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The Mickey Thompson 'Sears Allstate Special' cars of 1964


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#101 McGuire

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Posted 18 August 2007 - 13:19

Personally, I don't think it makes any difference at all in the larger scheme of things if a part failed. It's an interesting historical speculation, nothing more. We can presume the car had some technical difficulties in any event.

The larger point is: Dave MacDonald has done nothing that requires any exoneration. This is racing, it happens. He was a talented and courageous guy doing his thing to the best of his ability. I feel the same way about Mickey Thompson. Not to get totally saccharine about what was truly a horrible tragedy, but if there is a racers' heaven MacDonald and Thompson are sharing a beer with Eddie Sachs right now.

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#102 David M. Kane

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Posted 18 August 2007 - 15:38

The more I read the more I don't like what I'm hearing about tires.

#103 HistoricMustang

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Posted 18 August 2007 - 17:18

From this time period does anyone recall any converstion or written material that mentions possible electrical fire before the accident?

Just a simple question gentlemen!

The phone call to Donald Davidson will be made.

Mike, I am sorry the book has not yet been read. My slowness and my shortcomings.

Henry

#104 GeorgeTheCar

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Posted 18 August 2007 - 18:00

I am mainly concerned with the 3" change in wheel diameter in its effect on ride height and suspension geometry. It's not likely this considerable change could be corrected back to nominal with the chassis' normal range of adjustments, while the camber and toe curves would be severely altered in the process. Also, the cars ran halfshafts both front and rear to accommodate inboard brake rotors (made necessary by the tiny 12" wheels) and they would have to be straightened out as well. Basically, I presume one would have to saw all the suspension hard points off the chassis and then fabricate and weld on new mountings 1.5" higher on the chassis. At that point one may as well scrap the space frame and start over -- it would probably be easier. I don't know if that was done or not, or really what was done to accommodate the unanticipated change. It has been often reported that the 1964 cars were the 1963 cars, simply reskinned. Is that strictly true? I don't know. Many questions...

McGuire

In addition the taller tires could have messed with the aerodynamics. In 1963 aerodynamics was mostly about streamlining, an intuitive process, all about minimizing drag.

Jim Hall was just at the point where he was beginning to add pieces to limit the flow of air underneath the car. He certainly wasn't sharing his knowledge. Bruce McLaren was 24 months away from cutting nostrils in his cars to reduce air pressure under the car from the radiators.

The speeds were rising, wider tires were adding traction in the corners but aero was still just about speed. I was an Indy novice at the time but don't remember downforce being as much of an issue there was in sports cars

Looking at the pictures of the car the centerline of the nose is pretty high, just about perfect for packing air under the car and producing lift.

As noted elsewhere the car was manageable by itself but in traffic, it was a different regime. One of the pictures just before the crash shows the car at about 45 degrees to the track. It is kind of reminiscent of Gordon Smiley. Get Lift, lose traction, get sideways, kill the lift, regain the traction but now headed toward the wall. Hard hit!

#105 Buford

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Posted 18 August 2007 - 23:19

Originally posted by McGuire

The larger point is: Dave MacDonald has done nothing that requires any exoneration. This is racing, it happens. He was a talented and courageous guy doing his thing to the best of his ability. I feel the same way about Mickey Thompson.


I feel the same way. They were crazy bastards tiptoeing on the fringes of physics and knowledge. The drivers were test drivers for the unknown. That is how it was always portrayed to the civilians. They justified the carnage as being testing the limits for mankind's benefit and eventual automotive innovation. Sure it was all bullshit. Well most of it. But I sure miss those days when racing was heart in throat and not fingers pinching nose, like today. When they really were in the unknown.

#106 ovfi

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Posted 18 August 2007 - 23:42

McGuire, the reason I suspected the 15" wheels increased torsional loadings is that the larger diameter wheels increased the leverage arm length, so the momentum at the chassis inertia center, which is the product of the centripetal force at the tire times the leverage arm length, increases too. As for the titanium its Young modulus is 40-45% lower than steel, the same chassis made of steel has almost the double of the torsional stiffness. I think they made a big mistake using titanium, maybe they were seduced by its low weight with a very high tensile strength, which is almost the double of steel, and didn't checked the other properties.

I agree with your concerns about ride height and suspension geometry. As you said, "At that point one may as well scrap the space frame and start over -- it would probably be easier"; maybe it was the only solution that could really work. GeorgeTheCar also made good observations. Probably all these problems were occurring simultaneously, which made difficult the diagnosis.

Back to torsional stiffness, Jerry Entin posted Krause's testimony about '63 car:

Firestone was nervous about their use and made real hard rubber compounds for them. It showed! When they let go during practice at Indy, there was no warning. When I spun the car, I had no clue. It was just gone, no traction. Usually you have a little warning, but it was zero. I was straight and I was sideways. I spun in turn 1 and ended up in turn 2, never touching the brakes. And I wouldn't have hit anything if Roger McCluskey's roadster hadn't run into me...


I think Krause was blaming the hard tires for the car instability, but in 1974 I worked on a car that did exactly the same thing and, after trying everything (including softer tires, spoilers everywhere, etc) the problem persisted, we decided to weld some diagonal members to the chassis to increase stiffness, only because there was nothing more left to do and... the problem simply disappeared.
So, I'm wondering if Thompson's car could had a lack of stiffness since 1963, which was worsened in 1964, and this probably was adding to the problems you related...

I'll post, after I do a scan, a Jack Brady report in the august 1964 SCG magazine. After reading that I felt like they were totally lost in the car development...

#107 ovfi

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Posted 19 August 2007 - 02:21

Here is the Jack Brady report on Mickey Thompson's problems and the accident.

