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#1 fines

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Posted 31 July 2008 - 14:59

From another TNF thread:

Originally posted by fines
... speaking of Louie Meyer, I find him a particularly under-documented yet thoroughly interesting motorsports figure! For example, just recently I learned that he, apparently, kept a very distinguished German accent in his speaking, refering to the IMS as "der Shpeedway" for example! :D

Also, I often wondered about his early days as a racer, only to find out recently that he didn't have any, so to speak! Unlike Frank Lockhart and George Souders, who were really well known as dirt track racers amongst the racing fraternity, Meyer really did come virtually out of nowhere to win the Indy 500! He never even competed in his homestate California until 1931, except for his acting as a riding mechanic to his brother in the early days of Ascot Speedway, and a disastrous test session in his brother's car at the same track in early '29, ending in an accident!

Somehow, he seems to have attracted the attention of veteran racer Frank Elliott, who let him drive his back-up car on a couple of occasions - incidentally, the very same car that Lockhart had used in his board track debut, and the racer in which Jimmy Murphy had been killed! Unfortunately, Elliott found a buyer for the car just before the 1927 '500', but at least Louie got in a few miles as a relief driver - for Wilbur Shaw, as fate would have it! Oh, and by the way, if you look closely at the official qualifying pictures of Elliott and his front-drive Miller that year, you'll see Louie Meyer in the background, along with his father!

http://www.indy500.c...polis_500/47346

Speaking of Eddie (sen.) Meyer, he was omnipresent in Lou's early days, showing that at least the family knew about where the prodigious talent lay, which leaves the question about how Eddie (jun.) took it all - maybe the huge difference in age made it easier, and by that time the elder sibling was anyway concentrating more on his owner and builder talents?

Louie's peers took some convincing, too, what with him "only lucking in" on the Indy win - until Meyer began winning on the boards. "But he's no dirt track driver!" - until he ran with the best on soil. "He's good on the miles, but he'll be butchered at Ascot" - until he took the lap record on his very first race appearance there, and with a big 8-cylinder against all the nimble fours to boot! He was probably the only ever person to win a (match) race at Ascot in its heyday with an eight!

No doubt, Louie was tops in the driving compartment, just why did he race so seldom? Perhaps because he had other fish to fry? Without doubt, his contributions to American racing history are enormous, going on with his own racing team in the thirties, through Meyer-Drake Engineering in the post-WW2 years and his involvement with the Ford DOHC programme into the seventies. Any "Hall of Fame" forgetting about his achievements isn't worth its name...

Originally posted by john glenn printz
LOUIE MEYER. I knew Louie Meyer quite well and had several lengthy conversations with him. I'll tell you about three incidents with Meyer that stick in my mind.

(1.) I and a friend of mine were eating, after a hot day at the track, in the RED LOBSTER restaurant located on 38th street in Indianapolis. When we were half way through eating, who walks in but Louis Meyer and his wife. I knew them both. So I got up and walked over to the table where they sat down, just to say hello. When the waiter later brought us our bill, Mr. Meyer jumped up, grapped it, and paid for both our dinners!

(2.) One time I was talking to Mr. Meyer in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's "Old Timer's Trailer" and I asked Louie a peculiar question. I has seen many years before a late 1930's RIPLEY'S BELIEVE IT OR NOT cartoon where it was stated that Louie Meyer won his races because he had a "heavy foot", i.e. that Louis had been born with six toes on his right foot. So I asked Louis if that was true.

To my complete astonishment Mr. Meyer, saying nothing, immediately started untieing his right shoe, took it off, and peeled off the sock. I didn't expect all that! Well, I saw his right foot all right and it had six toes!

(3.) Another time Mr. Meyer was up to the Michigan International Speedway and I decided to ask him why the Indianapolis Motor Speedway adopted the "Junk Formula" in 1930.

Louie replied, "Well times were tough, there was little money around due to the Depression, and the AAA was trying to introduce cheaper equipment."

I said, "But Mr. Meyer, the crash didn't occur until October 1929 and nobody expected it to last long. And it would have taken some months to draw up new rules. And therefore it would have impossible to have built new cars for the May 1930 race, for there wasn't enough time. I don't think the crash had anything to do with it."

Mr. Meyer eyed me intensely for about five or six seconds and said, "You know young man, I think you may be right!" That's exactly what he said.

I don't remember Mr. Meyer having any accent. A couple of persons told me, that Louie used to feign being hard of hearing, if someone was talking to him, he didn't like. I think I observed this once or twice, but he never pulled that on me. Mr. Meyer was always perfectly frank and candid (amazingly so!) in his talks with me.

I don't remember how or when I first met Louie. Perhaps Art Sparks introduced us, but I knew what a lot of old racing personages looked like, and sometimes I just walked up to them and introduced myself. That's how I met Charles Lytle, of Sharon, PA, for instance. I talked to a lot racing people but among the "old timers", the three smartest I thought, were Louie Meyer, Art Sparks, and Mauri Rose. I got a lot of information from Mr. Meyer - all good.

I wrote a lengthy article on Louis Meyer which was published in both the 1982 CART Michigan 500 (July 18) and Pocono 500 (Aug. 15) programs. It was with a deal of trepidation that I did so, because this was the very first time that I had written on a still living personage. However Mr. Meyer and his daughter Kay (who was married to the great mechanic George Bignotti) both liked it. Indeed Louie told me, "I can't believe you got so much right."

If either Mr. Capps, Mr. Ferner or Mr. Thurman are interested in it, I will start typing it here, online. However I think we need a new thread "Louis Meyer", as I deem it incorrect to post Louis Meyer material on a thread devoted mostly to the past mistakes of Russ Catlin and Bob Russo.

Sincerely, John Glenn Printz

Alright then, let's give Louie his due, and have a thread on him!

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#2 Russ Snyder

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Posted 31 July 2008 - 15:49

I'll 2nd that!

#3 john glenn printz

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Posted 31 July 2008 - 16:48

LOUIS MEYER, INDY'S FIRST THREE TIME WINNER by John G. Printz and Ken M. McMaken. (Note: This article was published more than 25 years ago, in 1982, when Mr. Meyer was still alive. I have made some slight modifications while typing it online.)

Louis "Louie" Meyer, Indy's first three-time winner (1928/1933/1936) and the first three time winner of the U.S.' (AAA) National Driving Title (1928/1929/1933), has been involved continuously with American automobile racing since the early twenties. He came to it somewhat naturally because his elder brother, Eddie, was racing stripped-down and souped-up Model T Fords (the poor man's racing car during during that era) on California's various dirt ovals during the first half of the roaring twenties. Louis used to tag along with Eddie and thus came to meet and know many important personalities like Ed and Bud Winfield, Riley Brett, Dale Drake, Frank Elliott, Frank Lockhart, etc., which would later play a big role in Louie's subsequent success.

Eddie Meyer never quite made it into the AAA National Championship circuit proper (he was entered in the Fresno 150 of 1 Oct. 1921, but did not qualify in a "Redlands Special") but Louie during 1926 worked as a mechanic for driver Frank Elliott, who was then campaiging a rear drive Miller on the AAA National Championship board track circuit. During the period 1924-26 Louie may have tried to drive in couple of minor California area dirt track events. There was no doubt that by 1926 Lou himself wanted to be a driver.

Meyer's first important start as a driver occurred at Charlotte, NC on 11 Nov. 1926 in a 50 mile sprint ranked by the AAA as a National Championship Race. Louie retired early to finish 10th out of the 12 starters. The Charlotte meet of 11 Nov. 1926 was the last championship AAA outing for 1926 and Louis now had to wait for the opening of the 1927 campaign at Culver City on 6 March 1927. Lou entered but failed to make the lineup. Meanwhile Louie was working with Frank Elliott preparing Frank's rear-drive Miller for the upcoming 1927 "500". But Frank was soon offered a ride in what he thought was a much better bet, a front drive model 91 Miller. So Elliott put his former and more prosaic rear drive Miller up for sale, but Elliott told Louie that he could drive it at Indianapolis on a percentage basis if he couldn't find a buyer. Unfortunately another new Indy rookie, Wilbur Shaw, found a sponsor who purchased Ellott's old Miller. Meyer, however, was retained as a mechanic, pitman, and possible relief driver. During the 1927 "500" Lou relieved Shaw for 41 laps and the two new Indy rookies finished in 4th place. Elliott himself, in the front drive Miller, rode home in 10th.

After the 1927 Indy event Meyer appeared with a Duesenberg at both Altoona (June 11) and Salem (July 4) but had no luck at either contest. At Altoona he failed to qualify and at Salem he fell out of the 200-miler with no oil pressure after just 26 circuits. However, later in the Salem race Louie got back into action by relieving the old veteran "Grandpa" Eddie Hearne, who had been racing autos since 1907. That concluded Louie's rides for the 1927 season in the AAA big time. Meyer had a total of 41 AAA Championship points for the year (38 from Indy and 3 from Salem, both obtained in relief roles) and was ranked 17th in the 1927 AAA National Standings.

The first AAA National Championship contest for 1928 was Indianapolis itself. Meyer thought that he had lined up a ride on the famous Duesenberg team. But the two Duesenberg brothers, Augie and Fred, were very hard pressed for money and in dire straits, so when driver Ira Hall came up with some real cash, the car was sold and Lou, now found himself without a car to drive. Meyer soon voiced his plight to truck manufacturer and racing enthusiast Alden Sampson. Sampson soon came to the rescue by purchasing for Meyer a 1926 model rear-drive Miller which Wilbur Shaw had thought that he had lined up. Thus 1928 was the reverse of 1927 when Shaw had obtained the machine that Meyer thought he was going to drive! Meyer qualified the Miller at 111.352 mph to start in the 13th position. Meyer was still a complete unknown as a driver and was certainly not among the group of pilots expected to win or given even the remotest chance of victory. But Louis, with the help of his father, put the Miller together as best they could for the long 500-mile brickyard grind.

The 1928 "500" proved to have another upset winner and was the third one in row for the big Speedway. Many of the top pilots such as Cliff Bergere, Leon Duray, Wilbur Shaw, Babe Stapp, and Russ Snowberger were using the exotic front-drive model Millers. But the experience of the Indy races of 1926-1929 tended to show and prove that at Indy the front drive Miller 91 1/2 cars were out of their element. The Indy bricks were now very rough and the 500 mile distance seemed to conspire to break up and eliminate the fragile and the more delicate front-drive Millers over their rival, but more stoic rear-drive models. It all led to upset winners at Indy in 1926 (Lockhart) and 1927 (Souders). 1928 was much of the same.

Leon Duray, the heavy favorite, led the first 64 laps before being eliminated from contention, because of engine overheating maladies. After the initial Duray leadership George Souders, Babe Stapp, Jimmy Gleason, and Tony Gulotta all took turns, at the front of the pack. And all came to grief. Likewise, the very fast pace maintained in the early going (106.1 mph at 100 miles and 103.2 at 300) suddenly began to decline as the race leaders ran into trouble. And as they fell out of the event, Meyer, the unknown, began to fall into the front positions. On the 181st lap, Gulotta's Miller, then in the lead, developed a clogged fuel line. Meyer, who had moved up to 4th place at 200 miles, took the front position after Gulotta's misfortune on lap 182, and continued on to win at 99.482 mph. The 24 year old Meyer led only the last 13 circuits of the contest.

Immediately after the 1928 "500", Lou convinced his sponsor, Alden Sampson, that he should sell the winning Indianapolis Miller machine and immediately purchase one of two former rear-drive Millers, still up for sale in the Frank Lockhart estate.

"I thought that my winning Indy Miller was a very good car but I was convinced that Lockhart's two Millers were better," declares Louie. Lockhart had been killed at Daytona Beach on 25 April 1928 in a land speed record attempt. Lockhart, who was just a 25 year old kid at the time of his death, had had for the 1927 and 1928 seasons two rear-drive 91 Millers which had incorporated all kinds of special Lockhart features and parts. They were, in fact, superior to the originial cars and parts manufactured by Harry A. Miller himself.

Frank's two cars were the fastest 91 1/2 cubic inch vehicles in the States. They were both equipped, of course, with a Lockhart type intercooler, the best in the business. So Alden took Meyer's advice and purchased one of them for Lou. The other Lockhart Miller had already been sold to M. A. Yagle of Philadelphia for Ray Keech's use at Indy in 1928, (Ray was 4th to Meyer in the Indy race) and elsewhere. With his new Lockhart-type Miller, Lou won the Altoona 200 (August 19) and placed 2nd in the Salem 185 (July 4). 1928 ended with the 24-year old Meyer being declared the AAA National Driving Champion over many a more seasoned veteran of the boards and bricks.

Meyer was now at the top of his class in 1928/29 but it was a very sad time to break into racing. All the AAA championship board tracks were losing money, rotting and falling apart. Only Miller built cars were capable of winning the big AAA sanctioned contests now and the complete absence of any real competition from the other marques, of which Duesenberg had been the foremost, made for public apathy toward the AAA championship trail. The 1929 AAA championship season saw a great diminution of activity because of the disappearance of the previously existing board saucers. Only five AAA championship level races were held all year; i.e. (1.) Indianapolis 500 (May 30), (2.) Detroit 100 (June 9), (3.) Altoona 200 (June 15), (4.) Syracuse 100 (Aug. 31), and (5.) Altoona 200 (Sept. 2). The June 9 Altoona 200 was shortened to 148.75 miles, because of a wreck which killed Ray Keech.

Lou continued to use the ex-Lockhart Miller 91 for the 1929 campaign, the last year for the vest pocket 91 1/2 cubic-inch racers. Indianapolis was again the first AAA championship contest of the year and Meyer qualified at 114.704 mph to start 8th in the lineup. Lou looked like he was going to win the five century grind again, for the second time in a row, when he pitted on the 157th circuit with a large lead over the second placed Miller of Ray Keech. Meyer, however, had accidently killed his engine on the stop and it took all of seven minutes to get it running again. By that time both Keech and Lou Moore had snuck past the stalled Meyer. Keech went on to win at 97.585 mph while Moore's Miller threw a connecting rod on lap 198, while he was in a solid second place. That helped Lou to salvage the runnerup position, six minutes and 44 seconds behind the victorious Keech. The two ex-Lockhart rear drive Millers had finished one-two. Meyer, with the help of two championship division wins later in the year at Altoona (June 15 and Sept. 2), captured his second AAA National Driving Title in a row, i.e. 1928 and 1929.

Edited by john glenn printz, 16 July 2010 - 14:27.


#4 Tim Murray

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Posted 31 July 2008 - 17:17

Originally posted by john glenn printz
Louis "Louie" Meyer, Indy's first three-time winner (1928/1929/1933)

1928/1933/1936, I believe.

#5 john glenn printz

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Posted 31 July 2008 - 17:43

Dear Mr. Murray;

You are of course quite correct! What I got there are the year's of Louis' AAA National Championship wins, not his Indy victories. With your permission I'll alter the text. We will get it right!

#6 Russ Snyder

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Posted 31 July 2008 - 17:55

Shaw & Meyer....They did not win that year in 1927, but it might be the only occasion that I can find whereas one future winner drove with another future winner and they switched positions during the race...??? . any ideas Michael & John?

#7 Tim Murray

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Posted 31 July 2008 - 18:02

Originally posted by john glenn printz
With your permission I'll alter the text. We will get it right!

Dear Mr. Printz.

It would be an honour. Thank you.

#8 john glenn printz

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Posted 01 August 2008 - 12:21

LOUIS MEYER (cont.-1) Eddie Rickenbacker, a former AAA Championship driver (1916) and the U.S. World War I flying ace, had become the Chairman of the AAA Contest Board in November 1926 and the President of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in August of 1927. Eddie felt that the U.S. passenger car industry should be encouraged to re-enter racing and pushed through a series of new regulations which now allowed large displacement stock block powered racing cars to complete against the genuine throughbred type racers. These new rules, which included no supercharging for four-cycle engines, were first introduced at Indianapolis in 1930 and were soon dubbed the Junk Formula. This was because the Speedway was soon deluged with a large number of cheap, overweight, huge, and stock block powered cars, which had little or no chance of winning. The new 1930 Junk Formula forced everyone to either build new cars or modify the old ones.

So Meyer and Sampson decided to construct a new throughbred type race car which would conform to the new rules. The mechanic, Riley Brett, was intimately involved with this project. For an engine they took two 91 1/2 cubic inch Miller straight 8 blocks and mounted them side by side, creating a U16, rather than a V16. Each of the two Miller blocks were enlarged to 100.5 cubic inches so the total piston displacement was 201. At the front of the two parallel crankshafts was a spur gear which meshed with a central gear attached to a central drive shaft which ran between the two crankcases. Meyer qualified this car at Indianapolis in 1930, at 111.290 mph to start in the middle of the first row. Meyer managed to pass pole sitter Billy Arnold and led the first two circuits before Arnold sailed into the lead, to remain there for the next 198 laps! By the 23rd lap, Meyer was already in deep trouble and he had to pit for 4 1/2 minutes to correct carburetor and throttle linkage problems. At the 100 mile mark, Meyer was running 13th but steadily improved his ranking to finish 4th overall at the end.

Lou also drove this Miller/Stevens U16 creation at Indy in both 1931 and 1932. In the 1931 chase, Meyer lay 10th at 50 miles but an oil leak put him out after just 28 circuits. This vehicle was the most successful 16 cylinder car ever to compete at Indianapolis and finished in 4th place there in both 1930 (Meyer) and 1933 (Chet Gardner),

Later in the 1931 race, Lou relieved Myron Stevens in a different machine owned by Meyer, on the 73rd round and while the entry lay buried in the 20th position. Meyer then hustled the car up to 4th at the finish. Meyer later in the year drove this same car, the Jadson Special, to an AAA Championship win at the Detroit Fairgrounds (June 14) in a 100 miler.

(The name Jadson was an acronym derived from "J. A. Drake & Sons", a valve manufacturing company located in Reedley, CA. The firm was founded back in 1887 by Dale Drake's father and was at first devoted mostly to the repair of farm equipment. J. A. Drake made his first "hand forced valves' in 1916 and by late 1922 all the better Miller 8 engines used Jadson valves. Dale was one of six sons.)

In 1932, Meyer loaned the Jadson Special to Bob Carey for use on the AAA Championship circuit and Carey responded by winning the 1932 AAA National Driving Title. In the 1932 "500" Lou, again in the big U16, was riding in 6th at 100 laps but ten circuits later, he skidded, with the result that both crankshafts broke.

After the 1932 season, Meyer and Sampson split up an alliance which had lasted five years (1928-1932). For the 1933 "500" Lou switched to a 1931 straight 8 built Miller (named the Tydol Special) and won his second Indy at a record pace of 104.162 mph. Lou's chief competition that year came from Bill Cummings, Fred Frame, and Babe Stapp. All these three opponents had eventually run into trouble and all failed to finish. Meyer took the lead on lap 130 for the first time and never relinquished it. At the end, Meyer was 6 minutes and 42 seconds ahead of Wilbur Shaw, who was the runnerup. Meyer now joined Tommy Milton as the only two-time Indianapolis victors. Meyer was 10th at Detroit in a 100 mile (June 11) and that's all Louis needed to win his third AAA Driving Title in six years (1928/1929/1933).

The period 1930 to 1933 saw the Great Depression deepen and AAA National Championship activity greatly declined. The whole 1933 AAA scheduled contained only three races, i.e. the Indy 500, and the Detroit (June 11), Syracuse (Sept. 9), 100 milers. After 1931, all the board ovals were gone and most of the AAA championship contests, outside of Indianapolis, were now staged on one mile dirt ovals at a usual 100 mile distance. It was dangerous racing for little money and many of the top drivers like Bill Cummings, Louie Meyer, and Wilbur Shaw became very inactive in the late 1930's on the AAA Championship Trial, except for the great mid-western Indy classic. In truth, the AAA National Title, didn't really mean that much in the late thirties anyway. And, with regard to safety itself in the late twenties and early thirties, everything was still in a very primative state; i.e. there were no crash helmets, roll bars, seat belts, or fire-proofed driving suits back then.

