Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The early history of
Indianapolis Raceway Park


This article originally appeared in the Classic Racing Times (CRT), and is offered for those who do not subscribe to CRT. The author encourages readers to visit the CRT website at http://www.theclassicracingtimes.com/ and consider subscribing to CRT.

The original plans for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS), announced in February 1909, called for an outer 2-mile banked 50-foot wide track and an inner 3-mile road 25-foot wide course which when connected would result in a five-mile course. In March 1909 after the purchase of additional property along Crawfordsville Pike the plans changed to a 2-1/2 mile long oval with an inner 2-1/2 mile long road course.  
This 1911 newspaper drawing shows the
intended IMS layout with infield road course

Construction crews rushed to complete the facility in time for the inaugural racing events, a motorcycle meet on August 13 and 14 followed by the first automobile races held between  August 19 and 21 1909. During those disastrous first races the track surface treated with 235,000 gallons of coal oil mixed with gravel failed badly, and the planned construction of the inner 2-1/2 mile road course was superseded by the necessity to re-surface the oval track with bricks. 

The IMS infield was used as an aircraft repair and training facility during World War One and then in August 1929 the Speedway’s second owner, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker opened a 9-hole infield golf course designed by native Hoosier course architect William Diddel. In the latter 1990’s an infield road course was built at IMS to allow the track to host the 2000 United States Formula One Grand Prix. 

Anton ‘Tony’ Hulman who bought and rehabilitated the once-dilapidated Indianapolis Motor Speedway after World War Two, dreamed of transforming the Speedway into a multi-use racing facility but at that time he viewed that the construction of a road course inside the big oval was not feasible.  Instead Hulman assembled a group to build Indianapolis Raceway Park (IRP) east of the town of Clermont, a six-mile drive from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Crawfordsville Pike.

IRP’s articles of incorporation were signed at the downtown Indianapolis Athletic Club and filed at noon on November 9 1959. In addition to Hulman, who was the IRP Inc. Chairman, the group was comprised by fourteen businessmen who each invested at least $5,000 up to a maximum of $25,000.

The incorporators included United States Auto Club (USAC) President Thomas Binford who was named IRP’s President, two-time Indianapolis ‘500’ champion Rodger Ward, broadcaster Charlie Brockman as secretary, car owner and promoter extraordinaire J.C. Agajanian, car builder A.J. Watson and New Bremen (Ohio) Speedway owner and promoter Frank Dicke as vice-president.  

The roster of the remaining investors who were all board members was comprised of engineer and USAC official Rhiman Rotz, Connersville physician Dr. Gerald Watterson, Howard Fieber, an Indianapolis insurance executive, construction executive Lee R Ford, former steel executives John H. Holliday and  Charles Harvey Bradley Jr., attorney Robert D Morgan, and James H. Coover.   

The centerpiece of the site located in Lincoln Township in Hendricks County was to be a ½-mile oval track, which the group initially was unsure would be dirt or paved. Other IRP features included a 10,000 seat grandstands, a 4,300-foot drag strip and a 2-1/2 mile road course. In an interview with the Indianapolis Star, Binford explained the plan called for the oval track to be banked a maximum of 12 degrees on the turns and be at least 60 feet wide.  Binford added “that all the most modern safety precautions will be made a part of the plant including super-strong guard rails at least four feet high.”

“We’re not seeking the fastest auto racing track in the United States," Binford emphasized, "Instead, we want to have the safest and most competitive," and said that plans were for an oval with long straightaways and relatively tight turns. "We don’t want them to be able to run flat-out all the way around like they can on some tracks," Binford said "we want a multiple groove race track-we want them to have to accelerate and decelerate so that driving skill will play a greater part."

Binford said that construction would start as soon as zoning clearance was obtained from Hendricks County authorities with the target date for the opening racing program in mid-June of 1960 or July 1 at the latest. However before the $780,000 construction project could begin the group had to settle a lawsuit filed in Hendricks County Superior Court by Alvin and Henryetta Haverkamp owners of a trailer camp on an adjoining 130 acre parcel. On April 8 1960 the Haverkamp suit was withdrawn after IRP officials promised that there would be no night racing.

On April 15 1960 the group closed on the final 140 acres of property and Binford stated in an Indianapolis Star interview  that construction at Raceway Park was due to start in 30 days on the now 5/8-mile flat oval track and the dragstrip. Binford clarified that the new plan was to eventually build grandstands to accommodate 40,000 fans, but to start with a 12,000 seat grandstand and parking for 10,000 spectator cars.

During the winter of 1960-61 IRP Incorporated made flurry of announcements. First, IRP would also promote races at the ½-mile dirt oval New Bremen Speedway with Frank Dicke named to manage both tracks. In November 1960 IRP vice-president Lee Ford signed an agreement with Wally Parks of the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) which made IRP the permanent home for the NHRA U.S. Nationals beginning with Labor Day weekend 1961. Finally, Joseph L. Quinn Jr. the IMS Safety Director was named the director of racing and Robert H. Humphrey was named the superintendent of grounds and the drag strip manager.
This is the layout of IRP

Indianapolis Raceway Park’s first event, a Sports Car Club of America Indianapolis regional race, held on Sunday April 17 1961 was less than successful. The sports car racers were greeted by a snowstorm with 40 mile per hour (MPH) winds which delayed the start of racing for four hours while the track crew cleared ice and snow from the course. On the fifth lap of the first 10-lap race of the day, Andrew Barnes flipped his Turner sports car on the main straightaway (the drag strip) but was unhurt.

Two laps later an errant Alfa Romeo racer spun in the pit area and crashed into a parked Corvette. At that point Chief Steward Duke Knowlton called the day’s racing program complete and declared Bill Andrews the winner in his Morgan. Knowlton told reporters "we hated to have to cancel it, but we didn't want to press our luck.  It got so bad the drivers couldn't see in front of them even when it wasn't snowing because the muddy water from other cars was coming up in their faces.”

The new facility scheduled its grand opening known as the “Pre-500 Speed-O-Rama” from May 27 to May 29 1961. Advance advertising promised fans the chance to see “Drivers . . . Champions . . . Record-Breakers!”   

First up on Saturday May 27 were drag races held on the 7000-foot dragstrip with entries that included Ralph and Bob Musick’s “Musicmaker” 290-cubic inch non supercharged dragster which held the NHRA B/Dragster record at 145.16 MPH, as well as Ray Goodman’s 170 MPH supercharged Chrysler- powered ‘Tennessee Boll Weevil,’ and Mickey Thompson’s “Attempt,’ a four-cylinder supercharged Pontiac Tempest-powered dragster. Making a special static appearance was Dr. Nathan Ostich’s “Flying Caduceus,” the world's first jet propelled land speed car. 

