Jump to content


Photo

Rodger Ward 1959 Sebring Midget engine displacement limitations


  • Please log in to reply
14 replies to this topic

#1 bartez1000

bartez1000
  • Member

  • 47 posts
  • Joined: August 12

Posted 02 December 2021 - 11:02

Hello

Rodger Ward was entered in the 1959 US GP held in Sebring in a Kurtis Kraft Midget.  Midgets could sometimes be reasonably good road racers, as proven by Ward's victory in the 1959 Lime Rock Park Libre race. He has not replicated his success in the Grand Prix, due to better opposition, different track characteristics and some technical problems.

From contemporary reports it seems that the car used an normally aspirated Offenhauser engine in small midget form running on avgas instead of methanol. Fuel choice was due to Formula One regulations. What is not, clear is why the engine had 1.7 or 1.75 liter displacement, when up to 2.5 liter was allowed? Some sources, like the venerable forix http://8w.forix.com/ward.html report that it was due to regulations ("Ward's home advantage was nullified by an Offenhauser engine tuned down to 1.75 liters to comply with F1 regulations."), but this can't be right.  Was an engine sized in the middle between 97cu.in midget. and 252cu.in big car unavailable? So what engine was used in the Lime Rock race?



Advertisement

#2 Michael Ferner

Michael Ferner
  • Member

  • 6,038 posts
  • Joined: November 09

Posted 02 December 2021 - 12:38

I think the Forix is slightly misleading with their formulation - the engine wasn't "turned down" from 4200cc to 1750cc, those were essentially very different engines. An Offy midget engine can't be taken out safely to more than 110 cubic inches, and the bigger engines start at 200 cubic inches, so yes, something "in the middle" just wasn't available.

 

 

EDIT: Thinking about it, theoretically there was the original Miller marine engine with 151 CID which translates pretty much exactly to 2.5 litres (it was originally developed for boat racing in the 2500cc class), but that was a very old engine (built in the late twenties) and most had been taken out to 183 or even 220 CID for Sprint car racing. I don't know if any were still available in 1959, or if they could have been made to fit the modern Kurtis chassis, but evidently that was not considered.


Edited by Michael Ferner, 02 December 2021 - 12:42.


#3 Collombin

Collombin
  • Member

  • 6,063 posts
  • Joined: March 05

Posted 02 December 2021 - 12:57

I have read reports that Ward was confident of success at Sebring (buoyed by Lime Park no doubt, despite this being a somewhat different kettle of fish), so maybe wouldn't even have tried to look into other options.

#4 10kDA

10kDA
  • Member

  • 402 posts
  • Joined: July 09

Posted 02 December 2021 - 15:00

The Halibrand quick change rear end used in midgets was not strong enough for the power and torque produced by the larger Offenhausers used in champ cars. Changing engines would require the larger style quick change, and probably require changing the entire driveline, then changing back again for the next midget race on the calendar. Possibly became a question of "Why bother for one race?"



#5 RA Historian

RA Historian
  • Member

  • 3,814 posts
  • Joined: October 06

Posted 02 December 2021 - 16:55

I have read reports that Ward was confident of success at Sebring (buoyed by Lime Park no doubt, despite this being a somewhat different kettle of fish), so maybe wouldn't even have tried to look into other options.

On the other hand I have heard the opposite. Ward knew going in that he would not be competitive, but went along with his car owner, who was far more optimistic than Ward.

 

Tom



#6 Collombin

Collombin
  • Member

  • 6,063 posts
  • Joined: March 05

Posted 02 December 2021 - 17:04

On the other hand I have heard the opposite


That doesn't surprise me - there are also conflicting Ward quotes out there about his 1955 Indy crash, some blaming the axle and some the wind.

#7 D-Type

D-Type
  • Member

  • 9,495 posts
  • Joined: February 03

Posted 02 December 2021 - 18:59

Lime Rock flattered to deceive.  It was a tight 1.5 mile circuit.  The opposition was not the strongest: an aged Maserati 250F and a selection of sports cars.  
No doubt Ward's appearance was funded by the organisers wanting the Indy winner competing in an American car; likewise, Phil Hill's Ferrari was in US colours.


Edited by D-Type, 02 December 2021 - 18:59.


#8 Collombin

Collombin
  • Member

  • 6,063 posts
  • Joined: March 05

Posted 02 December 2021 - 19:26

Lime Rock flattered to deceive


A better clue might have come from that Libre race at Watkins Glen in October that featured several midgets. Stirling won by about 7 laps I think.

#9 Lee Nicolle

Lee Nicolle
  • Member

  • 10,524 posts
  • Joined: July 08

Posted 03 December 2021 - 09:14

In 59 a midget Offy was that small. It was not until the VW invasion late 60s that they were allowed to be increased in size. Though single cam Sescos and Chevy 11s plus here in Oz a few other single cam engines up to 150ci engines were on the pace. 