During the winter of 1933/1934, Meyer, with the help of Dale Drake, Frank Brisko (on the engines), Myron Stevens and Charley Voelker built a completely new Indy car. Meyer and Brisko rented the engine patterns from boat racer Dick Loynes, for the 1932/33 Goossen designed Miller 255 cubic inch 4 motor (the immediate precursor of the Offenhauser 255) and built their own engines because Harry A. Miller himself had gone bankrupt in June/July 1933. Dick Loynes apparently had bought at auction, the patterns for the 255 Miller 4 engine, at the Miller bankruptcy and equipment liquidation sale.

Lou's new car suffered at Indy in 1934 from teething problems which are always rampant among completely new and redesigned racing cars. The oil tank was mounted in the front of the machine and whenever the car was accelerated, oil surge problems occurred. Meyer qualified at 112.332 mph to start 13th. In the race itself, Lou never got into the top ten places and retired after 92 laps with oil tank problems.

Louie returned in 1935 with the oil tank now moved to the rear. Meyer qualified at a fast 117.938 mph to start on the inside of the 2nd row. He ran among the leaders for most of the race and at 150 laps was riding in third place. But Meyer's car had been using fuel at an alarming rate and Louie had to slow his pace just to finish at all. "We drove the last 25 laps on the fumes in the fuel lines", says Lou. (Note: The cars in the 1935 "500" were limited to 42 1/2 gallons of fuel. Fuel restrictions at Indy are not new.) By the 200th circuit, Meyer had faded all the way down to the 12th position. Later however, on 7 September 1935, Lou won an AAA Championship 100 miler at the new 1 1/8 mile dirt track, i. e. the "Altoona-Tyrone Speedway", constructed inside the old Altoona 1 1/4 mile board track oval area. It proved to be the only AAA Championship event held at this track but auto races continued to be staged there until World War II put a halt to all American racing in early 1942. Meyer's AAA Championship wins were now up to seven, with Championship victories on board, brick, and dirt surfaced tracks.

Edited by john glenn printz, 14 October 2011 - 13:36.


#9 john glenn printz

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Posted 01 August 2008 - 20:25

LOUIS MEYER (cont.-2) For the 1936 "500", Meyer extensively modified and rebuilt his 1934/1935 car but Lou had nothing but problems before the race. Louie ruined three new engine blocks before he located the source of the problem. The new engines used nitrided iron sleeves which had an expansion rate different from the untreated cast iron blocks and the resultant forces generated split the blocks! At the last possible moment, a fourth block was flown in from Los Angeles and Lou managed to put the car into the starting field at 114.171 mph to start 28th. Later that same day, the car was taken out for a routine test run and it developed that the pistons were tagging the valves. Meyer walked away from the car in disgust and even refused to work on the vehicle further. Meyer's friends, Dale Drake, Lawson Harris (Lou's riding mechanic), and ex-driver Frank Elliott rebuilt the motor the night before the big race.

Race day itself saw everything go Meyer's way. Meyer quickly moved up through the field and was running in 4th place by 80 laps. Wilbur Shaw, with probably the fastest car, had a loose hood problem, which put him out of contention. Rex Mays and Babe Stapp retired with various ills and Lou found himself the race winner at a new record speed of 109.069 mph. Lou was also now the only three time Indianapolis winner (1928/1933/1936).

George P. Marshall, the famous football magnate, tried to introduce and promote European Grand Prix racing in the U.S. during 1936. A very tight four mile twisting labyrinth, "Roosevelt Raceway", was constructed at Westbury, Long Island (New York) on almost the same exact spot where Charles Lindbergh took off on May 20 1927, on his epoch making solo flight across the Atlantic. The 1936 inaugural event on the new circuit was christened the Vanderbilt Cup and was the most important American auto race in both 1936 and 1937, with the exception of the Indianapolis 500. The Enzo Ferrari managed Alfa Romeo Grand Prix team, using Tazio Nuvolari, Antonio Brivio, and Giuseppe Farina as the drivers, came over from Italy.

All the top American pilots were on hand including Meyer. Lou, who had been dickering for a Maserati finally, as time ran out, made a last ditch effort to qualify a Bugatti. On a practice run, Louie spun and the Bugatti hit the guard rail. Meyer said that it was his unfamiliarity with the car that had caused his wreck. He had stepped on the gas pedal when he had intended to step on the brakes! So Meyer remained a spectator at the 1936 Vanderbilt Cup race, instead of a participant.

On the eve of the 1937 "500" Lou sold his 1936 winning machine, built in 1934, to Ralph Hepburn. Meyer elected to run a modified straight 8, 268 cubic inch Miller, owned by the Mike Boyle racing stable, with Cotton Henning as the chief mechanic. "It was a fast car," says Meyer, "but it wouldn't hold water. I would run some very fast laps, then lose all the water and my motor would get red-hot. I the would have to stop for more water and then repeat the process all over again. It was a shame because the machine was a fast one." Even with all the time lost in the pits, Meyer placed 4th. Hepburn, in the ex-Meyer 1934 car, placed 2nd to Wilbur Shaw, in what proved to be a very close finish. Shaw in a crippled car (no oil pressure), beat Ralph over the finish line by just 2.16 seconds.

For the 1938 "500", Lou gained the sponorship of the Bowes Seal Fast Company and built a totally new Indy Car for the new international Grand Prix formula (i.e. 4 1/2 litres or 274.59 cubic inches unsupercharged; and 3 litres or 183.06 cubic inches supercharged), now adopted also by the AAA for all its Championship level races. Meyer's new racer incorporated a supercharged straight 8, 179 cubic inch engine designed jointly by Leo Goossen, Meyer himself, and Fred Offenhauser.

(This engine is usually listed as a Winfield in most modern reference books but that is hardly correct. Neither of the Winfield brothers, Bud or Ed, had anything to do with its basic or original design. The Winfields were called in and consulted in 1939 and 1940 to help sort out some carburization problems with it. When Meyer retired from driving in 1939, Bud Winfield took over, in 1940, as the the chief mechanic and developer of this engine. Hence the confusion.)

The chassis was put together by Myron Stevens. This new Bowes machine was built for specific use in both the upcoming 1938 Indianapolis and Vanderbilt Cup events, but the Vanderbilt Cup race was quickly cancelled. In early 1938 it was announced, that the Roosevelt Raceway was totally bankrupt.

With this new machine Meyer qualified for the 1938 Indy event with a speed of 120.525 mph, good enough for the 12th starting position. Lou was running in 4th place at 350 miles (lap 140), but an oil pump failure eliminated him and the car nine circuits later.

Meyer returned with the same car for the 1939 "500". Close friends of Meyer noticed that Lou was perhaps, not in the best physical condition now, as he did no competitive driving except for the annual 500 mile sweepstakes. In any case, Lou qualified extremely well with a clocking of 130.067 mph to start in the middle of the first row. Only hot shoe Jimmy Snyder, was faster at 130.977 mph, in an Art Sparks designed car. The 1939 "500" proved to be a struggle between Meyer, Shaw, and Snyder. Overly long pit stops put Snyder out of contention by the 400 mile (lap 160) post.

Meyer now had the lead but was beginning to tire and Shaw began to close in on Lou, using his new, easier handling 1939 Grand Prix 8CTF type Maserati. On the 183rd round, Shaw passed Meyer on the front straightaway and took over the lead. Meyer immediately tried to fight back, only to lose control of his car in the very next turn. Lou didn't hit anything, but had to pit because he had shredded the right front tire; which gave Shaw a two minute lead. A few laps later, Shaw discovered that the Maserati was almost out of fuel and that he too, would have to make an unscheduled, emergency stop (lap 191).

Lou was now driving as hard and as fast as he could and soon, after Shaw returned to the track, Meyer managed to move up on Shaw's tail. On lap 198, Meyer made the supreme bid to get by Shaw, but Lou had momentarily forgotten about an oil slick located in that portion of the track. Meyer spun and then crashed into the inside guard rail, just off the second turn. After Lou's wild spin into the infield grass (Lou was hurled out of the car, but was basically unhurt), Shaw went on to win his second "500", with an average speed of 115.035 mph, in the first foreign car to win the "500" since a French built 1914 EX5 type Peugeot had done so, 20 years earlier in 1919.


#10 john glenn printz

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Posted 02 August 2008 - 20:25

LOUIS MEYER (cont.-3) Having made two driving errors in one race ("two, too many" says Louis), Meyer decided he had had enough as a driver and called it quits. The importance of Meyer however, after his competitive driving career, for U.S. Championship racing, can hardly be overestimated.

After Meyer retired from driving, Rex Mays was assigned the big supercharged Bowes Seal Fast Special. Both in 1940 and 1941, Rex placed second in it at Indianapolis. Although Lou advised the non-use of this car on the dirt surfaced tracks, it proved to be eminently successful on them when driven by Mays, recording seven AAA National Championship wins in 100 mile distance dirt contests, during the next three AAA seasons, i.e., 1940, 1941, and 1946.

When, in early 1946, Fred Offenhauser decided to retire, Meyer, and his long time friend, riding mechanic, and partner Dale Drake, bought Fred's racing engine business. Lou and Drake then formed the Meyer and Drake Engineering, Corporation, which continued to manufacture the famous unsupercharged Offenhauser, 270 cubic inch, 4. Thus, all the post World War II Offenhauser motors were built and further developed by the Meyer-Drake company until 1965, when Meyer sold his half of the firm to Drake. Offenhauser (i.e. Meyer-Drake) powered cars won the 18 straight Indianapolis contests between 1947 and 1964! So dominant did the Meyer-Drake Offenhauser motor become, that in the Indianapolis races of 1954, 1955, 1959, and 1960, every starter used a Meyer-Drake Offy. The nameplates on the Offenhauser 4 engines read "Offenhauser Engine built by Meyer-Drake Engineering".

After selling out to Dale Drake in 1965, Meyer formed a new company called "Louis Meyer, Inc.", located in Indianapolis. Meyer was now the sole agent and parts supplier of the newly introduced, in 1964, four-cam Ford Indy V8 racing engine. At the time (1965), it looked like a very smart move as the old Offy looked pretty dead in 1965 and 1966. Meyer remained the sole Ford agent until Ford got completely out of USAC Championship racing, as an engine supplier, in late 1969.

Meyer had the first option to purchase the remaining Ford stock of racing engine parts and Lou talked over with his son, "Sonny", about a complete takeover of the Ford V8 project. But the Ford Motor had allowed a great depletion of the part stocks to occur and the wooden patterns necessary for casting more blocks were lost or completely destroyed. Meyer and his son decided against the purchase of the remaining Ford V8 parts supplies.

On the other hand both, A. J. Foyt and the combination of Holman-Moody, the stock car racing entrepreneurs, were very anxious to secure the existing stockpiles of the Ford parts. Less than 24 hours after Meyer informed Ford Motor that he was not interested in taking over the Ford V8 Indy engine project and program, Foyt bought the existing Ford stocks and formed the A. J. Foyt Engine Corporation, located in Houston, TX. Howard Gilbert became Foyt's developmental engineer on Foyt's new Ford V8 program.

In 1973, ace mechanic George Bignotti, after four seasons (1969 to 1972) with the Vel Miletich/Parnelli Jones team, joined up with Michigan oilman U. E. "Pat" Patrick. The Patrick team rented Meyer's Indianapolis located job/work racing facility, an arrangement which lasted as long as Bignotti remained with the Patrick team (1973 to 1980). For the 1981 season, Bignotti and Patrick split and Lou's Indianapolis shop was then sold to the Patrick interests.

Meyer (whose daughter Kay is married to Bignotti), though nominally in retirement since 1970, has been able to follow the sport closely through his son-in-law and his actual son, Louie, Jr. "Sonny", who is a top engine man. Thus Mr. Meyer has been in very close contact with the AAA/USAC/CART Indy Car scene for over half a century.

#11 fines

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Posted 04 August 2008 - 08:30

Perhaps as good a place as any to ask a couple of questions about Lou's brother, Eddie Meyer:

1) I read once that Ned Meyers, relief driver at Indy in 1932, was in reality Eddie Meyer racing under a pseudonym! In a way it makes sense, since I can't find a "Ned Meyers" anywhere else in my records (or anyone else's for that matter), but it still seems strange to me to find Eddie driving relief for Ira Hall in a Duesenberg!? Do you, Mr. Printz, have any info about this, or Ned Meyers at all?

2) How many Redlands Specials did Eddie built? From pictures I've seen, I'd say at least three different cars, but it's always difficult to correctly date these pictures, and there may have been more. Also, did he always use Rajo engines? His cars always seemed to have left-hand exhausts? Mr. Printz? Anyone?

#12 john glenn printz

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Posted 05 August 2008 - 18:55

Dear Mr. Ferner;

I have no further information on Eddie Meyer and therefore cannot answer your questions.

However I may add a supplement to the above Louis Meyer article because one aspect of his career, which I deem interesting and important, is not covered in it.

I hope the above information has proved useful to you and anyone else, interested in the first three time Indianapolis winner.

Sincerely

#13 fuzzi

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Posted 06 August 2008 - 08:54

Dear Mr Printz

Please keep going. For some of us this side of the Pond this is pure gold. :wave:

#14 john glenn printz

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Posted 11 August 2008 - 18:50

LOUIS MEYER (cont.-4) SUPPLEMENT. The first supercharged cars to appear at Indianapolis were the two-man Mercedes vehicles of 1923, driven by Christian Lautenschlager, Max Sailer, and Christian Werner. They faired rather poorly with their best final placement being 8th, as piloted by both Max and his nephew, Karl Sailer. However 2 litre (i.e. 122 cubic inch class) supercharged Duesenbergs won both the 1924 (Corum/Boyer) and the 1925 (DePaolo/Batten) Indianapolis classics. As soon as the Lora L. Corum-Joe Boyer Duesenberg won at Indianapolis in 1924, everyone immediately began to put blowers on their engines.

At first, the Harry A. Miller expedient was to run the supercharger off the camshafts, the then existing Miller engines obviously being not designed to run a supercharger from the gear train proper. Soon Miller offered a "kit" you could buy to supercharge the older 122 cubic inch Miller motors from their camshafts, but this was a mere temporary makeshift.

Using the ends of the camshafts to power the supercharger was very inconvenient because the cams now acted as torsion bars during actual racing use, and it was now found impossible to fine tune and/or precisely time the engines. The newest Miller engines now, of course, had the blowers run by the gear train off the crankshaft. (This information was first conveyed to me in a conversation with Anthony "Tony" Gulotta.)

Certainly by late 1925 everyone running on the AAA National Championship circuit was using a car with a supercharger. Thus when Louie Meyer moved into the AAA Championship division (i.e. 1926-1929), all the cars were supercharged and I think this greatly affected Lou's thinking ever thereafter. For instance, when the new 1938 International Grand Prix formula was adopted by the AAA for its National Championship division also in 1938, Meyer leaned toward constructing a supercharged 3 litre car, rather than a vehicle powered by a unsupercharged 4 1/2 litre motor.

Beginning with the 1930 Indianapolis 500 all supercharging was totally banned on the AAA Championship trail on all four cycle motors, until 1936. For the 1936 Indianapolis race the ban on blowers was removed but then existing 37.5 gallon fuel limit for the 500 miles, made the use of supercharging quite impossible. For 1937 supercharging was legal in all three of the AAA Championship events staged, i.e. Indianapolis 500 (May 31), Long Island 300 (July 5), and the Syracuse 100 (Sept. 12).


Meyer's continual interest in supercharging led to a very interesting experiment during the 1949 AAA Championship season. The Meyer-Drake company ran a special and enlarged midget style chassis built by Frank Kurtis, with power provided by an enlarged (up from the normal 97 cubic inches to 107 cubic inches) supercharged midget Offenhauser engine! The car , the "Mighty Mite", first appeared at the Milwaukee 100 on June 5, 1949, as the Meyer-Drake No. 99. This remarkable vehicle, when driven by Tony Bettenhausen, actually won two 1949 AAA Championship events, i.e. 1. the DuQuoin 100 (Sept. 3) and 2. the Detroit 100 (Sept. 11).

Bettenhausen's win at DuQuoin on September 3rd was the first victory for a supercharged vehicle in Championship racing since Rex Mays won the Milwaukee 100 on 22 Sept. 1946; if we except Louis Unser's win at the 12.6 mile Pikes Peak hill climb, in Richard A. Cott's blown type 8CTF Maserati on 1 Sept. 1947.

Here's what Mr. Meyer had to say in early May 1949 (Source: LOS ANGELES TIMES, 8 May 1949, part 1, page 20, quote), "Big motors soon will be obsolete. I expect within three or four years Indianapolis will announce a drastic reduction in maximum specifications. That'll put us out of business. So we're trying to be one jump ahead of the game. Our 270 motors are going about as fast as they can go."

"Our new motors, if successful will revolutionize the race game as we know it. We are going to build a new 122 cubic inch motor, four-cylinder supercharged, for next year at Indianapolis. This other deal we are now building will be a sprint car for the dirt races. Kurtis is whipping up a chassis to go with our motor. We hope to be able to test it at Milwaukee."

"It'll be a 107 cubic inch motor, supercharged and capable of kicking up 230 to 240 horsepower, maybe more. It'll cost about $2600 against the current $4600 for a 270. Frank's building a 98 inch chassis and the car will only weight about 1200 pounds. It may have too much power for the chassis, just like some of the 220s and 270s now. We'll have to wait and see."

Meyer's prophecies and prognoses here did not prove to be correct. Big, normally aspirated engines continued to win at Indianapolis until 1968, when Bobby Unser won in an Eagle chassis powered by a turbocharged 168 cubic inch Drake-Offenhauser motor.

Edited by john glenn printz, 29 August 2012 - 19:59.


#15 john glenn printz

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Posted 12 August 2008 - 18:55

LOUIE MEYER (cont.-5) SUPPLEMENT But Louie Meyer and Dale Drake had to give up this unique experiment and their No. 99, in late 1949. This was due to the constant criticism of all the Meyer-Drake Offy buyers and users; that they shouldn't have to compete in the AAA Championship races themselves, against the Meyer-Drake company, which was using a special experimental and perhaps, superior motor. So Meyer and Drake were forced to sell their No. 99 car.

At first, the car was to be sold to Carmine George "Babe" Tuffanelli of Chicago IL (or Blue Island, IL?), a south side Chicago numbers racket mobster. Tuffanelli sponsored midgets after World War II but moved up to the AAA Championship ranks as a car owner in 1948. However Tuffanelli's mechanic, Charles Pritchard, thought the No. 99's chassis was too light for constant use on the Championship circuit and regarded the small supercharged engine as too complicated and perhaps, nothing but trouble.

So instead the car was sold to Murrell Belanger of Crown Point, IN immediately after the Detroit 100 race (Sept. 11, 1949); to become the famous No. 99 Belanger Special. This same car (i. e. Offenhauser/Kurtis) appeared at Indianapolis in 1950 with its supercharged 107 cu. in. midget engine still intact. Mr. Meyer told me that Firestone was suppose to make special and smaller tires for it's use at Indy, but none ever arrived at the Speedway. So all the gearing on the car was all wrong, when using standard size tires and wheels, and neither rookie Kenny Eaton nor the veteran Emil Andres could run fast enough in it to qualify.

Murrell Belanger had begun owning AAA Championship cars beginning in 1936, but didn't run each and every season, for instance Murrell sat out the 1946 season but Emil Andres and Tony Bettenhausen, got Murrell to start up again for 1947. Murrell's first wins as a Championship car owner occurred in 1947, with Bettenhausen, at the Goshen 100 (Aug. 17) and the Springfield 100 (Sept. 2). Belanger had purchased his first Champ car from Joe Marks of Gary IN, in 1936 and it was the same exact vehicle that Bob Carey had used to win the 1932 AAA National Driving Title. Louie Meyer had sold the car to Marks in late 1932 or early 1933. Belanger was a farm implement and equipment agent, had a Chrysler-Plymouth automobile dealership, and was a farmer as well.

In mid-1950, between the Milwaukee (June 11) and Langhorne (June 25) races, Belanger had the supercharged 107 midget Offy taken out and had Luigi (or Lujie?) A. Lesovsky install a standard 270 size block Offenhauser motor in it. Lesovsky himself was skeptical that the new combination would work. But by the end of 1950 the new Belanger No. 99 was showing its mettle. It won at the Springfield 100 on October 1 and the Bay Meadows (San Mateo) 149 on November 26. The Bay Meadows event was supposed to be a 150 miler, but the flagman brought out the checkered flag one lap too early. At Sacramento (Oct. 15) however, Tony had a bad wreck. He and Walt Faulkner tangled on the 11th lap and Tony plowed into a guard rail, injuring four spectators, one of which died. Bettenhausen also finished 2nd at Phoenix 100 of November 12, using No. 99, behind winner Jimmy Davies.