The following day, Sunday May 28 the 5/8-mile oval which was still a dirt surface, opened with a United States Auto Club (USAC) 30-lap ‘big car’ race that featured such stars as Elmer George, Leon Clum and Bob Wente racing for a $5700 purse.  A total  of 30 drivers which included Indianapolis 500-mile race starters AJ Foyt, Roger McCluskey and AJ Shepherd signed in for time trials along with such established big car stars as Chuck Hulse, Alvin 'Cotton' Farmer, Johnny White and Rex Easton.

The program nearly spelled disaster for two of the ‘500’ drivers that day. McCluskey a 30-year Indianapolis rookie set quick time in qualifying with a best lap of 27.57 seconds but during the second 8-lap heat race McCluskey lost control in turn three hit the outside wall and the car rolled over twice. Roger escaped with bumps and bruises but the H-O-W #4 car was finished for the day.

On the first lap of the feature AJ Shepherd, scheduled to start 14th in the Memorial Day Classic, crashed the Sterling Plumbing #55 car but escaped injury. Two days later at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Shepherd and McCluskey were both involved in the spectacular six-car chain-reaction crash on the main straightaway that wound up with Jack Turner flipping his roadster high in the air.

A.J. Foyt, whose car carried the number 1 as the 1960 USAC Eastern 'big car' series champion, led 29 laps of the feature and won $819 as he finished ahead of Hulse and Bob Cleberg who drove in place of Jim Hurtubise.

On Monday May 29 the USAC stock car division invaded the IRP 5/8-mile dirt oval for a 90-lap contest. The defending USAC stock car champion, Paul Goldsmith, was on the grounds but not in action as he was qualified for the Indianapolis ‘500.’  

Likewise, ‘500’ starter Bill Cheesbourg chose not to drive his 1959 Ford, and entrusted it to 1956 500-mile race winner Pat Flaherty. USAC stock car regular Don White won $623 as he led 69 laps in his 1961 Ford ahead of Ernie Derr’s 1961 Pontiac. Shortly after the completion “Pre-500 Speed-O-Rama” races, the oval received its now-familiar covering of bituminous asphalt. 

The 15-turn 2-1/2 mile IRP road course hosted its first professional race a month later for the Hoosier Grand Prix USAC Road Racing Championship which was run in twin 100-mile heat races. The entry list included road racers Augie Pabst, Ken Miles, Bob Holbert and Bill Krause as well as such 500-mile race stars as Rodger Ward, Lloyd Ruby, Ebb Rose, Jimmy Daywalt, and Len Sutton.

Ruby who drove Frank Harrison’s Maserati 450S won the first heat over Miles and Pabst, and then Pabst in the Scarab Mark II won the second heat ahead of Ruby and Pabst was declared the Hoosier Grand Prix overall winner based on the lowest elapsed time.

The first few years for IRP Inc. were financially difficult; the company lost $54,000 before depreciation and interest in 1961 followed by a loss of $16,000 in 1962. In 1963, IRP turned the financial corner with a net profit of $46,000 before deductions for depreciation and interest.  

IRP Inc. continued to operate the facility and added appearances by the USAC championship cars and midgets until the facility was sold to the NHRA in 1979.  Under NHRA’s ownership there has been tremendous investment the addition of NASCAR racing and the facility’s annexation by the town of Brownsburg in the facility now known as Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.  


Monday, June 19, 2017

Douglas Hawkes at Indianapolis

Part three - 1929

While his 1926 Indianapolis 500-mile race car owner Ernest Arthur Douglas (E.A.D.) Eldridge continued to set speed records, in 1927 Wallace Douglas Hawkes joined the British division of the French car manufacturer Derby. Founded in 1921 to build and sell motorcycle-powered cars,  by 1927, Derby offered three models - a tiny 8-horsepower sports car powered by a 67-cubic inch four-cylinder engine and a pair of small displacement side-valve six-cylinder powered two-seat cars. 

Derby which sold most of its cars in England used speed records to promote its brand, with its star driver Englishwoman Gwenda Stewart who often paired with Hawkes in pursuit of long-distance sped records. To further advance its record setting publicity efforts, Hawkes was dispatched to Indianapolis in May 1929 to buy a car for Mrs. Stewart’s use in setting records.  The car Hawkes purchased and had shipped to Britain  was a front wheel drive supercharged 91-1/2 cubic inch Miller which became known as the “Derby Miller.”

The “Derby Miller” began life as one of the two first front wheel drive racers built by Harry A. Miller Engineering for 1922 Indianapolis 500-mile champion Jimmy Murphy who was killed in a crash at Syracuse New York in September 1924 before the cars were completed.  The cars were entered by Harry Miller for the 1925 Indianapolis ‘500’ but Bennett Hill disliked the handling of his assigned car, fitted with inboard brakes and withdrew. Dave Lewis in the other Miller front-drive finished the 1925 Indianapolis ‘500’ in third place.

Both the Miller front wheel drive cars made the Indianapolis starting field in 1926 and after the race driver Earl Cooper arranged to buy the car he drove and he built three semi-copies all paid for by Buick. Before the 1927 ‘500,’ Buick pulled its support, so all four front drive cars were entered as “Cooper Engineering Specials.” Julian Arthur “Jules” Ellingboe was assigned to the original supercharged Miller built machine but he crashed in the north end of the track as he completed his 26th lap. The car rolled over and may have ejected Ellingboe, who in his sixth Indianapolis ‘500’ suffered severe chest injuries and two broken legs and never raced again.
Phil “Red” Shafer bought the wrecked Miller and with funding reportedly from the AC Spark Plug Company a division of General Motors, rebuilt the car along with parts taken from another unidentified wrecked Miller.   Shafer was a multi-talented man, as in addition to being a mechanic and car builder he started the 1924 Indianapolis ‘500’ after three previous relief driving appearances, and continued to appear as a driver at the Speedway through 1936.

 Prior to the 1928 Indianapolis 500-mile race, AC pulled their support and the rebuilt front-drive Miller painted gold appeared without sponsorship driven by sophomore driver Elbert “Babe” Stapp. Stapp qualified fifth and finished seventh in the ‘500’ and then made four more appearances in the #7 Miller front-wheel drive car during the 1928 season, with a best finish of fourth at the season finale, the ‘International Motor Classic’ at the Rockingham Speedway board track in Salem New Hampshire.

