Posting vignettes based on great postcards found in my mail box and elsewhere.

Friday, May 25, 2012

1953 Indinapolis 500 Pace Car

This postcard came today from my friend Rick in Michigan. He knows I like classic cars and the Indianapolis 500 race and history.

The postcard image is the 1953 Ford Crestline Sunliner. The car was selected as the pace car for that year's Indianapolis 500 mile race. The car was designed to commerate the 50th anniversity of the Ford Motor Company and sported a powerful 110 horsepower flathead V8 engine. These cars, now classics, are highly prized with car collectors.The car pictured here is a replica of the pace car that belongs to the Dells Auto Museum, in Dells, Wisconsin.

Each year car companies vie for selection of leading the 33-car field of the famous 500 mile race. For nine of the last 20 years the Chevorlet Corvette has won the distinction of leading the Indianapolis race cars on the parade and pace laps.There is good reason for this. The pace car must pace the cars for one lap at 70 mph and then up to 120 mph before entering the final turn before the flying start.

This year the 638 horsepower Corvette C6 ZR1 will lead the field of race cars to the starting line.Many people have complained that the stock Corvette's engine produces more horsepower than the race cars. While that is true, the Corvette isn't capable of circling the track at an average speed of 225-plus mph. 

You can get a feeling for the excitement of the flying start by watching some homemade videos posted on my blog here.

The race will be run this year on Sunday, May 27, at 12 p.m. Television coverage will begin at 11 a.m. on American Broadcasting Company, ABC, stations.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Indianapolis Motor Speedway: 100+ years

A bird's-eye view of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

This postcard shows the indomitable Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as seen from the air looking south. The 559 acre facility was opened in 1909 for balloon, motorcycle and auto racing. The first 500 mile race was held in 1911.

Last year the speedway celebrated the 100th anniversary of the speedway. This year race, scheduled for Sunday, May 27, 2012, will be the 96th running of the race. It closed only during World War II, 1942-1945.

I date this photo postcard sometime after 1957 when a new control tower was built but before grandstands in the fourth turn at the southwest end were built. Today, yet another control tower is in place.

This postcard, along with several others, was purchased by me at the track during the 1964 race. I was 11 at the time and loved aerial views. Looking at the picture postcard now, I see it's publisher, the speedway, could have benefited from some cropping, flipping, and editing. Though the intent was to show the size of the speedway complex, a two and a half mile rectangular course, complete with 18 hole golf course inside and outside the race track, many details are out of focus.

In the 100-plus years of the speedways have seen many firsts. One of the novel changes to the usual racing milieu was the flying start. Instead of the cars lined up on the track at the starting, as in Formula 1 races of today, the start of the Indianapolis begins when the starter waves the green flag as the cars approach the starting line. The cars are arranged in 11 rows with three cars in each row. Most automobile races begin with cars two abreast. The effect of 33 cars exceeding 200 mph is both frightening and awe inspiring.

You can find four homemade videos of the Indianapolis 500 flying start below. The video gives you but a hint of the speed, the noise and the excitement of the flying start.

Find other Indianapolis Speedway postcards from my collection here.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Racing Past The Starting Line

Indianapolis 500-Mile Race Sweepstakes start, circa 1950
I wanted a postcard to coincide with the official opening of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's month of May activities leading up to the big race, Sunday, 27 May, 2012. I found this one in my limited Indianapolis collection. It is in poor condition but it remains a good example of a lithographed card done by a photo-chrome process. It shows the start of a race in the late 40s, early 50s. The pagoda on the infield was replaced in 1957. If you compare this image with the race photo postcard of the 1965 race I posted here, you will see many changes to the speedway grandstands and pit layout.

The speedway was built in 1909 and after some initial disastrous races, claiming the lives of a driver, two mechanics and a spectators, the track was paved with some 3.2 million bricks. The first 500-mile race was held on May 30, 1911. It was won by Ray Harroun at the then astonishing average speed of 74.602 mph. It is claimed that this 500-mile race was the first to use a pace car. Perhaps more significantly, Harroun's  Marmon "Wasp" racecar sported a rear-view mirror, the first occasion of its use in a motor car.

See a picture of Harroun's racer here and a picture of a car from last year's race here. If you are a real Indy aficianodo, here is a picture postcard of the 1963 winning car driven by Parnelli Jones.

If you can pinpoint the exact year of the race on this postcard, please let me know. Leave a comment below.