But 1951 was even better in positive results. The Belanger No. 99 won nine of the fifteen AAA National Championship events run that year; i.e. one at Indianapolis itself with Lee Wallard up, and eight others with the "Tinley Park Express", Tony Bettenhausen. Tony won the 1951 U.S. Driving Title going away with 2556.6 points to Henry Banks' 1856.6 in second, and Walt Faulkner's, in third, with 1513.6.

After all this success Belanger had Lesovsky construct another duplicate of the 1951 Indianapolis and AAA National Championship winner. At Indianapolis in 1952 Bettenhausen was assigned the original car, while Duane Carter got the new Offenhauser/Lesovsky. Bettenhausen wrecked the Belanger No. 99 on May 24 while on the third lap of his qualification attempt and the car was too badly damaged to be repaired for the "500". Carter, in the Lesovsky replica, placed 4th in the 1952 "500".

However Louis Meyer could take much credit for the No. 99 car's successes in 1949, 1950, and 1951.

In late 1949/early 1950 Meyer-Drake started marketing a 440 horsepower, supercharged 176 cubic inch Offenhauser 4. It was basically a blown 220 cubic inch Offy. Three starters at Indy used it in 1950, i.e. Walt Ader, Fred Agabashian, and Duane Carter. Only one entrant each, in the 1951 (Johnny McDowell) and 1952 (Andy Linden) Indy lineup however, had it. None of these five competitors placed better than 12th, by Carter in 1950. This project went nowhere, as everyone was seemingly quite satisfied with the 270 unblown Offenhauser and just kept buying and using it.

Here's a story Meyer told me about Tuffanelli...Tuffanelli who bought Offenhauser motors directly from Meyer-Drake in 1947 and 1949, told Louie that if he and his wife June, were ever in the Chicago area and/or on their way to a Milwaukee race for instance; that he and his wife were quite welcome to stay at their home as long as they liked and would be wined and dined as well. So Louis and June took Tuffanelli up on it. After a good dinner meal the two were escorted to a first floor bedroom, where they were to sleep. It was quite something, very elaborate, ornate, fancy, and expensive.

But Meyer and his wife soon wondered where the Tuffanelli's were going to sleep, they having obviously been given the master bedroom! They soon discovered that the Tuffanellis never slept on the first floor, but always slept in a basement bedroom, equally lavish and luxuriant. It now became clear that the first floor bedroom was a decoy, in case there was ever an assassination attempt on Tuffanelli and family. So Lou and his wife spent a sleepless night and the next morning took their leave, then and there, and never stayed at the Tuffanelli's home again. "People like that are ruthless!", concluded Meyer.

Emil Andres, who drove for Tuffanelli in 1948 and 1949, reported about being in a passenger car with some of Tuffy's men, and how guns were hidden under the dashboard. Emil won one AAA Championship race for Tuffanelli, the Milwaukee 100 of June 6, 1948. It was Andres' only AAA Championship win, although Emil won also the non-Championship Springfield 100 held on October 15, 1939. On this occasion Emil was using the ex-Miller chassis used by Lou Schneider to win at Indianapolis in 1931, but now its original in-line Miller 8 had been replaced by an Offy 4. Andres had started racing in the Chicago area, c. 1931, and moved into the AAA Championship ranks in 1935. Emil had his own car, an Offenhauser/Adams ex-sprint car, for the five 100 mile dirt Championship contests in 1946, but joined the Belanger team for 1947. Andres' Offenhauser/Adams sprinter, an old updated 1933 Sparks/Weirick Ascot machine, was sold to Murrell Belanger in early 1947. Emil had purchased it from Joel Thorne in 1938, while Thorne had bought it from Art Sparks and Paul Weirick at the Roby Speedway in 1936.

Johnnie Parsons, the 1949 National Champion and 1950 Indy winner, was sitting on a couch in the Old Timer's Trailer, reading a magazine. When Tuffanelli's name was mentioned by chance, Parsons without moving or changing his demeanor quickly said (quote), "Tuffanelli was a crook. Tuffanelli was a crook." And then kept reading, without ever having made a move or looking up!

Edited by john glenn printz, 14 October 2009 - 18:18.


#16 fines

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Posted 13 August 2008 - 16:39

From the file "things you never knew, and didn't want to ask": Louis Meyer was apparently one of the most avid baseball fans amongst the drivers. In May of 1933, a petition was signed by Indiana baseball fans regarding the appearance of Babe Ruth in an exhibition game. Of the drivers then practicing at the Speedway, only four signed the petition: Leon Duray, Louis Schneider, Deacon Litz and Meyer!

#17 bpratt

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 04:30

During the summer of 1934 Lou Meyers participated in some tractor races in Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta and Regina, Saskatchewan. The first two dates included the IMCA as part of the show. The Regina date was part of the annual fair but the IMCA was missing.

Basically it was done to promote the Allis Chalmers tractor.

#18 john glenn printz

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Posted 21 August 2008 - 16:57

LOUIS MEYER (cont.-6) SUPPLEMENT. Here are four comments that Mr. Meyer made about AAA Championship racing in the late twenties that may be of interest...

(1.) Meyer said that Harry Miller made the chassis on all his new 91 1/2 cubic inch cars much too light and frail, especially for use on Indy's rough bricks. The best combination, according to Lou, was to run a 91 1/2 motor in a 122 cubic inch Miller chassis, which was much heavier and stronger. In 1927, rookies Wilbur Shaw and Louis Meyer, drove just such a Miller hybrid at Indianapolis, to 4th place overall. In fact, its 122 cubic inch chassis was the actual death car of Jimmy Murphy, who was killed on lap 139 at Syracuse, NY, in an AAA Championship dirt 150 staged on 15 Sept. 1924. Murphy was in 2nd place at the time, chasing the race leader and ultimate winner, Phil Shafer who used a 2 litre Duesenberg. Meyer, in 1928, at Indianapolis may have used the same configuration, i.e., a 91 1/2 cubic inch engine in a 122 cubic inch Miller chassis, to score his first Indy win.

(2.) Louie stated that most of the board tracks were constructed with pine, but the Salem-Rockingham NH, 1 1/4 mile oval was made out of spruce. Spruce wood contains much more sap than pine, and on a hot day, it would rise and work its way quickly to the surface at Rockingham. This made the Salem speedway on many occasions, a very, very slippery surface to race on according to Meyer.

(3.) Meyer also asserted that the Salem-Rockingham track never "settled" properly. In one area the supposed support pillars did not even reach the ground level, but were suspended an inch or two above the earth. When a car ran over the board surface above these pillars, the track would dip and then rebound, to creat a virtual launching pad or spring board. So one had to be very alert and careful when running near or in this section of the Salem speedway.

(4.) Meyer believed that Harry Hartz, during the running of the October 12, 1927 Salem 200, found himself in the wrong place and at the wrong time, i.e. in the oscillating section of the Rockingham track, thereby causing Harry's famous and horrific wreck on lap 52. Hartz was riding in 2nd position at the time, trying to catch and pass the amazing Frank Lockhart. Hartz lost control, his Miller overturned and threw Harry out, 35 feet away. The race was halted after 52 laps (i.e. at 65 miles) because of Hartz's accident, but then an impromptu 75 miler was run later in the day, to make up for the lost milage. This accident put Harry's driving career at an end, but no one, including Hartz himself, knew it at the time. In a comeback attempt at Indianapolis in 1930, Harry decided to call it quits while practicing in his new front wheel drive Miller/Summers. Harry then turned the vehicle over to Billy Arnold who won the pole at 113.26 mph and then the race itself at 100.448 mph.

Some additional information obtained directly from Louis Meyer is contained in the McMaken/Printz USAC history covering the years 1956-1965, printed in the PPG Indy Car Annuals of 1983 and 1984.

This "(cont.-6) SUPPLEMENT" virtually concludes everything that I know about Louis Meyer.

#19 fines

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Posted 21 August 2008 - 18:57

Originally posted by john glenn printz
Meyer, in 1928, at Indianapolis may have used the same configuration, i.e., a 91 1/2 cubic inch engine in a 122 cubic inch Miller chassis, to score his first Indy win.

Nope, it was a 91 chassis, the former de Paolo car. Finished 10th in the 1926 Indy 500, driven by Red Shafer and Fred Lecklider, and third in 1927 (Tony Gulotta/Pete de Paolo). :)

There were actually two very different types of 122 chassis, the "narrow frame" and the "wide frame", with the 91 chassis being in the middle of the two (this all refering to the spacing of the frame rails, and hence the spring base). I am not aware of any other differences in dimensions, will have to check. Murphy's car, by the way, was a narrow frame!

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#20 fines

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Posted 24 September 2008 - 10:25

Since it fits quite well into this thread, here's another excerpt from my project "AAA Big Car Racing - The 1933 Season", about Meyer's second of three Indy wins. I will post the article in three parts, as I write it, with the first one covering the intro and the practice period, the second the qualifying and the last the race itself:

May 30 (Tue), Speedway (IN)

Meyer Like Milton

For only the second time in 21 races, a former winner did it again! Louie Meyer joined Tommy Milton in the most exclusive club of US autoracing achievements as a two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500-mile race. Californian Meyer, who had sold his own team to Hoosier Joe Marks last fall, and had to borrow a car from fellow driver Ralph Hepburn for the event, ran amongst the leaders all day, taking the lead for good on lap 130, and finishing with a new track record for the distance. Four other residents of the Golden State took the next four finishing spots, with (California-born?) Dave Evans making a comeback drive into sixth place, in the only front-drive car to finish the race. Overshadowed by five fatalities, the month of May in Indianapolis proved to be another humiliation for the defendants of the Speedway’s stock car philosophy, with Miller-engined cars of the four-, eight- and sixteen-cylinder variety finishing in the first four positions. Semi-stock racers took all but two of the other thirteen finishing positions, and had a much better finishing record than the thoroughbreds, but just not the speed!

Amongst the biggest news for Speedway patrons in 1933 was the announcement that, for the first time since 1916, alcoholic beverages would be allowed on the IMS premises this year, with “3.2 beer” on sale all through the month. Reacting quickly to the new situation, 1931 winner Louis Schneider managed to attract sponsorship from a beer manufacturer but, on a much sadder note, had not only the recent death of his father to live through, but also a suicide attempt by a younger brother! In other news, and to combat the worsening economic realities induced by the world-wide recession, the Speedway management had reduced general admission prices by 20 %, and the race purse by a whopping 40 %! Undeterred, sixty-three entries were sent in by the hopefuls, of which fifty-two were to be conventional rear-drive chassis, with ten front-drives and a single four-wheel-drive car entered, while forty-three eight-cylinder engines opposed sixteen four-cylinders, three 16-cylinder motors and a lone six-cylinder. The five-car Studebaker factory entry was yet again the biggest by far, although two of the (again) nine two-car teams were closely enough affiliated to perhaps count as one single team with four cars, those of Harry Hartz and driver/owner Fred Frame, who was hoping to repeat his 1932 win, still driving for the former. Meanwhile, he was also fielding two cars of his own, both incidentally purchased from Hartz, although his hopes of attracting 1930 winner Billy Arnold as a driver proved to be in vain. Slim Corum (1924) in one of the works Studebakers, and Louie Meyer (1928) in Ralph Hepburn’s Miller completed the number of former winners on the entry list.

To avoid having a single car in the last row of the starting grid as opposed to three in the others, the maximum number of starters was increased to forty-two, meaning that two out of three entries were to be allowed to start the race, given a successful qualification attempt at one hundred miles per hour average speed, but a new rule demanded that this would now have to be sustained over a run of twenty-five miles instead of ten, so that the time limit actually increased from six minutes to fifteen. With that, it was decided to allow qualifying trials to be held for nine consecutive days, beginning on Saturday, May 20, and for a total of approximately seventy-five hours. Other new rules stipulated a maximum capacity for oil tanks of 6 gallons (approx 23 litres), and further not to be replenished during the course of the race, also fuel tanks of 15 gallons (approx 57 litres), and minimum weight to be 1950 lbs (885 kg), up from 1750 lbs (795 kg). The track itself had been worked on as well, with the removal of a well known bump at the end of the home straight, close to the old gateway at the entrance to Turn 1, for which the drivers expressed their gratitude. All was ready for an early start to the proceedings on Wednesday, May 3, but the weather!

Sustained rainfalls had already led to floods in Northern Indiana, and severely curtailed activity at the track during the first two weeks. Intermittent periods of dryness were used to good effect, however, and on Friday, May 12, Ernie Triplett in the brand new White/Miller excited the “railbirds” by recording the fastest time ever for a two-man car at the Speedway, more than a full second faster than the previous “record” by Lou Moore: 1’14.8”, the first two-seater to average more than 120 mph! The next day the local White river scored another “record”, with a 20-year high that not only flooded many of the access roads, but the Speedway itself in Turn 1! Drivers were quick to see the funny side of it, with Triplett and Deacon Litz arranging a go in a canoe for a photo opportunity, while those more inclined to sarcasm might have blamed the impending repeal of the 18th Amendment for the end of the “dry period”…

By Tuesday, May 16, normality had returned, and Frank Brisko proved that by turning one lap at 1’15.2” in the four-wheel-drive Miller, with many onlookers believing him to be “sandbagging” still! Bill Cummings and Louie Meyer were next fastest at 1’18” each, driving the two mostly identical 1931 Miller eight-cylinders. Others were less lucky, with Howdy Wilcox ruining the transmission of his Meyer/Miller, the late Bob Carey’s Championship winning car, and Harry Falt’s front-drive HAF/Cord catching fire almost as soon as it was ready to take to the track for the first time, though damage proved to be minimal. Leon Duray finally stepped aside from driving his own car, now fitted with a Miller 220 engine in place of the troublesome 16-cylinder, and named Wilbur Shaw as his replacement. Kelly Petillo, on the other hand, had to go looking for another ride, since his car owner Harvey Ward had decided against pulling the engine from the successful single-seater, and left the two-man car in California!

Edited by fines, 14 May 2009 - 08:24.


#21 john glenn printz

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Posted 24 September 2008 - 19:10

I too have an article on the entire 1933 AAA National Championship season. If Mr. Ferner and myself both post our findings and writeups, it should give everyone a very good survey, from two points of view, of what is currently known about "big-time" U.S racing during the year 1933.

I'm sure Mr. Ferner will have no objection to the mutual pooling and posting of our two investigations, surveys, and resources here.

I think all interested parties will benefit greatly from both. Sincerely.

#22 john glenn printz

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Posted 24 September 2008 - 19:20

THE 1933 AAA NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON: 1933 WAS A DEPRESSING YEAR. by John G. Printz and Ken M. McMaken. (Note: This article was published 25 years ago, on September 18, 1983, in the CART Michigan 200 program. I have made some additions and modifications.)

There were just three AAA National Championship races for 1933 and they were, with their winners:

1. Indianapolis 500, May 30, Louis Meyer, Miller, 104.16 mph, BR.

2. Detroit 100, June 11, Bill Cummings, Miller, 73.90 mph, D.

3. Syracuse 100, Sept. 9, Bill Cummings, Miller, 81.86 mph, D.

Two more important 1933 AAA contests, but not of Championship level status were:

1. Milwaukee 100, July 17, Wilbur Shaw, Miller, 79.58 mph , D.

2. Elgin 203, August 26, Phil Shaffer, Buick/Rigling, 88.34 mph, R.

1933 is considered by many to be the worst year of the U.S.' Great Depression. The general economic conditions in the U.S. after the stock market crash of October 1929 continued to worsen until its lowest point in 1933. Almost 13 million were unemployed, which was 25% of the entire work force above age 16. Things were bad all over and automobile racing got inexorably caught up in it too.

Actually the AAA National Championship Trial had been in serious trouble since 1927. The only competitive make during 1928 and 1929 had been the Miller, which in some instances, had the entire race lineup to itself. The board speedways were now in a state of rapid deterioration, rotting and falling apart. The whole situation had reached a crisis state by early 1929.

Reforms had been made in January 1929, for the upcoming 1930 season, by the adoption of the so-called "Junk Formula" rules (1930-1937). But the whole scheme for the revitalization of AAA Champ car racing had now gone completely awry by 1933 because of the financial woes of the nation. There were to be only three AAA National Championship races held in 1933 (i.e., 1. the Indianapolis 500 and the 2. Detroit and 3. Syracuse 100's), the least number yet. The previous least number had been five in 1920 and 1929. Earlier in 1933 however the AAA had seemingly lined up a rather full schedule of Championship ranked 100 milers, on the dirt surfaced ovals. This projected 1933 Championship Trail then consisted of the Indy 500 (May 30), Detroit (June 11), Roby [located near Hammond, IN] (June 25), Milwaukee (July 16), and Syracuse (Sept. 9), with other possible races at Langhorne, Cleveland, and Oakland. There was also some discussion about a second Detroit race to be staged in the fall. (This projected 1933 AAA Championship schedule is given THE DETROIT NEWS, June 13, 1933, page 17). Alas for all these hopes!

Before the 1933 Championship season got underway proper, tragic news came across the nation from California. Bob Carey, age 28, the 1932 AAA National Driving Champion, was killed during a test run at Ascot on April 16. Carey had only moved up to the AAA Championship ranks in 1932 at Indianapolis where he finish 4th as a rookie, after having led laps 59-94. Among the other five 1932 Championship contests Bob won twice (Detroit June 5 and Syracuse July 2), had a 2nd at Oakland (Nov. 13), a 6th at Roby (June 19), and a 7th at Detroit (Sept.10) to win the AAA Driving Title over the year's Indy winner, Fred Frame.

At Oakland on Feb. 5,1933, in a non-Championship 100 miler Carey duplicated Frank Lockhart's feat (i.e. Cleveland Sept. 25, 1927) of setting 101 new one mile dirt track records in one event. Bob's new one lap mark was 34.09 seconds (105.60 mph) and his 100 mile race average was 100.7023 mph. Carey's fatal Ascot accident was ascribed variously to a jammed throttle, a frozen steering knuckle, or just plain losing control. Everyone agreed however that Carey had the "magic touch", whether riding on dirt or the Indy bricks.

Then on April 22, Bryan Saulpaugh (1906-1933) was killed during a practice run at Oakland. Saulpaugh was a young and seemingly talented pilot who had run at Indianapolis in both 1931 and 1932. In 1931 he relieved Chet Miller in a Hudson for laps 104-152 and Bryan had started a Miller in 1932 (out 55 laps-broken oil line). Both Carey and Saulpaugh had been planning to run again at Indy in 1933.

Edited by john glenn printz, 10 May 2010 - 14:54.


#23 JimInSoCalif

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Posted 25 September 2008 - 03:52

This really a fascinating thread. Thanks so much for posting all of this information.

I have a question about the Millers which I hoipe is not off topic. Early in the thread it was stated that the front engined cars were more fragile on Indy's rough brick surface compared to the rear engined cars. On other smother surfaces, was there much advantage in either FWD or RWD. I suppose the board tracks were the only smoother surfaces unless they were still running road races.

I am under the impression that Miller did not switch from one configuration to the other, but built cars of both types about the same time. How was this guess?

My knowledge of this period is meager, but my interest is considerable.

Cheers, Jim.

#24 Buildy

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Posted 25 September 2008 - 04:39

"I am under the impression that Miller did not switch from one configuration to the other, but built cars of both types about the same time. How was this guess?"


You are correct,Miller built both types simultaneously.

The FD cars were more fragile and trouble -prone,generally speaking,in my opinion.

Since you are new to this subject,this excellent web-site may be of interest.

www.milleroffy.com

#25 JimInSoCalif

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Posted 25 September 2008 - 06:39

^^ Thanks for the link - interesting site - and the info.

#26 fines

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Posted 25 September 2008 - 07:37

Originally posted by john glenn printz
I'm sure Mr. Ferner will have no objection to the mutual pooling and posting of our two investigations, surveys, and resources here.