When Stapp moved on to drive for millionaire William S. White for the 1929 AAA ( American Automobile Association) season, Shafer himself drove the car, painted black and silver and carrying number 17 in the 1929 Indianapolis ‘500.’ After he qualified eighteenth, Shafer had a troubled race and completed only 150 laps when he was flagged as the twelfth place finisher. After the race, Shafer sold the front-drive Miller to Hawkes and his associates and it was shipped overseas.

Gwenda Stewart was born in 1894 in England and served as an ambulance driver during World War One. In 1920 she married Sam Janson and became a motorcycle record setter, but in 1923 the pair divorced and Gwenda married motorcycle manufacturer Neil Stewart. In 1928 she moved into automobile record setting paired with W. Douglas Hawkes and the pair set a number of 12- and 24-hour distance records in a Vernon Derby, the nameplate for the Derby marque in Britain.  

Beginning in 1929, Gwenda Stewart drove the “Derby Miller” in multiple record breaking attempts over the next five years at the steeply banked (51 degree) 1.58-mile long Autodrome de Linas- Montlhéry parabolic oval south of Paris. Unlike its British counterpart, Brooklands   Montlhéry was designed and built with reinforced concrete beams and pillars to support the high banking concrete surface rather than being built on dirt embankments. 

In September 1930 Mrs. Stewart and the “Derby Miller” set Class E (91 ½ cubic inches engine displacement) records for 100-miles at 118.13 miles per hour (MPH), one hour at 118.29 MPH and 200 kilometers (KM) at 118. 32 MPH.  In another attempt later in October 1930 Stewart blew the Miller engine. After it was rebuilt, in March and July 1931 Mrs. Stewart reset the Class E records for the five and ten mile distances and the five, ten, and fifty kilometer distances and in August she reset the fifty mile, fifty kilometer and 100 kilometer records. In October 1931 she reset the 200 kilometer record at 121.75 MPH.      

During March and April 1933 the “Derby Miller” and Mrs. Stewart reset the new Class E standard for one mile three separate times eventually setting the record at 143.29 MPH. During April 1934, Mrs. Stewart reset the Class E record for both the five mile and five kilometer distances at 140 MPH. In July 1934 she reached the highest speed in the “Derby Miller” so far and set new records for the one mile and one kilometer distances of 147.79 MPH at Montlhery.  On August 6 1935 Stewart and the “Derby Miller” set the Ladies Outer Circuit absolute lap record at Brooklands at 135.95 miles per hour.   
Gwenda Stewart and the "Derby Miller" on track at Brooklands in 1935
Courtesy the Brooklands Museum

During the early nineteen thirties, Douglas Hawkes moved to France full-time to work as a manager for Derby, and while there Hawkes arranged for the factory to build two cars for Gwenda to race in the 24-hour endurance race at LeMans.  In 1934, there was a special Derby sports car, and in 1935 a hybrid Maserati-powered Derby, but both years, the cars retired early in the grind with mechanical failure.  During the mid-nineteen thirties, the Derby car company, never a high-volume manufacturer, encountered financial difficulties and ceased business during 1936. 

The “Derby Miller” was offered for sale during 1936 but failed to find a buyer even after the price was reduced to 750 pounds ($3700). Under the AAA “junk formula” rules, the car’s engine was no legal for competition and it would have been costly to ship the Miller back to United States and re-fit it with an AAA-legal engine.  The car dropped out of sight and was reportedly parted out and considered lost by historians. The “Derby-Miller” reappeared in 1993 after a complete reconstruction and restoration by Dallas real estate developer and race car collector Mitchell Rasansky. The gleaning Miller is finished in black and silver with red wheels which is reminiscent of the livery it carried in the 1929 Indianapolis 500-mile race.  

Gwenda's affair with W. Douglas Hawkes finally resulted in Neil Stewart divorcing her and a third marriage in 1937 to Hawkes. The pair returned to England and ran the Brooklands Engineering Company Limited which manufactured and supplied engine parts to racers. Hawkes and Stewart later retired to the Greek islands, where Douglas died in 1974 at age 80 and Gwenda passed away in 1990 at age 96.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Racing at Indiana’s Lake Manitou Fairgrounds

Allen Brown’s comprehensive reference book The History of America's Speedways: Past and Present lists two ½-mile dirt oval tracks from the past located in the vicinity of the north central town Indiana town of Rochester.  

The Rochester Fairgrounds ½-mile track which operated during 1922 was the track where Hall of Fame racer Ira Hall began his racing career, according to an interview with Hall published in the May 21 1958 edition of the Terre Haute Star newspaper.   The second entry in the Brown book is the Rochester Speedway which operated from July 4 1927 to September 9 1934 and was the site of Ted Hartley’s first victory in a ‘big car’ in the inaugural race.

After conducting research which included the use of the resources of the Fulton County (Indiana) Library, specifically the Fulton County Handbook written by Wendell and John Tombaugh, the author is convinced that these two speedways listed in Brown’s book were in fact the same race track operated at different times by different promoters.   

The track was featured part of the eponymous fairgrounds built on the northwestern shore of Lake Manitou, a man-made lake created from three smaller spring-fed lakes with the construction of a dam.  The low dam was built in the eighteen twenties by the United States government to fulfill a treaty with the Potowatomi (alternately spelled Pottawatomie) tribe to build a corn grist mill near the lake outlet.
Local legend holds that the Potowatomi called the one of smaller original lakes “Man-I-Toe” translated as “Lake of Great Spirits” due to the tribe’s belief that a supernatural  serpent monster named ‘Meshekenabek’ lived in the lake.  The basis of the legend may have been uncovered when workers who surveyed the 55-foot deep lake prior to the construction of the grist mill reported their sighting of a 30-foot dark-colored monster fish with a long neck and a horse-like head.   
A historic post card shows the Lake Manitou dam
After the mill was abandoned around the turn of the twentieth century, in the decade of the nineteen twenties, Lake Manitou became a vacation destination. The area featured a number of resort hotels and the Long Beach Amusement Park and billed itself as “Indiana’s Summer Playground.”

