Indianapolis 500 Materials at The Henry Ford
25 artifacts in this set
When Carl Fisher and his partners opened Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1909, the crushed stone and tar track surface quickly proved too dangerous. Fisher had the entire track resurfaced with 3.2 million paving bricks. The track was fully paved with asphalt by 1961, but a three-foot brick strip -- at the start/finish line -- remains, as does the speedway's nickname: the Brickyard.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway opened in 1909 with multiple races each season. In 1911, track promoters decided instead to host just one spectacular event each Memorial Day. The inaugural Indianapolis 500-Mile Race, with $27,500 in prizes, drew 40 qualifying cars and 80,000 spectators. Ray Harroun won with his yellow #32 Marmon Wasp, and the Indianapolis 500 became an American institution.
Ray Harroun earned his place in motorsport history in 1911 when he won the first Indianapolis 500. Harroun's Marmon Wasp featured a clever device of his own design: a rear-view mirror. While he retired from competitive driving after his Indy win, Harroun remained active in the automotive industry for the rest of his life.
Gil Andersen was born in Norway and immigrated to the United States. Andersen raced in the first six runnings of the Indianapolis 500. While he never won the race, Andersen led 18 laps in the 1913 event, and 26 laps in 1915. He often drove Stutz cars in competition. Andersen is pictured here in 1912.
The fourth annual Indianapolis 500 took place on May 30, 1914. French driver Rene Thomas, with riding mechanic Robert Laly, took the checkered flag in a French-built Delage. Thomas set a new average race speed record of 82.47 miles per hour. In fact, Europe dominated the 1914 race. French and Belgian drivers finished in five of the top six places.
Henry Ford posed in the Barber-Warnock Special at the 1924 Indianapolis 500. Familiar faces stood behind him, including Louis Chevrolet (with thick moustache), Barney Oldfield (with cigar), and Edsel Ford (in plaid overcoat). The special was powered by a Frontenac Ford -- a Model T engine with overhead valves in the cylinder head. Car #27 finished the race in 17th place.
Official Program of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway 15th International Sweepstakes 500 Mile Race, May 30, 1927
Indianapolis Motor Speedway hosted the fifteenth Indianapolis 500 race on May 30, 1927. The first Indy 500 took place in 1911, but no races were held in 1917 or 1918 due to World War I. Indiana native George Souders won the 1927 event behind the wheel of a Duesenberg.
Harry Miller, one of America's most important racing designers, built this car for Ford Motor Company's effort at the 1935 Indianapolis 500. It has all of Miller's hallmarks -- innovation, craftsmanship, and an almost sculptural presence. All that it lacks is a victory. Miller built ten similar cars, but a hurried production schedule led to mechanical problems and none finished the race.
Race car builder Harry Miller and entrepreneur Preston Tucker convinced Ford Motor Company to sponsor ten Miller-designed cars at the 1935 Indianapolis 500. The front-wheel-drive racers used Ford V-8 engines under their streamlined bodies. Unfortunately, Miller did not have enough time to thoroughly test the cars and mechanical problems prevented all of them from finishing the race.
By 1937, the 25th running of the Indianapolis 500 saw 33 entrants and one of the closest margins of victory of 2.16 seconds for Wilbur Shaw. Note that these high-powered race cars still required a two-man team of a driver and a riding mechanic to keep the cars running at top speed.
The thirtieth Indianapolis 500 was held on May 30, 1946. It was the first since 1941, the race having been suspended during World War II. George Robson won the event in front of 175,000 spectators. Two longtime Indy 500 fixtures debuted that year: new track owner Tony Hulman, and the pre-race singing of "Back Home Again in Indiana."
Souvenirs can provide a lifelong remembrance of places and events. Each May, Indianapolis 500 race fans have eagerly purchased souvenirs to use and take home. Checkered flag cushions, like this one from the mid twentieth century, provided a comfortable seat for fans when they were not on their feet cheering on their favorite driver.