Of course not! Please, by all means, go ahead! :)

#27 fines

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Posted 25 September 2008 - 08:07

Originally posted by JimInSoCalif
I have a question about the Millers which I hoipe is not off topic. Early in the thread it was stated that the front engined cars were more fragile on Indy's rough brick surface compared to the rear engined cars. On other smother surfaces, was there much advantage in either FWD or RWD. I suppose the board tracks were the only smoother surfaces unless they were still running road races.

You're right, the board tracks constituted practically the only really smooth surfaces on which to race, and the front-drives were probably superior - it all depended a bit on the individual state of tuning of each car. Lockhart, for example, was always able to extract a few more horsepower from his engines than did all the others, so that he was competitive with his rear-drives.

Road races were practically unknown at the time in the US, and anyway in the twenties road racing surfaces were invariably... dirt! Unless you went to race on the purposely built autodromes, like Monza, AVUS or Montlhéry, which weren't that far removed from Indy, or the board tracks for that matter! But, for real road racing, the front-drives were totally unsuitable, as they had only two forward speeds, added to which they were almost impossible to shift at speed! And they were entirely unsuitable for dirt tracks, too.

So, in the end, the front-drives were an exciting engineering tour de force, but not really practical in racing use.

Originally posted by JimInSoCalif
I am under the impression that Miller did not switch from one configuration to the other, but built cars of both types about the same time. How was this guess?

Very well, as the aforementioned link confirms. However, I have to say that the "Miller history" on that site is, strangely, not without some rather big mistakes! Perhaps I'll get around to doing a critique of it later on.

#28 B Squared

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Posted 25 September 2008 - 09:57

Posted Image
photo: B2 Design

Michael, I hope you don't mind me posting a photo of Louie Meyer Jr.. "Sonny" is @ Indianapolis in 1995 in this photo. The Menard Team, that he was a prominent part of, started 1-2 in the race with Brayton & Luyendyk.

I see Mr. Meyer nearly every year @ "bench racing weekend" in March in Indy. It's a pleasure to sit in and listen to the stories. He hasn't been retired that many seasons from the sport. As the time approaches, let me know if I can ask Mr. Meyer any question(s) that would help your research. He has always been very kind to me , & quite approachable.

Thanks for all of your information. It can be a bit overwhelming to digest it all!

Brian

#29 fines

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Posted 25 September 2008 - 11:11

Meyer Like Milton

(Part 2)

Despite all the troubles, more than twenty cars and drivers were reported ready on Friday evening for the start of the time trials the next morning, and officials subsequently announced their decision to extend the “pole day” qualifying period to include Sunday as well, making it a two-day affair, so as to avoid undue hardship and give everyone a chance to complete a ten-lap run in time. 15,000 spectators witnessed the Saturday trials, which started promptly at 8 o’clock in the morning with the fastest man in practise, Ernie Triplett taking the green flag, and completing his run in better than 12’45”, and a new record average speed for two-man cars, even over the longer distance! Following that, all five Studebaker works cars made the field, led by Cliff Bergere in order and speed, and with Slim Corum (in the older, less streamlined car) amazing the crowd by running two consecutive laps in exactly the same time, to the hundredth of a second! Before Zeke Meyer could complete the neat but rather unimpressive Studebaker fivesome, however, Frank Brisko brought out the four-wheel-drive Miller for an attempt and managed to topple Triplett by going around ten times in 12’40.21”, including a best lap at 1’15.44”. Following his Pennsylvanian namesake, Louie Meyer completed the list of eight qualifiers before the noon “recess” third fastest, but the highlight of the morning session proved to be Bill Cummings in the sister car to Meyer’s, who had to abandon his run with a punctured right rear tyre after seven laps completed in 8’43.40”, at an average (!) speed faster than Triplett’s one-lap practise “record”, and with his fourth lap in 1’14.43” faster than any other lap ever recorded at the Speedway, except for Leon Duray’s now almost legendary run in the supercharged front-drive monoposto five years earlier!

The afternoon session saw Russ Snowberger and Ira Hall qualify two more semi-stock racers, with Hall toppling Bergere as the fastest of that ilk, followed by Shorty Cantlon, Les Spangler as the only rookie driver to qualify over the weekend, and Pete Kreis, who had earlier wasted his first attempt in much the same fashion as Cummings, if not quite that fast. Late in the day, with the traditional track closing by sundown (around 7 o’clock) already in sight, a trio of fast qualifiers brought the fight for pole position really alive again, with 1932 pole setter Lou Moore, now driving a Duesenberg with one of the new Miller 255 engines, and Howdy Wilcox both coming close to demote Brisko, and then Cummings in his second attempt accomplishing the deed, if only just and by less than a second! To avoid the tyre trouble that had cost him so dearly in the morning, the local hero had gone for a much more cautious approach at the onset of dusk, in the hope that it would suffice – now he would have to wait for Sunday’s trials to be sure!

With the possibility of having a shot at the pole as the main attraction, activity on Sunday was naturally quite high, although a number of drivers chose to have a go at one of the four AAA Big Car races that day, including Cummings and Wilcox who went north to Roby Speedway for a match race, complete with their cars – while the winner of the main event there, Sam Hoffman, was still hoping to land a ride at the Speedway, as were the winners of the other events, Mauri Rose at Detroit, Billy Winn at Trenton and Bob Sall at Woodbridge! A multiple winner at the latter venue in the past, Fred Frame had no such worries, but instead was gunning for the pole with his qualifying run which would turn out to be the fastest of the day, and though he failed to trouble either Cummings or Brisko, his last lap in 1’15.58” made sure he just pipped Moore for the remaining spot on the front row. Surprisingly, the next fastest time was made by the only semi-stock racing car to qualify on Sunday, the Shafer/Buick of Stubby Stubblefield, but the real sensation of the day proved to be Bennie Hill’s performance at the wheel of the twin-engine Gauss/Cooper, qualifying effortlessly on his first day at the track since 1927! Hard luck prize for the day went to Freddie Winnai, who wasted two attempts with mechanical ailments, just like Gene Haustein had done on Saturday.

After the hectic opening weekend, Monday turned out to be a rather dull day, with only Mark Billman completing a qualifying run, the second rookie to do so. Earlier that day, though, Al Aspen had registered the first IMS crash of the year on the fourth lap of a qualifying attempt, when a part of the rear suspension collapsed in Turn 1, fortunately without serious injury to either driver or mechanic. After two more days of inactivity, brought about at least partly by rain again, Wilbur Shaw and Al Miller put two more cars into the field on Thursday, while Kelly Petillo wasted an attempt with an engine failure, and Speed Gardner crashed in the last turn of his first lap of an attempt at qualification, sustaining a fractured left thigh in the process. Friday came and went with only five names added to the list of starters, but plenty of drama: local stock car ace Virgil Livengood went over the wall of turn 4 on the penultimate lap of his attempt, but thankfully, again with only minor injuries to his mechanic and himself, while rookie Sam Palmer finished a late run in near darkness and a shower of rain – perhaps gambling on the weather report?

Come Saturday and his action looked smarter by the hour, with on and off rain all day, and only one driver even attempting to qualify: Chet Miller, who was frustrated by turning five very fast laps only to run into a rain shower at turn 3, and then again later in the day on the very first lap of a second attempt! With a dozen places still open, but only one more day of qualifying remaining, tempers finally began to flare as many competitors questioned the wisdom of the new rules, with especially the restrictions on oil becoming an issue, as mechanics tried in vain to make their engines work under these conditions, but the officials refused to budge an inch, emphasized by a statement issued by Eddie Rickenbacker himself. Sunday turned out to be what nobody had dared to hope, sunny and dry, and at half past seven in the morning Babe Stapp set off in the front-drive Boyle with its new engine, and almost effortlessly recorded the ninth fastest time of the year. There then followed an almost endless procession of qualifying attempts, only interrupted early in the afternoon by a violent accident to Pennsylvanian Bill Denver and his Hoosier mechanic Bob Hurst, who both perished in a fiery crash at turn 3 on their first lap at speed, driving the same car in which Aspen had crashed earlier in the week! After a short delay, qualifications soon resumed and five more cars completed runs, including Denver’s unflappable team mate, Doc MacKenzie, who started the bumping by “trailering” rookie Doc Williams and the Ford V8 special. The last attempt of the day was started at 6 o’clock, under threatening skies and against the explicit advice of the IMS officials, as Ralph Hepburn set off in the second of the Gauss/Cooper front-drives (the one with the stock block engine), running at pretty much the same speed as team mate Hill for five or six laps, when raindrops started to fall, adding to the slipperiness of a track that had been subjected to oil spewing engines for almost four weeks! Reducing his speed greatly, “Hep” managed to complete his run in ever worsening conditions, and in an exciting finish made it with just over six seconds in hand over Palmer, who had qualified in similar circumstances just two days earlier!

Then the “fun” really started, with heavy rain pouring down and four more cars and their drivers still in line, waiting for a chance to qualify, amongst them Mauri Rose, who earlier that day had gone to Winchester for the Big Car race there (won by Ira Hall), in the firm belief he would be able to qualify at the Speedway until sundown – surely he couldn’t be punished for honouring an entry at a AAA event? Caught between a rock and a hard place, the IMS officials relented and announced a special period for qualifying early next morning, forty-eight minutes of make-up time before the scheduled track cleaning at half past seven – which, in turn, provoked the ire of Hepburn and his crew, who now felt very vulnerable and prone to being bumped because of the slow qualifying speed they had accepted, believing it to be their last chance! Eventually, the officials worked out a compromise whereby Hepburn would be allowed to rerun laps 6 to 10 of his attempt on Monday morning, with Rose, Phil Shafer, Danny Day and Leon de Hart all subsequently getting exactly one opportunity at completing a trial run, and that would be it! So, without further ado, Hepburn ran his five laps at the break of dawn, shaving almost 25 seconds off of his previous time, and leapfrogging five drivers in the process, i.e. moving up almost two rows on the grid. Of the others, only Shafer (in the newer of his two cars) succeeded in completing all ten laps, and in doing so bumped Haustein out of the field. The ultimate heartbreak appeared to belong to Rose, who ran nine laps easily fast enough to make the field, only for a tie rod to fail on the very last lap, thus narrowly preventing him from bumping fellow rookie Willard Prentiss… but it still wasn’t the end of it, not by a long way!

Next, it was Haustein who launched an official protest, arguing that there was nothing in the rules that would allow any driver to repeat his qualification attempt, in part or as a whole, once it was completed, and so Hepburn’s attempt should stand as of Sunday night, thus making him the one to be bumped by Shafer, not Haustein. After huddling over the issue for a time, the officials had no choice but to concur with the Michigander, prompting another protest, this time from Hepburn again, and not entirely unexpected: if his run on Monday morning was going to be disallowed then, according to “Hep”, so should be Shafer’s, for the official period of qualifying had ended at sundown on Sunday, and the extra period should never have been scheduled in the first place! Again, the officials went into a huddle and, again, they upheld the protest, and so Shafer was out, Hepburn in, and the field finally settled – or, was it? By now it was race day morning, and the next storm was brewing: it transpired that, during a session of “bench racing” one evening at a trackside diner, Howdy Wilcox had collapsed through the combination of a diabetic condition and alcohol. When this incident came to the attention of IMS physician Dr. Horace Allen, he immediately revoked clearance for Wilcox to drive at the track, effectively banning him from the race! Upon hearing of this verdict, all forty-one of his driver colleagues banded together in an unprecedented act of solidarity and protested to the AAA Contest Board as well as the IMS management to let Wilcox compete – but to no avail! The situation finally came to a head about half an hour before the scheduled start at 10 o’clock, with the drivers threatening to strike until Wilcox was reinstated, but in the end an ultimatum by track owner Rickenbacker settled the dispute: one by one the drivers gave in and returned to their cars, with Joe Marks meanwhile contracting Rose to take over Wilcox’s ride which, on account of the driver’s inexperience, was then unceremoniously wheeled to the back of the field, with the cars on the outside of each row moving up to close ranks, giving the grid a somewhat strange appearance when it finally moved off about a quarter of an hour late, after one of the most convoluted qualifying periods ever:
Bill Cummings			Frank Brisko			  Fred Frame
		 Miller				   Miller				Miller-Hartz
		12'39.36"				12'40.21"				12'43.59"

		Lou Moore			 Ernie Triplett			  Ira Hall
	Duesenberg/Miller		  White/Miller			  Duesenberg
		12'43.73"				12'44.75"				12'57.61"

	   Louie Meyer			 Les Spangler			  Pete Kreis
		 Miller				   Miller				Miller-Hartz
		12'49.38"				12'49.87"				13'06.92"

	  Cliff Bergere		 Stubby Stubblefield		  Deacon Litz
	   Studebaker			  Shafer/Buick		   Schneider/Miller
		12'58.26"				13'04.08"				13'15.49"

	  Tony Gulotta			Shorty Cantlon		   Russ Snowberger
	   Studebaker				 Miller			Snowberger/Studebaker
		13'12.41"				13'13.76"				13'32.50"

	  Chet Gardner			  Zeke Meyer			 Luther Johnson
	 Sampson/Miller			 Studebaker			   Studebaker
		13'21.29"				13'30.09"				13'37.46"

	   Slim Corum			   Bennie Hill			  Wilbur Shaw
	   Studebaker			  Gauss/Cooper			 Duray/Miller
		13'34.74"				13'36.22"				12'59.24"

	 Louis Schneider		   Mark Billman			 Wes Crawford
	Schneider/Miller		Buehrig/Duesenberg		  Evans/Miller
		13'39.30"				13'20.64"				13'39.21"

		Al Miller			  Kelly Petillo			  Babe Stapp
	   Marr/Hudson			 Smith/Miller		  Boyle/Brisko-Miller
		13'39.68"				13'16.20"				12'51.70"

	  Raul Riganti			 Gene Haustein			 Chet Miller
	Gaudino/Chrysler		   Martz/Hudson			  Marr/Hudson
		13'52.71"				13'56.41"				13'23.39"

	   Malcolm Fox			   Joe Russo			 Freddie Winnai
	Romthe/Studebaker	   Duesenberg/Clemons		   Duesenberg
		13'17.01"				13'19.77"				13'38.05"

		Paul Bost			  Johnny Sawyer			 Rick Decker
	Duesenberg/Miller			 Miller			   Ricketts/Miller
		13'28.41"				13'33.82"				13'51.18"

	   Dave Evans			   Ray Campbell			Ralph Hepburn
	Smith/Studebaker			Marr/Hudson		  Gauss/Cooper-Marmon
		13'42.31"				13'49.19"				14'03.01"

	  Doc MacKenzie		   Willard Prentiss		  # Mauri Rose
	Nardi/Studebaker		   RH/Duesenberg			Meyer/Miller
		13'52.77"				13'55.14"				12'44.99"


# qualified by Howdy Wilcox


Did not start:

Sam Palmer, Henry/Duesenberg, too slow (14'09.07")
Doc Williams (Terry Curley), Warnock/Ford, too slow (14'20.93")
Phil Shafer, Shafer/Buick, qualification disallowed (13'53.55")
Speed Gardner, MCG/Studebaker, accident (driver injured) in qualifying
* Mauri Rose, Dunning/De Soto, damage (steering) in qualifying
Bill Denver (Al Aspen), Brady/Studebaker, accident (driver killed) in qualifying
Harry Lewis, Coleman/Miller, did not qualify
Overton Snell, Snell/Studebaker, did not qualify
George Barringer, Clemons, did not qualify
Leon de Hart, Morton-Brett, did not qualify
Paul Butler, Butler/Lincoln, did not qualify
Ray Carter, Carter, did not qualify
Virgil Livengood, Gosma/Duesenberg, accident in qualifying
Harry Falt, HAF/Cord, did not qualify
Roy Painter, Crow/Graham, did not qualify
Leo Lariviere, Lariviere/Duesenberg, did not qualify
Frank Davidson, Davidson, did not qualify

Did not appear:

N.N., Frontenac-Ford
* Kelly Petillo, Ward/Miller
George Howie, GNH/Chrysler
Bill Sockwell, Sockwell

* alternative car

Edited by fines, 14 May 2009 - 08:25.


#30 fines

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Posted 25 September 2008 - 11:40

Originally posted by B Squared
I see Mr. Meyer nearly every year @ "bench racing weekend" in March in Indy. It's a pleasure to sit in and listen to the stories. He hasn't been retired that many seasons from the sport. As the time approaches, let me know if I can ask Mr. Meyer any question(s) that would help your research. He has always been very kind to me , & quite approachable.

Yes, indeed you can! See my earlier post:;)

Originally posted by fines
Perhaps as good a place as any to ask a couple of questions about Lou's brother, Eddie Meyer:

1) I read once that Ned Meyers, relief driver at Indy in 1932, was in reality Eddie Meyer racing under a pseudonym! In a way it makes sense, since I can't find a "Ned Meyers" anywhere else in my records (or anyone else's for that matter), but it still seems strange to me to find Eddie driving relief for Ira Hall in a Duesenberg!? Do you, Mr. Printz, have any info about this, or Ned Meyers at all?

2) How many Redlands Specials did Eddie built? From pictures I've seen, I'd say at least three different cars, but it's always difficult to correctly date these pictures, and there may have been more. Also, did he always use Rajo engines? His cars always seemed to have left-hand exhausts? Mr. Printz? Anyone?

Also, a bit of family info would go down well here, like the birthdates of Louie's brothers (how many were there? Eddie, Harry, ???), and his father's as well as Sonny's!

And don't forget to give my regards to Sonny, a man of considerable standing of his own in racing! :up:

#31 john glenn printz

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Posted 25 September 2008 - 12:28

1933 AAA NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP (cont.-1) 1. INDIANAPOLIS 500, MAY 30, 1933. The first Championship event of the year was the annual 500 held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It was staged using the standard Junk Formula rules of unsupercharged two-man cars with a piston displacement of up to 366 cubic inches allowed. The times being what they were, there were very few totally new cars but a few new novelties had been introduced nonetheless. The qualifications now required ten laps (25 miles) instead of the more customary 4 (10 miles) and 42 cars, the most ever, would be allowed to start. A new rule limited the fuel tanks to 15 gallons capacity which would necessitate at least three pit stops for each car. Oil was limited to six gallons, in the race itself, in an effort to keep it off the track surface, a frequent cause of accidents in the immediate past.

63 vehicles were entered. 21 stock block powered racers were on hand, excluding the various Model A type Duesenbergs: ten Studebakers, three Hudsons, two Fords, two Buicks, two Marmons, one Graham-Paige, and a Chrysler. Studebaker had an official five car factory team with vehicles that made some rough attempt at streamlining. These cars however looked and were, overly heavy and bulky. A Studebaker factory entry had finished a good 3rd in the 1932 event, as piloted by Cliff Bergere, and the Studebaker firm was undoubtedly looking for even better thing in '33. A semi-official two car Hudson duo was entered by Detroiter, R.G. "Buddy" Marr.

August Duesenberg seems to have built three new straight 8 engines and perhaps a new car or two. Augie was with driver Joe Russo (1901-1934), at the big Speedway, in both 1933 and 1934 and Joe's machine here may be the last genuine Indy racing type Duesenberg constructed. Augie prepared three new straight 8 engines in 1933, one of which went into Russo's Duesenberg. A second motor seems to have been sent to Prince Nicholas of Romania. The third motor may have powered a special Duesenberg built for Grand Prix racing proper, which was delivered to the Scuderia Ferrari in August 1933, for Count Carlo Felice Trossi's (1908-1949) use.

In simple truth, most of the cars with a real chance to win, had Miller type motors of various configurations. Harry Miller himself in May 1933 was totally broke and while at the track expressed his intention to retire from the manufacture of racing cars and motors. Harry now wanted to build aviation engines. Miller would shortly declare bankruptcy in June/July 1933.

The total purse and the lap prize money at Indianapolis in 1933 had been greatly reduced, as had the general admission ticket prices. Times were tough.

The time trials saw the pole taken by Bill Cummings at 118.521 mph while the next five starters in order were Frank Brisko (118.388), Fred Frame (117.874), Lou Moore (117.842), Ernie Triplett (117.874) and Howdy Wilcox II (117.649). 42 cars took the green flag and among them was one foreign driver, Raoul Riganti (1893-1970), who hailed from Argentina. Bennett Hill, a famous board track ace of the twenties, was also in the field again, and had come out of a five year retirement trying for a comeback.