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#108 Seppi_0_917PA

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Posted 19 August 2007 - 03:22

Originally posted by Seppi_0_917PA

This photo is the same as:

http://albums.photo....9498&p=60746601

mentioned by Walter Zoomie in post #4. To me, it looks like a 1963 car, not a sister car to the #83.

"1963" - opps, that was a typo, I meant 1962.


Originally posted by Seppi_0_917PA

Henry: have you tried contacting Peter Bryant? He was in the crew for MacDonald in 1964 and has a new book out:

http://www.bullpubli...m.asp?itemid=94

Here's a picture of him with the car:

http://www.bullpubli...oks/Can-Am3.jpg

(Perhaps Bryant will be at the Monterey Historics this weekend—maybe a book signing at the David Bull booth?—and someone who is attending could ask him your questions?)

I bought Peter Bryant's book (CanAm Challenger, David Bull Publisher) yesterday. I skipped ahead to the chapters (roughly 30 pages) covering his experience of coming to America to work for the Micky Thompson team during April - May 1964. Fascinating to read how Bryant attacked the various engineering issues and to see the events from his point of view. Recommended reading for anyone interested in this thread.

btw, the white #84 car (crashed) in post #27 was not the titanium car. Bryant's book has a snapshot he took of the titanium car when it arrived back in the pits on the tow truck, it was the blue #82 car.

#109 Buford

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Posted 19 August 2007 - 03:30

My recollection was Masten crashed the titanium car. That is why Thompson was so angry.

#110 Seppi_0_917PA

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Posted 19 August 2007 - 03:42

Originally posted by Buford
My recollection was Masten crashed the titanium car. That is why Thompson was so angry.

Yes, Masten did crash the titanium car, then quit...
I haven't read anything about him crashing the white #84...I've only seen that picture in post #27.

#111 McGuire

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Posted 19 August 2007 - 10:53

Originally posted by ovfi
McGuire, the reason I suspected the 15" wheels increased torsional loadings is that the larger diameter wheels increased the leverage arm length, so the momentum at the chassis inertia center, which is the product of the centripetal force at the tire times the leverage arm length, increases too.


I am thinking more in terms of the raw forces due to the larger contact patch. If you take an old MG with its spindly ladder frame and bolt modern wide tires on it (of any diameter) suddenly the chassis has torsional issues the designers never dreamed of.

Originally posted by ovfi
As for the titanium its Young modulus is 40-45% lower than steel, the same chassis made of steel has almost the double of the torsional stiffness. I think they made a big mistake using titanium, maybe they were seduced by its low weight with a very high tensile strength, which is almost the double of steel, and didn't checked the other properties.


Quite so. There is a story in a '63 issue of Hot Rod featuring the '63 M/T cars including the titanium space frame. (Left it in my office at work so I can't tell you the month, sorry.) The description of the ti frame is pretty scary... they used .050" wall ti tubing, and the frame tubes also carried coolant from the engine to the radiator up front.

#112 McGuire

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Posted 19 August 2007 - 11:20

Originally posted by GeorgeTheCar
McGuire

In addition the taller tires could have messed with the aerodynamics.


By themselves the taller tires should produce only more drag, and symmetrically -- as long as the ride height could be restored. My concern is how they got the ride height back down to normal. For example, if one simply adjusts the ride height back down 1.5" to 2" with no other changes, now there is little or no bump travel left, which is a very tricky and unstable condition. When the chassis is near/on the bump stops, in roll, pitch or simple bump, one corner will suddenly go to near-infinite wheel rate and that end of the car will become unstuck, instantly and without warning.

Let me be clear: In no way do I know that is what happened here. This is just wide-open speculation on my part, reflecting on some of the issues that could have resulted from the change from the short to tall tires. One would assume that mindful of these problems, they also made other changes to accommodate the taller tire.

You mention Gordon Smiley... it is said that his car was adjusted down onto the bump rubbers more or less deliberately. That would be done to put the undertray right down on the deck to gain more downforce. So in this case the car is grippier as the ride height is progressively reduced, and then .030" too far on the adjustment and instantly the car comes unstuck... bam, into the wall. Smiley made the additional mistake of trying to chase the car up the track when the rear came loose. Should have just let it spin.

#113 HistoricMustang

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Posted 19 August 2007 - 12:29

Originally posted by McGuire


I am thinking more in terms of the raw forces due to the larger contact patch. If you take an old MG with its spindly ladder frame and bolt modern wide tires on it (of any diameter) suddenly the chassis has torsional issues the designers never dreamed of.



Quite so. There is a story in a '63 issue of Hot Rod featuring the '63 M/T cars including the titanium space frame. (Left it in my office at work so I can't tell you the month, sorry.) The description of the ti frame is pretty scary... they used .050" wall ti tubing, and the frame tubes also carried coolant from the engine to the radiator up front.


Does anyone have any documentation on when frame for the #83 (MacDonald) was initially constructed and how many laps (hours) on track it had experienced? How many times had it been "reskinned"?

Henry

#114 ovfi

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Posted 19 August 2007 - 16:39

Originally posted by McGuire
Quite so. There is a story in a '63 issue of Hot Rod featuring the '63 M/T cars including the titanium space frame. (Left it in my office at work so I can't tell you the month, sorry.) The description of the ti frame is pretty scary... they used .050" wall ti tubing, and the frame tubes also carried coolant from the engine to the radiator up front.


As for the tiny wall tubing carrying coolant I can't say nothing, because titanium is much stronger than steel, and is free from corrosion and fatigue. The property that makes it worst than steel for space frames is the elasticity or Young modulus, which is 40 to 45% lower, meaning it flex much more than steel with the same loads.

Please, if you can do a scan of the report, can you post here later?

I'm posting pictures I scanned from june '64 Motor Trend magazine... I believe this is the titanium car, according to Seppi_0_917PA information.

