Filed under: History
The story of the 1939 Blue Crown Special includes some of the most interesting people in the history of the Indianapolis 500. Its creator Joe Lencki of Chicago, Illinois was a bold innovator (who later supervised Wright R-3350 B-29 Bomber engine assembly), plus several Indy legends were part of its design and construction, and the men who raced her were some of the very best of their time.
Lencki had been bringing cars to Indy since 1934, but in 1939 he arrived with this innovative machine, dubbed its first time out as the ‘Burd Piston Ring Special’. Lencki’s aircraft background was utilized in the racer’s semi-monocoque frame, using sheet metal joined together without welding. The all-aluminum body was hand-formed by the famous Rigling Brothers and the oil and fuel tanks were built by Frank Kurtis. While the suspension used standard Ford components, the Blue Crown Special was the first car at the 500 to use four wheel disc brakes, and it’s stopping ability regularly astounded first-time drivers.
The “Lencki Double Overhead Cam Six” was built at Fred Offenhauser’s manufacturing plant, and 265 c.i. displacement mill was similar to the famous four-cylinder Offy engine that was the mainstay at Indy. With it’s fantastic 14-to-1 compression ratio, twin overhead-cam hemi-head design, and quadruple Winfield carbs the set up made for a solid 400 horsepower. All this power was backed by a 2-speed Miller transmission. This bulletproof layout would prove sufficient enough to keep the car competitive in racing for more than a decade.
The Blue Crown Special qualified for the Indianapolis 500 five times in the eight years from 1939 to 1947, and although it always qualified well, the winner’s circle never happened, due to crashes and mechanical issues. Lencki also campaigned the Blue Flame on dirt track circuits around the Midwest, and then retired her for good after the summer of 1948. The car never left Lencki’s possession, and the engine was actually on the bench in his shop the day he passed away in 1994, at the age of 92.
Following is a chronological list of those who drove the Blue Crown Spark Plug Special at the Indianapolis 500:
1939 Tony Willman
1940 Floyd Davis
1941 Emile Andres
1946 Mauri Rose
1947 Emil Andres