In 1924 the Fulton County Agricultural and Mechanical Society, operators of the original fairgrounds encountered some unknown financial setbacks after nearly 50 years of operation and entered receivership.  A January 1925 auction of the rights to the property failed to garner a bid sufficient to “liquidate the indebtedness of the Association.” In February 1925 a group of 98 citizens of Rochester each put up $100 apiece to purchase shares in a new corporation known as the Manitou Fair and Athletic Club which was incorporated later in 1925.

The new corporation paid off the previous debts and took control of the Fairgrounds located on 35 acres of Tim Baker’s farm on the northwest side of the lake.  In April 1925, it was announced that a committee headed by Norman Stoner and Howard DuBois was in charge of construction of a new half-mile race track.
Days later, it was revealed that a second committee led by John McClung and Frank McCarter had been appointed to oversee the construction of a new 1,500 seat grandstand “with concrete steps.”  In July 1922 with the cost of building the track and structures estimated to total $16,000, the Rochester Sentinel reported that “it is expected the race track grandstand and fences will be erected as soon as possible.”

The Fulton County Fair first used the new race track which the Sentinel described as “magnificent” in August 1923, not for automobile racing but for horse harness racing which was sanctioned by the Rochester Driving Club.  During October 1924 Lady Patch, a local yearling brown filly who was the daughter of the famed Dan Patch, set a new American Trotting Association 1- mile record of 2 minutes at 18 ¼ seconds on the Rochester half-mile course.   The Lake Manitou Fairgrounds track was unusual in that was a “true” half-mile track which actually measured 2,640 feet when measured at a distance of four feet from the outer guardrail.

The grounds suffered severe damage from a tornado that struck on the afternoon of March 10 1925 as the storm leveled several stock barns and sheds, destroyed long expanses of fencing and left “the chairs in the big grandstand shattered and plied up.”  Later in March it was announced that during 1925 season the Lake Manitou Fair and Athletic Grounds would host a series of Sunday automobile races. The auto races were just one of several new additions to the 1925 schedule which also included rodeos, gun contests and greyhound races as the Association tried to recoup the storm repair losses.

The Interstate Racing Association (IRA) a group led by racer Herbert Marrow of South Bend Indiana had leased the grounds for the 1925 season of motorcycle and automobile racing programs at a cost of $1,200.   The IRA which reportedly had operated a track in Benton Harbor Michigan the previous season and claimed to operate tracks at LaPorte, Elkhart and Valparaiso Indiana installed ‘Doc’ Essex as the Rochester track manager.

The IRA’s first scheduled race on the Manitou Fairgrounds track was set to begin at noon on Sunday May 17, 1925 with time trials followed by three races - a three-mile race, a ten- mile race and the 25-mile feature.  A week before the races, noted Hoosier dirt track racer Chauncey “Chance” Kinsley visited the facility and after he saw the “high-banked “ half-mile track Kinsley the track record holder at Hoosier Motor Speedway boldly predicted to the Logansport Morning Press that he would establish a new record with his Frontenac racer. 

Besides Kinsley, the May 17 entry list which IRA promised would top twenty cars included entries from Indianapolis based racers Arthur “Fuzzy” Davidson and future Indianapolis 500-miles race competitors  Joe Huff and Charles “Dutch” Bauman. The City of Chicago was represented by drivers Harry Nichols and Jay Brook, while Harold ‘Hal’ Morine, Bill Platner and Charles Valenski came from South Bend. Defending the honor of Rochester was local garage man Harold “Bill” Masterson with his race car powered by a Ford engine fitted with a Frontenac head.

Race day May 17th dawned chilly and breezy, but the 2,000 hardy fans that showed up watched as Kinsley partially back up his published boast as he posted the fastest qualifying time of the 14 entries but his fastest lap was completed in 32 seconds flat, far off the existing half-mile track record.  The day’s first racing event was the three-car three-mile “match race” for the three fastest cars driven by Kinsley, second qualifier Howard Wilcox (II) who had timed in at 32.1 seconds and Wilbur Shaw, whose qualifying time was recorded at 32.3 seconds. Wilcox won the short six-lap race trailed by Shaw and Kinsley as the three Frontenacs finished the three-mile dash in just over three a half minutes. 

In the day’s second racing event, the 10-mile race for the nine fastest cars, Wilcox again emerged victorious, this time winning over Charles “Dutch” Baumann with Kinsley in third place, after Shaw failed to finish after spun out as he tried to pass Wilcox for the lead. Wilcox then swept the racing program with his victory in the 25-mile (50 laps) finale which featured fourteen starters with Kinsley in second place as once again Shaw spun himself out of contention when he tried to pass Wilcox for the lead.

The next scheduled race at the Lake Manitou Fairgrounds was held June 14, 1925, with featured entries from Floyd Shawhan and Clarence ‘Curley’ Young, as well as Wilcox, Shaw, Platner, Davidson, and Huff.  We do not yet know the results of the three races which were 5, 10 and 20 miles in length, but an article indicated that ‘Howdy’ Wilcox set the new track record at 30 and 2/5 seconds in time trials.  More significantly this event was touched by two fatalities unrelated to the racing program. 

Harlan Thompson, a Rochester stationary engine fireman reportedly felt ill for a few days prior but he still attended the races with a group of six friends. The group parked their automobile on the north side of the race track and used the car as their vantage point for the races. At approximately 5:30 PM just before the start of the last race of the afternoon, the 20-mile feature, Thompson suddenly collapsed. 
His friends administered first aid while they sped towards the Woodlawn Hospital in Rochester where doctors attempted to revive Thompson “with a hypodermic,” but were unsuccessful. Following an autopsy Thompson’s official cause of death was listed as “sudden and acute dilation of the heart brought about by the dust and heat.”

The grand finale of the day’s program, held after the last race of the day was a double parachute drop from a balloon which was tethered at an altitude of 2,200 feet above the fairgrounds. After the men set off bombs to preface their exciting leap, at around 6:30 PM the first parachutist, Jack Trumbell from South Bend left the basket and began his descent trailing smoke.

Perhaps three seconds later, the second jumper James M Stewart leapt from his perch, also trailing smoke, but his parachute failed to open. Stewart a 26-year old World War I veteran with 19 months of service overseas had previously performed similar jumps at the Long Beach Amusement Park, plummeted past his partner at a dizzying speed and struck the ground while Trumbell was still an estimated  200 feet aloft.