Posted Image

#115 David M. Kane

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Posted 19 August 2007 - 17:43

In Post 23 I am now of the opinion that all 4 tires are ponted in the same direction; AND that either the nosecone or the frame is actually bending or flexing. Please look at this photo sequence and tell me if anyone agrees with me?

#116 ovfi

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Posted 19 August 2007 - 18:23

I'm posting the entire sequence of the accident's photos, Walter Zoomie please excuse me for including your photo.

Posted Image

I agree with David, and observed some more things:
-On the first photo he seems to be correcting the slide with some throttle plus the steering turning right, the nose points high (GeorgeTheCar observed the nose pointing high also).
-On the second photo (please observe the relative position of the buses) he seems to decide to spin out, put the steering wheel straight, and the nosecone or the frame seems to be bending or flexing as David observed, maybe due to the brakes being applied...
-On the third photo he is on the grass, clearly the brakes are fully applied, and steering is straight.

#117 HistoricMustang

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Posted 19 August 2007 - 19:25

Any viewers that may be unable to sign up for the TNF forum but would like to supply data you may put it here and I will transfer if deemed proper:

http://historicmusta...read=1187295018

I would request that the information supplied be something that has not already been posted. Also, there is currently no registration required on this forum at the Augusta tribute site but registration will be necessary in this case.

TNF members please remember this was the second lap of the most important motorsports race during its time (and may still be). There had to be thousands of photogaphs being taken and the vast majority of these should still be with us. Please bare with me as something new may come forward.

Henry

#118 TIPO61

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Posted 19 August 2007 - 21:13

Henry, a reread of posts up to 117 leads me to believe you may have lost your way.

#119 Henri Greuter

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Posted 20 August 2007 - 10:45

Originally posted by HistoricMustang
Have uncovered this quote concerning the MacDonald/Sachs accident.


My dad had a phone call about two months(?) after the RACE, from a person that said he either worked with Mickey, or, was a machanic @ Indy, (I don't know which), and saw the car and said they found a part that was broken in the "suspension" that was broken in the same place as another car of Mickey's that caused the car to crash during practice earler that month! ( I think it was the #84 car). That person would not leave his name and told daddy talk to and see if Mickey would say something to him, but, when dad called Mickey, dad said he got really upset and told him that nothing failed on the car that "they"? could find, and wanted to know WHO said it? We felt from his actions Mickey was hiding something But, daddy couldn't tell him because the person wouldn't say who he was, so, daddy tried all he could to find this person "or" someone else to back it up, but couldn't so, he said all we could is let it go, and maybe it would come out later!!! After Mickey's death, I was in hopes that this person would come out somehow- if he was still alive?, or, someone else that would have known about it would come forward and bring this out!


Does anyone have additional information on the accident that occured earlier in May involving the sister car (#84) to MacDonald's #83. Perhaps there was a parts failure on the MacDonald car as I have long believed.

Henry



Henry,

I follow this thread with interest myself as well but then for another reason. My reason is that I think that IMS overreacted on the use of gasoline fuels with crediting the deaths of Dave and Eddie to the use of gasoline. No doubt that the gasoline made it appear like a scene out of Hell with the yellow flames and black clouds. But I don't think that it would have made much difference for them had they bein driving methanol fueled cars. Besides that, look to what happened in the pits with Parnelli that same race and is conveniently ignored or ridiculed.
I quoted your initial post another time because I have a question about it of which I hope you can fill us all in.

It reads as if your caller has seen a broken part on the car. But had he seen this part (being broken) before the start or after the accident?
Because I wonder, if it was broken and seen being broken after the accident, how are the chances that this damage may have been cased by the impact against the wall and whatever impacts the car endured when being hit in the chain of events that happened once it was bounced back upon the track?
I realize that a sister car was diagnosed with a certain problem. Now I know that what failed on one car may well be a structural problem on all sister cars too: (think about the steering arms on the Monores and Frontenacs in 1920 and/or the steering gears of the Miller-Fords in 1935). But given everything that happened with the car after it spun out of control and the impacts it had, there are a number of moments that the suspension could have been damaged. Now of cousrse that is quite a coincidence that exactly the same component broke but nevertheless...

For the record, I don't want to exclude a technical malfunction on the car instantly because more than 99% of all evidence suggests that there was a far more logical, and explainable cause.
Just like I don't exclude a technical malfucntioning on the Penske of Kevin Cogan in 1982 for his controversial incident that wiped out Andretti and effectively Foyt as well. And for which it was the most convenient excuse to blame inexperience in the first row for second time 500 starter but conveniently forget that teammate Mears had slowed the field down to a lower speed than usual for the start. And that it was a perfect cover-up to hide a possible mechanical failure or ill preparation of a car by a team that was noted for near perfect preparation and had a reputation to loose in that area.

Nevertheless, your zeal to have a technical failure to be discovered makes me believe that, other than getting the truth as it is to be uncovered, it almost appears as if there is another motivation for you. No doubt that it would be a startling discovery if indeed a technical failure can be blamed for McDonald loosing control.
But if you are not careful this may well end up in a situation that's remeniscent to the affair of "The Lordian lobby" in the aftermath of the Titanic disaster. And I am pretty sure that this is not your intention.


Anyway, you keep asking us for info, I sincerely hope that whatever you obtain, you will share it with us. Don't know if I speak for myself only but if you have more backround info available, I'm pretty interested in whatever becomes known at last. And if solid info does exist, I am more than willing to blame a mechanical failure for the accident.
In case I find something more of interest for you, you'll hear from me.

best regards,

Henri

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#120 David M. Kane

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Posted 20 August 2007 - 14:30

That USAC accident report might make interesting reading.