The actual start was delayed by 15 minutes because of a driver protest over the elimination of Howard "Howdy" Wilcox II (1905-1946) as a competitor by the Speedway management, on the very eve and morning of the race. Wilcox, who was diabetic, had qualified for the 6th starting position but was now told he could not drive or participate. The other drivers felt such short notice was unjust as everyone had known about Howard's condition and further, Wilcox had finished 2nd here in the 1932 race. The debate was finally settled by Eddie Rickenbacker, president of the Speedway, when Wilcox's car was pushed to the rear of the entire field and Mauri Rose, a rookie, was put into the cockpit as a replacement for Howdy.

After the green flag finally fell, Cummings led the first 32 circuits before somehow losing a radiator cap. As the cap was of an unusual design another couldn't be found and makeshift repairs and an improvised replacement cap didn't work. Bill was out after 132 circuits. Fred Frame took over the front position on lap 33 and battled Babe Stapp for the lead until valve trouble intervened. Stapp led laps 51 to 129 but Babe ran out of fuel on the back straightaway (lap 157), which put him out. In 1933 if you ran out of fuel while on the racetrack you were eliminated, unless you could somehow get back to your pit area. And they didn't tow you back to your pit either.

Louie Meyer, who started 7th, drove a consistent race and moved up steadily. Lou was 5th at 50 miles, 4th at 75, 3rd at 100. 2nd at 225 miles and he took over the lead from Stapp on lap 130 and led all the rest of the way. The top five finishers were 1. Meyer with a 104.162 mph average (a new record), 2. Wilbur Shaw at 101.795 mph, 3. Moore (101.599), 4. Chet Gardner (101.182), and 5. Hartwell Wiburn "Stubby" Stubblefield (100.762). New race records were set all across the board. Riganti was 14th in the Chrysler while Bennett Hill went out after 158 laps with a broken connecting rod. Hill had never run among the top ten. Meyer collected $18,000 for his victory, in contrast to his 1928 win, where he got $28,250.

Miller powered equipment finished in the first four places, a Buick was 5th, while Studebakers took 6th through 12th. The Studebakers were very slow but had managed to keep moving. Both of the Buddy Marr entered Hudsons went out with broken connecting rods. The best Duesenberg, i.e. five had started, was a lowly 13th. Louis Meyer's winning "Tydol Special" was a 1931 Miller 258.5 cubic inch straight 8 owned by Ralph Hepburn. Ralph finished 3rd with it here in 1931 and Wilbur Shaw drove it in the 1932 "500" but went out after 157 laps with a broken rear axle. Hepburn did not drive this 1931 Miller at Indianapolis in either 1932 or 1933, because he was still recuperating from very severe injuries which he had sustained in this same Miller at Oakland, California on January 1, 1932 during a non-Championship AAA 100 miler.

The activity at the Speedway in 1933 had been particularly tragic with two men killed in the pre-race period and three more in the race itself. Beginning with 1930, two men were required in each car. Wilbur Shaw stated (quote), "In those days, for some unknown reason, riding mechanics were mandatory at the Indianapolis track. Theoretically, they were supposed to keep the driver informed about cars moving up from the rear. Actually, they were about as useful as cigar store Indians." The only positive result, a complete and total negative, was that when serious accidents occurred, twice as many people got hurt or killed. This factor was in full force at the Speedway in 1933 as two of the men killed were riding mechanics. Riding mechanics were finally done away with for good in 1938.

Edited by john glenn printz, 14 October 2011 - 13:38.


#32 john glenn printz

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Posted 26 September 2008 - 19:02

1933 AAA NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP (cont.-2) 2. DETROIT 100, JUNE 11, 1933. After Indianapolis the "500" cars and stars moved north to Detroit for the Championship June 11, 100 mile chase. 24 entries were received and only Tony Gulotta of the top eight Indianapolis finishers was missing. The drivers would qualify beginning at 10 a.m. and the race was to commence at 3 p.m. Only the 14 fastest cars would start. General admission was $1.00. Most of the drivers had the same exact machines which they had piloted at Indianapolis including Bill Cummings, Deacon Litz, Louie Meyer, Lou Moore, Kelly Petillo, Mauri Rose, Joe Russo, and Wilbur Shaw.

Cummings posted the fastest qualification at 46.66 seconds (78.84 mph). Meyer, who was having problems with an overheating motor, had the 15th fastest clocking and thus appeared to be out of the show. But Chet Gardner's "Kemp Special" was ruled out as a starter after he had qualified, because of defective brakes; and thus Lou got into the event and lined up 14th. Cummings took the lead at the start and led all 100 laps. On the 94th circuit Bill lapped the second place car (Mauri Rose), and at the finish Cummings led Rose by one full lap plus 200 yards. A flat tire on lap 94 cost Fred Frame three positions. Only two cars retired, Shaw (broken air line) and Gene Haustein (loose hose connection). The first five finishers were 1.Cummings at 73.9 mph, 2. Rose, 3. Moore, 4. Litz, and 5. Russo. Fred Frame was listed 7th.

Louis Meyer's machine ran very poorly and Lou finished 10th overall but he still added another 10 points to the 600 he collected for winning at Indianapolis. The AAA point standings, after Detroit, were Louis Meyer 610, Lou Moore 480, and Wilbur Shaw and Chet Gardner were tied with 350 each.

After Indianapolis, Shaw, Moore, and Gardner may have all thought that they had a fair shot at the 1933 AAA National Title but after the Detroit 100 these hopes soon faded. No more Championship ranked contests were staged during the summer and the AAA Indy Car schedule seems to have simply collapsed under the economic malaise of the nation. There was indeed an AAA 100 miler held at Milwaukee on July 18, but it didn't conform to the AAA Championship regulations, and didn't rank as a Championship event. Most all of the cars at Milwaukee were single seat big cars. Wilbur Shaw won it in a single seat vehicle owned by Leon Duray at an average speed of 75.587 mph. Mauri Rose led the first 50 laps before his axle and a right rear tire gave way. Wilbur led the rest of the way. The finishing order after Shaw was 2. Chet Gardner, 3. Johnny Sawyer, 4. Sam Palmer, and 5. George Barringer. All top five cars were equipped with Miller motors.

In mid-July 1933 Eddie Rickenbacker came to Los Angeles to ascertain whether a Championship event could be staged at the Ascot Legion Speedway. The problem was that Ascot Legion was a 5/8's mile oval and the AAA rules required that Championship ranked events could only be run on tracks of one mile length or larger. The AAA rules would therefore have to be altered. But nothing was done and the Ascot 5/8's mile speedway never ever held a genuine AAA National Championship race.

There was also during 1933 a great deal of discussion about possibly reviving road racing. A plan to hold a Vanderbilt Cup race, in total abeyance since 1916, in New York state as a public works project was put forward in April 1933, but nothing more happened.

There had been no Elgin, Illinois road races since 1920 but the series was renewed on August 26, 1933. Actually two separate races were staged that day. The first was for stock cars of 231 cubic inches or under. and was won by Fred Frame at 80.2 mph in a V8 Ford roadster. The second contest was an AAA non-Championship "free for all" for cars using 366 cubic inch engines or under. This "free for all" attracted both modified stock cars and genuine AAA Championship two-man cars. Both events were 203 miles in length or 24 laps over the same 8 1/4 mile circuit used in the earlier Elgin contests held between 1910 and 1920. These 1933 Elgin races were run in conjunction somewhat, with the 1933 Chicago World's Fair which also featured spectacular air races. An local Elgin insurance man, Fred W. Jencks, was the promotor of these two 1933 Elgin races.

During the qualifications, held on August 24, Lou Moore broke DePalma's old 1920 lap record of 6 minutes, 11 seconds, by registering a circuit at 5 minutes, 51 seconds. Ralph DePalma, grayed haired and at age 50; and who had won in here in 1912 (Mercedes), 1914 (Mercedes), and 1920 (Ballot), intended to start in the Elgin 1933 "free for all" also, but was unable to get his Miller in the proper condition. However Ralph competed in the stock car race, placing 10th., using a V8 Ford.

The Elgin Indy car race was a thriller as Phil Shafer (1891-1971), with just four laps to go and with a 51 second lead, crashed. During Shafer's mishap Fred Frame grapped the front position but he held it for less than a lap. For Frame, almost immediately, had to pit for new tires and thereby lost one minute, and 15 seconds. Shafer regained the lead and on the very last circuit Frame went off the roadway twice, trying to make up the lost time.

Shafer won by averaging 88.34 mph in his 284 cubic inch straight 8 Buick/Rigling. 14 cars had started but only 7 finished. The top five placements were 1. Shafer (Buick/Rigling); 2. Frame (Miller/Duesenberg), 3. Rose (Studebaker), 4. Haustein (Hudson), and 5. Johnny Sawyer (?). The factory Studebaker team placed 6th and 7th, with Dave Evans and Lou Moore respectively, but this race witnessed the last appearance of the Studebaker racing team, as well as the Elgin road race itself . The Studebaker Corporation was in very bad shape financially and the firm had actually gone into receivership in March 1933.

Edited by john glenn printz, 10 May 2010 - 15:14.


#33 john glenn printz

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Posted 28 September 2008 - 16:03

1933 AAA NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP (cont.-3) 3. SYRACUSE 100, SEPTEMBER 9, 1933. The Syracuse 100 was the third and last Championship ranked contest of the year. Only Lou Moore now had a mathematical chance to win the 1933 AAA Title by surpassing Meyer's point total of 610, but Moore would have to win here to do it. Meyer himself didn't even bother to enter and the "Tydol Special", on this occasion was piloted by Chet Gardner.

Bill Cummings, just as he had been at Indianapolis and Detroit, was the fastest qualifier with a posted 41.98 seconds or 85.75 mph, and again sat on the pole. Bill took the lead immediately while Lou Moore, trying hard to win the U.S. National Driving Title, ran in 2nd position for laps 3 through 9. Then Mauri Rose passed Moore for 2nd. Moore eventually faded all the way down to 6th making Louis Meyer the AAA Championship Titlist for a third time as Meyer had already won the title in 1928 and 1929.

Cummings led by 1/4 of a mile at 16 laps, by a 1/2 mile margin at 50 circuits, and lapped Mauri on the 98th round. Rose was one whole lap and two car lengths behind Bill at the end. Chet Gardner beat Shorty Cantlon by half a car length for 3rd. Big Deacon Litz, who finished 5th, had blown a rear tire on his 42nd circuit and lost three entire laps while a new wheel was being put on. Cummings winning average was 81.863 mph. The final placements being 1, Cummings, 2. Rose, 3. Gardner, 4. Cantlon, and 5. Litz.

Ralph DePalma, the 1915 Indianapolis winner, had failed to qualify but at the special request of the other drivers was allowed to start. DePalma, now a venerable relic of days gone by, was trying to make a comeback. The 1933 Syracuse 100 would prove however to be his last AAA Championship start. Ralph had started racing automobiles in 1908 and 1933 marked his 25th anniversary in the automobile racing wars. Ralph placed 9th here at Syracuse. DePalma raced in a few minor contests in 1934, and retired for good in October 1934.

From Indianapolis, on October 7, 1933, came the word that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway would return to its traditional basic prize fund of $50,000, over the reduced prize total of $30,000 for 1933. Captain E. V. Rickenbacker stated, "A continued improvement in business conditions and a desire to add our bit to the nation-wide drive for a complete return to good times have caused us to make an early announcement of our return to the original basic prize of $50,000. We cut the purse for the first time last year to assure the financial success of the race and thus guarantee the perpetuity of the laboratory of the automotive industry, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Conditions at that time warranted the reduction. We declared that the reduction was temporary and that we would restore the prize money as soon as the business skies cleared. We are now making good that declaration."

Supposely inspired by the two Elgin races, it was announced on Oct. 10, that the final AAA Championship race would be a 100 miler to be held on an 2 mile artificial road circuit to be constructed at Mines Field (i.e. the Los Angeles Municipal Airport). It was to be staged in conjunction with a prior 200 mile stock car race, which allowed a piston displacement up to 290 cubic inches, to be run on the same day. William "Bill" Pickens was the promotor, along with William S. "Hollywood Bill" White. The two events were scheduled for December 10th. By Nov. 3 the Championship contest was up to a distance of 250 miles. On November 13 Art C. Pillsbury was quoted as say, "The construction of a two-mile track around Mines Field will put Los Angeles in direct competition with Indianapolis. We can now use all the great drivers and two-man cars which are automatically barred from Ascot, a grand racing plant, because that track is less than one mile in length." Then on November 18 both races were postponed to February 22, 1934, i.e., Washington's birthday. Eventually a Mines Field AAA Championship race was actually held, but on Dec. 23, 1934, and was a 200 miler won by Kelly Petillo in a car (Sparks/Stevens-Summers) owned jointly by Sparks and Weirick. Kelly's riding companion that day was a young Japanese lad named Takeo "Chickie" Hirashima.

William Hickman "Bill" Pickens (d. 20 July 1934) was an old time racing promotor who got Barney Oldfield, into the barnstorming game, way back in 1905. Pickens was also involved in the Oct. 25, 1910 match race between Barney and Jack Johnson; and had arranged the 1914 match races between aviator Lincoln J. Beachey (1887-1915) and Oldfield. In 1924 Pickens worked with George Bentel at the new 5/8's mile Ascot track.

The final AAA 1933 National Driver standings were 1. Meyer 610, 2. Moore 530, 3. Shaw 450, 4. Gardner 430, and 5. Stubblefield 325.2. Cummings however, who only ranked 7th with 240 points, was undoubtedly the outstanding America pilot of 1933. Had it not been for the lost or defective radiator cap at Indianapolis, Bill might well have won all three of the AAA Championship ranked contests for 1933.

The sad fact of their being only three point awarding AAA events in 1933, two of which were just 100 milers, made the AAA National Title all but meaningless. The previous low, as has already been mentioned, was five in both 1920 and 1929. However the total combined milage for the 1920 and 1929 campaigns had been 1476 and 1048.75 miles respectively, while in 1933 it was just 700.

Such was the preponderance of the Indianapolis 500 in the awarding of points that the great 500 classic just about summed up the ranking of the drivers for the entire season. This unfortunate trend also would continue largely for 1934 to 1941.

I should and will add that the Oakland Speedway in California staged four major "big-car" races in 1933. These were 1. a 100 miler on Feb. 5, won by Bob Carey (1904-1933); 2. a 150 miler on April 23, won by Chet Gardner (1898-1938); 3. a 100 won on Oct. 22 by Al Gordon (1903-1936); and 4. another 100 on Nov. 12, again won by Al Gordon. It was during the qualifications, also held on Nov. 12, that Gordon set the ultimate Oakland one lap record at 33.86 seconds or 106.32 mph. In both of his wins listed here Gordon was driving for the Art Sparks-Paul Weirick team.

That's about it for 1933. The situation for Indy car racing was a little better in 1934, with four contests and a total milage of 900, but not by much. But that's another story.

Edited by john glenn printz, 29 November 2010 - 16:10.


#34 fines

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Posted 28 September 2008 - 17:52

Originally posted by john glenn printz
Stapp led laps 51 to 129 but ran out of fuel on the back straightaway, which put him out. In 1933 if you ran out of fuel while on the racetrack you were out, unless you could somehow get back to your pit area. And they didn't tow you back to your pit either.

According to my research, Stapp did continue after running out of fuel - losing two places and about 8 laps (roughly 10 minutes) - only to retire approx 25 laps later with clutch failure, still running third. Most sources today give his reason for retirement as lack of fuel, but credit him with 156 laps, rather than 129, but that doesn't make much sense. From the published intermediate times and leading positions, I believe I can savely say that he was trying to run the race with only two pit stops, a gamble that didn't quite work out. There's no reason why he should have run out of fuel a second time, and an article in the LA Times upon his return to the West coast mentioned the clutch failure as reason for his retirement.

Mr. Printz, I have a question here: are you sure that there were no tow trucks in 1933? The reports at the time said Stapp ran out of fuel on the backstretch, how could he have pushed the car to the pits and refuel in just ten minutes? Perhaps he rolled in with a dead engine?

#35 fines

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Posted 29 September 2008 - 06:48

It may be that I answered my own question in the meantime! :D

I found an article mentioning Stapp coming to a stop half a mile from the pits - that figures: he probably ran out of fuel on the backstretch, meaning he slowed up for everyone to see, and then coasted into the finishing straight, coming to rest short of the pits, from where he pushed in. Manageable in ten minutes? I would say so. Comments?

#36 JimInSoCalif

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Posted 29 September 2008 - 07:38

Ralph DePalma was over to our house for dinner once. It was either during the war or shortly after. I guess for those who were around at the time that WW ll, will always be 'The War'. Unfortunately, I was just a kid and had never seen an auto race, nor did I know anything about auto racing at the time.

It is a great pity that I lacked any knowledge of the sport at that time or it would have been a great thrill. As it was, he was just a nice man who came for dinner.

Cheers, Jim.

#37 john glenn printz

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Posted 29 September 2008 - 12:28

Dear Mr Ferner;

You have much knowledge and a sharp eye!

In rechecking my original typed manuscript I find, to my surprize, that the sentence in question was lopped off when published in the Sept. 18 1983 CART Michigan program. I had used the Michigan program when I was putting the article onto the database and had altered the sentence somewhat also.

My sentence in typed form, as originally written read, "Stapp led laps 51 to 129 but was using up his fuel supply at a rate which would put his car out after just 156 completed."

Anyway I have altered and corrected the above text. In my 1933 article, written 25 years ago, I have no recall at all about the sources used for the 1933 Indianapolis 500. As to your tow-truck question, I don't presently know where I got that information.

Sincerely

#38 john glenn printz

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Posted 01 October 2008 - 16:41

LOUIS MEYER (cont.-7) SUPPLEMENT II. There is some information about Eddie Meyer (1893-1983) in a good February 1952 SPEED AGE article, pages 34-37, by Bob Shafer, entitled LOU MEYER: MAN BEHIND THE RECORD-BREAKERS. Shafer states that Eddie, at age 58 in 1952, was a veteran speed parts builder, distributor, and a star speedboat pilot.

Bob further writes about both Eddie and Louie (quote);

"Lou is practically a native Californian, At the age of one, he was brought West from New York City by his family. He acquired the racing bug in 1921.

Shorty after the close of World War I, brother Eddie began driving racing cars. Handling the Ford-powered Redlands Special, Eddie won the 200-mile road race between Ontario and Upland in 1921. That was when Lou got the fever.

He started to work for Ed as grease monkey. On their treks to meetings up north- toward San Jose and various points- he made the journey in the race car, hitched by rope to Eddie's truck.

Lou remained with Eddie until 1926 when Frank Elliott came looking for a young fellow to work on the car he had purchased. It was the Miller in which the great Jimmy Murphy had met an unfortunate end.

Meyer suited Elliott's fancy and hired on, later invading the ranks of the drivers.

His only race that year was a sprint affair at Charlotte, N.C., in which the car broke down."

Louis Meyer in 1949, when he assembled his small supercharged 107 cubic inch AAA Championship car along with Dale Drake and Frank Kurtis, had given it number 99. That was because he and Eddie, in the 1920's, had greatly admired a No. 99 Fronty Ford, according to Shafer's article. Although Bob doesn't specify the exact car, I would guess that it was Harry Hooker's famous No. 99 Fronty Ford. This machine is always hailed as the most powerful Model T ever put together. The car was fast but the strength of the engine was often overtaxed by its added power enhancements, resulting in motor trouble and many non-finishes. However when everything stayed together, it generally won. I can verify that Hooker's No. 99, was campaigned at various California oval tracks during 1926, 1927, and 1928.

But beginning in September 1949 the number 99 always came to be associated with car owner Murrell Belanger, just as the number 98, was always linked and connected up to J. C. Agajanian.

There were at least three Meyer brothers, i.e., Eddie, Harry, and Louis. This information from Shafer's article also.

In a HOT ROD magazine article published the June 1958 issue, it states that Harry Meyer was then in charge of engine assembly at the Meyer-Drake shop.

Edited by john glenn printz, 18 September 2009 - 19:51.