Many in the crowd appeared unaware of the tragedy, as they perhaps believed that the second jumper’s fast plunge was a part of the act but of course this was not the case.  Stewart’s father was the first rescuer to reach the stricken man who was found lying on his back deep in the mud at the edge of Lake Manitou. A group of men dragged Stewart’s body out of the mud and loaded him into an automobile which rushed towards Woodlawn Hospital, where he was pronounced dead upon arrival.  
In the parking lot of the hospital, Stewart’s distraught youngest brother, Arthur, drew a pistol and threatened suicide before the other surviving Stewart brother, Fred, disarmed him.   In a post mortem examination the Cass County Coroner C B Hiatt found the right side of James Stewart’s chest crushed and that he had suffered a shattered left leg and broken neck.
The car and driver shown in the photo with
 this advertisement is Chance Kinsley
photographed during May 1925.
Unfortunately when this ad appeared,
Kinsley had been killed in an accident
at Roby Speedway June 7 1925

Prior the races scheduled for Saturday July 4 and Sunday July 5 promoter Herbert Marrow predicted to a local newspaper that records would fall as he had received entries from “Speed” Crouch, Shaw, Wilcox and Valenski as well as two entries from Green Engineering of Dayton, Ohio one of which was supercharged. Interestingly the article in the July 3 edition of the Kokomo Tribune noted that “to insure the minimum of dust workmen have been employed to heavily coat the surface with salt before the sprinkling process.”

A 100-mile race with a massive $2,500 purse scheduled for the Lake Manitou fairgrounds track on Sunday August 9 1925 was cancelled on August 3 by Horace Reed, President of the Lake Manitou Fairgrounds Association.   This action came after Indiana Governor Edward L. Jackson stopped Sunday auto racing at Winchester and Kokomo after he received petitions from citizens of those communities and Reed learned of a similar drive in Rochester.  At the time, the Indiana “blue law” prohibited the staging of professional sporting events on Sunday, but the law had been frequently overlooked as far as automobile racing was concerned.  Reed stated that in the future racing at the Lake Manitou Fairgrounds would only be held on holidays through the week.  

Advance publicity for the next on race Labor Day Monday September 7 1925 touted the appearance of ‘Howdy’ Wilcox and the promotor’s invitation to Indiana Governor Edward Jackson to act as the race’s honorary referee. The race itself was a fiasco, as the following day’s Peru Tribune described the event as “a farce which was advertised as an auto race.”  The Huntington Herald reported that “Edward Speer of Roanoke who paid $2 Monday to see ‘forty-four sporting automobiles for 100 miles’ actually saw four alleged speed machines take the track was so disgusted that he has filed charges of obtaining money under false pretenses against Herbert Marrow promoter of the races.”  

The track’s new promoter for the 1926 season Harold “Hal” Morine from South Bend Indiana scheduled the first of a series of races sponsored by the Fair Association for Monday May 31 with twenty-five “guaranteed” cars entered according to Morine. Two of the featured entries listed in the article in the Logansport Morning Press included Morine himself, who it was (falsely) reported “raced Stutz cars at Indianapolis five years ago” and Bill Broadbeck, reported as “fully recovered from a broken neck suffered last season.”  The article noted that among the five events was “a five-lap dual event, each car taking opposite courses on the track. In this event, each car passes the other twice a lap.” 

Both the 10- and 50-mile 1926 July 5th holiday races promoted by the Lake Manitou Fair Association were captured by racer “Happy” Edwards from the tiny town of Windfall Indiana near Kokomo. Edwards won $460 of the overall $1000 purse posted for the nine-car program. Edwards finished the 10 mile distance in twelve minutes and two seconds (just less than 50 miles per hour (MPH) average speed), and took the checkered flag for the fifty mile race at an average speed just short of 45 MPH.  The program with an admission price of $1.10 also featured a musical performance by Martin’s Pirates from the Colonial Terrace Gardens Hotel.

“Happy,” the son of Windfall Buick garage owner Thomas Edwards had raced previously but he became much more successful after he purchased the Orr & Wolford Chevrolet Special in late May 1926 after the car’s regular driver Guy Orr was injured in a crash at Kokomo on May 10 and briefly retired. Edwards followed up his Rochester successes with wins in five and fifteen-mile races at Fairmount Speedway on Labor Day 1926. Edwards closed the 1926 season in October as one of five cars at his hometown Kleyla Speedway but blew up the engine during the feature which apparently ended his racing career.  Edwards whom newspaper later reported as “resembling a stratosphere balloon,” briefly owned a Ford ‘V-8 60’ midget race car but sold it at an auction during 1946.

The annual Lake Manitou (Fulton County) Fair held annually in August continued to be a “losing proposition” and the Manitou Fair and Athletic Club Incorporated was unable to recover from the losses incurred from the 1925 tornado damage.  In May 1927, Tim Baker, the owner of the fair property claimed the group was two years in arrears on rent.  Through the years the Fair group had invested over $30,000 in improvements which included over 100 stables, pig and poultry sheds, and wells and pumps in addition to race track, judges stand, grandstand and 1,000 seat bleachers.  Baker offered to sell the group the property for $7,000 but when that deal failed to materialize, he leased the property for 1927 to a “South Bend man” (Hal Morine) for automobile races.

“Square Shooting” Hal Morine promoted the races at the Rochester oval during the 1927 season under the banner of his Northern Indiana and Southern Michigan Racing Association (NISMRA).  A newspaper advertisement in the Kokomo Tribune prior to the Sunday July 31 1927 race stated that a “Morine promoted race means satisfaction,” and challenged readers to “ask those who saw events at Manitou July 3 and 4.” The ad also stated “Track is oiled- no more dust” and that “Morine cut admission to 75 cents with autos parked free.” 

After he had presented a single race at the Lake Manitou Fairgrounds in September 1927 Harry Bricker of Fort Wayne Indiana who operated the Bricker Auto Racing Association Inc. leased the grounds for the 1928 season. Bricker who ran the company together with his wife and son Harry Junior promised to present “at least” five racing programs during the summer which was kicked off by a race scheduled for June 10 1928.  

There were published reports of races at Rochester held on Decoration Day in May 1929 and 1930, but thus far the author has been unable to uncover the entry lists or the results of those races, the identity of the promoter or the schedule for those seasons.  