#121 HistoricMustang

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Posted 20 August 2007 - 20:13

David, as of this moment one has not been located outside of the Speedway. It is yet to be seen if they have a copy.

Henri, thanks for the insight and the comments. They are very much appreciated.

Several things have come together to produce the re-introduction of this thread. Some can be addressed and some can not at this point in time. Simple questions have been asked in hopes that someone's memory may be energized or someone out there in WWW land remembers something concrete that might get some brain cells working in another direction. Some of the latter has happened in this thread.

There is no mystery part laying on my desk. Yet, individuals that may (I stess may) have information that has not yet come forward are passing.

Have I lost my way. Perhaps. Or, perhaps at this time I simply have directions that need clarification.

If this thread seems far fetched and is a bother, my apology and I ask that you ignor. If not appropriate for TNF then it simply needs to be locked.

And, for those with no interest it may simply fade away.

Cheers and I very much wish the form of verse presented here and the information presented here was possible by myself. Reminds me of that first adventure to the tech shed and they applied the "Novice" decal.

Henry

#122 Henri Greuter

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Posted 21 August 2007 - 08:28

Originally posted by David M. Kane
That USAC accident report might make interesting reading.


Sure did. For me the fact that it confirmed that the fuel tanks on Sachs' Shrike had remained intact makes me shiver.
That entire holocaust was the result of a single car, the McDonald car.
Seems to approve that he had indied carried a big load of fuel with him.
And let's not even think about what would have happend if the tanks on Sachs car had ruptured as well and all of tha gasoline had ignited too....




Henry,

thanks for your comments too: I hope to keep hearing/reading more about it, be it in this thread or by Private Mail.
I think I do kind of understand how it feels what you're feeling and thinking. I guess I had something similar with several thoughts related with the history on the Novis. Did dig up a few approvals that confirmed the wild rumors and suggestions but more often the evidence that was there already just confirmed the general opinions and beliefs.

Henri

#123 HistoricMustang

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Posted 21 August 2007 - 09:46

Originally posted by Henri Greuter


Henry,

thanks for your comments too: I hope to keep hearing/reading more about it, be it in this thread or by Private Mail.
I think I do kind of understand how it feels what you're feeling and thinking. I guess I had something similar with several thoughts related with the history on the Novis. Did dig up a few approvals that confirmed the wild rumors and suggestions but more often the evidence that was there already just confirmed the general opinions and beliefs.

Henri


....................of course a general explanation is due from me and that is forthcoming. Please allow time for additional information to be provided and put together.

Henry

#124 AMICALEMANS

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Posted 21 August 2007 - 11:30

A little question : i am french and when i was young, my grandfather bought some diecast model build in France by Solido and gave them to the whole family, just because the name of the car was Harvey Aluminium (our family name is not Aluminium) Some was red, some was light blue. I am looking for pics of these two car at indy; thanks for helping me !
Wich year it was ?

Here a pic of the blue one

http://cgi.ebay.fr/l...8QQcmdZViewItem

#125 Henri Greuter

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Posted 21 August 2007 - 12:35

Originally posted by AMICALEMANS
A little question : i am french and when i was young, my grandfather bought some diecast model build in France by Solido and gave them to the whole family, just because the name of the car was Harvey Aluminium (our family name is not Aluminium) Some was red, some was light blue. I am looking for pics of these two car at indy; thanks for helping me !
Wich year it was ?

Here a pic of the blue one



I think some of us have seen such cars too. (I sure would like to have one in a bit decent condition.)
The car on the picture is inspired on the 1963 model. I don't have all colors and numbers at hand to identify which car it was but the one car of this type that qualified for the race that year was a red one, driven by Duane Carter.
He finished 13th, maybe a sign of things to come....


I just tried the IMS photoshop link but I had no luck in finding pictures of Carter.
Perhaps somewhere else?


henri

#126 ovfi

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Posted 21 August 2007 - 17:16

Originally posted by AMICALEMANS
A little question : i am french and when i was young, my grandfather bought some diecast model build in France by Solido and gave them to the whole family, just because the name of the car was Harvey Aluminium (our family name is not Aluminium) Some was red, some was light blue. I am looking for pics of these two car at indy; thanks for helping me !
Wich year it was ?

Here a pic of the blue one



AMICALEMANS, I have color and B&W photos of the two cars, but I can't post here because of the copyrights (I've found them on the internet, don't remember which websites). Please send me a PM with your address to send them to you. BTW, aren't you in forum motorlegend?

#127 Ray Bell

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Posted 21 August 2007 - 23:48

Originally posted by David M. Kane
I seem to recall that there are two chapters on this race in Michael Argetsinger's book on Walt Hansgen if anyone has their copy handy. Walt was the car in front of Eddie Sachs at the time of the crash.


About time I did this...

Dave MacDonald recognised how difficult the car was, but he had a passion to race in the 500. He had phoned his father, George MacDonald, in Los Angeles during the race week and said he was apprehensive about the handling and didn't think the car was right: "He told me the car seemed to lift and float in the turns," George recalls. "He said the trouble was apparently caused by the fact the car was build for 12" wheels but had to be converted to 15" wheels to meet Indianapolis regulations. the only reason he drove it was that he felt obligated to."

Len Sutton was driving for Rolla Vollstedt, a friend and supporter from Sutton's earliest days of racing in the Pacific Northwest, in a rear-engine car Vollstedt had been developing for a year and a half. Sutton was a top-rank oval driver and had finished second in the 500 to Rodger Ward in 1962 when they both drove for the Leader Card Racing Team. Sutton qualified eighth and was on the row ahead of Walt for the start. Walt passed Sutton on the first lap, and in his book, "My Road to Indy", Len relates his view of the next lap:


In the second lap at the end of the back stretch, going into the third turn, Dave MacDonald went whistling by me, jumped on the binders and proceeded across the short chute in front of me. Walt Hansgen was right in front of him then and Dave drove it deep under him, but not deep enough for Walt to see him. when Hansgen came down, as that was his line, Dave had to get his nose out or turn left enough to keep from running into him.