#39 Mark Dill

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Posted 07 January 2009 - 21:31

John, your knowledge is only exceeded by your generosity in sharing it. Nothing short of impressive. You too, Michael, you are obviously a gifted researcher and editor.

I have a question and a comment.

Question: Have either of you - or anyone else, for that matter - come across information about Louie Meyer coming out of retirement at age 87 to win a stock car race driving a Ford Tempo? It was the Phoenix Solar and Electric 100 in 1996. Source: SHAV GLICK Date: Aug 13, 1992 Start Page: 1 Section: Sports; PART-C; Sports Desk Text Word Count: 2862

Meyer came out of retirement as a racer in a manner of speaking last April when he drove a battery-powered Ford Tempo in an electric car race-the Phoenix Solar and Electric 100-at Phoenix International Raceway. The event, sponsored by the Dept. of Energy and Argonne National Laboratories, featured cars modified by students from Phoenix-area high schools.
"I drove for the kids at Paradise Valley High and won my class," Meyer said. "I drove about 40 laps and was running flat-out at about 65 m.p.h. It was a great way to make my comeback."


If anybody has any information on this event, please share. I'd like to research it. Obviously, this was well short of big time racing, but God bless the man for being so active at such an advanced age. The stuff of legend.

Also, my comment references a very fine point about the George Vanderbilt Cup Race of 1936. John, you credit Mr. Marshall as the driving force behind the event, but closer analysis points to George Robertson, the winner of the 1908 William K. Vanderbilt, Jr. Cup. George even drove his 1906 Locomobile the morning of the event in preliminary activities.

Some good sources:


New York American, “Both Barrels” column by Damon Runyon, October 12, 1936, page ?.
American Road Racing in the 1930s, Joel Finn, Garnett Hill Publishing, 1995, page 181.
New York American, “Starting Field In Auto Race Today,” October 12, 1936, page ?.
Veteran and Vintage Magazine, “The Last of the Vanderbilts,” 1968, page 42.

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#40 fines

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Posted 20 February 2009 - 19:55

Check out this one:

http://www.joost.com...y/t/Louis-Meyer

:)

#41 john glenn printz

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 20:40

GEORGE AMICK (1924-1959) WAS JUST NOT BUYING IT.

Dear Michael: An interesting tape! Viewing the Louis Meyer documentary brought back memories of when I got to talk with him. Both Louis and his wife June look a little more frail and older than I remember, but Louis' voice sounds exactly as it was. I still don't hear any heavy German accent.

I knew Mr. Meyer for about one decade and it was during those years that his wife June died. Mrs. Meyer always carried at Indianapolis, a large purse covered on the outside with about 60 metallic Indy pit and garage badges going back to, I would guess, 1927 or 1928. I have often wondered what happened to that purse as it was quite a collector's item: perhaps it is still in the Meyer family somewhere.

There is also in this Meyer tape some footage of the 1925 Indianapolis event. Here, if you look closely, you can see how badly the cars bounced in 1925. DePaolo once told me, "In those days there wasn't much we could do. We had only the Hartford shocks to work with and we always tightened them up as much as possible before the race. But after about 100 miles they would collapse and it was a very rough ride the rest of the way." Meyer also in this tape mentioned the Hartford type shocks somewhere.

I was disappointed by the Marui Rose feature, but only because there was no interview with him. I knew Mauri also. I actually never had any problems at all in talking to Mr. Rose. But Mauri used to complain to me about all the ignorant reporters and race announcers he had to talk to. Rose told me that one year at Indy he had a bad crash (1951?) and before he was barely out of the car a reporter ran over to him and jabbed his hand into his chest and yelled, "Hey bud, what happened?" Rose who was a bit shaken up, with mud in his mouth, and angry replied, "Well I was getting more and more scared on each lap, and finally I just crashed the car." Mauri, still in exasperation many years later, said the reporter printed what he had said in the next day's newspapers!

One time Rose walked into Lou Moore's garage at Indy and Lou was in the back, having a drink with a wealthy man who turned out to be perhaps, a new perspective car sponsor for Moore. All liquor and drinking was strictly forbidden in Gasoline Alley. Rose got upset about it and made a scene, as he told me, but all he accomplished was to make Moore angry. Rose said he realized later, that he was quite out of line here.

Another story Rose told me was that one year (I would guess 1948), as a possible perspective 500 victor, he was introduced a few days before the race to the movie star who was going to kiss the winner in Victory Lane, and her husband. Later Mauri and the husband drifted off from the wife and at some point the husband conveyed to Rose that he wasn't all that keen about his wife kissing the winner. As it turned out, Rose won the 500, and so Mauri refused to kiss the man's wife in Victory Circle, whereupon Rose said, the gal got real upset about his refusal! It had to have been either Carole Landis (1919-1948) in 1947 or Barbara Britten (1919-1980) in 1948. Landis committed suicide on July 5, 1948 over British actor Rex Harrison (1908-1990).

Mauri said he was always being asked stupid questions. I replied, "Well when you ask a serious question, the drivers won't answer it!" Rose liked that. Anyway I tried to come up with a serious question so I said to Mauri, "Let's say that after the 500, the management of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway tells everybody that one week hence, they will run another 500 with exactly the same driver/car combinations and line them up in the same exact order on the track at the start. How much difference would there be in the results?"

Mauri thought for about four seconds and replied, "O', there would be big, big differences all right!"

One year after I was away from the Speedway for a whole year, I was standing in the garage area and who walks up to me but Mauri Rose! He said, "Hey, I know you!" I don't have to tell you, how happy that made me. Mauri always treated me as an "insider" who was in the real know. One time Mauri said to me, "You and I both know that there are only ten guys in the the race who can win, and we both know who they are!" Rose always told me that he enjoyed watching the trial time or qualifications much better than the race itself.

I noticed in this Mauri Rose documentary that the supposed photograph of Howdy Wilcox II (1905-1946), is actually that of Howard Wilcox (1889-1923), the 1919 Indianapolis winner. I would guess you noticed that too.

#42 fines

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Posted 26 February 2009 - 09:02

Yes, the Wilcox pic is a real howler, but generally these features are really good! Informative, and with lots of prime footage. Have you watched the one about Wilbur Shaw?

#43 john glenn printz

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Posted 26 February 2009 - 17:46

GEORGE AMICK (1924-1959) WAS JUST NOT BUYING IT (cont.-1)

In the Bill Vukovich feature (of which I have seen only the first half) I notice that the picture of car owner Howard B. Keck (1918-1996), is not Mr. Keck at all. I don't know what Mr. Keck looked like, but the photograph here is of one of Mr. Keck's chief mechanics, i.e. Frank Coon. (The mislabeled photograph with a completely wrong caption is just another dire peril of the serious racing historian.)

There were two joint chief mechanics working for Keck from 1948 to 1954, known collectively as the "Rich Kids" or "Whiz Kids", i.e. Jim Travers and Frank Coon. All three of them, Keck, Travers, and Coon first came to the Speedway in 1948. Jimmy Jackson (1910-1984) drove in their newly 1948 constructed Emil Diedt front drive car, in both 1948 and 1949; and Mauri Rose (1906-1984) piloted the same car for Keck and his two mechanics, in 1950 and 1951. Mauri placed 3rd in it in 1950, when the race was shortened to 345 miles due to rain. Rose retired from racing after crashing in it in 1951 when the wheel spokes gave way, and Bill Vukovich replaced him on the Keck team. Keck had a completely new car for Vukovich in 1952, the very first of the new style Indy roadsters (KK500A) built by Frank Kurtis. Vukovich stayed with this trio of Keck, Travers, and Coon, at Indianapolis from 1952 to 1954, until he drove for Lindsey Hopkins in 1955. For the 1955 Indianapolis assault, Travers and Coon came along with Vukovich as well, to the new Hopkins "Indy" team. After Vukovich was killed in 1955, Travers and Coon left the Indianapolis 500 and the Championship Indy Car scene forever.

Keck was a millionaire (or was it billionaire?) California oil man. Keck bred a racehorse named Ferdinand, which won the Kentucky Derby in 1986 and his car, the "Fuel Injection Special" won the Indianapolis 500 two times, in 1953 and 1954, with Vukovich. Howard was the head of the Superior Oil Company founded by his father, William Myron Keck, in 1921. Howard Keck always tried to keep a low profile and I don't ever remember seeing even any picture of him. Keck loathed and shunned all publicity, almost as much as J. C. Agajanian and Andy Granatelli craved it.

In the tapes on Rose and Vukovich, Emil Andres (1911-1999) and Duke Nalon (1913-2001) appear. I talked extensively to those two also. The interviews shown in these tapes must have been made about the same years (c. 1975-1985) when I was myself trying to find anyone I could talk to, gathering whatever information I could. It was from Andres himself that I first learned that he had driven the Meyer No. 99, midget engine powered car in practice at Indianapolis in 1950 (Consult my August 12, 2008, no. 15 posting above.)

Nalon drove the front drive Novi in the first year I was at Indianapolis, in 1953. Neither Nalon or the front drive Novi ever appeared in an Indy lineup again. Nalon was a very famous pilot in the mid-1950s. I always figured that he must have won many AAA Championship contests during the years 1946 to 1948, for which I had no complete listing. Once I had all the winners for those three AAA seasons, I was very astonished that Nalon had never won an AAA National Championship event. Much more obscure and lesser known drivers, such as Emil Andres, George Connor, Myron Fohr, Mel Hansen, and Charles Van Acker, had! Anyway it was a big surprise!

I never expected back in 1953 to ever have any contact with any AAA Championship racing personnel. Eventually however I met both Louis Meyer and Dale Drake who built the engine; and Frank Kurtis, who constructed the chassis; of the winning Fuel Injection Special at Indianapolis in 1953. And among the 1953 starting pilots, I talked to no less than nine of them, i.e. Agabashian, Carter, Hanks, Holland, Nalon, Parsons, Russo, Ward, and even Jimmy Bryan, who died at Langhorne on June 19, 1960. That's not all that bad when you reckon with the fact that 14 of the 1953 Indianapolis starters, perished in racing accidents.

With regard to Jimmy Bryan (1926-1960), I only had contact with him for only two and a half minutes; just after he had won the June 23, 1957 Detroit 100 at the Michigan State Fairgrounds.

P.S. I've not seen the Wilbur Shaw feature, but only the Meyer, Rose, and half the Vukovich tape. I've not been able to make any further connection with that database. My computer just freezes up every time.

Edited by john glenn printz, 31 July 2009 - 20:43.


#44 fines

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Posted 26 February 2009 - 21:42

Well, John, you really should make an effort to get the computer trouble sorted, because there's lots of good stuff there. Just today, I watched another couple of hours minimum, and saw glimpses of the Lee Oldfield Marmon rear-engine from the thirties, with full bodywork and on the track - I had never even seen photos of that before! Also, there's another feature about the history of oval racing with simply incredible footage from board and dirt tracks, twenties to sixties, even onboard footage from Langhorne (!), also Jimmy Clark testing the Vollstedt at Riverside... awesome!

About Duke Nalon's popularity, it only goes to show the importance of the non-championship Big Car racing of those days: Nalon was a two-time Champion, in the East and the Midwest, and one of the most regular winners in the "Sprint Cars" - I would guess many people still remembered him from that, and of course the popular Novi rides.

#45 fines

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Posted 13 May 2009 - 20:25

Well, the last part of my 1933 Indy 500 story took a "bit" longer to finish off, mainly because I wanted to clear a few points in research first. And it's not so much about the details of the story, for which I'm so (in)famous (notorious? :D) amongst some members of this board ;), but some rather worrying discrepancies in the various sources about fairly major happenings, and the "whys, whens and hows" concerning them. Two examples:

- in secondary literature, Fred Frame is mostly (exclusively?) reported as having retired with an engine failure, yet the wire reports of the race in progress state that he crashed out! This about the leader of the race (even though he was reported as running second, due to a scoring mix-up), and not about the rather obscure difference between valve failure and a broken crankshaft, but an accident or a mechanically induced retirement! It's still possible his engine blew and he subsequently grazed the wall, with the usual exaggerations coming into play, but I simply wasn't able to confirm one way or another. :well:

- most listings about lead laps show Babe Stapp leading laps 37 and 38, yet the various standings published at the time (and in later books) do not show him in any top ten position until lap 50! Most of these lead lap reports are actually quite accurate, often substantiated by lap prize money reports, but in 1933 the latter was woefully short due to the depression, and even though it's remotely possible that either the lead lap listings or the top ten listings contain errors due to scoring gaffes, I still find it rather hard to believe that Stapp should have been able to run that far up fairly early in the race, considering his starting position and the record pace of the leaders. But, yet again, it proved impossible to establish the truth one way or another... :|

So, despite all this, I hope you will still enjoy:


Meyer Like Milton

(Part 3)

The next drama ensued when the cars pulled off on the formation lap, with Louis Schneider unable to start up the engine of his 1931 winning mount, and while he and his crew frantically set to work on the recalcitrant machine, the other 41 cars lined up in order, still representing the biggest field ever in the history of the great event, yet including the smallest number of rookie drivers since its inception in 1911! Headed by Bill Cummings in the same car that had led the field to the green flag the year before (only the second time for a car to repeat that feat), they followed the pace car, a Chrysler Imperial manned by driver Byron Foy (president of the De Soto Motor Corp.), IMS general manager T. E. “Pop” Myers, starter Gar Wood of speedboat fame and referee Lawrence P. Fisher (president of the Cadillac Motor Co.) for one lap before being unleashed in a great crescendo of noise and fumes, with Cummings, one of the betting favourites alongside Fred Frame and Ernie Triplett, streaking straight into the lead from his advantageous position. Exactly 1’18.85” later, Cummings flashed past the starter’s stand again to end the first lap in record time, and unlike Lou Moore in 1932, he soon began to put daylight between himself and his pursuers, led by Frank Brisko in the 4wd Miller. In almost ideal weather conditions (68°F and slightly cloudy, but with the possibility of thundershowers later in the afternoon), the Boyle Miller continued to pile up track records (5’08.81” for 4 laps, and 13’00.97” for ten) before a crowd in excess of 100,000 people, leading after 25 miles from Brisko, Frame, Moore and Triplett, still in grid order, and with the rest of the field strung out in similar fashion, except for Schneider who was still at the pits, trying desperately to coax his Miller engine into life, and last-minute substitute driver Mauri Rose, who was burning up the track to the delight of his car owner, Joe Marks – in fact, such was his progress that by lap 20, he was already up to sixth position, the exact spot the car had qualified for originally, thereby completely negating the adverse effect the Wilcox “affair” had had on it!

By now, Moore and Triplett had dropped back somewhat, allowing Shorty Cantlon and Louie Meyer to move into the top five positions, and with Frame having passed Brisko, things began to heat up nicely at the front, too, for though Cummings was still leading rather comfortably by more than twenty seconds, the 1932 winner was now slowly but surely eating into this advantage over the next ten laps or so, unperturbed by the fact that the Duesenberg/Miller he owned, and which was driven by Paul Bost, had just opened the list of retirements by dropping out with a fractured oil pipe, soon to be followed by backmarkers Rick Decker, Ray Campbell and Ralph Hepburn. The latter still had the consolation of owning the car with which Meyer (L) had just passed Cantlon into fourth position, but attention soon switched to the race leader in the other Miller 230, who was slowing visibly, and heading for the pits at the end of lap33! As the Miller-Hartz swept past into the lead, the Boyle crew went into feverish activity seeking a replacement for the radiator filler cap which had fallen off out on the circuit – in vain, as it would turn out, the design of the cap being rather peculiar (in the best Miller tradition!), so that it didn’t interchange with a standard one, and after going around the circuit one more time, poor Cummings was to spend about three minutes at the pits before a somewhat makeshift repair was effected! That, of course, dropped him right out of contention, and it was now Frame first, Brisko second, Meyer (L) third and Rose fourth (!), with Cantlon, Pete Kreis, Ira Hall, Triplett, Moore and Cliff Bergere in the leading Studebaker filling out the top ten. This order, however, was to change almost immediately due to the first accident of the race, involving Hall’s Duesenberg, the leading semi-stock car, which crashed into the Turn 2 wall, fortunately without causing serious injury to mechanic or driver, the latter amply demonstrating that fact by wedging himself against the car, which appeared to be in danger of sliding down the slope of the banking into the path of the speeding cars on the track, for long enough until a wrecking crew arrived, a feat for which he later was to be awarded the annual Sportsmanship Trophy.

Sadly, Brisko’s valiant ride in second place came to an end on lap 48 when a defective main bearing caused the oil to overheat, and within another lap Rose was stranded, too, when the timing gears on his Miller “big eight” failed, followed by Cantlon retiring with another Miller engine failure, all of which led to a thorough shake-up of the leader board right about the time when the first of the routine stops for fuel were due. Having just been promoted to a top ten position, along with Babe Stapp and Wilbur Shaw, Deacon Litz was “in” on lap 51 and already asking for relief, at which point Schneider gave up the unequal struggle to get his original car started, and hopped into his former team car, the same he had driven to third place in 1930. Before long, pit stop activity was in full swing, and on lap 55 the leader arrived, with the Hartz crew straining every nerve to get the job done, sending Frame away again in fourth place behind the new leader Stapp, who had sped up considerably upon noticing the troubles of his team mate, Meyer (L) and Shaw, the three of them still holding out on their original fuel allotment. Following in fifth was now Kreis in the other Miller-Hartz, then Triplett, Moore and three further newcomers in the top ten: sophomore starter Chet Gardner, sandwiched by Les Spangler and Mark Billman, both of them well on course to fulfil the high hopes of the betting fraternity for top rookie honours! One by one the latecomers were now about to stop, and when it was time for the race leader, all eyes were on the Boyle front-drive as it was serviced, and with the Chicago crew working very efficiently, Stapp was able to resume the contest before Frame appeared in view of the grandstand, and thus seemingly still in first position, although it later transpired that the scorers had missed one lap of the Miller-Hartz, and that instead of trailing by almost half a lap, the defending winner was actually leading again by a similar margin! Thus, over the next twenty minutes or so, the scoreboard and the crowd now believed Frame to be closing in for a thrilling fight for the lead, just like he had done with Stapp’s team mate an hour or so earlier, and in the excitement it went almost unnoticed when two more frontrunners dropped from the race, with Kreis hitting the wall on the backstretch after a universal joint failure, and Triplett stopping with a holed piston. With that, Gardner was now running in fifth place, and Al Miller had come through to being the leading semi-stock proponent in sixth.

On lap 85, with Frame getting ever closer to Stapp, and the crowd ready for a “lead change” when, in fact, the Miller-Hartz was about to put a lap on the Boyle front-drive, suddenly all hopes for a repeat win were dashed when the grey car with the blue number 12 ground to a halt near Turn 2, a valve having broken. Only seconds later, all hell broke loose when Mark Billman inexplicably lost control of the Buehrig/Duesenberg in the same vicinity, crashing violently into the retaining wall. Regrettably, it was soon apparent that the Hoosier rookie was in a bad way, being pinned between the car and the wall – it took about twenty minutes to free him from this predicament, and after being carted off to hospital it was learned that his left arm, nearly ripped off by the force of the accident, had to be amputated, but sadly to no avail as Billman died shortly afterwards. This, of course, cast a gloom over the event, but the racing continued, and with Babe Stapp back in the lead the track records continued to fall, as in fact they had since the very first lap of the race, and by half distance (reached after only 2:17’04.48”, more than three minutes up on the 1932 record) Louie Meyer was second, Wilbur Shaw third and Chet Gardner fourth, albeit already four laps in arrears. The rest of the field was upwards of eight laps back of the leader, with Al Miller now in fifth and still the first of the semi-stocks, Les Spangler in sixth the leading rookie, then Dave Evans, Lou Moore, Russ Snowberger, Chet Miller and the other eighteen cars still in the race, with rookie Johnny Sawyer having since added his name to the growing list of retirements. Another bout of pit stops was coming up fast, and this time rather more driver substitutions took place, but most of the leading drivers stayed put – however, it was noticeable that Stapp continued to circulate the big oval track even many laps after Meyer, Shaw, Gardner, or anyone else for that matter had long since stopped for fuel – evidently, “the Babe” was trying to put one over his competitors, and going the distance on only two stops! Was it possible, with only 45 gallons of fuel, or approximately 170 litres? Only time would tell, and as everybody was doing the arithmetics, questions were being asked as to the virtues of the plot: obviously, the original team plan had been to have two hot irons in the fire, with Cummings going all out in an attempt to destroy the opposition with earth shattering speed, and Stapp playing backup and trying to outfox the field, but with the hare out of it for all practical purposes (and, in fact, soon to retire anyway), and the hedgehog assuming the lead almost by default, was it really worth the risks involved with that scheme? After all, with a record average speed of very nearly 110 mph playing havoc with all sorts of calculations about consumption, and a solid two-lap lead, what on earth were they trying to gain???