The midget  quick change diff did and still does generally run A model/ Ford V8 gears.

I suspect the modern over 300hp engines test them but not 130ci Offys.

Though being involved with classic 70s Supermodifieds here in Oz there is closer to 500hp Chevs using them. The 3.78 A model ratio in modern gear sets seems to be up to it. The 4.11 V8 Gear sets were breaking more than they should but being 80 years old might have had something to do with that. Those old sets were designed for long life  and being quiet with 100hp engines. Just change the drop gear sets to the same final drives

The modern race gear sets are far softer and far less brittle. They wear out not break! In that period many mods went champ rear ends and the old A model based diffs were sold on to more budget competitors. 



#10 bartez1000

bartez1000
  • Member

  • 47 posts
  • Joined: August 12

Posted 03 December 2021 - 12:15

Thanks for the info, this clears my understanding very much.

How powerful was the Midget Offy engine in late 50s? It wasn't that small, even on avgas, as there is some information in the internet (https://forums.autos...s/#entry3438742 , https://www.trackfor...-1959-lime-rock ) that Ward reached nearly 150mph on Sebring straights. No good source about this info though, so I'm not sure if it is true. Were trap speeds eveb measured in Sebring race?



#11 Collombin

Collombin
  • Member

  • 6,063 posts
  • Joined: March 05

Posted 03 December 2021 - 12:57

Ward reached nearly 150mph on Sebring straights. No good source about this info though, so I'm not sure if it is true. Were trap speeds eveb measured in Sebring race?


In Gordon Eliot White's book "Offenhauser" he states that Ralph Wilke had said Ronnie Householder was able to calculate from the revs that Ward may have reached 148mph on the Sebring straights.

#12 rudi

rudi
  • Member

  • 329 posts
  • Joined: September 04

Posted 03 December 2021 - 14:08

In Gordon Eliot White's book "Offenhauser" he states that Ralph Wilke had said Ronnie Householder was able to calculate from the revs that Ward may have reached 148mph on the Sebring straights.

Rather 131mph accordind to the well documented Joel Finn book on the race. Finn was there and got a result sheet of the timing taken by the Florida Highway Patrol. Fastest was Brooks at 168mph followed by Moss 166.



#13 mariner

mariner
  • Member

  • 2,072 posts
  • Joined: January 07

Posted 03 December 2021 - 17:31

An interesting side question is whether a modern midget engine would be competitive in displacement limited road racing today?

 
I am no Midget expert but some of the engines seem very powerful vs , say a Climax 2.7 litre four or a BDG. 

 

Teh Chevy midget engine launched in 2008 had 166CI or 2.7 litres and claimed 350 bhp on Methanol for example.

 

 

https://www.motortre...-midget-engine/



#14 Lee Nicolle

Lee Nicolle
  • Member

  • 10,524 posts
  • Joined: July 08

Posted 03 December 2021 - 22:50

An interesting side question is whether a modern midget engine would be competitive in displacement limited road racing today?

 
I am no Midget expert but some of the engines seem very powerful vs , say a Climax 2.7 litre four or a BDG. 

 

Teh Chevy midget engine launched in 2008 had 166CI or 2.7 litres and claimed 350 bhp on Methanol for example.

 

 

https://www.motortre...-midget-engine/

Yes, modern single cam midget engines have a 166ci limit. Multicam, multivalve engines are about 1750cc. s/c a 1.7 equivilancy on a single cam engine. Cosworths were in favour about 15 years ago but the bigger capacity engines simply had a LOT more torque.

Any Climax engines would have had to be within capacity specs. 

And all midget engines for dirt at least HAVE to run on methanol. I suspect trying to run a methanol engine on Avgas would be frought with danger. Methanol helps considerably with cooling. AFAIK even then an Offy had about 14-1 compression and avgas is only safe until about 12.5-1 plus resetting all the injectors and pump volume and pressures. I know it has been done but piss and piddle constant flow mechanical injection even now is really for methanol. To be run wide open throttle where it works extremely well. Yes people have run it widely in road racing on Avgas but  far from ideal. I preferred a carby which was a LOT more drivable



#15 cooper997

cooper997
  • Member

  • 3,268 posts
  • Joined: December 08

Posted 03 December 2021 - 22:52

Here's part of the March 1960 Sports Cars Illustrated (US edition) 1959 US GP report by Jesse Alexander.

 

1959-US-GP-SCI-report-Ward-01-TNF.jpg

 

Ward related reference begins around 3/4 down column 1

1959-US-GP-SCI-report-Ward-02-TNF.jpg

 

 

Stephen