Dave's back end got away from him and he headed for the inside guard rail. Anyone watching this unfold - and I was - could feel certain it was going to be tragic. By the time Dave's car was off the wall and heading back onto the track, I was just even with him and escaped down the front stretch. Unfortunately for Eddie Sachs, Dave's car collided with him, igniting a second ball of flame and sent a burning tyre and wheel high into the air. The two drivers, from in front of me and behind me, were both killed, burned beyond help.


Jack Brabham, who started behind MacDonald and Sachs in twenty-fifth position, also saw it coming and relates his experience in "The Jack Brabham Story", written with Doug Nye:

All the way round the rolling lap before the start - mindful of Masten's warning - I just kept my eyes riveted on that red car, knowing it was brimful of fuel. It was visibly very unsteady, I did not take my eyes off it.

We came out of turn four, green flags, and we were racing. My eyes were still glued on that odd-looking car a couple of rows ahead. Dave MacDonald nearly lost it in turn two, but caught it. In turn three he was again all over the place. Then, coming out of turn four, it happened. Dave's ultra-low Thompson car flicked broadside, and he lost it.

Instantly I hit my brakes. Dave MacDonald's car speared down to the inside. The ultra-low Thompson car impacted against the concrete wall and exploded like a napalm bomb. the car then ricocheted back up at an angle leaving a blindingly bright wall of orange flame across the track. Eddie Sachs simply couldn't stop. He smashed straight into MacDonald's car, and his own car's fuel load exploded too. He didn't stand a chance.

Despite braking so hard, I just seemed to be accelerating through a funnel between roaring flame and the outside wall. I managed to slow just enough to dodge left through the fire at right angles before the burning wrecks. I was through it literally in a flash, and apart from running over some debris emerged unscathed. The race was stopped.

To this day I'm confident that Masten Gregory's pre-race word saved my life. Tragically, Dave MacDonald died of his burns a few hours later, while Eddie Sachs - poor Eddie, the 'Clown Prince' of Indy who helped make my debut at the famous circuit there in 1961 so enjoyable - had been killed instantly.


David E Davis Jr. provided a trackside observation of the accident in "Car & Driver":

MacDonald had been charging hard, passing several cars on the first lap, and fighting to catch Hansgen, who was cutting his own swath through the field. Coming out of turn four, he evidently decided to try to take Hansgen on the main straightaway. In his usual style, when he was hurrying, he had the tail hung out just a bit, but his line was bad, and the tail started coming around very gradually as the car moved onto the chute at about 140-145. It was not a wild snapping spin, in fact the car had only turned 180 degrees when it hit the inside wall, burst its fuel tank, and erupted in a hundred foot mushroom of flame.


From Walt's rearview mirror, the ball of fire was a shock. He described it for Jim Ogle Jr. in the "Newark Star-Ledger:" "I could hear the explosion and see the giant flames shooting up about 200 feet behind me. It was a terrible and unbelievable sight, and one I'll never forget."

The accident was unprecedented in its ferocity, even at a track that had seen many high-speed impacts. the heat was intense - Brabham said driving through it had been like opening an oven door - and the orange flames and black smoke rose higher than the top of the grandstands. the race was halted for the first time in its history except for rain. It was one hour and forty-three minutes before the drivers were again asked to get back in their cars and go racing again.

Other cars were caught up in the flames, and Ronnie Duman, from Dearborn, Michigan, was the most seriously injured, listed as critical with second-degree burns. Johnny Rutherford and Bobby Unser were treated for minor burns. (Those two would later account for five Indy 500 wins.) Norm Hall, from Hollywood, California, suffered minor cuts but no burns in the accident, and Chuck Stevenson's car was eliminated but he was unhurt. Two USAC observers and two cameramen were treated for smoke inhalation and minor burns. One spectator witnessing the accident was treated for a heart attack. Eddie Sachs, one of the most beloved figures in racing, died in his race car. He was thirty-seven years old. Dave MacDonald, twenty-six, died in the hospital less than three hours after the crash.

Confusion was rampant. the public address system and the radio and closed-circuit TV announcers were attempting to identify which drivers were involved. It was announced that Walt Hansgen was among the drivers in the inferno, and the information was repeated to the closed-circuit TV audience. It was a tough hour for Bev and Rusty Hansgen in the theatre in Trenton until the facts were sorted out. As more information became known, it was tougher still for George MacDonald, watching in a Los Angeles theatre.


Mike has done a great job of putting this together, even though it's only really a sidelight to the story he was writing. I've not long spoken to him on the phone and he's happy to have this brought into this arena to benefit those following this thread.

Thanks, David, for mentioning it.

#128 David M. Kane

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 00:02

Great job Ray! Let me catch my wits for a moment. I too was watching the race on close circuit TV at the RKO Keiths Theatre on 14th Street, a block from the White House. This was the 1st year anyone had provided this service, previously you could only catch the race on the radio. It never dawned on me that Dave's dad was watching in LA and Mrs. Hansgen in New Jersey. I just remember being stunned and not sure what to say or to do. I have to remind myself constantly that Dave was only 3 years older than I am.

Thank you for weaving all of this information together so cleverly. :up: And of course thanks to Mike for his great book.

#129 Ray Bell

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 00:23

It's Mike who did the great job of the book, David... and I'm becoming amazed that more here didn't refer to it in relation to this thread...

One more thing that occurs to me about it, having been through that material, is that both Sutton and Brabham describe a second explosion at the point where Sachs' car hit MacDonald's. Brabham states that Sachs' car's tanks erupted, Sutton implies the same.