Truth to be told, it looked even less of a viable strategy when the white front-drive ran out of fuel on the backstretch of lap 130! Somehow, Stapp managed to coast and coax the car back to the pits, but by the time he got there and had had his fill, the two-lap lead had transformed into a six-lap deficit, and with it had disappeared almost any chance of victory! Meyer (L) could hardly believe his luck as he breezed into the lead after exactly three hours of playing “wait and see”, but with Shaw in second place and less than two minutes behind, he could hardly afford to relax just yet. Stapp was still third, but losing more time still because his clutch was now beginning to play up, and Moore, Gardner, Miller (A) and Spangler were catching up fast, as was Stubby Stubblefield in eighth. Unbelievably, though, the evil spirits had not yet finished their play with the racers yet, as Malcolm Fox, running far back in the field and many laps in arrears, lost control in full view of the grandstands in Turn 1 while trying to avoid another car in distress, unfortunately trapping the closely following Spangler who had nowhere to go, hit one of the rear wheels of the Romthe/Studebaker and was catapulted high into the air, coming down hard on the outer retaining wall – it was as bad as it looked! Rescue operations took up well over a quarter of an hour, during which time the field was slowed down considerably, but both Spangler and his riding mechanic, Glen Jordan were beyond help. This was turning into a very black year, indeed! The race proceeded under a pall, almost paling into insignificance. With most of the scheduled pit stops now taking place during the caution period, the positions appeared mostly settled, and this was certainly true as far as the leaders were concerned: Meyer (L) could finally afford to let up, with Shaw slowing down to the tune of five seconds and more per lap, evidently striving to just make the finish. Apart from the crash victims, Freddie Winnai, the aforementioned Cummings, and Bennie Hill retired with mechanical woes in quick succession, and Billy Winn (driving relief for Wes Crawford) crashed out after losing a wheel, fortunately without dire consequences. Stapp had his clutch pack up for good while still lying fourth, and both Miller (A) and Miller ©, team mates in the Marr/Hudsons, disappeared from the leader board in the closing stages due to broken con-rods, with Kelly Petillo and Doc MacKenzie retiring from lesser positions even later.

Louie Meyer stroked it home very easily, still managing to break Fred Frame’s track record for the 500 miles by the incredibly close margin of just over three seconds, and with more than four laps in hand over Wilbur Shaw, who was delighted to finish second. Lou Moore had a scare in the closing laps when a part of his exhaust pipe fell off, and the first published results had him down in fourth, but a recheck showed that the scorers had missed a lap, and he finished third after all. Chet Gardner was five laps down in fourth, and well pleased with his “comeback” drive, while Stubby Stubblefield brought the first semi-stock car home in fifth, six laps down for his best ever result at Indy. Dave Evans could also be well satisfied with his conservative race which netted him sixth, seven laps behind the winner, and the fifth time he went the full distance in as many starts. Tony Gulotta brought the first of the disappointing works Studebakers home, nine laps down and in seventh, with his team mates finishing ninth through twelfth (Zeke Meyer, Sam Palmer for Luther Johnson, Cliff Bergere and Slim Corum), the team only separated by Mauri Rose, who drove most of the last half of the race in Russ Snowberger’s latest homemade creation to finish eighth, best of the rookies. Another rookie, Willard Prentiss survived to take 13th, albeit twenty laps in arrears, followed by the only “foreign threat” in the race, Argentinians Raul Riganti and Juan Gaudino in their homemade Chrysler special, with Gene Haustein, Louis Schneider (for Deacon Litz) and Joe Russo being flagged off course at the end of a long and (literally!) cruel afternoon.

Five lives snuffed out in the space of just three days – how long would the public go on tolerating this sort of toll? And with the additional deaths of Bob Carey and Bryan Saulpaugh in the running up to the ‘500’, not to mention Tom Forsythe and Stan Krajenke in lesser events, was racing still sustainable as a sports spectacle? Changes had to be made, and quickly so! The IMS management, and the AAA Contest Board had an unpleasant storm to weather…


International 500 Mile Sweepstakes, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 200 laps (805 km)
1 Louie Meyer (Miller), 4:48’00.55” (167 kph)
2 Wilbur Shaw (Duray/Miller), 4:54’42.65”
3 Lou Moore (Duesenberg/Miller), 4:55’16.79”
4 Chet Gardner (Sampson/Miller), 4:56’29.51”
5 Stubby Stubblefield (Shafer/Buick), 4:57’43.82”
6 Dave Evans (Smith/Studebaker), 4:58’56.29”
7 Tony Gulotta (Studebaker), 5:02’48.55”
8 Russ Snowberger/George Howie/Mauri Rose (Snowberger/Studebaker), 5:02’59.84”
9 Zeke Meyer (Studebaker), 5:05’44.49”
10 Luther Johnson/Ralph Hepburn/Sam Palmer (Studebaker), 5:08’22.22”
11 Cliff Bergere/Sam Palmer/Cliff Bergere (Studebaker), 5:10’40.38”
12 Slim Corum (Studebaker), 5:11’00.98”
13 Willard Prentiss/Harold Shaw/Willard Prentiss (Kleinschmidt/Duesenberg), 5:20’31.83”
14 Raul Riganti/Juan Gaudino/Raul Riganti (Gaudino/Chrysler), 5:21’44.13”
15 Gene Haustein (Martz/Hudson), 197 laps (flagged)
16 Deacon Litz/Louis Schneider (Schneider/Miller), 197 laps (flagged)
17 Joe Russo (Duesenberg/Clemons), 192 laps (flagged)

Retirements:
Doc MacKenzie (Nardi/Studebaker), 192 laps (rear axle)
Kelly Petillo/Sam Hoffman/Kelly Petillo (Smith/Miller), 168 laps (accident)
Chet Miller/Shorty Cantlon/Chet Miller (Marr/Hudson), 168 laps (engine)
Al Miller (Marr/Hudson), 161 laps (engine)
Bennie Hill/Frank Brisko/Bennie Hill (Gauss/Cooper), 158 laps (engine)
Babe Stapp (Boyle/Brisko-Miller), 156 laps (clutch)
Wesley Crawford/Billy Winn (Evans/Miller), 147 laps (accident)
Bill Cummings/Frank Brisko/Bill Cummings (Miller), 136 laps (overheating)
Les Spangler (Miller), 132 laps (accident, driver & mechanic killed)
Freddie Winnai/Terry Curley/Freddie Winnai (Duesenberg), 125 laps (engine)
Malcolm Fox (Romthe/Studebaker), 121 laps (accident)
Fred Frame (Miller-Hartz), 84 laps (engine)
Mark Billman (Buehrig/Duesenberg), 79 laps (accident, driver killed)
Johnny Sawyer (Miller), 77 laps (ignition)
Ernie Triplett (White/Miller), 66 laps (engine)
Pete Kreis (Miller-Hartz), 63 laps (universal joint)
Shorty Cantlon (Miller), 50 laps (engine)
Mauri Rose (Meyer/Miller), 48 laps (engine)
Frank Brisko (Miller), 47 laps (overheating)
Ira Hall (Duesenberg), 37 laps (accident)
Ralph Hepburn (Gauss/Cooper), 33 laps (engine)
Ray Campbell (Marr/Hudson), 24 laps (oil leak)
Paul Bost (Duesenberg/Miller), 13 laps (oil leak)
Rick Decker (Ricketts/Miller), 13 laps (engine)
Louis Schneider (Schneider/Miller), 0 laps (engine)

Edited by fines, 14 May 2009 - 09:11.


#46 john glenn printz

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Posted 03 June 2009 - 19:10

GEORGE AMICK (1924-1959) WAS JUST NOT BUYING IT (cont.-2) The Detroit 100 staged on June 23, 1957 was the third Championship level event that I saw, the first two being the Indianapolis 500's of 1953 (AAA) and 1957 (USAC). The Detroit 100 had not been held since 1953 when the track broke up, so this was an attempted USAC revival. The two new promotors involved, i.e. Pete Spencer and Johnny Marcum, had spent $30,000 to revamp the track. The 1957 Detroit 100 had been originally scheduled for June 22, but had to be postponed on account of a heavy afternoon 30 minute rain. This delay was good for Jimmy Bryan, as he had blown his engine in the early morning practice and could not have started on the original race date. With the one day delay however Clint Brawner (1916-1987), Bud (or Russ?) Moyer, and Al Singer (1906-1994) were able to put the Offenhauser motor back together for the next day. Bud Moyer of Indianapolis rushed the new needed pistons to Detroit, and Brawner, Moyer, and Singer worked most of the night to put the engine back in a working condition by 6:30 a.m. All the qualifications had been rained out as well, but on the next day, June 23, the Fairgrounds was still very soggy but the time trials and the race were held.

I was a sophomore in high school then and I had talked a school chum, Allan Hawkinson, into going. I kept telling Allan that these were the same exact cars and drivers that had raced at Indianapolis in May and that he shouldn't miss this important Detroit race. I knew that most of the actual vehicles present at the Detroit 100 would be USAC Championship dirt cars, of which no example had made it into the 1957 Indianapolis 500 lineup. For 1957, and for the very first time, every starting car at the 500 was of the roadster type, first introduced by Frank Kurtis there in 1952. So what I had told my friend Allan was a bit of a white lie, but I didn't think he would notice the difference. And there were indeed a few genuine roadsters in the Detroit contest. However my companion proved to be more savvy than I thought, for near the end of the race Hawkinson said to me, "These cars don't look like Indianapolis 500 cars to me." O well!

I knew quite a bit more about automobile racing in 1957, than I did in May 1953. In early 1955 I had begun to follow, event upon event, the AAA Championship Trail and the Formula I Grand Prix races. But 1955 was a hellish year for international motor sport. Among the AAA Championship pilots who perished in racing accidents during 1955 were Larry Crockett (March 3), Mike Nazaruck (May 1), Manuel Ayulo (May 16), Bill Vukovich (May 30), Jerry Hoyt (July 11) and lastly Jack McGrath (November 11). Alberto Ascari (1918-1955), the 1952 & 1953 World Grand Prix Champion and who had also competed at Indy in 1952, died in a test session at Monza, Italy (May 26). Then came the LeMans catastrophe of June 11, where 83 spectators were killed and 400 injured. On July 12, Oregon Senator Richard L. Neuberger, in the halls of Congress, called for the abolition of all automobile racing in the U.S. And at the end was the AAA's annoucement of their complete withdrawal from all automobile racing, to begin with 1956 (August 3). SPEED AGE magazine ran such articles as "IS THE '500' DOOMED" (October 1955) and "HOW TO SAVE RACING IN AMERICA" (November 1955). The whole future of the sport, world wide, seemed to be in dire peril. For a 14 year old kid (i.e. me), it was all very heady stuff. The whole world seemed on fire.

The AAA's official statement for withdrawing from all racing was given out by Andrew J. Sordoni of Wilkes-Barre, PA, who was the President of the American Automobile Association (quote); "It should be clearly understood that all sanctions issued for the 1955 racing season will be honored, although no more sanctions involving racing will be granted by the Contest Board. The Board will continue to exercise close supervision of all events under AAA sanction until the end of the 1955 racing season. Points will be awarded in the various racing circuits, including championship awards at the end of the year.

"It is also to be understood that the decision as regards automobile racing does not involve other phases of the Contest Board's work, such as the supervision of important speed trials, the certification of records, and other activities of concern to the motorist as a consumer. One plan is to continue the Contest Board of the AAA as a standing board under By-Laws, but without any association with automobile racing.

"Now as regards automobile racing. It was the feeling of our Executive Committee that automobile racing as now conducted in this country, with emphasis on speed, power and human endurance is not compatible with one of the main objectives of the AAA and its affiliated clubs in the day-to-day promotions of street and highway safety.

"Racing has unquestionably become a popular spectacle in the United States, but there is serious question that racing contributes in a material way to better cars or better parts for cars, a matter that is of primary interest in the AAA from standpoint of our nearly five million members.

"There can be no doubt that the recent tragedy at LeMans, France, involving the death of 79, and injury to 91 persons was a factor in the decision of our Executive Committee. All who have a knowledge of racing events in this country know that it could happen here and the AAA feels that it should no longer be identified with this activity. We recognize, of course, that automobile racing will continue and our action is taken without prejudice to racing, when conducted under the highest possible safety standards.

"In conclusion, I wish to pay tribute to the members of the Contest Board of the AAA. This Board has functioned for years and its members, all of whom serve without compensation and many of them at a sacrifice of time and money, are deserving of gratitude and high praise for their devoted service. Recognition must also be given to the large number of track owners, promotors, car owners and drivers who have faithfully adhered to sound racing principles and have loyally supported the AAA Contest Board and all of its activities."

Already by August 11, 1955 a new "ad hoc" commitee was formed to map out a new organization for U.S. open wheel racing and to take the place of the old AAA Contest Board which had been originally formed on December 2, 1908. This new group or commitee consisted of six persons, i.e. Duane Carter (driver), Bob Estes (car owner), Anton J. Hulman, Jr. (track owner), Tom Marchese (promotor), Judge George M. Ober (legal council), and Herb Porter (mechanic). The newly formed organisation called itself the "United States Auto Club" (USAC) and was incorporated in Indianapolis on September 16, 1955. Herb Porter was quoted as saying, "We've been hollering for years that we have nothing to do with our own business. Now we do." Surprizingly, Arthur W. Harrington (1891-1970), the previous Chairman of the AAA Contest Board when it called it quits on August 3rd, was now the new Chairman of USAC! In the new 1956 USAC regime, Duane Carter (1913-1993) became the "Director of Competition" and retired from all competitive driving.

Edited by john glenn printz, 17 August 2009 - 12:47.


#47 ensign14

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Posted 03 June 2009 - 20:25

Check out this one:

http://www.joost.com...y/t/Louis-Meyer

:)

I'm just watching this, it's absolutely priceless! The footage of dePaolo in 1925 shows just how hard they had to work, he is sawing away at the wheel more than I'd ever imagine.

That Firestone advert is the first time I have heard ANY of those drivers' voices. I wonder if Barney Oldfield pulled a few strings to get them all to co-operate? (Red Shafer was a natural pitchman...)

#48 john glenn printz

john glenn printz
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Posted 09 June 2009 - 16:58

GEORGE AMICK (1924-1959) WAS JUST NOT BUYING IT (cont.-3) During 1954 Jimmy Bryan (1926-1960) had become the king of the AAA Championship dirt tracks but in early June 1955 he had a very big disadvantage to overcome, if he was to mount a successful defense in 1955, of his 1954 AAA National Driving Title. After the Vukovich crash at Indianapolis (circuit 57), Bryan took over the lead for laps 57 and 59-88. However Bryan was out after 90 circuits with fuel pump failure and Bob Sweikert (1926-1956) went on to win the 1955 Indianapolis classic. Sweikert was a very good driver and the question now largely became, could Bryan overcome Sweikert's 1000 point advantage during the remaining part of the '55 season, that Bob had obtained from his victory at Indianapolis. (Note: In 1955 it took five wins in the 100 mile contests to match the 1000 points at Indianapolis, given to the 500 winner.) Immediately after the 1955 Indianapolis, the first AAA "points" race for 1955 season, Bryan had to look upon the entire rest of the year, with no points at all in his tally. Jimmy did wonders, but Sweikert was finishing consistently high up and by Bob winning outright the Syracuse 100 (Sept. 10) he had done himself a lot of good. The 1955 AAA season ended with Sweikert's total being 2290, while Bryan in 2nd, had but 1460. Jimmy however had won six races, i.e. (1.) Langhorne 100-June 26; (2.) Springfield 100-Aug. 20; (3.) DuQuoin 100-Sept. 5; (4.) Indianapolis Fairgrounds 100-Sept. 17; (5.) Sacramento 100-Oct. 6; and (6.) Phoenix 100-Nov. 6; to Sweikert's two, i.e. (1.) Indianapolis 500-May 30; and (2.) Syracuse 100-Sept. 10.

For the 1955 Grand Prix scene the two top aces were Juan Manuel Fangio (1911-1995) the "Master", and Stirling Moss (b. 1929) the "Pupil", both driving for the Mercedes-Benz team. Of the year's seven races (which then included Indianapolis), Fangio and Moss collectively won five. The only Grand Prix they didn't win was the Monaco Grand Prix of May 22. Here all three of the Mercedes cars (i.e. Fangio, Moss, and Andre Simon) retired with mechanical aliments and ills, which allowed the Frenchman, Maurice Trintignant (1917-2005), to win in a Ferrari. This was the year at Monaco that Alberto Ascari crashed his Lancia, and he and his car landed in the Mediterranean sea. The original idea that Mercedes-Benz formulated for their Grand Prix squad, was to run three successive years, i.e. 1954, 1955, and 1956; but with the 1955 LeMans sports car racing disaster of June 11, 1955 on their hands, the Mercedes-Benz management decided to halt their entire racing program at the end of 1955.

Under USAC, the 1956 U.S. Championship season seemed a lot calmer than the apocalyptic year 1955, but Walt Faulkner on April 22 and Bob Sweikert on June 17, were both killed during the year in racing accidents. Pat Flaherty (1926-2002) won the 1956 "500" in a new A.J. Watson (b. 1924) lightweight roadster. This was in fact the very first roadster that Watson built. Again Jimmy Bryan emerged with no Championship points from Indianapolis, but managed to win the 1956 USAC National Championship Title over Flaherty. Unfortunately Flaherty was put out of the running for the year's title from an accident which took place during the Springfield, IL 100 on August 18. Here Pat suffered a smashed jaw and a broken right arm. Flaherty was, at first, put on the critical list but was removed from it on August 19. In any case Flaherty was though for the rest of the 1956 USAC Championship season. Jimmy Bryan overtook Flaherty's lead in the standings at the Indianapolis Fairgrounds (Sept. 15), 1560 points to Pat's now static 1500. The final 1956 USAC Championship point totals were 1860 for Bryan and, in 2nd, Flaherty with 1500. Bryan's 1956 National U.S. Title win was his second, as he now had both the 1954 AAA Title and the 1956 USAC honors.

On the Grand Prix front for 1956, Fangio moved to Ferrari and Moss to Maserati. Fangio wound up winning his 4th World Driving Title, when added to his previous wins in 1951, 1954, and 1955. At the end of the 1956 Grand Prix year, Fangio had 30 points to Moss' 27. I was following all the U.S. Championship events and the Grand Prix contests during both 1955 and 1956, as best I could both extraneously and vicariously, by way of the monthly automobile magazines and the daily newspapers, as I didn't actually see any of these races.

Before the actual running of the 1957 Detroit 100, Roger Ward (1921-2004) was an object of inquiry and interest for the local Detroit newspapers. Ward had won the 1953 Detroit AAA Championship contest, when shortened back to 51 laps. In 1957 Roger was still known as a Championship "bad boy" and "Enfant Terrible", in part for two infamous and notorious wrecks of his. The first occurred at DuQuoin, IL on September 6, 1954 and took the life of J. C. Agajanian's ace mechanic, Clay B. Smith, at age 39. Ward's car threw a tire and crashed into Chuck Stevenson's vehicle. Roger's machine spun and overturned, smashing into the open pits. Agajanian himself, who was standing near Smith, was lucky not to have been seriously hurt.

The second incident was the death of Vukovich at Indianapolis on May 30, 1955. Ward, by crashing into the outside wall backwards off of turn two, triggered the fatal three car pileup of Johnny Boyd, Al Keller, and Bill Vukovich. I have always personally thought that Al Keller (1920-1961) was more responsible for Vukovich's death than Ward. When Ward's car spun and hit the outside wall, Keller panicked, headed for the inside grass, and lost all control of his vehicle while riding in the dirt. Al's car returned to the track proper and instantly T-boned Johnny Boyd. Boyd's machine was shoved into the path and/or car of Bill Vukovich; and Bill's Offenhauser/KK500C was hurled forthwith on end, over the outside railing.