In the spring of 1931, Harry Bricker purchased the fairgrounds property outright from Baker and named it the Lake Manitou Speedway. Bricker’s first race as the owner was scheduled for July 19 1931 after “men and tractors reconditioned the track” and “several thousand gallons of oil” was placed on the track surface.  Bricker relocated to Rochester where he was “well and favorably known for the past five year, having had supervision of racing at the local speedway for the past five years except for the two years when his services were centered on the management of racing at Fort Wayne. “

The five-race season 1931 opener on May 17 featured wins recorded by Emil Andres, Beuford ‘Doc’ Shanebrook and Sherman ‘Red’ Campbell, while four drivers were injured in crashes – Charles William, Fred Little, and Wesley Gail were slightly hurt, but Ed Lewis a driver from Indianapolis reportedly received critical injuries after his race car hit the fence and overturned in front of the grandstand. Research revealed that the May 24 1931 program drew 2000 fans, and that Bricker staged at least five other races during the 1931 season which included Sunday events on July 19, August 23, September 6 and October 25.

The Manitou Speedway 1932 season opened under new management by American Speedway Attractions on Sunday May 15 with a “banner event” run on an elimination format. Time trials were scheduled for 10 AM with cars that timed slower than 33 seconds for a lap around the half-mile track eliminated. The program consisted of five preliminary races to further pare down the field for the 25-mile feature race.  As later reported in the Culver (Indiana) Citizen, it was a “sensational meet that ended with five bad accidents.”  The “National Dirt Track Auto Championship” race at the Manitou Speedway was scheduled for Sunday May 29 and Monday May 30 1932 with two days of “auto and air races” which included parachute jumps with the tragic event of seven years earlier apparently forgotten. 

When the track known as ‘Rochester Speedway’ closed after the September 9 1934 race won by local driver Don Donaldson, ownership of the property eventually reverted back to its original owner.  Farmer Tim Baker later converted the grandstand into a barn to store hay for his livestock until it was destroyed by an arson fire several years later. Baker sold the property south of Indiana Highway 14 west of Lake Manitou to a contractor/developer in 1945 and today the site of the former Lake Manitou race track site is a residential housing tract known as Manitou Heights.  

The author encourages any readers who have additional information regarding early automobile racing on the Lake Manitou Fairgrounds half-mile track to contact him at kevracerhistory@aol.com

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Douglas Hawkes at Indianapolis 

Part two – 1926

In 1926, Wallace Douglas Hawkes, the Bentley engineer who drove in the 1922 Indianapolis ‘500,’ lived in France and worked with wealthy amateur racer Sir Ernest Arthur Douglas Eldridge.

Eldridge, born to a wealthy English family, lived part time in France, did not look the part of a racer – he was stoutly built and wore eyeglasses. After his service as a Major in the French Army during World War One he owned a number of special race cars that he raced at the famed 2-3/4 mile high-banked Brooklands track an hour southwest of London. Eldridge became best known through his ownership of the engineering monstrosity known as ‘Mephistopheles,’ named after a demon from German folklore.

‘Mephistopheles’ began life as a 1908 Fiat 18-liter racer that literally blew up its engine during a 1922 race at Brooklands and crashed. Eldridge bought the remains and extended the frame rails to accept a massive Fiat A12 World War One surplus aircraft engine. The A12, an inline six cylinder engine displaced an incredible 1325 cubic inches, and while it produced a reported 250 horsepower, it stood nearly 45 inches tall and weighed over 900 pounds. A four-speed transmission fed dual chain drive that transmitted the power to the rear axle.

Eldridge debuted the two-ton car which used drum brakes on the rear wheels only at the Brooklands 2-3/4 mile steeply banked concave concrete oval in October 1923 and set new records. In July Eldridge and ‘Mephistopheles’ traveled to Arpajon, France to attempt to set a world’s land speed record in a meet held on a closed public roadway. Eldridge was opposed by 1914 Indianapolis 500 champion Rene Thomas who drove the six-cylinder 305-cubic inch powered iteration of the Delage DF “torpedo.”

It was clear that ‘Mephistopheles’ was faster, but the French team protested that the monster lacked a reverse gear as required by the rules and officials disqualified Eldridge’s run. Thomas’ run with the Delage with an average speed of 143.31 miles per hour (MPH) thus was recognized as the new world’s land speed record.  

Six days later, on July 12 1924 Eldridge returned to Arpajon with ‘Mephistopheles’ fitted with a rudimentary reverse mechanism and accompanied by riding mechanic John Ames (who was not required by rule) set a new world record of 145.90 MPH. Eldridge’s new record stood for less than three months as Malcolm Campbell set a new record of 146.16 MPH on September 25 1924 on Pendine Beach in Wales in a car that he called ‘Blue Bird’ powered by a 350-horsepower 1116 cubic inch Sunbeam V-12 aircraft engine.

In early October 1924 Eldridge had one final outing with ‘Mephistopheles’ on the 1.58-mile steeply banked concrete L’autodrome de Linas-Montlhéry oval near Montlhéry France. In a six-lap match race against John Godfrey Parry-Thomas’ eight-cylinder Leyland in the track’s inaugural event, Eldridge and his massive Fiat who out as he averaged over 121 MPH. The pair met again in the same machines at Montlhéry in May 1925, and this time Eldridge and ‘Mephistopheles’ retired with a blown rear tire while Parry-Thomas averaged 126 MPH over the six laps. It remains unclear if these were actual head-to-head competitions or single car runs.

As an interesting addendum to this story, Parry-Thomas took the worlds land speed record from Campbell at the end of April 1926. Parry-Thomas drove a car he called ‘Babs’ powered by an American 27-litre Liberty V-12 aircraft engine at 171.02 MPH on the same beach that had been used by Campbell. On February 4 1927 Campbell recaptured the record at 174.224 MPH in the ‘Napier-Campbell Blue Bird’ powered by a 900 horsepower 1460-cubic inch displacement Napier Lion W-12 aircraft engine that used three banks of four cylinders each that shared a common crankcase.

On March 3 1927 Parry-Thomas crashed the revised version of ‘Babs’ during his attempt to recapture the land speed record crown and was killed in a gruesome accident. After a coroner’s inquest was held that resulted in a finding of accidental death, the wreckage of ‘Babs’ was buried on the beach, but after 42 years the remains were unearthed and ‘Babs’ was restored.

In 1925, Ernest Eldridge commissioned two special racing cars, designed with Hawkes’ help, which were built at the Anzani engine works in Paris. One car, designed for road course racing, sported a two-seater body, but the mechanic's seat could be faired over. The second car, a single seater intended for record attempts stood only 31 inches tall at the cowling. Both cars used a 108-inch wheelbase chassis with the belly pan riveted to the chassis rails as a stressed member.