But the Speedway reported that Sachs' tanks were intact.

To explain this, I would surmise that one side of the Thompson/MacDonald car exploded in the first impact and that the second was ruptured and exploded when the collision occurred.

By the way, it's nice to know that Mike still looks in at the odd thread here, this being one of them. He's in contact with Henry, too, which is good, and he's getting on with the job of completing his second book.

#130 Ray Bell

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 02:31

Originally posted by David M. Kane
.....It never dawned on me that Dave's dad was watching in LA and Mrs. Hansgen in New Jersey. I just remember being stunned and not sure what to say or to do. I have to remind myself constantly that Dave was only 3 years older than I am.....


You must be really old, David!

I'd like to point out here that 'Bev and Rusty' are the Hansgen children, who watched in the theatre while their dad was racing and their mum lapscoring and timing. I cannot imagine what their reactions must have been to talk of their father being in that inferno. Or had they noticed that he escaped?

Of Bea, Walt's wife, Mike does disclose more in the next paragraph:

Bea knew Walt was fine. She had logged him on her lap chart and recorded his lap time at the end of the second lap even before the race was stopped. "I saw Walt come by. When they announced he was in the accident it didn't bother me because I knew they were wrong."

Vince Sardi of the New York restaurant family - a close friend of Walt's since they raced together in the early '50s - was in the Qvale/Huffaker pit and was greatly relieved when he saw Walt come by in eighth at the end of the second lap.

Bea went down to the fence and called out to Walt. He walked over and they visited briefly. Bea remembers the conversation: "I said, 'You aren't going back into that? Are they going to restart it?' And he said, 'Yes.' And I said, 'You're not going back into that.' And he said, 'It's my job.'"


And my thanks to Mike again. This poignant exchange being able to become a part of this thread and give a glimpse of what it was like is valuable to those participating and reading here. The clarity that his research into this accident - and again I stress, this is only a sidelight to the story he was telling - brings is an insight that we all strive to achieve.

He's brought many people into the spotlight here, people who were a part of it even though they weren't there. Which is how it really is when a tragedy strikes.

Cue Buford...

#131 FLB

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 02:38

Ray, you remind me of the spine-chilling reply of Jimmy Clark, to Andrew Ferguson (from Team Lotus: The Indy Years) :

'Don't look so worried, it's only a sport...'

#132 Buford

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 07:38

WARNING - YOU MAY NOT WANT TO READ THIS - GRAPHIC AND DISTURBING

From Open Wheel Magazine May 1988 - Part 3 of Borrowed Time - Troy Ruttman Story Pages 85-86

Quoting 1952 Winner Troy Ruttman.

"Sachs and I started side by side. MacDonald was right ahead of him. I couldn't begin to tell you how lucky I was to get through the wreckage. It was just luck." He was quoted in Sports illustrated as saying that "The flames were shooting up all around him but somehow MacDonald stayed alive, begging for help. He kept calling his mother, 'Mother mother, please. Mother help me!'"

#133 HistoricMustang

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 09:43

My continued thanks for the expanded discussion.

Henry

#134 Henri Greuter

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 13:17

Originally posted by Ray Bell
It's Mike who did the great job of the book, David... and I'm becoming amazed that more here didn't refer to it in relation to this thread...

One more thing that occurs to me about it, having been through that material, is that both Sutton and Brabham describe a second explosion at the point where Sachs' car hit MacDonald's. Brabham states that Sachs' car's tanks erupted, Sutton implies the same.

But the Speedway reported that Sachs' tanks were intact.

To explain this, I would surmise that one side of the Thompson/MacDonald car exploded in the first impact and that the second was ruptured and exploded when the collision occurred.

By the way, it's nice to know that Mike still looks in at the odd thread here, this being one of them. He's in contact with Henry, too, which is good, and he's getting on with the job of completing his second book.



Ray,

I think that your assumptions are indeed correct.
I don't have seen pics of the 1964 cars under the skin yet to see if the car had more than two tanks other than the two in the sidepods. From the angle of impact on the wall one could conclude that either the tank on the side exploded or otherwise the nose tank above his legs if there was one. Goven the low profile of the car I have my doubts if it could have had such a tank to begin with.

Studying the film footage you can indeed see a second explosion and that must have been when Sachs collidded with the wreck. To this day I am still amazed that if the impact was so severe that Sachs died instantly (though as Buford may confirm, there are rumors he was still alive for a while) is is almost a miracle that McDonald wasn't killed instantly as well. Which to me suggests that Sachs probably hit Dave's car at the rear part at engine level.
In that case he likely hit the wheel.
If so, it is more than likely that this damaged the suspension.
Which in turn then pierced the fuel tank on that side.
and with the car already engulfed in flames, that was it.
No approval of this sequens of tragedy found by the way, this is just a scenario I came up with when thinking ot over about how Dave could survive the impacts that killed Sachs. .

MacDonald's death has always been cited a result of the burns he had. But is there anything known about other injuries he had? Broken limbs and/or other internal inhuries as the result of the impacts on his body? Any of such possible injuries being eventually fatal as well?

Henri

#135 Buford

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 13:51

My dad took a picture of Sachs's car in the garage area after the race back at the pumps having the tanks drained. The side tanks were undamaged. However I had heard there was a smaller tank in front over Eddie's knees that did rupture. Haven't got it here. Don Capps talked me into turning the 40 year photos collection as a loan to the Watkins Glen museum along with my scrapbooks. Therefore I also can't look up the ad that appeared on race day to get the exact wording. But it was something like "Keep your eyes on Eddie Sachs in the American Red ball Special. He is riding on eight gas tanks, and they are all filed with Pure Firebird gasoline."