Roger always maintained that the front axle broke causing him to crash. Here's what Ward had to say about the 1955 accident in June 1957 (quote), "I had just come out of the No. 2 turn. I felt the car go out of control and tried to steer it and nothing happened. Then I started to spin and hit the wall. Two drivers behind me tried to swerve and the third was Bill. One went into the grass infield and spun back on the track and the three got mixed up and Bill flipped.

"I was the technical reason for it I guess. The axle broke."

Ward's best finish at Indianapolis in June 1957, after making seven previous starts there, was 8th place in 1956. Roger's 1955 Indianapolis ride was an Offenhauser/Kuzma dirt machine constructed for J.C. Agajanian in early 1951. At Indianapolis that year, pint size (i.e. 122 pounds, 5 foot 4 inches) Walt Faulkner had set new one (138.122 mph) and four lap (136.872 mph) qualification records in it, on May 19. Eddie Kuzma (1911-1996) himself told me many years later, that when they first brought this new car to the Speedway in 1951, Faulkner couldn't get it up to speed. Eddie couldn't find anything wrong with the car however. Then, in a practice session, the throttle stuck and the car went through a turn at a very high speed, without any trouble at all. After that Walt suddenly started driving it at much higher speeds and went on to set new one and four lap qualification times, as has been already stated.

Troy Ruttman (1930-1997) won at Indianapolis with it in 1952, setting a new record speed for the full 500 miles of 128.922 mph. It was a good car. In 1952, after Indianapolis, Ruttman won again with it at the paved 1 mile oval at Raleigh, NC in a 200 (July 4). When Ruttman was put out of commission by breaking his right arm and sustaining a skull fracture at Cedar Rapids, IA on August 17 in a sprint car accident, Bill Vukovich was put in the cockpit. Bill responded by winning two AAA Championship dirt 100's with it, i.e. at Detroit, MI (August 30) and at Denver, CO (September 28). Outside of his two Indianapolis wins (1953 and 1954), these were Bill's only Championship division wins. Clay Smith was the mechanic on this car, both in 1951 and 1952.

Edited by john glenn printz, 18 August 2009 - 13:11.


#49 john glenn printz

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Posted 12 June 2009 - 18:16

GEORGE AMICK (1924-1959) WAS JUST NOT BUYING IT (cont.-4) As with all historical events the 1957 Detroit 100 took place in a complex context. Two developments that took place in June 1957 were certainly much more important for automobile racing than the running of the Detroit 100. The first was the announcement by the American Manufacturers Association (AMA) on June 6, that all the U.S. auto manufacturers, such as GM, Ford, and Chrysler, would not support automobile racing. The situation had now gone so far that they even refused to supply the pace car for the Indianapolis 500, given traditionally by the industry, to the winner since 1936. No doubt this decision by the auto makers had been influenced by an incident that had taken place in Italy on May 12, 1957. That day Spanish driver Marquis Alfonso de Portago (1928-1957) and his American co-pilot, Edmund Gunner Nelson of Beloit WI, were killed in a bad crash in the Mille Miglia sports car race which had had 24 runnings since its first year in 1927. Ten innocent spectators were also killed and among these were numbered five children. The Papacy itself soon came out against automobile racing. Portago's accident proved to be the end, as well, of the Mille Miglia event. The Mexican Road Race (La Carrera Panamericana), run during 1950 to 1954, had already suffered a similar fate, and for exactly the same reasons. It's last running was in 1954. The Mille Miglia and the Mexican Road Race were both, in fact, just repeats and rehashes of the ill-fated Paris-Madrid event of May 24, 1903.

The second happening was the upcoming Monza 500 event, scheduled to be held on June 29. The Monza 500 had been announced by USAC's Duane Carter in October 1956, and was suppose to be a fair duel or match race between the Yankee Indianapolis car drivers and the foreign Grand Prix pilots, i.e. a "Race of Two Worlds." But the original idea was negated when the Grand Prix drivers banned together and boycotted the contest. They were, in fact, perfectly within their rights and it was a reasonable decision for them because they had no adequate cars and/or equipment for use against the Americans. When first proclaimed in late 1956, the Monza 500 was going to contribute points towards the U.S. Championship Title, but this was later dropped. However the Monza event was still on, and thirteen U.S. Indy drivers were still scheduled to fly from New York City to Monza, Italy on Monday June 26 at 2:30 a.m. The Americans and USAC were senting over ten Indianapolis type roadsters. The Monza 500 mile race was to be conducted on a 2.64 mile highly banked concrete oval located north of Milan, Italy.

It should be noted that by 1954-1955, all really serious USAC Championship teams needed two cars, i.e. a roadster for Indianapolis and a dirt car for the 100 mile dirt track contests. Some of the better "name" drivers did not enter and/or appear for the 100 mile Detroit race because they were making careful preparations for the much more important Monza 500 and didn't want to be unduly hurried or overly rushed. And in addition there were even rumors or statements to the effect that Pete Spencer was negotiating with the Detroit chapter of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) for a foreign made automobile to pace the Detroit 100, all in the wake of the AMA's new June 6's policies. On race day however, the pace car proved to be a normal Chevrolet, driven by Duane Carter.

The only entry from Detroit itself for the Fairgrounds 100 miler, was from sportsman Daniel "Dan" M. LeVine, owner of the Detroit based Federal Engineering tool and die firm. LeVine had gotten his first taste of motor racing immediately after World War II (1939-1945), when Russell Snowberger (1901-1968) had brought over a pre-war 3-litre, supercharged 8CTF Maserati owned by R. C. Cott, to LeVine's machine shop for reconditioning and repairs, c. 1947. This sole 1957 Detroit entry used Billy Garrett (1933-1999) of Burbank, CA as its chauffeur and Snowberger as the mechanic. Snowberger, by 1957, had long been LeVine's crew chief and head mechanic on both the former AAA and the now present USAC Championship Trails. Snowberger was an "old timer" and had driven in the AAA Championship division from 1927 to 1949. Russ had driven in the National Motor Racing Association (NMRA) contests before that, going big-time and joining the AAA in 1927. During the early Junk Formula era, c. 1930-1935, Snowberger became known as the "King of the Super Stockers", because of his 5th place finishes at Indy using stock block powered cars. Russ was 5th in both 1931 and 1932, using Studebaker and Hupmobile motors respectively. Snowberger led laps 136-147 at Indianapolis the first year he was there, i.e. 1928, while in a relief role for Jimmy Gleason (1898-1931), who was driving a Duesenberg with Cotton Henning as the mechanic. It was an exhilarating experience for Snowberger, but although he competed in 14 more Indianapolis 500's, Russ never led another lap there. Russ' top rankings in the AAA National Championship was 4th in 1930, 1931, and 1932 and then he moved up to 3rd in 1934. Other Detroit area car owners who entered cars at Indy in the mid-1950's besides Dan LeVine, were Eugene "Gene" A. Casaroll, Harry Dunn, and Jim Robbins. All their many and numerous entries, including LeVine's, for years and years were usually just also-rans.

(BIG JOKE: Roger Penske (b. 1937) was a recent resident in the Detroit area in 1972, when he won his first Indianapolis 500, with driver Mark Donohue (1937-1975). It was decided to hold a congratulatory victory ceremony and party for Roger, in the Cobo sports complex, located in downtown Detroit. Some tickets were made available for the general public's use, so I purchased one and attended the dinner. About 100 people showed up including the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's owner, Tony Hulman. The MC, over the microphone, began the main ceremonies with these words, "Hey, I heard that a car owner from Detroit won the Indianapolis 500!!! Who was it, Federal Engineering or Jim Robbins?" That brought the house down. Sometimes the world can be a very cruel place.)

I and my friend returned to witness the Detroit 100 on June 23, but we didn't attend the morning qualifications for some reason. Admittance to the infield was priced at $2.20 and it was the cheapest way to witness the race, and that's what we had. The entrance to the infield was a tunnel under the first turn. There was certainly no huge avalanche of customers, as only about 5000 showed up; with only about 50 of them, like us, trudging all around the wet and soggy infield's mud and grass. There were no seats or grandstands provided for those who had bought the cheap infield area tickets. One would have to remain standing for the entire race, as no one elected now to sit on the wet mud.

George Amick (1924-1959) had the pole (39.24 seconds) and Jimmy Bryan (1926-1960) was right next to him (39.28 seconds) making up the front row. The fastest 18 cars were to start. We viewed the start of the race from the inside of the first turn. Amick jumped immediately into the front position to lead laps 1-9 and then Bryan got by him. After that Bryan gradually increased his advantage, almost imperceptively, to about a 7 second gap and there it pretty much remained to the end. Amick, after about lap 20, matched Jimmy's speed on every subsequent circuit but couldn't gain any ground, while Bryan of course, didn't lose any. In the meantime and very slowly, we walked around the first turn, down the inside of the backstretch, and finally all around the far turn. It took almost a full hour in all. We could finally see all the remaining cars still running, accelerating off the 4th turn, and heading down the front straightaway. I remember in particular here, Bill Cheesbourg (1927-1995) in a roadster, doing just that.

The 100 miles or the race was, by now, just about to run out. There now appeared suddenly before my eyes a short gravel roadway and a back, but closed double sided utility work gate, leading to where the track and pits were located; but oddly there were no security men or guards in sight! With only about 50 souls total, all aimlessly wandering about the entire infield area, they either had deserted their posts or were reassigned elsewhere where they were needed more. I found the two gates latched together, but surprizingly they proved both unchained and unlocked to each other. So I lifted the latch, opened both gates slightly, and walked right in! I soon found myself adjacent to the track on my right, with the entire but empty pits, directly in front of me, looking south. I don't recall seeing Bryan getting the checkered flag from Bill Vanderwater, taking a victory lap (if indeed he took a victory lap), or watching him pull into the pits after his win. This must have mostly happened while I was busy inspecting, and then crashing the two gates.

I then saw and immediately ran to Bryan's parked No. 1 car in "victory lane" and I was the very first person to get to him! I didn't know what to say to him when I got there but blurted out, "Can I have your autograph?" Bryan looked up at me with a real grimace on his face and said somewhat testily, "Well, will you give me enough time to remove my gloves?" Well I hadn't thought anything about his having racing gloves on before that, and he caught me completely off guard. I mumbled apologetically trying now to be very polite, "Yes, I'll wait!", or something to that effect, I don't exactly remember. I don't think my weak reply came off very well. I was standing now in front of the car's right rear wheel. I looked up and across the track were hundreds of raucous and clamoring fans, in the outside grandstands, all standing up, and hopelessly trapped and hemmed in by wire fences or screens directly in front of them! Much, much nearer was a small contingent of about 30 people, i.e. announcers, track officials, newsmen, photographers, and camera men, now all converging on Bryan, still sitting in his car. I still remained standing alongside of the car's cockpit, but quite oddly, no one told me to move! The track announcers put their microphones in front of Bryan and started congratulating him and asking questions while another man carried the victory trophy. So Bryan was now fully occupied. I stuck around for about 2 minutes more but began to see it all, as a case of diminishing returns. I thought I might do better by running into the garage area, which is what I did next.

Edited by john glenn printz, 04 May 2012 - 12:51.


#50 john glenn printz

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Posted 16 June 2009 - 11:58

GEORGE AMICK (1924-1959) WAS JUST NOT BUYING IT (cont.-5) There was, of course, no garage area in any proper sense at all. Spencer and Marcum had merely roped off a makeshift grassy area with a high temporary cyclone fence, all of which was directly located behind an infield grandstand placed in back of the pits. As I ran into this makeshift working area, J. C. Agajanian, moving at a very determined and brisk pace walked right by me, but heading in the totally opposite direction! All the competing cars had come in and were already parked. I soon spotted A.J. Watson and a few others. By 1957 I knew what some of the USAC racing fraternity looked like from reading SPEED AGE and the Floyd Clymer (1895-1970) INDIANAPOLIS 500 YEARBOOKS. But the thing that soon caught my attention was George Amick standing in front of his blue Hopkins Special No. 78 dirt car. I stopped, kept my distance, and stood away off, observing the scene.

Amick was quite beside himself, totally incensed, and boiling red hot with anger. George, in a complete rage, was arguing with his crew, because he had been passed by Bryan in the early going, and could only place 2nd. The crew was pleading with Amick, telling him how well he had driven and how happy they were with his 2nd place finish, but all in vain. Amick was just not buying it at all, none of it in fact! George thought that he should have won the race.

Already everyone was busy packing up to leave this hell hole of a Detroit race track at the Michigan State Fairgrounds. For me however, this marked the first occasion, that I had ever gotten up close to any genuine Championship level racing personal, even if I wasn't able to actually talk to any of them. I looked around at all the goings on for about 3 or 4 minutes and then ran back to victory circle. There was really no "victory circle" either. Bryan had simply come in and stopped in the middle of the pit area, opposite the main grandstand, with the front of his car pointed directly at the outside stands. There was no beauty queen, podium, or platform. Just Bryan standing in his white "Dean Van Lines" dirt track car.

Bryan was now surrounded by a crowd of 150 persons and there was no getting anywhere near him again. Of course, I never got his autograph. The one day delay of the Detroit 100 had disrupted everyone's plans. Bryan explained over the mike apologetically that he had to leave immediately as he had a plane to catch to New York City; and where in turn he had to take another plane travelling overseas to Monza, Italy. After a very brief awarding of the trophy and surrounded by a large admiring throng, Jimmy walked across the track carrying his helmet and goggles, and headed for the showers. With Bryan now gone from view, the crowd quickly dispersed. The complete post-race victory festivities had lasted less than ten minutes. There were no such things as "podium" finishes or "top three" ceremonies back in 1957. But Jimmy had gotten at Detroit what he had come here for, i.e. another 200 points toward the 1957 USAC Championship Title. A special police escort then took Bryan, and probably Andy Linden (1922-1987) as well, to the local airport. For Linden too, was one of the American drivers at Monza.

The final top five finishers here at Detroit were: 1. Jimmy Bryan (Offenhauser/Kumza); 2. Geroge Amick (Offenhauser/Lesovsky); 3. Andy Linden (Offenhauser/Turner); 4. Jud Larson (Offenhauser/Watson); and 5. Elmer George (Offenhauser/Watson). The top five were all using dirt track cars. Billy Garrett took 7th, an also-ran, as Detroit sponsored Championship cars often tended to be. Roger "the Dodger" Ward lasted just 48 laps before retiring from an overheating motor, to be placed 16th overall. Bryan's elapsed clocking of 1:14:47 (80.232 mph) did not eclipse Paul Russo's (1914-1976) record mark of 1:11:44.21 (83.62 mph) set in 1951. Russo, on that occasion, was piloting his famous, home built "Basement Bessie" machine (Offenhauser/Nichels). The official 1957 attendance figure was put as 8,500, but I think it may have been half of that. The later and admitted "paid" attendance was put at 5,301.

Although a 100 mile distance on a one mile flat dirt track became the accustomed fare for most U.S. Championship division contests beginning in the early 1930's under the AAA, and remained so for many years even under USAC, the 1957 Detroit 100 was the only Championship dirt 100 miler I ever saw. Even as late as 1969 USAC had five Championship 100 milers on dirt ovals. However the dirt track format was ruled out altogether in the Championship division racing by USAC, beginning with the 1970 season. While the Detroit 100 was probably the very least significant of all the 13 Championship events staged by USAC in 1957, it had been an exciting day for me, even though my buddy was not all that impressed. And, in any case, that's how I happened to spend all of two and a half minutes with Jimmy Bryan! The two promotors of this Detroit USAC contest, i.e. Spencer and Marcum, lost money on it and no further Championship races ever took place at the Michigan State Fairgrounds.

The Detroit Championship series could trace its origins back to 1928, when Ray Keech (1900-1929) in a Miller, was the winner at 77.87 mph on June 10. The first batch of AAA Championship races held in Detroit, lasted from 1928 to 1933, and then was killed by the Depression (1929-1939). During the post-World War II economic boom (1946-1952) a second AAA Championship grouping started up, beginning with 1949, which lasted until 1953. The Detroit 100 had seen eight Indianapolis victors win here, i.e. (1.) Ray Keech 1928; (2.) Wilbur Shaw 1930; (3.) Louis Meyer 1931; (4.) Mauri Rose 1932; (5.) Bill Cummings 1933; (6.) Bill Vukovich 1952; (7.) Rodger Ward 1953; and finally (8.) Jimmy Bryan 1957. The other illustrious Detroit 100 winners were (1.) Cliff Woodbury 1929; (2.) Bob Carey 1932; (3.) Tony Bettenhausen 1949; (4.) Henry Banks 1950; and (5.) Paul Russo 1951. Of these five non-Indy winners, Bob Carey (1904-1933) and Henry Banks (1913-1994) won the AAA National Driving Title the same season they won at Detroit. For the year 1932, two AAA Championship 100 mile contests were held at the Michigan State Fairgrounds. These AAA and USAC Championship contests (1928-1957) at the State Fairgrounds were the only important or major automobile races staged in the state of Michigan, until the Michigan International Speedway started operating in 1968 with a big 250 mile USAC Championship race won by Ronnie Bucknum (1936-1992), using a Drake-Offenhauser/Eagle, on October 13.

The Michigan State Fairgrounds one mile dirt oval had been a bastion and mainstay for the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA), during the years 1915 to 1925. Beginning in 1926 the Michigan State Fairgrounds began staging 100 mile AAA races. The very first of these was held on September 11, 1926 and was won by Frank Lockhart. Frank's time was 1:21:30.62 (73.610 mph) This was due in part, I think, from the instigation and influence of Eddie Edenburn (1885-1934), a very important AAA official, who then resided in Detroit. Edenburn was the Chief Stewart at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway from 1919 to 1934. Starting in 1928, and up to 1933, at least one annual Detroit 100 mile AAA race, was upgraded to National Championship status.

The very next non-Indianapolis 500 Championship race I witnessed, after the 1957 Detroit 100, was the 1962 Milwaukee 200 of August 19, won by Rodger Ward (Offenhauser/Watson). There would not be another major open wheel race staged in Detroit after the 1957 USAC Fairground's contest, until the Formula I Grand Prix boys came in for the Detroit Grand Prix on June 6, 1982. The Grand Prix was run right in downtown Detroit itself, on actual city streets, all located around the city's Renaissance Center. My status had gone up a lot by then, as I had Press Credentials for that one. The 1982 Grand Prix winner was John Watson (b. 1946) from Northern Ireland, at an average speed of 78.84 mph using a Ford/McLaren. The distance was put at 154.566 miles. The irony here was that Watson's average winning speed of 78.84 mph was actually slower than Bryan's 80.232 mph, posted at the Fairgrounds, back in 1957! Of course, the Renaissance 2.493 mile circuit was very twisty and consequently very, very slow.

On June 29, 1957, Bryan triumphed again by winning the Monza 500 in an Offenhauser/Kuzma roadster. The Monza race was run in three separate heats, but Bryan was the overall winner with the aggregate time of 3:07:05.9, for an average of 160.06 mph. The only European challenge came from three D-type Jaguars, designed primarily with the LeMans 24 hour sports car event in view. They all came from and were provided by the Scottish racing team of Ecurie Ecosse. Ecurie Ecosse had been formed in 1952 by driver David Murray (1909-1973) and had its home town base camp in Edinburgh, Scotland. These D-type Jaguars were no match in speed to the Indianapolis roadsters at Monza, but they proved very reliable and placed 4th (Jack Fairman) , 5th (John Lawrence), and 6th (Ninian Sanderson) in the final results: all because of the frail construction of the U.S. Indianapolis machines, which manifested itself on the very rough Monza circuit, and which put most of the Indy roadsters out of the running. Only three Indy cars were still in motion at the end. These top three were placed; 1. Jimmy Bryan 160.06 mph (Offenhauser/Kuzma); 2. Troy Ruttman, 159.20 mph (Offenhauser/Watson); and 3. Johnnie Parsons, 158.20 mph (Offenhauser/Kuzma).

Edited by john glenn printz, 12 October 2012 - 12:24.