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Names of Indy cars


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#1 edmcd

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Posted 16 September 2006 - 09:24

Can anyone provide references or information on how Indy cars came to be known by their sponsors rather than by the type of chassis...ie. the Sugaripe Prune Special? When did that start and how did it come about?

Also, when did sponsorship first start to appear on American racing cars...the 1930s I think, but would appreciate some more history.
Thanks
Ed McDonough
UK

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#2 David McKinney

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Posted 16 September 2006 - 11:26

I'm not sure when cars in the US began to be known as 'specials', but as early as 1916 the practice was used to mask the identities of some: the Chevrolet Specials of that year were in fact Stutzes.
Later came other trade-sourced names, with the first Boyle Valve Specials appearing at Indianapolis in 1926 and the Perfect Circle Specials the following year.
Signwriting, at first subtle, became more prominent as the '30s progressed

Hope this serves until the real experts chime in :)

#3 Paul Parker

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Posted 16 September 2006 - 12:55

I am certainly not that knowledgeable about Indy car racing but presumably the use of the prime sponsor's name to define the car's identity was a financial necessity, after all Diablo Diapers or whoever, were paying for it.

Additionally the rather elitist stance of European racing that frowned upon the vulgarity of trade association pre-1968 was completely absent in US track racing that seemed to me to have more in common with horse racing. It was pure and simple racing without class connotations.

Also could this be due to the rather strange anti-racing attitudes and arcane regulations that defined some American racing over the decades? Manufacturers perhaps did not want their names on racing cars. Fast forward to the 1950s and the GM nonsense etc.

Still as David said, bring on the experts!

#4 HDonaldCapps

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Posted 16 September 2006 - 13:46

This from the 1916 AAA Contest Rules:

Racing Car
7. Shall be known as Special – All racing cars shall be designated in the official program and in all advertsising as “special.”
Registration – All racing cars must be registered annually with the Contest Board at its main office in New York, which registration shall expire on December 31st of each year. Registration blanks may be obtained from the Contest Board or from its official respresentatives and must be filled out and signed by the owner. In event of sale or transfer of a car the Contest Board must be immediately advised. The penalty for false registration shall be disqualification of the owner and car at the discretion of the Contest Board.
Indentification plates will be furnished each car registered, which plate must be attached to the dash or cowl of the car. This plate will bear the name under which the car is registered, AAA registry number, date of registry, number of cylinders, cubic inches piston displacement, wheelbase and manufacturer’s motor and chassis numbers.
The fee for such registration shall be Two Dollars.


This practice dates back to somewhere in the 1911/1913 as best that I can determine. However, we definitely know that by 1916 it was an accepted practice.

#5 D-Type

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Posted 16 September 2006 - 22:40

I'm trying to put the usage of the word 'Special' into context. Were the AAA trying to say that a purpose built racing car was a 'Special' car in that it was not a 'Standard' car but one that was specially built for racing?

#6 HDonaldCapps

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Posted 17 September 2006 - 10:09

Originally posted by D-Type
I'm trying to put the usage of the word 'Special' into context. Were the AAA trying to say that a purpose built racing car was a 'Special' car in that it was not a 'Standard' car but one that was specially built for racing?


No, simply that any car raced had to named a "Special."

The AAA-sanctioned events termed "dealer" races, basically amateur events using cars taken form dealer stocks (one derivation for the term "stock cars" by the way), also had to be named and include the word "Special" as part of the name. Therefore, lots of cars with names such as the "Maxwell Special" or "Ford Special" can be found in the annual AAA record book.

Once again, this practice obviously started in the 1911/12/13 period and makes perfect sense to a degree at a time when nearly everything that moved had a "name" -- locomotives, ships, airplanes.... and race horses.

In 1916, the class that was for out-and-out racing machinery was Class E. However, vehicles racing in the other classes carried names just as did the Class E cars.

#7 A E Anderson

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Posted 18 September 2006 - 00:26

Originally posted by HDonaldCapps


No, simply that any car raced had to named a "Special."

The AAA-sanctioned events termed "dealer" races, basically amateur events using cars taken form dealer stocks (one derivation for the term "stock cars" by the way), also had to be named and include the word "Special" as part of the name. Therefore, lots of cars with names such as the "Maxwell Special" or "Ford Special" can be found in the annual AAA record book.

Once again, this practice obviously started in the 1911/12/13 period and makes perfect sense to a degree at a time when nearly everything that moved had a "name" -- locomotives, ships, airplanes.... and race horses.

In 1916, the class that was for out-and-out racing machinery was Class E. However, vehicles racing in the other classes carried names just as did the Class E cars.


Of course, the term "Special" came about fairly early, as you suggest, Don. However, the early entry lists at say, Indianapolis don't show "special" after the names of cars in the first few 500's, those cars were simply identified by manufacturer, such as Marmon, Stutz, Case, National, Mercedes, Peugeot, etc.

The practice of using trade names having no association with the particular design of the car rather began after WW-I here, perhaps best personified by the Indianapolis-winning 1920 Monroe Special, which except for the MONROE logo cast into the aluminum crankcase of the engine, was identical in all respects to the Frontenacs also built and run by the Chevrolet Brothers that year. Monroe was a fledgling automaker who wanted the publicity, which didn't help them much, they were gone in a couple of years, but Frontenac race cars and engine components remained a potent force in American racing into the early 30's. Ditto such as the HCS Special, a Miller 122 sponsored by HCS, a startup carmaker founded by Harry C Stutz after he left the company he founded, and carrying his name. The same thing happened with the first Miller front drive, the "Junior Eight" which was campaigned with money from Locomobile, by then a part of New Era Motors, WC Durant's last foray into automaking corporation building. Wilbur Shaw's rookie ride at Indianapolis in 1927 was a Miller 91 rear drive, sponsored by REO, carrying the name and logo of the REO Flying Cloud automobile (a picture of the famed clipper ship, Flying Cloud). REO was the company founded by Ransom Eli Olds after he left Oldsmobile upon its buyout by WC Durant's fledgling General Motors.

By the early 30's, non-automotive advertising money entered US racing, with such cars as the "Cocktail Hour Cigarette Special", the "Wonder Bread Special" (remember Wonder Bread, "Builds strong bodies 12 ways"?). By the late 40's, all kinds of seemingly fanciful names, some of them auto industry related, most not.

Of course, in all of this, it is wise to remember that with the end of the 1929 AAA Championship season, the era of dominance by "works built" race cars also ended in the US, the end of a seemingly endless string of nearly identical Millers, and the fewer Duesenbergs. Beginning in 1930, cars built in small private shops, from a mix of race car components, most with purpose built frames, some using modified 1920's frame rails widened out to accommodate two man crews, and purpose built bodywork, powered by a menagerie of engines came into being--thus ending the age of cars having been built in a factory setting, the Studebaker factory teams of 1931-34 and the ill-fated Ford-Miller teams of 1935 notwithstanding. With Wilbur Shaw's 1940 win at Indianapolis, driving the Boyle Maserati 8CLT (Mike Boyle, the Chicago area union boss, not Boyle Valve), the age of the works car in Victory Lane closed for the last time. Not again would a factory built race car win at Indianapolis, factory built meaning here a car having chassis, bodywork and engine all built under the same roof. From then on, car owners and chief mechanics drew a chassis from here, and an engine from somewhere else, all the way out to today.

Art Anderson

#8 A E Anderson

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Posted 18 September 2006 - 00:33