#136 szautke

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 15:03

Originally posted by Henri Greuter




MacDonald's death has always been cited a result of the burns he had. But is there anything known about other injuries he had? Broken limbs and/or other internal inhuries as the result of the impacts on his body? Any of such possible injuries being eventually fatal as well?

Henri


I understand that the main reason for MacDonald's death was flame inhalation, which usually causes death within an hour and even sooner die to duration (from my limited medical background).

IIRC, Norm Brown who was severly burned at Milwaukee in the Ronnie Duman wreck covered his mouth to shield himself from inhaling the super-heated air/flames, he remembered that many drivers died this way. My predecessor at the 'Mile was told via the track Dr. that Ed Elisian seared his lungs, causing his death as suppose to burns. Overall burns killed drivers such as Glen Roberts and Bobby Marshman after being admitted to the hospital.

Sorry to be so graphic, but advances were made on the sacrifices made by drivers killed earlier. Drivers like Gerhard Berger and even Dale Earnhardt, Jr. are alive due to advances initiated in the 1960's.

#137 FLB

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 16:06

Originally posted by szautke
IIRC, Norm Brown who was severly burned at Milwaukee in the Ronnie Duman wreck covered his mouth to shield himself from inhaling the super-heated air/flames, he remembered that many drivers died this way. My predecessor at the 'Mile was told via the track Dr. that Ed Elisian seared his lungs, causing his death as suppose to burns.

Same thing with Duke Nalon at Indy in 1949. He made a conscious decision to hold his breath, to avoid breathing the flames. The problem rears its ugly head when a driver loses consciousness or becomes confused, like Niki Lauda was at the 'Ring in 1976. Lauda's facial burns were mostly superficial, although spectacular; his pulmonary burns almost cost him his life.

#138 HDonaldCapps

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 16:44

I remembered seeing that someone had posted the very Marathon Ad that Buford mentions somewhere and I managed to find it.

I recall reading that fuel tanks on both sides of the MacDonald machine were damaged and leaked, causing almost all of the fire that occurred relating to that particular aspect of the crash. I do not recall reading whether any of the smaller tanks on the Sachs' machine were affected by the crash, but the larger side tanks apparently were okay.

#139 David M. Kane

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 18:03

Don I had forgotten that he had 8 tanks, they must have had located in every cubbyhole available. They clearly did a much better packaging job than did the Thompson Team. Clearly, this helps explained how the rules went from "all you can carry" to a 20 gallon tank that led to around 8 pit stops per 500 mile race and Alky only! Was the accident remotely the beginning of the end? I doubt it, but it certainly didn't help.

This reaction/over-reaction just shows to me the depth of the psychic damage caused by these horrific events. I, for one, remember the events as if it were yesterday not 43 years ago.

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#140 Buford

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 18:47

Marathon, not Pure Firebird. Otherwise I had it right. That ad was all over the two newspapers souvenir editions that day.

#141 Walter Zoomie

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 20:00

Originally posted by HDonaldCapps
I remembered seeing that someone had posted the very Marathon Ad that Buford mentions somewhere and I managed to find it.


I strike again!;)

#142 Walter Zoomie

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 20:17

Not to be morbid, and purely for for this discussion topic and maybe to shed some more light on this subject, I submit the following photos...

This aerial view, from my collection but shot by a photog named Oates, shows Sachs' car at left, and Mac's car on the right. Sachs' front end is wiped out, while Mac's right rear is trashed...indicating Sachs rear-ended or T-Boned Mac. Maybe.

Posted Image

Shot by my dad...Mac's car...

Posted Image

Also shot by my dad...Sachs' car on the hook...
That's the front end of the car in the foreground...

Posted Image

:(

#143 FLB

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 20:58

Looking at your third picture, Zoomie, I'm wondering if Sachs's feet were trapped inside the car?

Here is a similar Halibrand Shrike up for sale. It has some pictures, so it's possible to look at the cockpit layout.

#144 MPea3

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 21:16

In the third photo, the look on those guys faces and the one guy standing with the fire hydrant says it all. Attending to the aftermath of that accident that must have been a gruesome duty not easily forgotten.

When going to Indy I used to park my car in the back yard of a fellow known as "Big John" who had a house right behind the USAC office. He once told me that the '64 race had changed it all for him, and that the race had never held the same meaning for him as before. Sitting in turn 4, it had all happened in front of him. He also added that contrary to what was often said, that Sachs had been visibly alive for a while at least during the fire, and that he was not killed instantly. I don't know myself what the truth is there, but he sure didn't seem like he was lying. His description was horrible.

#145 HistoricMustang

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 21:31

Two questions please.

Can anyone confirm that the frame tubing in this car was also used as a coolant line?

Also, can anyone confirm that the frame tubing wall was just .050 thickness?

Henry

#146 R.W. Mackenzie

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 21:49

Not to stir the pot (rereading the posts in this fascinating thread I've noticed emotions raised here and there) but several things just occurred to me.

1. Under it's unique bodywork, the cars of MacDonald and Johnson were fairly conventional space frames and appear to have been reasonably well designed and built. (I realize others have argued to the contrary.) With conventional bodywork the car should have been as well handling as any of the other rear-engined entries (with the possible exception of the Lotuses). The change to 15" wheels certainly caused a change from optimum suspension geometry and settings but in itself shouldn't have made it as diabolical as it is reported to have been. But if they dropped the ride height to offset the increase in tire diameter without changing the suspension geometry itself and then added and extra heavy fuel load on top of that, the possibility of bottoming the suspension exists especially accelerating off the corners. The weight would transfer to the outside rear corner and if that corner bottomed on the suspension you would have instant (major!) oversteer.

