Thursday, 5 May 2011

85% Stock Specials - Studebakers 1932 to 1933

Moving forward a couple of decades from yesterdays post today we are looking a couple of Studebakers that appeared at Indy in 1932 and 1933, thanks to photographs by Ed Arnaudin taken in 1962.

1962 012s

In 1932 Studebaker built and entered 5 boat tail specials for the Indianapolis 500.

Unlike most cars entered at Indianapolis at the time 85% of the mechanical parts used in these vehicles were stock items.

Indianapolis chassis specialist Hermann Rigling built the frames and bodies to accommodate the 200 hp 5.5 litre 336 cui straight 8 engines which were sourced from the Studebaker President along with most of the rest of the running gear. The finished cars were said to be capable of 140 mph.

The #22 above was entered for Cliff Bergere and riding mechanic Vern Lake who qualified 10th and finished 3rd in the highest ranking Studebaker at the end of the race.

Cliff from Toledo Ohio first ran at Indianapolis in 1927, this was his best finish which he equalled in 1939. By the end of his career in 1947 Cliff had competed in a then record 16 starts having led 25 laps of a record, at the time, 2,426 laps of racing at the Brickyard.

Cliff is remembered for having completed the 1941 race without a pit stop although he was overcome by fumes after taking the lead and dropped to 5th at the finish line.

He was due to drive a highly rated Novi in 1948, but an ill advised fuel tank enlargement rendered the car unsafe in his opinion, this was in part substantiated after he quit the team.

The popular and ultimately unfortunate Ralph Hepburn took the Novi over he ran at close to record speeds before fatally loosing control and hitting the wall.

In 1940 Bergere helped the 57 year old 'Racing Mayor' Ab Jenkins set a 24 hour average speed of 161 mph in the fearsome Mormon Meteor III powered by a 750 horsepower 12 cylinder Curtis aircraft engine at Bonneville.

1962 013s

After the modest 3rd place success in 1932 Studebaker returned to Indianapolis in 1933 with some improved cars.

For 1933 the factory supported cars again with a combination of Rigling chassis and and 336 cui straight 8 President motors appeared with more streamlined body work than in 1932.

The the Studebaker post race advertising and shows Studebaker entered a five car team.

The #34 shown here was driven by Tony Gulotta finished 7th highest place amongst the 5 cars with 336 cui President engines and one place behind a smaller 250 cui Studebaker Commander powered Rigling Chassis known as the Art Rose Special driven by Dave Evans.

Tony Gulotta from New Orleans finished a career high 8th in the 1927 American Championship Car Racing National Championship aboard a Miller.

Thereafter Tony focused his efforts primarily on the 'Indy 500' coming within 18 laps of winning the race in 1928 driving a Stutz Blackhawk Special Miller when a clogged fuel line sent him to the pits resulting in a 10th place finish. Tony's best finish at Indianapolis from 13 starts remained his 3rd place finish in 1927.

My thanks to Steve Arnaudin for sending me the scans of his Dad's slides and to E.B. of The Nostalgia Forum for identifying both vehicles.

Hope you have enjoyed today's 85% stock special edition of 'Getting a lil' psycho on tyres and that you will join me again tomorrow for Ferrari Friday. Don't forget to come back now !


  1. I could get a great tan racing that car.

  2. I am surprised that these cars still seat two, presemably for a riding mechanic. I wonder what year that the riding mechanic became totally obsolete? Interestingly, the 1911 winner, Ray Harroun, did not have a riding mechanic. Harroun's Marmon Wasp incorporated what I have heard is the first rearview mirror in an automobile to compensate for the lack of a riding mechanic.

    1. The last race with two man cars was in 1937 the 22 studebaker above was also in that race. The car sold by studebaker to S&S Engendering who entered it in the 1937 race where it came in 10th My dad was the riding mechanic in that race

  3. Yes JC but can you operate a stick shift ?

    Riding mechanics were mandated until 1937 when a series of fatal accidents convinced the organisers to think again Steve.

  4. I can tan, text & drive a Harley at the same time.

  5. And I thought the females of the species were the multi taskers JC :-)

  6. The white whale "streamlined body" was so tall I can look the seated driver straight in the eye while standing alongside. What was Cornell thinking?

    Car now belongs to August Grassis, and runs with vintage sports cars. There its remarkable torque and surprising roadability keep it up with
    smaller recent hardware. I believe it is an under 3 minute lap time at Road America.

  7. I guess streamlining became a priority before lowering the centre of gravity George, thanks for your insight into the times round Road America :-)

  8. Chrysler head designer Virgil Exner used the maroon #22 car for road touring in the fifties. Granatelli had it restored for the Indy race of 1962 which was Studebaker's pace car year, then took it into his collection. A blue twin to it is still raced at Laguna Seca by the father and son Cleary clan. A green one sees hillclimb use in New England and also Lime Rock with the Valpey family. It is on track with one of the 250 inch Commander engined cars that may or may not have a Buick overhead valve on the Stude block. A black 337 incher exists in Germany with a five speed box. Rumor of the remaining car sinking in transit to Argentina sixty some years ago has not been confirmed.

  9. Thanks for taking the time and trouble to add some further history areopagitica :-)

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