5124 East Walnut Street. Freers’ appointment to succeed Thomas J. Litle Jr. as the Marmon Motor Cars Company’s chief engineer was announced in the Indianapolis Star on October 21 1929. Three days later the Wall Street Crash occurred which led to the worldwide economic depression which would eventually spell the end for many automobile manufacturers including Marmon.

While in charge of the Nordyke & Marmon experimental department, Freers and his staff worked with race car builder Earl Cooper to prepare the two Marmon 1928 Indianapolis 500-mile race entries.  Marmon which had competed in racing since its stunning victory in the inaugural 1911 Indianapolis ‘500, and likely wanted to build on the publicity of the eight-cylinder Marmon 78 being selected as the race’s Official Pacemaker. The yellow and red Marmon Model 78 rumble-seat roadster would be driven for its pacing duties by Joe Dawson, the 1912 Indianapolis ‘500’ winner who had driven a Marmon to a fifth place finish in the inaugural 1911Indidnapolis ‘500.’  
A factory photo of the 1928 Marmon 68 Special
Courtesy of the IUPUI University Library Center for Digital Studies
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Collection
The Marmon entries were built by Earl Cooper, who had a remarkable driving career both before and after World War One was the three-time American Automobile Association (AAA) national champion in 1913, 1915, and 1917. Before the war, as a member of the powerful Stutz Racing Team, Cooper notched sixteen victories mostly on dirt tracks and early road courses. Cooper returned to race driving in 1922 at age 36 and proved to be an adept board track racer during the Miller 122- and 91-cubic inch eras with a string of strong top-five finishes.  

During the 1926 AAA season, Cooper bought the Miller supercharged 91-cubic inch chassis number #2605 and over the winter of 1926-7, he built three copies, with the full knowledge or and assistance of Harry A. Miller. Funded by Buick Motors, each of the three new Copper-built cars were powered by a supercharged 91 cubic-inch eight-cylinder supercharged Miller engine breathing through four Miller Dual Throat Updraft carburetors that produced 167 horsepower and powered the front wheels.  

The major difference between a Miller and Cooper was the construction of the front drive assembly. Instead of the typical Miller jewel-like front drive, with the design assistance of Leo Gosssen, Copper’s cars used a Ruckstell planetary gear set paired with two-speed Ruckstell axle to achieve four forward speeds.

Near the end of their construction, Buick withdrew its support and all four of Earl Cooper’s cars were entered for the 1927 running of the Indianapolis 500-mile by Cooper Engineering for veterans Peter Kreis, Bennett Hill, Bob McDonogh and Jules Ellingboe.  All three new cars qualified for the 1927 ‘500,’ but Kreis’ and Hill’s cars had mechanical failure and Ellingboe crashed so only McDonough finished coming in with a sixth place finish with the re-badged Miller.

By 1928 Earl Cooper had sold his original Miller chassis and for the 1928 ‘500’ landed Nordyke & Marmon Company as the sponsor for two of his three cars, and part of the sponsorship agreement included Cooper’s use of the Marmon engineering shop and staff to help prepare the cars.

On April 13 1928, Earl Cooper formally entered two “Marmon 68 Specials,” and the Indianapolis Star proclaimed that by “entering the 1928 500-mile race the Marmon Company is using the event as an actual means of testing many new and advanced engineering principles.”  "Changes in the future design of passenger automobiles are coming so fast that we decided to take some of our advanced engineering ideas to the race course for a trial," Howard Marmon was quoted "We are entering the Indianapolis race, not so much from a competitive standing but rather to forward the splendid achievement of our cars and to see just how near a state of perfection the innovations that we have conceived have progressed."

Cooper would later enter his third front-drive car under his own name after on-track practice had opened on May 2 for rookie driver Russell Snowberger. This entry after the official close of entries was allowed after it was evident that the Speedway was facing a short field of entries.
Peter Kreis' Marmon Special on race morning 1928
Courtesy of the IUPUI University Library Center for Digital Studies
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Collection
The two “Marmon 68 Specials” were assigned to drivers Albert J. “Peter” Kreis and Johnny Seymour. Kreis, from a wealthy Tennessee family finished eighth in his first ‘500’ in 1925, and for the 1926 ‘500’ bought a new Miller. Kreis became ill after he qualified the car and turned it over to rookie Frank Lockhart to drive in the ‘500,’ and Lockhart won the rain-shortened race. During the 1927 racing season Kreis earned his pilot’s license and at his wife’s request had reduced his racing schedule to Indianapolis only.     