The Indianapolis 500 features a "rolling start" in which entrants follow a pace car into the green flag. Various automobile manufactures provide pace cars on an irregular rotating basis. For its 50th anniversary in 1953, Ford Motor Company supplied a Sunliner convertible to pace that year's race. Ford built 2,000 replicas for public sale, but this is the actual race-used car.
This photograph shows the Mercury pace car at the start of the 1957 Indianapolis 500. Pace cars head the pack of race cars for the first unscored lap. They pick up speed around the track before pulling off the course. Racers used this lap to warm up their cars' engines and tires before speeding off on a "rolling start."
Dave Friedman has captured and preserved auto racing history through his photography. His work -- and his collection of works by other photographers -- documents key races, vehicles, drivers, and teams. This photograph is one of several hundred images that document the 1962 Indianapolis 500. These images record not only the May 30th race, but also the time trials and garage, pit and infield activities.
Drivers Dan Gurney (left) and Jim Clark (right) combined forces with designer Colin Chapman (center) to revolutionize the Indianapolis 500. Front-engine roadsters still dominated the race in the early 1960s, but Gurney believed a rear-engine Formula One style car could win. Gurney brought Chapman together with Ford, and Clark won the 1965 Indy 500 in a Ford-powered, Chapman-designed rear-engine car.
A.J. Foyt enjoyed an incredible 40-year driving career in open-wheel, stock car and sports car racing. He won the Daytona 500 (1972) and the 24 Hours of Le Mans (1967), but he is perhaps best known for his four wins at the Indianapolis 500 (1961, 1964, 1967, 1977). Foyt started in 35 consecutive Indy 500 races, from 1958 to 1992.
Dave Friedman has captured and preserved auto racing history through his photography. His work -- and his collection of works by other photographers -- documents key races, vehicles, drivers, and teams. This color slide is one of several hundred images that document the 1963 Indianapolis 500. These images record not only the May 30th race, but also the time trials and garage, pit and infield activities.
Scotsman Jim Clark won the Indianapolis 500 with this rear-engine car in 1965. After his victory, a traditional front-engine car never won that race again. The Lotus-Ford combined a European Formula One-inspired lightweight chassis with a big Ford V-8 engine. The Lotus-Ford's success effectively killed the traditional Indy roadster and established a new design for American race cars.
Dave Friedman has captured and preserved auto racing history through his photography. His work -- and his collection of works by other photographers -- documents key races, vehicles, drivers, and teams. In 1969, Mario Andretti won his first and only Indianapolis 500. The race featured a field of thirty-three rear-engine vehicles -- the first time not a single front-engine car qualified for the race.
Bobby Unser competed in the 1972 Indianapolis 500 in an Olsonite Eagle designed and built by Dan Gurney's All American Racers. Unser won the pole position with a qualifying speed of 195.940 miles per hour, but his actual race wasn't so successful. While Unser led the first 30 laps, a broken ignition rotor forced him out on lap 31.
This photograph shows Johnny Rutherford driving the Pennzoil Chaparral 2K Number 4 race car to victory at the 1980 Indianapolis 500. Owner Jim Hall employed designer John Barnard to create a race car winner. Barnard used various aerodynamic design elements to hold the vehicle close to the ground. Rutherford and the Chaparral 2K would win five races during the year.
Tom Sneva set the fastest qualifying lap at the 1984 Indianapolis 500 with this car, but a broken rear suspension forced him out early during the actual race. The car's front and rear wings and underbody ground effects represent the aerodynamic advances that increasingly shaped race cars in the 1970s -- and continue to do so today.
Lyn St. James's drive and determination led to a successful racing career. St. James has competed in top professional races worldwide since the mid-1970s. She established the Complete Driver Academy in 1994, where she continues to inspire and train future female race car drivers. This jacket commemorates St. James's 1992 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year achievement.
Automotive supplier Borg-Warner provided the Indianapolis 500's top prize, the Borg-Warner Trophy, in 1936. Each year, the winner's name and average race speed are added to the award, along with a likeness of the driver's face. The original trophy is permanently housed at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum. Winning drivers and team owners each receive a smaller replica to keep.