2. The use of Allstate tires has not been raised as much of an issue in this topic or anywhere else that I know of but it strikes me as a rather scary prospect in itself. Firestone had been making the winning tires at Indy for decades and were the state of the art. Goodyear were relatively new on the scene but were a large tire company with some racing experience. I don't recall the details but I believe that due to a problem with their tires nobody ran Goodyears at Indy in 1964 (even Foyt who was contracted to them). And Dunlop who were new to Indy but had a wealth of racing experience also had troubles in 1964. Clark's suspension failure was the result of his Dunlop tires coming apart. So two very established and experienced tire companies were having serious problems in their early tries at Indy. I don't know if Allstate had any prior racing experience but it almost seems like they were learning mountain climbing by tackling Everest. It's almost inconceivable that they would not have had some problems in their first attempt.

3. The aerodynamics of the two Thompson cars were their most striking and unconventional feature. By fairing-in the wheels they were obviously trying to reduce drag. In 1964 streamlining was well understood but the affect of lift and downforce on race cars was barely beginning to be understood. In fact, the opening of the body above the front tires and the addition of ducting on the top of the front bodywork suggest they knew they had a problem with front end lift and knew something of how to reduce it. The nose of the Thompson cars was very similar to sports racing cars of the time and most of them suffered from front end lift at high speeds. With today's knowledge it seems obvious that air in great amounts is going to get under that beautifully sculptured nose and lift the front end. Jim Hall learned about that time that you needed to shovel that air up and over the bodywork letting as little as possible get under.

But I don't think that the nose was the biggest problem. I think the biggest problem was the bodywork between the front and rear wheels. Look at the underside profile of the side bodywork. Isn't that exactly the opposite of the profile used on ground effect race cars? I'm no aerodynamics's expert but I know that flow accelerates and pressure is reduced when the flow cross-section is reduced (as in ground effect cars) and that flow decelerates and pressure increases when the flow cross-section is increased (as you want it to at the radiator in a side-pod per Carroll Smith). Between the front and rear wheels the air flowing under the side "pods" (on the Thompson cars) encountered a considerable increase in flow cross-section. This would decelerate the air flow and create higher local pressure and therefore lift.

If you think this would be insignificant, consider this. I read fairly recently (but, damn it, I can't remember where!) that McLaren almost discovered ground effects in the late 1960's with their Can-Am cars. In 1968 the M8A had very square and boxy sides whereas the previous M6A of 1967 had sides that curved gracefully under the car. They somehow determined that the new square sides gave them significantly increased downforce over the M6A. This was augmented on the M8B of 1969 by raking the front wheel wells back at an angle to let more air escape from under the front of the car. McLaren and his people made note of the effect but never had time to pursue it further. What the McLaren team encountered and exploited was the benefit of forcing and keeping air out from under the car which had a greater flat surface area augmenting the effect. In contrast, the shape of the Thompson cars not only invited air in under the car, it gave it a surface to work on that was not flat or curved to produce downforce but was curved to produce lift.

For the aerodynamic reasons alone, the 1964 Thompson Indy cars must have been incredibly unstable both cornering and in a straight line.

I've never heard this argument raised by anyone else (and they certainly wouldn't likely have considered it back in 1964) so I'd be curious to hear what other people think about this as a possible cause for the handling problems of the 1964 Thompson Indy cars.

As to the cause of the accident, MacDonald was driving very aggressively and picking up places quickly. In a Lotus or any other more conventional car this might have led him to an excellent finish in his rookie year. But he was barely able to keep the Thompson car under control under the best of circumstances. I think that based on the above and what others have written here that as he tried to pass Hansgen, something caused Dave MacDonald to react and put his car into a condition from which he could not recover.

Bob Mackenzie

#147 scooperman

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 22:07

I remember reading "Challenger, My Life of Speed" (I think that was the title) by Grif Borgeson and Mickey Thompson. Must have been around 1970 when I read it, and at the time I was more interested in the land speed record attempts than anything else. But I do recall that there was a chapter or two on the Indy attempts, describing the cars, the idea behind the low profile tires, the development and history, and also a few very good photos of the cars. Maybe someone on TNF has a copy and can post some of Mickey's own recollections.

#148 David M. Kane

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 22:23

Historic Mustang:

Using the tubing for cooling was very, very common in the day. My wife's Lotus 22 is built that was, Royale RP3As were done that was as well as Meryln Mk.11A. I also think a lot of brabhams like BT-29s using the frame tubing for running coolant from the rad to the engine in the rear.

R.W. MacKenzie all of your points are excellent. I particularly agree with you on the tires, plus 60+ gallons of fuel is a lot of weight splashing around in 140mph+ corners!

#149 Ray Bell

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 22:35

Yes, the tube-frame early sixties Lotus and Brabham did this, though Brabham shied away from using one pair of tubes to carry the oil to the cooler at the front too... concerns about getting mill scale into the oil worrying Jack and Ron...

I think what Henry needs here is more and better photos of MacDonald's car in that fateful final slide.

#150 R.W. Mackenzie

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 22:38

HistoricMustang,

According to this page, the 1963 chassis had the coolant flowing through the chassis tubes:

http://thompson-moto...m/indy6305.html

This was fairly common practice at the time. For example, just about every space frame Lotus chassis built in th 60's was designed this way.

The above link also confirms that the tubing was .050" thick. It was titanium on one car and I presume steel on the others. My Van Diemen RF75 FF had a chassis made of .050" wall mild steel tubing and I believe my Hawke DL20 FF did as well. I'm pretty sure that was common in Formula Fords built in the 1960's and 1970's. Formula Fords were derived from Formula Juniors which had a lot in common with Formula One cars of the time from which the first rear engined Indy cars were derived. This of course proves nothing except that it isn't unreasonable to have found .050" wall tubing on a 1964 Indy car chassis.

Bob Mackenzie