In comparison to the veteran Kreis who was listed as an early favorite to win the ‘500’ Seymour a former motorcycle racer on Daytona Beach and the board tracks was an Indianapolis rookie. In fact the 1928 ‘500’ was the first official AAA (American Automobile Association) race start for the driver from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  

Unlike the modern schedule in 1928 time trials were held three consecutive days from May 26 through May 28. The nineteen cars that qualified on the first day included Seymour in the Marmon #33 with an average speed for his ten mile run of 111.673 miles per hour (MPH). Kreis in the Marmon #32 was the fastest qualifier on the second day of time trials with a four-lap average of 112.906 MPH and was scheduled to start in the 20th position.

When qualifying closed at sundown on Monday May 28 there were only 28 cars in the field which led Speedway officials to extend time trials into Tuesday and Wednesday. On Tuesday, Buddy Marr’s qualified “BW Cooke Special” (owned by the operator of the Coyne Electrical School of Chicago) crashed was badly damaged and later withdrawn which moved Kreis’ #32 Marmon to the inside of the seventh row on Memorial Day.   

Snowberger in the third Cooper entry was the first car out of the race with a broken supercharger. By lap 73, Kreis’ Marmon entry was sidelined with burnt rod bearings, and Seymour’s entry dropped out with a broken supercharger on lap 170. Kreis earned $499 for his 22nd place finish, while Seymour earned just $69 more for his 17th place finish.

1928 marked the last formal appearance of the Marmon name on a race car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway until 1993 when the Marmon Group returned as the sponsor of John Andretti’s Lola 9200. Lee Oldfield’s Marmon-powered bizarre rear-engine home-built machine that appeared at the Speedway during the late nineteen thirties was not a factory-support effort. 

In the late nineteen twenties, Nordyke & Marmon restructured. Howard Marmon’s brother, Walter became the company president and was named chairman of the board of Nordyke & Marmon in 1924. In 1926 Walter sold off the company’s grain-milling equipment business line which was the foundation of the company.  During 1929, the Marmon Motor Car Company was spun off as an individual entity with Howard named the new company’s president.

In 1931, the company headed by Walter Marmon entered a partnership with Colonel Arthur William Sidney Herrington for the manufacture of trucks under the name of the Marmon-Herrington Company. The British-born Arthur Herrington had served as racing official with the AAA since at least 1905 and served as the powerful Chairman of the AAA Contest Board until the AAA withdrew from race sanctioning at the end of the 1955 season. 

Marmon-Herrington moved its operations to the defunct Duesenberg Company plant at 1511 West Washington Street a 16-acre site located on the corner of West Washington and Harding streets in Indianapolis. This site housed the Marmon-Herrington factory until it ceased Indianapolis operations in July 1963, and today one of the original Duesenberg buildings still remains intact.  

Marmon renowned for its series of magnificent luxury automobiles introduced the successful “Little Eight” in 1927 and followed it up with a new lightweight 201-cubic inch 70 horsepower straight-eight powered car for the 1929 model year. The Roosevelt which honored the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, was advertised as the “car for all” as one body style retailed for less than $1000. Despite its startling low price, there were rumors in the press of a “soft crankshaft” and like many “junior” marques introduced by other luxury automakers such as Stutz and Locomobile the Roosevelt was a sales failure. In 1930, the marque was renamed the Marmon-Roosevelt and in 1931 and 1932 it was sold as the Marmon Model 70, but sales remained awful.
Marmon 16 Convertible Sedan

The Marmon “16” introduced in January 1930 was a spectacular machine powered by a 490 cubic inch 45 degree sixteen-cylinder overhead valve aluminum engine that produced 200 horsepower. The Marmon “16” advertised as "The World's Most Advanced Car." weighed 4,600 pounds but was guaranteed by the factory to reach 100 MPH.  Available in either a coupe, sedan or a Convertible Sedan body style, all the “16” series models were styled by Walter D. Teague and his son Walter Junior who worked with Frank Lockhart on the body design of the ill-fated Stutz Blackhawk Land Speed Record Car.

Like other luxury automakers Marmon’s sales plummeted through the Great Depression. Production of the magnificent “16” totaled 12,369 units in 1930, and then fell to 5,687 units in 1931. Only 1,365 cars were built for the 1932 year with only 86 16-cylinder cars built in 1933.

In 1932, Howard Marmon envisioned a new car - the HCM. With Marmon in severe financial straits, the car was built in a corner of Marmon factory by a team led by George Freer. The car’s reported cost of $150,000 was personally financed by Howard Marmon himself.  The HCM was ground-breaking with such advanced features as a central backbone chassis riding on independent front and rear suspension with inboard brakes.

