The Jalopy Journal
Discussion in 'Traditional Hot Rods' started by Ryan, Jun 15, 2022.
Ryan submitted a new blog post:
The Best That Never Was
Continue reading the Original Blog Post
Lots to love about this car:
Solid 18/16 Halibrands
A few notes:
1. The original crew set up the car to run both an inline 4 Offy and a V8. The restored car chose the 4-banger Offy and it makes around 400hp.
2. IMS president, Tony Hulman, wanted the car in the '56 race and even paid its entrance fee. Keck, however, was having none of it. The death of Vuko really hurt him emotionally.
3. I've read that various folks have done software simulations of the car running on the track. Afterwards, it was guesstimated that its pace would have been around 15 to 20% faster than the rest of the field in 1955. I think that's optimistic for a car without any real track time, but obviously there was a lot of potential with this car. Potential that probably would have changed Indianapolis as we know it.
For one, Indy is famous for open wheeled racing. If the 500 evolved into streamliners, you gotta think the rest of American racing would have as well...
I'd have to dig beyond my cobwebs, but I saw this car in person. The pictures make it seem bigger than it really is. Short, narrow, very low, sexy as can be.
Ok, Auburn 2019 at Worldwide. Had to look it up.
As for streamlining, I found this old article written by Drew Hardin:
The scene from Vuko's accident in 1955:
This car is absolutely gorgeous!
When you posted it the other day it certainly piqued my interest.
What's going on with the three metal hoops in the center of the wheel hubs?
Maybe I'm just not well versed enough, but I've never seen that before.
And here are some other attempts at streamlining... Note that Epperly also designed the streamliner body on Rathmann's car...
Rathmann's car as Epperly envisioned...
I believe that was part of the quick change system they were developing... basically, an early rendition of center lock wheels that allowed crews to remove and install wheels quickly in the pits. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.
And here's a few shots of the Sumar Streamliner...
What's interesting is that these streamliner cars all tested pretty well. However in traffic and dirty air, they didn't have the downforce for much lateral control and they just couldn't qualify or race with the pace needed to be competitive.
Vuko's car, however, was really the only attempt to address this in any meaningful way. And you gotta wonder if the active aero would have worked... If it did and Vuko had a decent showing, 1956 would have been a COMPLETELY different race.
Question here, did the German aerodynamic innovations from late '30s pop up in an American race car again before the Pete Brock Daytona Coupe tens years later?
If this car ran w/ 400 hp mill, it may have been as fast or faster than the Brock design. The Daytona engine was rated @ 385 hp. Would of, should of, could of been years ahead of the competition in '55.
At Bonneville? Absolutely. The So-Cal Streamliner was very obviously inspired by the earlier merc:
The golden era of streamliner attempts at indy was really 1954 to '56... I think they just gave up to quickly... and then the rules changed to essentially outlaw covered wheels.
To me, the Daytona Coupe isn't a purpose built streamliner...
Edit: Pretty amazing to see the So-Cal Streamliner built by a bunch of punk ass kids next to the '37 effort from a huge ass company like Mercedes. Alex was pretty good at what he did. We should not take that for granted.
Man, like Highlander, I think that is one sexy car, like Sophia Loren on wheels!
With the great names of Epperly, Halibrand and Tra-Co in the mix and painted stilleto heels red, I think 375K is a tad bit on the light side as to money.
Side story......my single touch of greatness was when I was introduced to Quinn Epperly many years ago while scouting for an aluminum block for my roadster project.
The brother of my high school pal knew the shop foreman at Rodeck Engines in Paso Robles Ca. and he set up a shop tour for me while attending a car show in Paso.
I was marveling at the CNC machines (retired machinist) and aluminum blocks in various stages of machining, this was after a big NHRA event and in the back was the block repair area and there were aluminum blocks stacked up like wounded soldiers, this is where I met Quinn Epperly, he was restoring the side of an old Offy engine that had been badly damaged, talk about watching a master at work!
No, a track car. Following your initial post.
Should have been more specific than 'race' car, not to steer the conversation (no pun intended).
$35k??? In 2018? That had to be buy of the century!!
I guess the three entries in the 1955 Indianapolis 500? Even then though, they mostly lost their "streamlining" to qualify.
Another interesting tidbit. Mercedes and Auto Union gave birth to the streamliner idea in pre-war times - that much has been cast in concrete. What a lot of Americans don't realize, however, is that they did it again in 1954 with the W196:
This car dominated the Euro racing scene from 1954 to 55 or so... Epperly and his boys were probably influenced just as much by this car as they were the earlier pre-war efforts.
Europeans had a much firmer grasp on aerodynamics than American race car designers. I think mostly because they had such taller budgets than the Americans. While our guys were building shit in their garages and hoping their ideas stuck, Europeans were building their stuff in factories with support from governments and corporations.
Maybe the lone exception to that is Bonneville. Guys like Alex Xydias don't get enough credit for what they did with so little. Hot Rodding innovation is real.
Keck's car reminds me of a 1953 Maserati Spyder. Definitely European influenced.
Yes, hats off to the guys that laid their $$ on the line to advance engineering concepts in the U.S.
Cool story, thanks!
Anyway, I guess what I am getting at is this... and it's taken me a long time to figure this in my brain.
Had Epperly finished the '55 car and Vuko done well with it, 1956 would have been a field full of streamliners. At that point, IMS would have had to make a decision - outlaw streamliners or move in that direction?
You gotta think they wouldn't outlaw a design that was dominating... not in 1956... So, indy cars today would probably look something like a modern LMP car of sorts:
Which... that's cool... but even more importantly, I think it might have shifted focus of North American racing entirely. If open wheeled racing isn't going down at INDY, CART wouldn't have existed and neither would IRL.
So today, we wouldn't have some bullshit racing league trying in vein to compete with F1 and instead have a heritage of endurance race cars that could compete globally... and if Americans are competing globally, we'd have a much better chance of having competitive drivers in a real racing league like F1.
It's a really crazy domino effect that I didn't think about at all until a buddy of mine mentioned it...
That's where the title, "The Best That Never Was" came from...
Thanks for the insight, Ryan. We were just discussing this car and Vuckovich a few weeks back ...
Ryan, you've got great taste. I like where your mind has headed in the way of interests. These vintage race cars and races are incredibly fascinating. Bravo.
Great article Ryan.
I was a kid in 8th grade in 1967 when the STP turbine car ran at Indy, that particular race car, totally fascinated me, as it had a lot of high tech design and of course some aviation related components! A fascinating part of history now.
Cool story and I like the history of stuff that was and stuff that might have been.
Wow that thing is simply gorgeous.
And the thread reminds me of those old ones when Ryan would go euro.
Isn't that the car that Marshall Teague was killed in?
For some reason, when my neck starts acting up and I take meds, I start thinking about pocket knives and European racing cars. Seriously. No idea why.
Yes, actually... I think he was in Daytona though? I know it was on a beach and he was testing for an attempt at a speed record.
I was right and wrong... It was Daytona, but not the beach... it was on the brand new speedway in 1959:
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