Both the new cars used the same advanced 4-cylinder 91-cubic inch Anzani engine which featured two valves per cylinder operated by twin chain-driven camshafts.  The intake side featured a single Solex carburetor and an aluminum case British-built Berk supercharger. With 5.2:1 compression ratio the engine reportedly delivered 122 horsepower at 5600 revolutions per minute (RPM).

Eldridge used one (it is unclear which) of his new “specials” to set multiple new Class E (91-1/2 cubic inch displacement engine) records at the Montlhéry oval in late 1925. Ernest raised the 10-mile record on three occasions finally setting the record at 121.5 MPH, and he also reset the one hour, 1000 kilometer (KM), 1500 KM, 2000 KM and 1000 mile speed standards.

The Chicago Tribune reported on May 2 1926 that Ernest Eldridge “the English sportsman” and “a young man of independent means” had entered a pair of cars for the 14th running of the 500-mile International Sweepstakes. Although the article noted the cars were built in Pairs it referred to Eldridge’s effort as the first “all British” entry since 1922.  Eldridge would handle the two-seater machine, while W. Douglas Hawkes the driver in the 1922 British effort was assigned to drive the low-slung single seater. The Tribune article stated that the cars were due to arrive in Indianapolis on May 10.

E A D Eldridge in the "two seater" Eldridge Special at Indianapolis in 1926
Photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Collection at the Center for Digital Studies at the IUPUI University Library

The cars both featured suspension system that used half-elliptic springs on all four wheels along with drum brakes at each wheel. While both cars featured a rounded nosepiece that enclosed the radiator and oil cooler, the single seater sat much lower, with the driver fully enclosed inside the cockpit with the steering shaft running horizontally. At Indianapolis, both cars were photographed with Rudge Whitworth wire wheels shod with Dunlop tires, although press reports indicated the cars were fitted with Duesenberg rims to accommodate Firestone tires.

W D Hawkes in the single seater Eldridge Special at Indianapolis in 1926
Photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Collection at the Center for Digital Studies at the IUPUI University Library

Reports suggest that the cars may not have arrived in Indianapolis until much later than anticipated accompanied by three mechanics - James Ames, Jean Orves, and Luke Lucas. The delay in arrival apparently did not negatively affect the effort, as Hawkes qualified his unpainted #27 machine on the second day of time trials May 28 with four-lap average speed of 94.97 MPH. Eldridge was one of six drivers that qualified on the third day in his #26 machine with a four-lap average speed of 89.77 MPH.  While the two “Eldridge Specials” were far from the slowest machines in the field, there qualifying runs were several miles per hour slower than the 28-car starting field’s 100.19 MPH average.

The 500-mile race was a surely a disappointment for the English team, as both machines were eliminated by mechanical failure before the halfway point of the race. Eldridge’s car was parked with 45 laps completed with a either a broken steering knuckle or a broken tie-rod. On lap 57 the team called Hawkes into the pits and Eldridge took the wheel of the low-slung #27. Shortly after it returned to the race, the car blew a tire on lap 73 and spun three complete loops. Eldridge managed to avoid hitting anything, returned to the pits for fresh tires and turned the car back to Hawkes, with the car was retired for good on lap 91 with a “frozen camshaft.”

Both the Eldridge Specials were entered for the next race on the AAA (American Automobile Association) championship circuit held June 12 at the high-banked 1-1/4 mile wooden oval outside Altoona Pennsylvania. In this era, long before teams traveled form race to race in semi-tractor trucks with enclosed self-contained transporters, race cars were shipped between race tracks in railroad boxcars.

Frank Elliott’s Miller which had finished sixth at Indianapolis arrived at Altoona on June 7, and Elliott was already on track practicing when a group of thirteen cars including the two Eldridge Specials arrived in rail cars on Thursday morning June 8, with the balance of the machines due to arrive later that afternoon. The two British-built cars the only foreign built cars entered at Altoona were described by the writer in the Altoona Mirror as “peculiar in construction” and “odd looking.”

Under threatening skies on the morning of the race neither Eldridge nor Hawkes turned laps fast enough to make the 17-car starting field.  A huge crowd had turned out to watch the 250-mile racing program and a pre-race stunt flying exhibition by former Army Air Service captain Harry Yost. After completion of a loop, the airplane’s engine quit and after a few moments of drama, Yost crashed into the ground from a height of 30 feet directly in front of the main grandstand. Yost was able to walk away from the crash which demolished the airplane to the emergency hospital in the infield where he was treated for a “bad cut on his chin.”

Thirty minutes later, AAA long-time starter Fred Wagner waved the green flag which turned the field loose and Ralph DePalma led the first fifty-two laps at an average speed of 115 MPH. The veteran pitted which turned the lead over to Harry Hartz who held the point for 15 laps before he yielded to Elliott. The #6 Miller which Elliott owned built up nearly a half a lap lead before it faded late in the race. Dave Lewis caught and passed leader Norm Batten led the last two circuits and won the race with an average speed of over 112 MPH as he edged Batten by just four seconds. 

Both the Eldridge machines were entered for the 200-mile ‘Independence Day Classic’ scheduled for Monday July 5, at the 1-1/4 mile wooden Rockingham Speedway in Salem New Hampshire. 27 cars were entered for the 18-car field after one powerful threat, the 1926 Indianapolis ‘500’ winner Frank Lockhart, was disqualified by the AAA Contest Board.

Prior to his surprising victory on Decoration Day, Lockhart had committed to race in the sixth annual ‘Speed Classic of the South’ held in Abilene Texas a race promoted by AAA Southwest supervisor D. H. Jefferies.  When Lockhart tried to back out of his Abilene commitment, Jefferies asked the AAA Contest Board to intervene. The Board ruled that Lockhart had to honor his original commitment and enforced the ruling by disqualifying his entry for the Salem board track race although he was third in AAA points at the time, trailing Harry Hartz and Peter DePaolo.   

During time trials on July 4 Jack Foley a young 25-year old British émigré who lived in suburban Boston crashed to his death in a supercharged Duesenberg owned by pioneer-era driver Jack LeCain who was also the general manager of the Rockingham Speedway.  After taking four warm-up laps, on the fifth lap the Duesenberg swerved up to the track into the guardrail then rolled down the banking of the track which crushed Foley.
Jack Foley at Indianapolis in 1926
Photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Collection at the Center for Digital Studies at the IUPUI University Library

Foley had made his name a few seasons earlier behind the wheel of his own Model T based Frontenac–Ford racer with a win in an “All Ford” race held in conjunction with the Labor Day “New England Championship Race” on the 1-mile dirt oval in Readville Massachusetts. A period photograph of Foley and his car are contained in Don Radbruch’s book Dirt Track Auto Racing.