For the HCM’s engine, Marmon and Freer eliminated the four rear cylinders of the 16-cylinder engine to create an aluminum 368-cubic inch 45 degree overhead valve V-12 engine that developed 150 horsepower. The aerodynamic two-door sedan body designed by Walter Teague Junior featured rear-hinged “suicide” doors and the headlights set into the front fenders reminiscent of a Pierce-Arrow.

Unfortunately by the time the new HCM car was completed in the fall of 1933, the Marmon Motor Car Company was already in bankruptcy proceedings. In its last quarter of operation Marmon Motor Car Company lost $234,000 and during the final year of operation lost $1.8 million. Shortly after the bankruptcy filing Walter Marmon shocked many in the automobile industry when he told the Auto Topics magazine that Marmon Motor Car had been completely independent from Marmon-Herrington for “over a year.”

Howard Marmon took his HCM car on a nationwide driving tour but could not find financial backers to save his company and build the HCM. There were several competing efforts to rescue the Marmon Motor Car Company out of receivership including a 1934 plan that involved promoter Preston Tucker and race car builder Harry A. Miller. After their failure to take over Marmon, the pair formed Miller-Tucker which built the ill-fated ten-car Ford V8 race team under contract to N W Ayer & Son, the Ford Motor Company’s advertising agency that was entered in the 1935 Indianapolis ‘500.’     

Although the HCM never advanced past the single prototype, Freers and Marmon submitted patent applications in 1933 for their backbone chassis and independent front suspension  designs and received patents for each in 1935 and 1937 respectively.

Howard Marmon’s still-born HCM prototype remained parked in the garage of his Pineola North Carolina estate ‘Hemlock Hedges’ until his death in 1943. After his death Marmon’s widow would not sell it and instead gave the car to Fred Moscovics. As a testament to the closeness of their relationship, Howard Marmon’s last will and testament bequeathed the amount of $5000 cash to George Freers, which is equivalent to $70,000 today.

Alas the Stutz Pack-Age-Car career of George Freers did not last long, as Stutz filed for bankruptcy on September 29, 1937. With Stutz’ failure, the patents and licensing rights for the production of the Pack-Age-Car light delivery truck reverted to Northern Motors of Chicago. The rights were then purchased during 1938 by former Auburn Automobile Company executives (Auburn had failed just a few weeks after Stutz) and the men formed a new company the Pak-Age-Car Corporation on August 25, 1938. Former Auburn General Manager John McGowan was the new company’s vice-president, and Auburn vice-president Roy H. Faulkner was installed as the new Pak-Age-Car company president.

Tooling was moved to Connersville Indiana and Pack-Age-Car production resumed in the Auburn Central Manufacturing Company plant on October 15 1938. Central Manufacturing founded early in the twentieth century and in 1928 Errett Lobban Cord acquired a controlling interest in from the Ansted family and folded it into his Cord Corporation. Years later, William Ansted son of the original founder of Central became a noted car owner at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the roadster era and was one of the co-owners of AJ Foyt’s 1964 “500’ winning machine.

Although the Cord Corporation was bankrupt, the Auburn Central Manufacturing managed to remain open throughout due to its income from its many lucrative contracts to supply sheet metal stampings to other automakers and for home products sold by Montgomery Ward and Sears Roebuck & Company. 

The revised Pack-Age-Cars used key components supplied by other Cord Corporation divisions; they were powered by a four-cylinder Lycoming CT flat-head engine hooked to a Columbia axle packaged in the removable rear sub frame. Since the manufacturer lacked a dealer network, the trucks were distributed through Diamond T Motor Car Company truck dealerships beginning with the 1939 model year. Diamond T Pack-Age-Cars were built in small numbers probably until March 1941 when the Auburn Central Connersville factory switched over to the manufacture Jeep bodies for Willys-Overland which continued throughout World War 2.  

Exact Pack-Age-Car trucks production numbers during the approximately 15 years of manufacture are unknown, but very few Pack-Age-Car truck remain today, largely due to their design. As the trucks lacked any built-in refrigerant system for their perishable payloads, the trucks were instead packed with ice. Drivers stood atop of a wood pallet arrangement so they did not have to stand in water from the melting ice, but of course within just a few years the Pack-Age-Car sheet metal bodies began to rust from the inside out.

Research was conducted using the Automotive Research Library of the Horseless Carriage Foundation of which the author is a proud member. Check out their site at https://www.hcfi.org/