Foley had been entered in LeCain’s car for the 1926 Indianapolis 500-mile race but failed to qualify, and had made his first board track appearance just weeks before the accident at Altoona Pennsylvania. Buried in Lowell Massachusetts, Foley was another a sorry victim of the dangerous board track racing era, a time when there was no intermediate training ground between dirt tracks and the brutally fast board tracks.

Neither of the Eldridge cars was fast enough to make the starting field for the July 5th race at Rockingham and by the next race on the AAA schedule on July 17, Ernest Eldridge had purchased a supercharged 91-1/5 cubic inch Miller, chassis number 2307, from Harry Hartz.

The three year old car originally built as a “Durant/Miller” for the 122-cubic inches rules had a bit of a wicked history as it was the car driven by Hartz on Thanksgiving Day 1923 at the Beverly Hills board track that struck three men and killed two of them – 20 year old photographer Russell Hughes and sportsman and Harlan Fengler’s car owner George Wade. A Duesenberg team mechanic Jimmy Lee was also struck and suffered a broken right leg.  Lee recovered and three years later won the 1926 Indianapolis 500-mile race as Frank Lockhart’s mechanic.

The accident occurred after AAA starter Fred Wagner gave Hartz permission to make a test lap after Hartz had reported carburetor trouble. This approval came although the balance of the starting field was still lined up on the front straightaway with a group of men milling around the cars.

Hartz later told the International News Service (INS) reporter “I shifted gears and slowed down as I came into the stretch In front of the grandstand. I saw the other cars ahead of me. I could do one of two things hit the cars or make for an opening. I tried for an opening. I had understood that the upper part or the track was to have been cleared for me to pass.”

As he rolled past the crowd on the high side of the banked wooden straightaway Hartz’ car struck the three men.  Wade was reportedly thrown one hundred feet by the speeding car and died at a hospital an hour later, while Hughes was killed instantly. Witnesses testimony varied widely; Hartz estimated his speed at the time to be 50 MPH, while Wagner estimated Hartz’ speed as 110 MPH, and Hartz’  car owner Cliff Durant estimated the speed to be 70 MPH.  Hartz claimed that “I may have been doing 100 miles an hour on the back stretch but I wasn't going that fast when the accident took place.”

Hartz told the INS reporter “I didn't know I hit Lee and did not see Wade but I saw the photographer when he loomed in my path." Some witnesses claimed that the young photographer had darted into Hartz’ path in an attempt to get a photograph of the fire that had broken out under Joe Boyer’s car, while other claimed that Hughes was standing on a wooden chair.  Allegedly when the film in Hughes’ battered camera was developed the subject of the last photo taken by Hughes was a smiling Harry Hartz. After the accident, a distraught Hartz understandably withdrew from the race, so only 15 cars started the race won by Bennett Hill.

With the differing eyewitness accounts, the Los Angeles County Sherriff’s department investigated the twin fatalities. Hartz claimed the next day in questioning by Undersheriff Eugene W. Biscailuz that Wagner had given him permission to turn a couple of test laps, while Wagner claimed that he had warned Hartz to stop behind the cars which were lined up on the straightaway.  

At the coroner’s inquest held on December 1 the jury returned a verdict that the accident was “unavoidable.” While Hartz was criticized in the testimony of some witnesses “for the speed with which he circled the track” it was also brought out that the two men killed were on the track “against orders from speedway officials.” In an editorial in the December 2 edition of the Bakersfield Morning Echo headlined “Harry Hartz did his best at the track,” the writer stated that “those present say boy did not a chance to do anything different.”   One shudders to imagine the consequences if such a tragedy occurred today.

The Miller was repaired after the crash and driven by Hartz for Cliff Durant throughout the 1924 AAA season and he finished sixth in season points. For the1925 season Hartz became his own car owner added a supercharger and finished third in championship points. The Miller was rebuilt by Hartz again to meet the new formula rules for 1926.

The revamped car was driven by rookie Tony Gulotta to an eleventh place finish at Indianapolis and a seventh place at Rockingham by Wade Morton. With Hartz as the driver and owner, the Miller won two races and notched sixteen top five finishes. With Eldridge behind the wheel at Atlantic City, the grey #31 Miller broke a valve on the tenth lap of the first forty-lap heat race and was finished for the day. Meanwhile in the Eldridge single-seater, Hawkes once again failed to qualify for the starting field.

The three Eldridge machines were shipped back to Europe, with the two Anzani-powered specials having made no impact on American oval racing. In four race appearances the cars had qualified at Indianapolis but retired early and won a combined $1051 then failed to qualify in three subsequent board track appearances.  

Upon its arrival in Europe later in July the Eldridge Miller was rebuilt to its original 122 cubic inch engine displacement configuration used by Ernest to set new Class E records at the Montlhéry oval with the five mile distance covered at an average speed of 140.6 MPH and ten kilometers at 140.2 MPH. At the end of December 1926, Ernest Eldridge and the Miller reset Class E records for 50 KM, 50 miles, 100 KM, 100 miles and one hour, all in high 120 MPH range.

Eldridge returned to Montlhéry in February 1927 with the Miller engine rebuilt to 91-1/2 cubic inches, crashed in his attempt and was seriously injured.  The engine and transmission of the former Hartz Miller car was later used to power the “Lea-Francis Miller” record car and is today reportedly owned by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum according the Michael Ferner who traced the history of the car.

After he recovered from his injuries, Eldridge, who had lost vision in one eye in the 1927 accident, continued to pursue records. In 1929 he and British driver/engineer Don Kay set a 71 MPH Class C 24-hour record at Montlhery in a 1929 six-cylinder 250-cubic inch Chrysler convertible stripped of its top, windshield and fenders. 

In 1930 Eldridge teamed with British driver/engineer George Eyston to attempt to set a new 1000-mile, 24 hour and 48 hour records at Montlhery in a class G Riley Nine roadster but their attempt came up short on speed. Later, Eldridge served as Eyston’s team manager for several world land speed record attempts. After Eyston set a new mark of 345.50 MPH at Bonneville Utah in the twin Rolls-Royce V-12 engine powered ‘Thunderbolt’ in August 1937, Eldridge became ill during the trip home and died in England at age 40 on October 27 1937.   

In the last installment of the Douglas Hawkes story we will review his final trip to Indianapolis in 1929.